Aviation for Girls

2015

Aviation for Girls is a special annual member publication of Women in Aviation International for Girls in Aviation Day. Articles feature young girls living their aviation dreams, career ideas, and education resources.

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18 AVIATION FOR Girls 2015 But Fatima, then a young Pakistan Air Force offcer with a degree in electrical engineering and an arranged marriage waiting, found her horizons were expanding. "Being trained as an offcer and soldier, that's when I realized I can do a lot more things than I thought I could," she says. Such thoughts were contrary to everything girls in her homeland were taught to believe about themselves and their place. "A wom- an who has a job outside the home is not the most respected member of society," she says. Sitting in a coffee shop in bustling midtown Manhattan, Fatima's adopted hometown, and hearing her recount the journey that has taken her far from that world provides a striking prism for viewing the challenges and adversity we all face in pursuing our dreams and goals. Says her friend Nancy Hultgren, a frst offcer with Delta Air Lines, via tele- phone, "Every time we hang out she'll mention something about how she was raised, and being a girl in Pakistan, that blows my mind. It's like a joke between us. I say, 'You just blew my mind again!'" Mind-blowing events continue, with recent highlights in- cluding a speech Fatima delivered in Oslo last December dur- ing Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies for Malala Yousafzai, the girl who championed the right of all Pakistani children to an education; and in March at this year's International Women in Aviation Conference, where she was selected for the Del- ta Air Lines Boeing 757/767 Type Rating Certifcate Scholar- ship (subsequently upgraded to a 777 type rating). Her story is also a reminder that aviation is as much a means of trans- formation as transportation. Planning the Traditional Route Born in 1981, the daughter of a senior civil servant and engi- neer, as is customary for girls, Fatima stayed indoors when she wasn't at school. "Girls don't go out on the street, or ride a bike, or go to the store by themselves," Fatima explains. Yet her parents insisted she get the best education possible and demanded academic excellence. Her father's poor health impeded the search for a husband, so after high school, Fatima continued her education. With no career at stake, her choice of feld and school—electrical en- gineering at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore—was almost an afterthought. "I enjoyed math, and I had to pick some major," she says. "I thought engineering would be challenging as many girls don't opt for it." Indeed, only 50 of the 6,000 students were women. Fati- ma wore a headscarf ("chaadar"), full-length sleeves, and es- chewed bright colors (most women wore burqas), but none- "Being trained as an offcer and soldier, that's when I realized I can do a lot more things than I thought I could." In a Mirage 3 PA aircraft from No. 8 tactical attack squadron of the PAF. This was her second fghter aircraft squadron as an engineering offcer. Above: Inspecting a Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 engine pulled out of an F-16. Below: Doing some ground checks on an F-16.

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