October’s – ‘The Bravery Issue’ – Download Now

Captain Salma Al Baloushi is the first Emirati female to rise to First Officer’s rank at Etihad Airways. She speaks to us about what it takes to become a woman of firsts.

What does your morning routine look like?

The first 30 minutes of the day are more productive. I usually wake up, wake the kids and then have a quick shower followed by breakfast.

What sparked your passion for aviation?

I had never thought of aviation, but a long time ago, in my primary school, I saw a picture of the first Emirati female pilot, Captain Aysha AlHameli, and I said to myself, “One day I’ll be someone, something, in this country.”

During my studies in nursing school, I had a life-changing experience. My grandmother was admitted to the same hospital I was training in, and once she asked me to help ease her back pain, so I hugged her and asked, “Are you feeling okay?” She said, “Yes, I feel like I’m flying. I wish I could see you flying someday, you will have your wings.” Two days later she passed away.

 

Later on, Etihad Airways announced that it was offering aviation scholarships, and I felt like it was a sign, so I left my job as a nurse and never looked back.

How would you define bravery?

Taking a decision and following it through.

How did you overcome the mental obstacles along the way?

We get our mental obstacles from people around us who try to downgrade and discourage us from going ahead with things they’re not familiar with. People kept telling me aviation was not for me, or this field was only meant for men, but my batch mates believed the opposite. It’s exhausting, but with the right support of your family, your company and a good understanding of the work environment, it’s possible.

I also spoke to Captain Aysha AlHameli, after finishing my three months in aviation school. She has been my number one supporter whom I learned everything from, including managing work, life and aviation.

How do you feel when you’re flying?

It’s a huge responsibility, especially at critical times such as in bad weather, your adrenaline levels increase and you immediately focus on the passengers’ safety. I’ve learned to lean on my colleagues and ask questions – there are no stupid questions. It’s necessary to speculate what can happen and to mentally prepare for it. We also get emergency training every six months, which helps overcome stressful situations.

This year has been challenging, how do you approach challenges?

I’ve realised I want to do more, so I decided to complete my higher education in Aviation Management, this way I can balance being on and off the ground. I’ve also learned the importance of having savings – they provide stability!

What’s the bravest step you’ve taken?

Deciding to return to aviation after delivering my first baby. I tried office work, but I wasn’t happy and eventually, my husband encouraged me to go back. I’m happy as long as I’m behind the wheel of a plane.

How did you feel the first time you flew?

The first time I flew a plane was on my birthday, and I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was just amazing.

It was my first time learning to drive anything; I got my driving license after my flight license. It’s been 13 years, but my passion remains the same.

Has flying changed your perception of life on land?

Yes. Experiencing Mother Nature’s power humbles you. For me, it’s not the same thing as experiencing it on land. Passing through clouds is not like looking at them, because every time you pass through one, you experience turbulence. Being in the sky also helps you clear your mind.

October’s – ‘The Bravery Issue’ – Download Now

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Images: Supplied