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Female pilot flying around the world to promote STEM

19 May 2017

First certified civilian female Afghan pilot, Shaesta Waiz, will attempt to become the youngest woman to fly solo around the world to promote STEM education.

First certified civilian female Afghan pilot, Shaesta Waiz (Credit: Dreams Soar)

Shaesta Waiz began her solo flight around the world on May 13, 2017. She has to complete 30 stops over five continents, in 18 countries, in 90 days – with more than 25,000 miles flown. But it’s nothing compared to the journey this 29-year-old aviator – the first certified civilian female Afghan pilot – has already persevered.

Born in a refugee camp in Afghanistan in 1987, Waiz and her family fled to America to escape the brutal Soviet-Afghan war, which was amid ripping the two nations apart.

One of six sisters in her family, Waiz was raised in Richmond, California, where she discovered an interest in aviation. That’s when everything changed for her.

“She’s an inspiration to all of us – she’s created a spark and a flame in our hearts to ensure we positively impact the next generation, our future leaders, and our future communities,” says Lyndse Costabile, Chair for Dreams Soar, Inc.’s Board of Directors. “The global solo flight is only one chapter of the Dreams Soar programme, yet one that will leave a footprint on the lives of 20,000 plus women and men globally.”

While a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Waiz founded the Women’s Ambassadors Programme in 2011 to increase the female enrolment through a modelled mentor programme. In less than three years, under her leadership, the programme helped increase female enrolment from 13 to 22 percent. 

With a mission to encourage more women to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and aviation-related degrees, Dreams Soar was born late 2014 by Waiz, now a non-profit organisation whose goal is to partner with strong female role models along her upcoming route around the world, and together, promote the importance of STEM and aviation education, globally.

“Every time I open the door of an aircraft, I ask myself, ‘How did a girl with my background become so lucky? The truth is, anyone can be me,” remarks Waiz.

Waiz’s global solo flight for STEM will begin and end at Daytona Beach International Airport, and will include stops in Canada, Europe, India, Egypt, Thailand, Middle East, Singapore, and Australia. U.S. stops will include Columbus, Ohio, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Hilo, Hawaii, El Cajon, California, Phoenix, Arizona, Wichita, Kansas, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Georgia, and Mobile, Alabama.

The longest leg of the global flight is Hilo, Hawaii to El Cajon, California, one that extends to 2,184 nautical miles over the Pacific Ocean. Global Partners to this programme include ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and BendixKing by Honeywell.

For a complete itinerary of planned stops, information on Waiz and the Dreams Soar team, visit Dreams Soar’s website: www.dreamssoar.org.




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