Hanadi El Hendi_Meet the First Saudi Female Pilot

Even though the aviation industry’s history does not lack success stories for females who decided to pursue a career in the field and became pioneers in it, pilot is still considered in some places around the world as a gender-exclusive job for men.

That being said, the successful attempts made by many women to break that taboo keep happening as a lot of them continue to prove their qualification and skills in the field.

In the recent years, Captain Hanadi Zakareya Hendi headlined the industry news for her excellence after she became the first woman to obtain a commercial pilot license within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Early Life:

Born in 1978 in Al Masfala area, Mecca, Hanadi’s passion for aviation and flying was nurtured from a young age due to the many trips and flights her family has been consistently doing.

After finishing school, Hanadi joined the college of education in Um Al Qura University to study English Literature. There, a lot of her professors and mentors have witnessed her excellence and devotion. It is also worth mentioning that, till a recent time, Hendi has been practicing a lot of creative talents like painting.

Pursuing a Career in Aviation:

Hendi has made her decision to learn aviation and start a career as a pilot even before she finishes her college education and earn her Bachelor’s degree, as she thrived to achieve her father’s dream of having one of his five children working as a pilot.

That being said, Hendi’s road towards achieving that dream did not lack obstacles; quite the contrary, many of her relatives, family members, and acquaintances did not approve of her decision especially considering the conservative social environment of Saudi Arabia back then.

However, it was Hindi’s steel will that paid off eventually when she joined the Middle East Aviation Academy in Jordan, finished her studies and obtained a commercial pilot license in 2004.

The strongest proof of Hendi’s excellence and top-notch skills is her being chosen to sign a 10-year contract with the Saudi Holding Company before the company’s director, Prince Waleed bin Talal hired her as the pilot of his private airplane.

Not only that, but also Prince Waleed bin Talal supported Hendi through providing her with a monthly allowance to help her afford the fees of her studies; once she successfully passed the Advanced Aviation Program in 2005, she started working for the Saudi prince till the year 2014.

Other Challenges:

Unfortunately, the difficulties which Hendi encountered did not stop at the obstacles she had to overcome before starting her career. In 2010, as she was undergoing a surgery in London, Hendi lost one of her kidneys which led to her being stripped of her commercial pilot license.

However, Hendi quickly has proven her sheer will power once again when she managed to renew her commercial pilot license two years later when she took off for the first time after the surgery in October 2012.

Achievements and Accolades:

As we mentioned before, Hendi was the first woman to break the taboo that aviation is a gender-exclusive indurstry in Saudi Arabia. Hence, she earned the respect of the global aviation industry as her name was enlisted in the “Greatest 100 Women in Aviation History” list as well as Arabian Business’s list of “the 30 Strongest Saudi Women.”

As a result of that, Hendi inspired a lot of women to go after their dream of becoming a pilot in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the entire Middle East region.

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