Capt. Aysha Al Hameli

UAE First Female Pilot

UAE Permanent Representative to ICAO

Capt. Aysha Al Hameli has been the Representative of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization(ICAO) since 2009.

She has over 16 years of civil aviation experience covering aviation safety,security, environmental protection, regulations, international negotiations and strategic management. She was elected to be the first Vice President of the ICAO Council for 2016-2017.

As the first female pilot in the UAE, Capt. Al Hameli's work has inspired many women from the region to pursue careers in aviation. She is an active speaker  in national and international venues advocating the role of women in aviation.Recognizing her contribution to the development of gender equality and civil aviation, Capt. Al Hameli has received numerous awards, both in the UAE and internationally.

Capt. Al Hameli has a Master of Science in Air Transport Management Degree from City University of London and a Degree (BA SBS) in International Studies from Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. She is a qualified commercial pilot and certified flight instructor. Further, she has attended senior executive training courses at renowned international institutions such as Harvard University,Singapore Aviation Academy,IATA and Zayed Diplomatic Academy.

Laila Ali Bin Hareb Al Muhairi

Assistant Director General

UAE General Civil Aviation Authority

Laila Ali Bin Hareb Al Muhairi is the Assistant Director General for Strategy and International Affairs Sector at the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) since 2013.

She joined GCAA in 2009 and within just a few years, led her team in winning the coveted Sheikh Khalifa Government Excellence Program Award in recognition of its best practices as well as the prestigious Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Government Excellence Award for having the best strategic planning in a government body.

As assistant director general, she is in-charge of leading and directing the agency's strategy and programs that involve air transport, economic and environmental studies, corporate communication, new projects as well as leading the development and execution of strategies to meet the UAE national targets of Global Indices rankings for Innovation and Quality of Air Transport Infrastructure.

Prior to working for GCAA, she worked for the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and Roads and Transport Authority in various capacities. In all, shehas worked for the UAE government sector for more than 20 years.

Ms. Al Muhairi, a mother of three, has received numerous awards, including as one of the 70 inspiring women in the world by the International Women's Association; the Stevie Award in Boston, USA, in the creative Ladies Work category, and; the Best Professional Aviation Women Award from the Dubai Quality Group in 2015.

Ms. Al Muhairi is a computer software engineer graduate from the United Arab Emirates University. She also has a double Masters in Business Administration—one from the Emirates Aviation University and another from Coventry University in Colorado, USA.

Major Mariam al-Mansouri

UAE’s First Female Fighter Pilot


Major Mariam Al Mansouri became the UAE’s first female fighter pilot when she commandeered an F-16 Falcon fighter jet for the United Arab Emirates Air Force in an air assault against the terror group ISIS in Syria in 2014.

In one of her many media interviews, Major Al Mansouri said she worked hard to prove to her male colleagues she is at par with their skills, breaking barriers and stereotypes against women in military aviation.

A highly-trained, combat-ready pilot and wing leader, Major Al Mansouri was one of the first women to join the UAE Air Force Academy, graduating in 2007.She has been awarded with the coveted Mohammed bin Rashid Pride of the Emirates Medal.

In 2015, she was among nine people who received the Asia Society’s Game Changer Award held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. She was recognized for “battling stereotypes, and terror, from the air.” Major Al Mansouri, who has an undergraduate degree in English literature,was the first woman to enroll in the UAE Air Force when it opened its doors towomen.

She dreamt of becoming a pilot for her country’s military even as a teenager.Women were not allowed to be employed in the military in the UAE in the past. The law was later changed paving the way for women like Major AlMansouri to serve their country.

Liana Coyne


Coyne Airways

Liana Coyne is a Director at Coyne Airways and is currently based at the all- cargo airline's Dubai hub in the UAE. 

London-headquartered Coyne Airways, which has been in business for more than 20 years, was founded by her father, Larry, and offers scheduled services to complex destinations, as well as offering charters to destinations worldwide. 

Liana helps oversee Coyne's operations throughout the Gulf and Central Asia, as well as the more difficult-to-reach destinations which the airline specialises in serving, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and various destinations in Africa. 

Liana graduated with a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford University, and went on to become an English-qualified solicitor. 

She worked for international law firm Baker and McKenzie in both their London and Hong Kong offices for six years, during which time she co- authored a number of articles on legal subjects. In 2010, Liana decided to make the transition to join the family business and move to Dubai. 

She has a passion for learning languages which include Spanish, Russian, French, Italian and Japanese, and hopes to be able to converse in Arabic one day.


Hanadi Zakaria Al Hindi

First Female Pilot,

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


Hanadi Zakaria Al Hindi is the first licensed woman pilot in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which this year announced will allow women to drive for the first time starting June 2018.

Born in Mecca, Al Hindi studied at Jordan's Middle East Academy of Aviation and successfully got her license after graduating in 2001.

She worked as a pilot for Prince Al Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud's fleet of private planes for many years but wasn't allowed to fly within the Kingdom's air space until 2014 when she successfully secured her commercial pilot license.

Al Hindi credits the self-made billionaire Prince Al Waleed, a proponent of women empowerment, for convincing the reclusive Saudi Arabia government to issue her a commercial pilot license, the first woman in the country to get such.

So far, the kingdom has only two women licensed pilots–Al Hindi and Yasmeen Muhammad Al-Maimani–who became the second Saudi woman to obtain a commercial pilot license from the General Authority of Civil Aviation.

Al Hindi says “flying is her passion” and that she hopes her story will inspire other women in the kingdom to pursue their dreams despite obstacles.

Shaesta Waiz

Dreams Soar Aviator

Shaesta Waiz is an Afghan born in a refugee camp in America where her family escaped in 1987 during the Soviet-Afghan war era. 

She grew up with her five sisters in Richmond, California, in a poor community where she claims “sharing textbooks with classmates and watching friends drop out of high school was the norm.” 

Her life changed when she fell in love with aviation and pursued relentlessly a degree at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where she also took her master's, becoming the first in their family to get higher education. 

At Embry-Riddle, she started the Women's Ambassador Program to help mentor young women pursue education in aviation and engineering.

In 2016, Dreams Soar (, an initiative designed to help share and promote the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, was launched. 

Under this initiative, Waiz will attempt to make a historic voyage to circumnavigate the world on her own. She will make 28 stops on five continents in 18 countries and each time, she will hold an outreach program to encourage women to believe in themselves. 

“Every time I open the door to an aircraft, I ask myself, 'How did a girl with my background become so lucky?' The truth is, anyone can be me. You must believe in yourself and allow your dreams to soar,” says the 28-year-old Waiz.


Mervat Sultan


Co-founder, RamJet Aviation Support

President, Women in Aviation Middle East Chapter

 Mervat Sultan is one of the first women in the Arab World to obtain an FAA GCAA flight dispatch license. 

She co-founded RamJet Aviation Support, an haute couture aviation support company providing flight support services, in 2001. 

She has since then successfully handled numerous flights worldwide. She is also the co-founder and President for Women in Aviation, Middle East Chapter. 

She seeks to be the premier gateway for women in the Middle East to achieve lucrative careers and educational opportunities in the aviation and the aerospace industry through the organization Women in Aviation. 

The organization also aims to be a platform to bring successful women who have made their mark in the aviation industry to mentor and be a source of inspiration for women aspiring to be a part of the growing aviation sector. 

A passionate flyer, Mervat is always looking to hone her flying skills while she is not working.


Talar Faiq Salih

Director, Erbil International Airport

When the Kurdish minority in Kurdistan voted overwhelmingly for its independence from Iraq through a referendum, retaliation was expected but few would have guessed the Erbil International Airport and other airports in the region would be used as leverage to rescind its quest for freedom.

Talar Faiq Salih, director of Erbil International Airport, found herself in a very difficult situation as she announced its closure from September 29, 2017, with thousands of passengers stranded as planes were halted from flying to and from Kurdistan, the oil-rich northern part of Iraq.

The Iraqi government seeks to nullify the referendum’s results in exchange for handing over control of the airports, the region’s economic lifeline.

Born in 1967 in Suliamani, a Kurdistan city in Iraq, Salih studied English translation at the University of Mustansiriyah in Baghdad.

In 1991, she began her career with the United Nations as an aid worker in Iraq's refugee zones. She stayed with UN for nearly a decade before moving to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) where she continued her work for refugees.

The then London-based humanitarian worker became a representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government in the UK. She returned to Kurdistan in 2009 and became the director of the Erbil International Airport where she is credited for bringing in more airlines, cargo carriers and increasing passenger traffic to the region, thereby, helping spur

Siza Mzimela

Founder & Chief Executive Officer,  

Fly Blue Crane


Siza Mzimela holds the credit as the first woman to sit on the board of the powerful International Aviation Transport Association (AITA). 

This former CEO at South African Airways launched in September of 2016 her own start-up airline company, Fly Blue Crane. Based out of OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, the airline offers point-to-point domestic routes. 

As CEO of SAA, Siza is credited for introducing direct flights to New York and Beijing, China and further expanding the airline's routes. 

In 2012, Siza established Blue Crane Aviation – an aviation services company with specific focus on African airlines and providing specialist airline consulting, aviation legal services, aircraft management services – all to enable airlines and aviation businesses with strategic access to the global market. 

With a positive attitude, strong negotiating skills and business acumen, Siza managed to scale many new heights in the region. 

Siza studied at University of Pretoria and University of Swaziland where she earned a degree in economics and statistics.