First Pakistani passenger plane with a female pilot and all-woman crew flew on a domestic flight this week, making aviation history in the Islamic nation, an airline official said Friday. Now the pilot, Ayesha Rabia Naveed, 48, who already has 6,000 hours' experience flying as a co-pilot with Pakistan International Airlines, aims to captain larger jet airliners for the national carrier. The 40 passengers aboard Wednesday's PIA flight from Islamabad to the eastern city of Lahore were told before takeoff that the pilot was a woman, but only found out afterward that it was a first. After the safe landing in Lahore, colleagues showered Naveed, co-pilot Sadia Aziz, and flight attendants Shazia Kauser and Tauseef Ashraf with petals and garlands as they left the Fokker turboprop plane.
"That was a nice feeling and great sense of achievement for me," Naveed told The Associated Press on Friday. "I am trained on all types of equipment in the PIA fleet like the Boeing 747 and Airbus, and I had been flying them as a co-pilot. I believe days are not far off when I will be flying them as pilot-in-command," she said.
Despite opposition from hard-line religious groups that often discourage women from jobs traditionally performed by men, PIA said it was proud to have the first all-women crew in the airline's 58-year history. "PIA is an equal opportunity employer in all its areas of operation ... and as such PIA was the first to employ a woman pilot," spokesman Hassan Jaffery said.
The airline has 548 male and six female pilots. Until Wednesday, women had only served as co-pilots. Naveed learned to fly by taking lessons with a flying club in Lahore before joining PIA 15 years ago. She said she had no apprehensions before the historic flight, which she described as "smooth all the way."
"There was no point of being scared as we are trained equally as our male colleagues," Naveed said, reports the AP.