Young Pilot Seeks to Promote Aviation, Inspire Others to Dream Big

To say that pilot Shaesta Waiz comes from humble beginnings is an understatement.

Born in a refugee camp in Afghanistan, she and her family came to America in 1987 to escape the Soviet-Afghan war. She and her five sisters grew up in Richmond, CA, educated in an under-funded school system, where sharing textbooks and watching friends drop out of school was the norm.

But Waiz discovered her love of aviation, and knew that her calling in life was different. Now the first female certified pilot from Afghanistan, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees – Waiz is preparing to embark on a round-the-world-journey to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education, and let other young women know they, too, have choices.

In January, at NBAA’s West Palm Beach, FL Regional Forum, Waiz debuted the Beechcraft Bonanza airplane she’ll be piloting for her “Dreams Soar” mission – an attempt to become the youngest woman to fly solo around the world, while inspiring the next generation of pilots and STEM professionals.

“It’s an opportunity for young women to come together and share their successes,” said Waiz. “I want this to shed hope and give others some inspiration.”

Waiz noted that less than 10 percent of the approximately 700,000 certified general aviation pilots are women, and in the last three decades, the female general aviation population has increased by only five percent.

“At Embry-Riddle, I also started the Women’s Ambassador Program – an initiative that seeks to mentor and support young women pursuing an education in aviation and engineering – then sought to advance my efforts to a global scale,” she added. “I started Dreams Soar to share my story with women around the world, to let them know it is possible to achieve your dreams, regardless of the challenges and traditions you may face.”

Waiz’s 90-day, 31,000-mile journey kicks off June 2 in Daytona Beach, FL. She’s expected to make more than 30 stops on five continents with her trip taking her across the United States and to countries including India, Egypt, Singapore, Pakistan, Australia and Afghanistan.

Follow Waiz’s journey across the world.

The No Plane No Gain advocacy campaign, jointly sponsored by NBAA and GAMA, promotes the value of business aviation in supporting high-skill career paths, like those in the STEM professions Waiz will highlight during her worldwide journey.