Emirati woman who reached for the skies
Mariam Al Mansouri was a teenager when she set her sights on becoming a pilot for the Armed Forces.
But there was one little hurdle she had to wait several years to overcome – no women were allowed to join up.
She bided her time by spending several years working for General Command before becoming the first woman to join the airforce when the academy finally opened its doors to female recruits.
Now Major Mariam Al Mansouri, she is the U.A.E.'s first female Emirati airforce pilot.
Major Al Mansouri, one of eight children, told Deraa Al Watan magazine that although her family supported her goal she had to overcome several challenges at the beginning of her journey.
A recipient of the Mohammed bin Rashid Excellence Award last month, taking home the "Pride of the Emirates Medal”, Major Al Mansouri said that as part of her training she had to show she had a high level of theoretical and practical proficiency.
A graduate of Khalifa bin Zayed Air College in 2007, the Major is now a veteran operations pilot, working with F-16 Block 60 aircraft.
As for being in competition with her male counterparts, the Major said this was never an issue, saying she "focused on competing with herself to improve her skills”.
"Competing with oneself,” she told the magazine, "is conducive to continued learning.”
There was also no difference between men and women with regards to training and assignments, she said.
"Everybody is required to have the same high level of combat competence,” she said. She also received no special treatment because of her gender.
Born in Abu Dhabi, she graduated from high school with a 93 per cent grade average before joining U.A.E. University for a BA in English literature. Major Al Mansouri said it was her love for the U.A.E. and her passion for challenge and competition that drew her to the field of aviation.
Support came from her command, her trainers and her colleagues, whose cooperation encouraged her to last in the job and to enjoy it.
During her studies and career, Major Al Mansouri has met several notable figures, including Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the Mother of the Nation and widow of the founding President, Sheikh Zayed.
Other dignitaries she has been privileged to meet include the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, who she met at the Dubai Airshow and the International Defence Exhibition.
For those women who wish to follow in her flightpath, the Major advised "be prepared as it is a time and effort-consuming field that requires a great deal of passion”.