x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A literal high flier

As the UAE's first female fighter pilot, Major Mariam Al Mansouri is an inspiration and a literal high flier.

Anyone who sets their sights on becoming a fighter pilot faces a formidable set of hurdles, including the role’s rigorous academic and physical challenges. When Mariam Al Mansouri set her heart on it, she faced an extra hurdle none of her male counterparts had to surmount: at the time, women were not allowed to serve in that role in the UAE Armed Forces.

Other women might have redirected their ambitions elsewhere where their contribution was encouraged. As someone who graduated high school with a 93 per cent grade average then went on to complete a university degree, her professional potential was wide open.

But other women are not like Major Al Mansouri, whose pilot dream began when she was a teenager. Instead she bided her time at the Armed Forces general command until the air force academy finally opened its doors to women recruits. She found training and assessment were based strictly on merit, with no easier path because of her gender.

As the UAE’s first female Air Force pilot, she presents an inspiring example, which is particularly timely now that Emirati women have the option of doing military service. With application and diligence, she has shown even the sky really is no limit.