- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SHINDAND AIR BASE, AFGHANISTAN — The Afghan Air Force’s first female pilot to be trained inside Afghanistan in more than 30 years earned her flying wings on Tuesday, after graduating from Undergraduate Pilot Training.

The 21-year-old 2nd Lieutenant Niloofar Rhmani graduated UPT along with four other young Afghan males, and eight other males graduating from Undergraduate Helicopter Training at a ceremony at Shindand Air Base in Afghanistan’s westernmost province of Herat. Both training programs are taught by U.S. Air Force instructors there.

“First, it was my ambition, and second, I want to show that Afghanistan can have female pilots,” said the Kabul City, Kabul native in an interview with the Washington Times. “It’s a job females can do also, it’s not a hard job that the men can just do. Both can do it.”

“I wanted to fly with my brothers, shoulder to shoulder,” she said.

Completing 197 sorties consisting of 145.5 flying hours, the graduates trained on the Cessna 182 fixed-wing aircraft or the MD 530 rotary aircraft, and will now move on to more advanced training, on Cessna 208s or Mi-17s.

Lt. Rhmani is aspiring to be a fixed-wing pilot.

“It’s my honor to serve my country and be the first female, and being an example for other females behind me,” she told The Times.

In order to qualify to take pilot training, Lt. Rhmani spent approximately a year learning English in Kabul and Shindand Air Base with coalition instructors.

Lt. Rhmani said she loved the sky ever since she was a child, and her favorite part of pilot training was night flying.

“I love the sky. When I look at the sky … I feel very calm, even when flying.” she said. “I love it.”

But, she said, one major influence was her father.

“It was my dad’s dream. He wanted to be a pilot, but because of problems at that time …40 years ago, he couldn’t do that. I want to complete his dream and [become] a pilot.”