Hanadi Frets Over Health Problems

RIYADH: Capt. Hanadi Zakaria Al-Hindi, the first Saudi woman pilot, has returned to Makkah following an operation in the UK after being diagnosed with a kidney illness.

Hanadi was enrolled at an aviation academy to gain advanced proficiency in flying when she discovered she was ill during a series of medical tests. In a telephone interview, Hanadi said she is upset, as pilots are required to pass strict physical examinations before being allowed to fly aircraft.

According to the standard requirement, a pilot must have 20/20 vision with or without glasses, good hearing and no physical handicaps that could impair their performance.

Hanadi also thanked Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company, who hired her and is still supporting her.

Hanadi, who started her aviation schooling at Jordan’s Middle East Academy of Aviation in 2002, is the Kingdom’s first woman pilot. She has become something of a celebrity in this country after gaining her Jordanian commercial pilot’s license (CPL) and instrument rating in 2006. Last year she traveled to the UK to undergo further training to gain her European CPL.

She went to the UK in March and completed ground school in August. She then studied for the flying element of her European JAA CPL, and was to follow this with a spell at Farnborough on Flight Safety’s Hawker 800 simulator.

“First, I was shocked to learn about the medical complications,” said Hanadi, who would have finished her Hawker 800 type rating by the end of this summer and was expecting to become a first officer on “The Kingdom” Hawker 800 business jet.

When asked if she still had ambitions to fly Prince Alwaleed’s mega jets, she said, “I really do want to fly them — and why not?”

Hanadi, who was born in Makkah, has a 10-year contract with Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding Company as chief captain of his private jet, “The Kingdom.”

Capt. Hanadi was emotional throughout the interview and repeatedly thanked Prince Alwaleed for his support.

Hanadi, 29, belongs to a middle-class family. She is the third daughter in a family of four sisters and two brothers. She firmly believes that “women in Saudi Arabia can — given the chance — compete head on and excel in every domain, which has been so far dominated by men.”

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