World, Asia - Pacific

Afghan-American pilot circling globe arrives in Kabul

Shaesta Waiz, who has been on a solo flight mission around the world since mid-May, takes detour to visit homeland

Afghan-American pilot circling globe arrives in Kabul

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan

Eyeing a historic solo flight around the world, Afghan-American commercial pilot Shaesta Waiz has been given royal treatment at her war-torn country, where she is currently on a two-day break from her trip which began in Florida two months ago.

An enthusiastic crowd of civil society activists, officials and young women and girls flocked to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday night to welcome Shaesta, 29, who rose to fame from a refugee camp in the 1980s.

"I feel lucky to have had the chance to complete my studies, and achieve something that I always wanted which is flying," she told reporters at the airport. "But I still feel hurt when I see not many girls like me have that chance."

Upon her arrival, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani hosted Waiz at the Arg [Presidential palace] and expressed hope that more Afghan girls would choose to follow in her footsteps.

"All Afghans who are striving to secure and stabilize in their different capacities are worth appreciating," Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah told a gathering organized for the young pilot.

The inspiring woman joined a fleet of young and emerging women pilots of the nascent Afghan Air Force on Tuesday where she delivered a motivational speech.

"I will be back among you in a year's time," she said while promising to open an aviation school in the country. Waiz also underlined the importance of parents' support for girls’ education. She has been flanked by her father, Fahim Waiz Arghandiwal.

Waiz is scheduled to depart from Afghanistan on Wednesday to fly across Asia and Australia before going back to Florida where she began her journey on May 13 to visit 18 countries on her Beechcraft Bonanza A36 plane.

Once the mission is completed, Waiz will become the youngest woman to ever accomplish such an attempt.

Born in a refugee camp in Afghanistan at the end of the Soviet war, Waiz emigrated to the U.S with her family in 1987.

She became the first certified civilian female pilot from Afghanistan and the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree — both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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