Aged 20, Fajr Fahd, a flying instructor at Elstree Aerodrome, is positive that her childhood dream of being an airline pilot will soon become reality
Interview: Dave Calderwood
27 September 2023
Is Fajr Fahd the UK’s youngest female PPL flying instructor? A role she attained at the age of 19. Quite possibly (please let us know if you know otherwise), but even if not, Fajr has certainly pushed on with her career and ambition to fly for an airline.
Fajr, now 20, already holds an Air Transport Pilot’s Licence, ‘frozen’ until she reaches 1,500 flight hours, and is well on the way to that target.
“In my journey to becoming a commercial pilot,” explained Fajr, “I have accumulated more than 660 flight hours, a substantial portion of which – 400 hours – comprises instructional time, including night flight instruction on single-engine piston aircraft, since I began instruction at Flight Training London last year.
“It was during a conversation with my colleague, Kathan Dudhela, at Elstree Aerodrome, our workplace, that I realised I hold the distinction of being the UK’s youngest female PPL flight instructor. This achievement fills me with immense pride.
“What excites me the most about this milestone is the opportunity it presents to inspire and empower women in aviation. In an industry where female representation remains limited, I see my accomplishment as a beacon of hope and a catalyst for positive change.”
I get asked this quite often, and I honestly think it was just meant to be! My parent’s first job in the UK was at London City Airport. My father had model aircraft and we would go to parks as a family to fly them – and I started to become quite intrigued by the idea of flying.
The thought of becoming an actual airline pilot seemed pretty out of reach at first. I didn’t know when or how to even begin, how to fund it, who to ask. I had no family or friends in the field either who could have given me guidance.
However, for my 16th birthday, I was given a flight experience from my parents, which was incredible! The airfield, Damyns Hall, happened to be 15 minutes away from where we lived, and so I had the opportunity to fly over my home and school… I couldn’t believe it!
The instructor allowed me to take control of the aircraft, he talked me through the instruments and I had a go at the approach which, at the age of 16, was amazing. I already felt like a pilot and I was bummed when the flight had to come to an end!
It’s a moment I have never forgotten. From that day on I knew I wanted to be a part of the aviation world and do everything I could to become a pilot.
I remember being excited by the idea of meeting real pilots at my school careers day, but after walking around I was losing hope of finding any stand related to aviation, but then right at the end in the corner of the hall I found it: The British Women Pilots Association.
I was fortunate enough to have the chance to receive guidance from the female pilots at the stand about where to begin, which helped me gain some clarity on my big dream.
My dad has been the biggest help and support for me in my journey to this day. I am where I am today, thanks to him. I explained to my dad the information I had received from the BWPA, and together we decided to visit flight schools to try and figure out the process of becoming an airline pilot, plus the ideal way of completing the required training.
If I had to say one thing, it would be that I wish there was more pilot representation at school careers days. Although I managed to get through the first hurdle of where to start, it took a long time to find the right information and guidance. The journey to becoming a pilot can be complicated, and is very dependent on each individual, so I learned a lot along the way, both positive and negative.
I decided to choose the integrated route for my training. However, after facing a few challenges along the way I went modular. I preferred this as it meant I could complete my training quicker and reach my goal of becoming a Commercial Pilot sooner. It allowed me to be more consistent and up to date with my knowledge and skill set, which was really important to me.
When commencing my flight training at Tayside Aviation, becoming a flight instructor was an option given to students of the school.
I immediately knew this was something I wanted to do, and was ready to take on the challenge. I have always been a people person and love talking to, and meeting new people, and despite being quite young, I knew I had the capability to take on such a role as I was aware of the great responsibility that came with it.
What excited me most was that I would have the opportunity to pass on my passion and love for flying – and be a role model for future pilots.
When I flew for the first time at 16, I was inspired by my instructor’s calm and kind nature. Throughout my training I have met outstanding instructors who positively reinforced my decision to become a pilot and have taught me great skills.
The opportunity to encourage others and help in their individual journeys is something I couldn’t miss.
I am grateful to have the most unbelievable support from my family and friends. They have cheered me on every step of the way. My parents are extremely encouraging about my decision to become an airline pilot and flight instructor.
At first when I told my friends, it was a big shock, as it’s not a typical job – and especially where I am from, it’s not common whatsoever. However I am lucky to have great people by my side and it’s made me feel more motivated and determined to reach my goals.
Being a female Pakistani pilot is discouraged in many countries due to culture as it’s not a traditionally female role to take on. I feel proud to be able to break down this barrier and be in a profession that I love.
I hope that it will encourage women from all backgrounds and cultures to find their passion and do what makes them feel happy!
The flight instructor course was one of the best courses I’ve taken. It was demanding, but extremely rewarding.
The hardest part was learning how to manage and prioritise tasks in a calm and collected manner. As an instructor it is my duty to deliver excellent training to my students and build their confidence and trust.
The first few flights were challenging as it was different to what I was used to. Also, as an instructor, the student may ask any question to which they expect answers, and so flying instructors must be sharp with their knowledge, so it was back to the books!
I enjoyed the whole experience. It felt good to brush up on my own knowledge and build the skills required to be a good flying instructor. I definitely believe this course strengthened my communication and leadership skills and my confidence as a woman in aviation!
I work as an instructor at Flight Training London, Elstree Aerodrome. It is a great training airfield surrounded by heavy airspace, non-standard circuit patterns, short runway and it is always busy.
I love a good challenge and I am committed to my self-development and growth, so I couldn’t have thought of a better place to learn how to teach.
I have learned a lot about myself through working at FTL and I am fortunate to work alongside a remarkable team, which made me feel welcomed and a part of the family.
I have completed all the required training to join the airlines and I am excited to see what the future holds! Becoming an airline pilot is my ultimate dream and it feels great knowing I am one step closer to being there. I have thoroughly enjoyed all my training and have learned a lot. I am excited to put it to practical use in the airliner flight deck! It will be a huge milestone for me and a proud moment.
Going into flying, I was not aware of the shortage of female representation in aviation. If I was to give any advice to women wanting to pursue a career in aviation, I would say believe in your potential and your abilities, and become another woman making an impactful mark on aviation history.
It’s an incredible profession. Embrace the adventure and let your dreams take flight… Don’t doubt yourself, be confident and go for it!
The percentage of female pilots is growing, which is a great achievement, and it feels good to know you are a part of the change.
Working for an airline! I hope that I can see my childhood dream come true. The day I get my first job will be a big moment in my life, as it is something I have been working towards for some time now. I am excited to see what the future has in store.