#SheBoss : Pilot Salma AlBaloushi

My name is Salma AlBaloushi and I am a First Officer for Ettihad Airways.

When everyone around me doubted me and did not know of my capability I stayed quite, worked hard and proved them wrong. The purpose and inspiration of  my work, and success was not only to prove people wrong; rather I worked hard because I believed in myself and I know I had a long way to go.

In October 2017 I will have completed 10 years as pilot for Ettihad Airways. Honestly, it doesnt feel like 10 years at all. Seems like I just started. It has been a nice long 10 years with good ups and downs.

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In one month I fly 70 to 90 block hours. Block hours starts from when chokes off all the way to when I park the aircraft on the terminal. I fly Airbus 320 for short haul sectors such as UAE to Africa, India, Tehran, Jordan, Kenya, and Nairobi among others. I studied in Horizon Flight Academy in Al Ain in UAE which has now become Ettihad Flight Academy. The course was for 1.5 years practical + theoratical exams.

It just happened!

I never really envisioned myself being a pilot. It just happened! My detsiny lead me to where I am today. All I did was make sure I put in all my effort into my work.

When i was a kid in first grade, I hated the english subject. Teachers were very tough and would beat us when we didn’t do our homework.

Second grade, was same.

Third grade, luckily we had a very nice Syrian english teacher and she made me fall in love the subject. She said to me, “If you really wan to learn something you won’t learn it from a book. You will learn it from people around you. So if you want to improve english then talk to people and don’t worry about mistakes. The best place to practice english is hospitals or airports becasue you will meet so many different accents and people and learn language.”

After high school I studied nursing for one year. One day, I saw an advertisement from Ettihad asking for men and women to apply. I applied for it and forgot about it.

I got lucky…or was it destiny.

I was called in for assessments within 1 week. When I applied I didn’t tell anyone and at that time I didn’t have a personal phone. I gave my moms number, so the message from Ettihad Airlines was sent to my moms number. My mom called me one day and said,

“Ettihad Newspaper gave you an interview date next week.”

She never would have imagined the airlines would contact me instead thought it was their media company I had applied for. Immediatly I knew it wasnt the newspaper but it was the Airlines. Still I didn’t want to say anything so I kept quite.

“Yes mom,  its newspaper. Will you drive me to the meeting?”

Yes, dear off course.”

That morning, I woke up at 5 leave at 6 and reach Abu Dhabi at 7 am. 12 hours iThe assessments lasted 12 straight hours. My mom was waiting for me in the car. I was done and on the way back to Al Ain.

“How did it go?” mom asked.

“Mom I want to tell you something. It wasnt the Ettihad newspaper company, it was Ettihad Airlines.”

“So now you are going to be an air hostes?” she replied confused.

“Mom they want me to be pilot, not air hostess, ” I explained politely.

My mother smirked, “You are not even fit enough. You are skinny! How  are you gonna fly a whole plane!”

“Mom they need brains not muscles to fly a plane, ” still I was polite and tried to help her understand.

“Ok lets see how it goes, ” she said and drove us home.

After several more assessments and test I passed. Then I went to get my uniform and ID. I went home and told my relatives, “I am going to be a pilot.” My relatives responded with a laugh.

“Your not gonna be a pilot. Your gonna serve tea and coffee. They dont need people like you, ” they scorned me but I stood steadfast and I did not let anything hurt me.

I said calmy ok, lets see how it goes. My parents got divorced when I was 5. I lived with my grandparents until I was 16  then moved and lived with my mom. So I went to visit my father to give him the news. I showed him my uniform and ID.

“Are you serous?” my dad said and looked into my eyes for the truth.

“Yes dad.”

“Is this somehting you wanna do? Good luck. Just do not come one day and make me ashamded of myself,” he advised.

“ok I wont, ” I promised.

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 My Family Life

I am married for 3 years which completed on 15 February 2017. I have one daughter Sheikha and one boy Nasir. I had them back to back so I can concentrate flying. I was grounded for 2 years so i wanted to get back into flying and not continue a gap in flying which would harm my career.

My husband is an aircraft engineer. I am away most of the time and when I am working my husband is taking care of kids. My step mom helping me. My mom is helping me.

When I’m away I talk to them over skype or any video chat. When I am home and day off my day is only for my family. My family is a blessing to me.

 

Racism

Racists are a minority. I don’t give them so much attenton and never let them put me down. I had this one guy walk up to me when I was at an air show.

“Are you goign to wear the hijjab hile your flying, “came out of no where.

“Yes I am, ” I told him.

“It just look so ridiculous and stupid. This is not something for aviation ” he laughed.

“Ok sir, I respect your point of view but this hijjab only covers my hair, it doesnt cover my brain. Whats so silly about it? There is a reason I am here. I passed all the exams and I am qualified. ”

The Future Is Unknown…

I dont know how it will be in he future, but with this kind of support, it will go well for all of us. I will continue Masters in aviation management then go for boeing 777 or airbus 380.  Also I am planning to have another 2 babies before 35!

TakIng Care of Self

I’ll tell you one thing, a year ago I was 85 kg on the day I delivered my boy. I was size 8, on my 9th month I was wearing size 16 almost size 18. I lost some of the weight, I was strugglying to lose more weight. It was really so hard. Now, after 1 year I am 58 kg.  I joined gym 45 days after maternity days. As for food, 3 to 4 months I stoppped eating carbs. It helped me to lose weight.

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