Afghan-American pilot Shaesta Waiz has had a year that’s taken her around the world—literally. At age 30, she became the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe solo in a single-engine aircraft. During 145-day journey, Waiz met with girls and boys around the world to encourage young people to pursue careers in STEM and aviation. She also snapped a photo or two along the way. Waiz shared some of her favorite images from her record-breaking journey.
On May 13, 2017, I took off in a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza from Daytona Beach International Airport to fly solo around the world. I was determined to share my passion for aviation with children from across the globe, letting them see that they can come from any set of circumstances, challenges, or backgrounds and soar in life.
This idea is what gave me the strength to say goodbye to my friends and family, and embark on a five-month journey around the world. I would fly into 22 countries, across five continents, traveling over 24,000 nautical miles by myself.
When pilots fly over a large body of water, there are several navigational points they keep track of to ensure proper fuel management. One of these critical points is called the "point of no return." This means that once this point is crossed, the airplane does not have a sufficient amount of fuel to turn around and land at the airport it departed from. During my flight across the Atlantic Ocean, I recall crossing my point of no return and looking out of the cockpit. As I gazed upon the beautiful sky, I truly couldn’t believe I was out in the middle of the ocean, flying at 9,000 feet above the water, chasing after my dreams.
I remember reading about the Egyptian pyramids in middle school and thinking to myself that although they were very cool, I’d probably never have the opportunity to see them in person. During the Dreams Soar Global Flight, I had the chance to land in Cairo, Egypt, my first and only stop in the continent of Africa. As I walked up to the pyramids, I could feel the middle school girl in me smile so big.I remember reading about the Egyptian pyramids in middle school and thinking to myself that although they were very cool, I’d probably never have the opportunity to see them in person. During the Dreams Soar Global Flight, I had the chance to land in Cairo, Egypt, my first and only stop in the continent of Africa. As I walked up to the pyramids, I could feel the middle school girl in me smile so big.
As a person who loves food, I would usually snack during my flights around the world (especially on the long flight legs, over six hours). Eating was important to me and ensured that I had enough energy to stay alert and awake. My favorite snacks on-board were fruit, potato chips, turkey sandwiches, and dark chocolate. As I made my way around the world, I quickly learned that packing chocolate was not a good idea since it would usually melt by the time I would take off. Chocolate granola bars were my solution to the sweet cravings I would have during flights.
Upon landing in Mangalore, India, I was greeted by a crowd of warm and welcoming people—along with the monsoon rain showers. (Namaste!) Due to the heavy rain showers, thunderstorms, and low visibility, I had to change my original route and fly around the entire country of India rather than through it.
The hour before the sun would set was my golden hour. This would be a time where the sky would be filled with beautiful shades of gold, yellow, orange and blue. I would usually take a minute to reflect on my journey. The further East I would fly, the more beautiful the sunsets. This picture was taken at 9,000 feet over Indonesia.
Land! The sight of land after hours of flying a single engine aircraft over water is a relief to every pilot. When I saw the coastline of Australia after crossing the equator from Indonesia, I was literally dancing in my seat.
A highlight during the Dreams Soar Global Flight was when I returned to Kabul, Afghanistan. My heart was so full to see so many young girls waiting at the airport to greet me. What a warm welcome! The Afghan Government and the United Nations organized a series of outreach events where we were able to share the importance of STEM and aviation to the next generation in Kabul.
Hear first-hand about Waiz’s historic trip around the world and her passion for STEM education as part of our GE Aviation lecture series. You can stream Waiz’s talk online.