Newsgate360 – KSA: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made many achievements towards empowering women in the labor market, and the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) was one of the entities that enabled Saudi women to work in the civil aviation sector, at all levels, be it leadership, technical or administrative positions. This comes out of the belief in the of the role of women in developing and strengthening the aviation sector, which is a major contributor in all fields in line with the Saudi vision 2030. GACA has undertaken the job of empowering Saudi women in several fields, including the profession of air traffic controllers.
GACA is proud of the capabilities and skills of its air traffic controllers, where the percentage of Saudization of the air traffic control professions in the Kingdom have reached 100%, despite the steady growth witnessed by air traffic in the airports and airspace of the Kingdom year after year. GACA is keen to achieve a safe atmosphere in accordance with the most accurate global safety standards and build a modern system with advanced modern services in the field of air transport. The number of female air traffic controllers in the Kingdom has reached (26) Saudi air traffic controllers who received their education and training in the Saudi Civil Aviation Academy, which is one of the premier specialized academies in this field and has many international accreditations.
Air traffic control consists of three main tasks (Approach control, air control tower, and area control). Approach control is responsible for air traffic management within a range of (60) miles and a height of approximately 15,000 feet around the airport for departing and arriving flights, while the air control tower is responsible for Air traffic in the area surrounding the airport and takeoffs, landings and ground movement. The responsibility of the Air Traffic Management covers higher altitudes, as well as dealing with high speeds on the monitored area. High concentration and a speedy decision making process is one of the most important skills of the ATC personnel. The importance of this profession is highlighted in the extent of its impact on the safety, efficiency and regularity of air navigation, and the responsibilities and tasks that bear no error. Moreover, the profession of air traffic controller was classified as one of the most difficult professions globally, which makes it of high importance at the international level.
On this issue, a number of Saudi female air traffic controllers talked about their start in obtaining a license, and their practical and effective roles in this important profession to clarify the role of women in the civil aviation sector in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Among those women working in the air traffic control profession is Reem Abdullah, who explained that the reason she entered the aviation field is for the passion and challenge that such sensitive jobs demand. She went on to say, “We are the first batch of graduates to work in the air traffic control profession, and frankly it is a very interesting job and since we started training, we started to get a clear perception of the subject at hand and that when the real challenge began to work in such a sensitive job. Frankly, the training that we got is very intense and accurate and we went through more than ten exams before admission, where (11) Saudi girls graduated in that batch. We then started a training program that we managed to pass with the grace of God”. She went on to say, that “When you have a passion for work, everything will be easy and enjoyable, and the air traffic profession created for everyone the desire and sense of high responsibility, we were able to direct air traffic,”.
She recounted her start at work and how she interacted while working at the Regional Monitoring Center, Reem said, “After we obtained the license, the issue was surprising for everyone and we found a very big welcome from everyone. At the beginning, the pilots in the air from all the international airliners were talking to us on the air and were surprised and they started asking (Is this Saudi Arabia? .. this is Jeddah?). As time went by, the pilots congratulated me on the job and expressed their high confidence in us as we found great support from them. She noted that, Saudi woman aspires to reach leadership positions in the field of air traffic control and in the civil aviation entity.
Ms. Rawan Hubaishi, another ATC graduate said in a statement, “ l think the civil aviation field is a very interesting one and once you start working in this field, it is hard to do any other job. The work here, as an air traffic profession is so beautiful that we sometimes want to stay on working and not go home”. We thank God that we have found appropriate and strong training and the biggest proof of this is that the whole graduating class are performing their work to the fullest and without any problem and this is the result of the distinguished training that we received.”
Hubaishi, went on to say that the presence of Saudi women in this kind of work is the best evidence that she is capable of working in all fields and perform her work to the fullest extent. She explained, “When I started working in the profession of air traffic control and I was directing the movement of one of the Emirates Airlines planes, the captain of the plane told me (I want to make sure you are Saudi, and that you’re an ATC?) I responded through the radio (yes, I am a Saudi and a first batch of a Saudi female graduates) so the captain then began to bless the step we have taken,and in fact all pilots from different international airliners started to congratulate us. ”
For her part, ATC Lina Adel confirmed that the Saudi women are able to face all challenges, noting that she aspires to be the first woman to assume regional management position. She went on to say, “In fact we received a very high and professional training, and the first word we heard when we entered the training is that there is no difference between us and our male colleagues, and that we can work and achieve successes in this profession.
She continued to say that, “The profession of air traffic control is very precise and detailed, yet not impossible to conquer. I remember at the beginning when all the pilots were surprised to hear our voices through the pilot and were asking to make sure that we are air traffic controllers, and frankly, they were expressing their pride in us and they gave us their full encouragement and support. I thank God for our continuous training and I hope to be the first woman to manage a whole region and the Saudi women are competent and able to do this job.
For her part, Ms. Shahad Zareh, an air traffic controller trainee, said that the name (air traffic controller) pulled her to enter this vital field, and after knowing the details of the profession, she had a great passion in working in the civil aviation sector. She went on to say, “During my training, I discovered that this job is fun and unconventional and I have a challenge to work In this important job”. She continued that, “the various exams on this job are not easy at all, but at the same time enjoyable because it is diverse. We also realize here that there is no difference between a man and a woman. On the contrary, the Saudi women has a very high sense of responsibility and I see this thing in myself, which led me to prove it to myself and be one of the female air traffic controller in the Kingdom.
Shahad added, “Our training at the Saudi Academy of Civil Aviation to withstand the pressures and make the right decisions at the right time, and I tell the Saudi girls that the job of air traffic controller is fun and we’re competent and we can do it”.
While Air Traffic Controller, Shahad Barakat said that this profession suits her tendencies to overcome challenges and difficulties and said, “My passion for flying and reading about this sector is behind my love to work as an air traffic controller, and I found that this job suits my preferences, especially that it is a job has many challenges and is totally unconventional”.
She pointed to the support and guidance they received during the training period, in which they learned how to manage difficulties in this field, stressing that her dreams and that of her female colleagues started to take shape started after entering into this field, and this is due to support given to the Saudi women in all fields by our rational and wise leadership.
It is worth noting, that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia possesses an integrated navigation system in the field of air navigation, which is considered one of the latest advanced systems at the international level. In Jeddah and Riyadh, there are (15) air monitoring units and (5) maintenance centers, which operate 24 hours a day, and use advanced navigation systems that keep pace with the latest international technologies in this field with the aim of achieving the highest level of safety and streamlining all the requirements in air traffic.