- Who is the Helicopter Pilot?
“My mother said I used to sleep outside gazing up at the sky”
When I was a child I was really interested in the sky, stars and moon. My mother said I used to sleep outside sometimes just gazing up at the sky and in the day I would lie on the ground and watch the birds flying overhead.
My father was an officer in the army and he always encouraged my sister and me to do what we were most interested in. We both chose aviation. Coming from a military family I had a sense of responsibility towards my people and my nation.
I graduated from the Air Defense Academy during Dr. Najibullah’s regime, and joined the Air Force after that. I flew during the Mujahudein time but had to stop when the Taliban came to power. They were not the type of people who wanted women to work, least of all fly helicopters. When a bird has no wings it has to sit on its own in a corner all the time and it’s sad. I was that bird.
Even now, although the Taliban are not in power, in a country like Afghanistan being a female pilot creates so many problems. But we have had so many problems over the last few decades but we have survived.
There aren’t many women in the army and none of them are front line soldiers, apart from those who join the air force. I believe Afghan women are capable of joining the army, going to war and defending the nation.
I haven’t dropped bombs anywhere yet. However my missions are spread around the country and it’s an interesting life.
I went to the area of Ghormach a few years a go. On the night before our mission the security forces in the area were in a ferocious fight with the Taliban. We went to supply cover and to remove the Taliban from the area. Our flying techniques had to be very precise so as to avoid any collateral damage. Actually the infantry forces we were covering thought we’d been taken as prisoners of war until we arrived. The Taliban couldn’t defend themselves against us and when we landed back in Kabul it was to a heroes welcome.
I will never forget that day but sadly many of my missions are bringing the bodies of injured soldiers back. The memories of those days are sad and bitter to me.
When I am at home I am a housewife. I have been married for 7 years and my daughter, Malalai is 5. She often comes with me to work on the flights and I love having her around. I hope that one day she will be a pilot or even an astronought but I do sometimes fear that there will be an incident and she will get hurt.
I fly MI17’s which are old Russian helicopters and have a crew of two others, the co pilot and the flight engineer, and there is 1 crew chief who stays on the ground. The equipment is very old but the planes that NATO forces use are more developed and it would be easier for us to use those. Perhaps one day we will and be able to better defend the borders of our nation.
I am never afraid when I am flying; If you are scared, you loose courage and it affects your ability. When I am flying, all I can think about is the mechanisms of flying, you know, the instruments, the dials; how to actually fly the helicopter. I just don’t allow myself to be distracted.
I love being a pilot and I wish for young girls to have the opportunity to follow in my footsteps so that I wont be the first and last woman to fly. Women and the young girls of Afghanistan – they have the responsibility of the future on their shoulders and have to serve their nation like their brothers do.
That said, I am still bound by family to put their interests first. Before I was married, I had more time to work but now it is different and actually I haven’t flown for 8 months as Malalai is getting to an age where she needs to go to kindergarten, yet there isn’t one I can send her to so the responsibility falls on me.
I am lucky that my husband supports me though. He is also in the military and works at the airport. He always helps me and supports the fact that I am a pilot and has helped me to become the best pilot I can be.