Saudi female air traffic controllers reach for the sky

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09/03/20

Saudi women air traffic controllers at work. (Supplied photo)
  • Pilots of international airliners have welcomed Saudi women into the profession

JEDDAH: The number of Saudi female air traffic controllers in the Kingdom has reached 26 after they completed their training at the Saudi Civil Aviation Academy.

The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has been empowering Saudi women in several fields, including the profession of air traffic controllers.

Air traffic control (ATC) consists of three main tasks: approach control, air control tower and area control.

Good concentration and quick decision-making are the most important skills of air traffic control personnel.

The importance of this profession is reflected in its impact on the safety, efficiency and regularity of air navigation. It has been classified as one of the most difficult professions globally, which makes it of high importance at the international level.

A number of Saudi female air traffic controllers talked about their start in obtaining a license, and their practical and effective roles in this profession.

Air traffic controller Reem Abdullah explained that the reason she entered the aviation field was the challenges it presented and the passion such sensitive jobs demand.

“We are the first batch of graduates to work in the air traffic control profession and, frankly, it is a very interesting job. Since we started training, we began to get a clear perception of the subject at hand,” she said.

She added: “The training that we received is very intense and accurate and we went through more than ten exams before admission; 11 Saudi girls graduated in that batch.”

After obtaining the license and embarking on her new journey, she said, her colleagues from international airlines were surprised to see a woman taking on such a task. “They started asking: ‘Is this Saudi Arabia? This is Jeddah?’ As time went by, the pilots congratulated me on the job and expressed their high confidence in us.”

Rawan Hubaishi, another air traffic control graduate, also found her new profession to be interesting. “Once you start working in this field, it is hard to do any other job,” she said.

Hubaishi said that the presence of Saudi women in such a profession is the best evidence that they are capable of working in all fields and can perform their work to the highest standards.

Air traffic controller Lina Adel aspires to be the first woman to assume a regional management position.

“The first words we heard when we entered the training was that there is no difference between us and our male colleagues, and that we can work and achieve successes in this profession,” she said. “The profession of air traffic control is very precise and detailed, yet not impossible to conquer.”

Shahad Zareh, an air traffic controller trainee, described the profession as “fun and unconventional.”

“The various exams on this job are not easy at all, but at the same time enjoyable because it is diverse,” she said.

Zareh encouraged her female peers to join the field. “I tell the Saudi girls that the job of air traffic controller is fun and we’re competent and we can do it.”

Air traffic controller Shahad Barakat said that the profession suited her tendencies to overcome challenges and difficulties. “My passion for flying and reading about this sector is behind my love to work as an air traffic controller, and I found that this job suits my preferences, especially that it is a job that has many challenges and is totally unconventional.”

Saudi Arabia possesses an integrated navigation system in air navigation — one of the latest advanced systems at the international level. There are 15 air monitoring units and five maintenance centers operating 24 hours a day in Jeddah and Riyadh.

This article was first published in Arab News

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