"My dream was to travel around the world and that was why I decided to be an air hostess. I studied at a public school. My sister, Rehab advised me to learn another language. I followed her advice and learned some Japanese to enrich my resume and enable me join the hosting world.
I did it! I became an air hostess for 2 years. During the first few months, "flying" itself occupied my mind and I was thinking of studying it. I remember how I was curious when entered the cockpit. My eyes ran over everything…from the buttons to the instrument panels. I was eager to learn how the pilot knew his directions while we are hanging in the air, and how an iron tube fly through space!
I got more decisive; I visited the books' alley in Cairo where I bought many books. I started reading as much as I could which made me even more enthusiastic with the first flight I had with captain (N). She was flying an airbus 320. She encouraged me a lot. She herself had been an airhostess. My books were with me always during overnight flights. All my thoughts and feelings were just clinging to that cockpit.
I checked the registration process in the Egyptian academy here but as expected I had to face the routine, the bureaucracy, the use of connections, and other difficulties. I decided then to travel to the USA. I quit my air hosting job. At that time, I had almost finished studying for the first license (private pilot), before leaving Egypt.
Like many Egyptian families, traditional beliefs, inflexible when it comes to women career or personal advancement, they were all against me. We still hold the mentality and traditions of the old times. Like in most of the developed countries, Women are brought up just for marriage and household life.
Again, it was my sister who supported me emotionally, financially and in every possible way really until my family realized that it was a reality. My father then helped me a bit financially and Rehab took care of the rest.
I travelled to the USA, arrived at California, and started flight training school. I met 2 angels my dearest friends, Josef and George, who were like a family for me. They helped me a lot. Their support was extremely valuable for someone like me, lonely in a huge country like America.
Soon after my arrival, I started classes and I went through the security check. I still remember the day when I received TSA approval. I was really over the moon and I rushed to the school to share the news with my trainer but unfortunately he was not there.
The owner of the school invited me to fly with a pilot who was planning to fly for a couple of hours, cross country, so I could see California, get an idea on how it goes and the communication between the pilot and the control tower. The pilot had a license. I was so excited and of course I said, “yes!”
He landed on an airport to pick up a pilot friend to join our flight. I sat in the back until we reached our destination.
He fueled the plane then we discovered the disaster. He made a mistake on the weight and balance and did not calculate my weight on the plane. And to make it worse, he did not notice that we had a strong headwind, which meant we were burning more fuel. About 20 minutes to the planned arrival time, we heard a strange noise in the engine. The plane’s propellers started to slow. At this moment we were flying nearly at 11,000 feet over The Burbank international airport. This airport does not allow small planes to land in it except for serious emergencies. Our pilot requested permission from the control tower for an emergency landing.
The lady at the control tower gave us the permission immediately. I could not understand that at this time, but the pilot acted in a very strange way, he decided to initiate going up again (a go around), and attempt another landing because of the un-stabilized and high final approach.
I was completely silent as I could barely understand what was going on. Then I noticed that he was trying to land in the middle of the street between the cars. People were panicking, running everywhere, jumping out of their cars…Our pilot was trying to avoid landing in the middle of the street
It was like a true action movie, the plane was crashing against the power cables, where we got stuck. I saw sparks coming out of the cables. It was then when I assumed the brace position and said my prayers.
For the first time ever, I looked death in the eyes.
Remembering what happened then, I know that if it wasn’t for assuming the brace position, which I knew from my air hosting days and the emergency training, all the stitches on my arms and head would have been on my face.
The plane rested on a car after going through the power cables, all 3 of us jumped out. Only minutes after I jumped the sever pains started in my back, and because we were on extreme height all the wounds that were bleeding was shooting blood like a fountain. I actually still have the accident clothes with blood on it and everything.
We went to the hospital, and they did all the needed x-rays, tests and stitching, of course I was escorted by police officers.
After this crash, I faced a new problem, my back muscles which protect my spine, cramped from the shock and assumed the protection position while landing to protect my spine and didn’t return to how they are suppose to be. That required 2 months of rehabilitation, and the person who took me there, brought me back and helped me was my friend George, I don’t know what I would have done without him.
During the treatment period, I was unable to fly so I did all my theoretical study, and took the required written tests, what helped is that I had rented a room at the house of a flying trainer at the new school that I moved to, after the first school denied the insurance to pay for my treatment.
That was not all… the real issue came up later. I and the other 2 pilots were Arabs, and there was only 10 days to the sad memory of 9-11, and things changed for me. From someone who came to the USA to study flying, I was suddenly treated as a possible terrorist, was interrogated, and was under the threat of being deported at anytime to my country.
I was probably interrogated by every American authority; they handed me to each other, the FBI, civil aviation authority, immigration affairs, national security, and the district attorney.
I was interrogated more than once by each authority, tested to see if I would change my statements in case I was lying. And they would take me to police stations and federal buildings just like in the movies. I still have the business cards of the interrogators who were following up with me. I had to inform them of every move I made, whether it was changing my location, phone number, or receiving new flying license. I kept doing that until April, when I was told “You are released”, the officer was so polite and kept telling me to call him if I needed anything.
To add more to my worries, I was busy with a suing case for my medical expenses, as my treatment and rehabilitation were very expensive because I had no insurance, and I had paid $10,000 for the first school, which they refused to give back to me, I lost the case against them because the contract didn’t state that there was refunding.
After the crash and before I got into my lawsuit with the school and insurance, and the civil aviation authority interrogated me, the first school owner came to take me home from the hospital. He insisted that we take a plane and land in a nearby airport, to prove that I have not developed any complex of flying.
Indeed I got on the plane and wasn’t scared because of it, I was actually more frightened to have lost my health or to be unfit to fly after my accident and the crash. That day the investigating pilot from the aviation authority was shocked that I did go on a plane, and he told me “you are the bravest girl I have ever met, and I’m certain God loves you and has sent you guardian angels that carried you from the plane and protected you and those on the plane with you for your sake”.
The problem was that I didn’t tell my family about the crash because I wanted to continue learning and become a pilot, and I knew that would freak them out, I only told my sister Rehab 10 days after the crash, but to be honest I told her gradually, a car accident, then an accident related to my school, and when I sent her a photo with me laying on the ground, she said “a car accident? But why did they take the photos from above? There was a plane taking photos of you”. I had to tell her the truth and she had a minor clot, and my family took her to the hospital quickly and was treated, of course no one told me until I returned to Egypt.
My sister pulled herself together and sent me money because I had given the first school all the money I had before the crash, and she kept following up with me until I was fully recovered and flew my first solo. My other 2 sisters Iman and Faten helped me as well, but Rehab was caught between a rock and a hard place, fearing for me on one side, and wanting me to fulfill my dreams on the other, she was so scared if anything happened to me it would be her fault.
The trainer was so worried but I wasn’t, the funniest thing was when I took the plane up in the air I felt like I wanted to use the bathroom, I convinced myself that’s stress and unzipped/unbuttoned my pants, after I have finished the 3 patterns I landed, taxi and parked the plane , I went to school forgetting the unzipped/ unbuttoned my pants, everybody at the school burst out laughing of course. Usually the first solo flight for the trainee pilot he/she buys pizza for everyone at the school, but to my surprise and pleasure I found they have bought it and were super happy for me.
After I took my first private pilot license, I sent it to my family and told them all about the accident, and that I’m well, it didn’t stop me, and I’m going to finish this.
I completed the rest of my study and flying tests, but to be honest I was always extra careful with safety measures and procedures and the checklist use.
The truth to be said, I fell in love with the USA, I didn’t see any racism during my investigations, and I still have the business cards for my investigators because they were so cooperative, especially when they realized I was honest, and saw I was just an ambitious girl coming from the middle east and only wants to fulfill her dreams. Everybody was helping me, along with my friend Maggie.
Now, sometimes I can’t imagine I went through all of this, passed it, continued and finished. I feel like it’s all a dream.
I returned to Egypt, and decided to study airbus 320, the problem was the major shift from training planes (Cessna 172 ,152 and the piper )to complicated Automated commercial airplanes. I started studying by myself, and asked some friends for help to cut down the cost.
I went to Florida and I was feeling that it would be impossible for me to fly this massive airplane, and I called the true heroine of my story, my sister Rehab, and cried while telling her that I will come back and I can’t pass or go ahead with this, but as usual, she encouraged me and said “have you forgotten what has happened to you? You can do anything you set your mind to”, and surely I completed studying that plane and passed from the first time, my examiner hugged and kissed me for doing so well, he was handsome so I was extremely happy by his hug and me passing of course. J
I returned to Egypt once again and did a certificate equivalency, passed and I actually started working for a charter company that did flights from Sharm Elshaik and Hurghada to Europe, but it was shut down due to the economical situation.
The most amazing and beautiful feeling I had, and nothing will ever come close to it, is the first time I landed with the 320 in Oslo, it was rainy and windy, the weather was not good, the captain didn`t help me and didn’t take the control from me (that was showing a lot of faith in me), and he lift the plane for me till it touched down the runway, and felt the plane’s motion on the run way’s center lines.
I have faith and trust in God, and I believe God has gotten me through all these crises to strengthen me. I will go on and will continue chasing my dream till I can fly again.
I’m thankful for each person who has helped me even if it was just a kind word from my friends, and I wish I could repay them for what they done, but I would like to send special thanks and deep appreciation for a great man that I have to mention by name for his support for me: Berj Kazazian,
I thank God every minute for my siblings Iman, Rehab, Faten and Mohammed, they have all helped me as much as they can, my mom and dad, may God keep them for me and always be happy and healthy.
I am also thankful for each one who has harmed because by doing me, you made me strong. "
My word to the children:
You must always believe that if someone did something before you, then you can surely do it, and even do better at it.
There is no impossible, your dream is yours, you can make the whole world help you make it come true by your persistence and determination if you truly believe in it.
Own your dreams.
I learned something that was far from my original study, and did that in a different language, I had some troubles at first, but I kept going and was not embarrassed to say I don’t know and to ask for help, it was my dream and nothing was going to stop me from reaching it.
Any difficulty you face is a gift from God to strengthen you, and make you realize how strong you are.
Don’t be afraid of anything or new experiences, fear are the only enemy to your dreams, future and success.
On the plane, following the instructions, being focused and aware all the time is the thing that will help you the most to be safe, along with the crew and the passengers, if it hadn’t performed the brace position, the injury would have been in my eyes or any other place on my face, and I would have never flown again.
I have no regrets, I am who I am today because of everything I went through."
Please join me in thanking Dina for sharing this amazing story. She is proof that determination, strong will with people who care, nothing is impossible!