Oct. 12, 2017

Pilot Shaesta Waiz, who just last week became the youngest woman to complete a solo flight around the world in a single-engine aircraft, welcomed students from around the globe and highlighted multiple job paths within the industry during NBAA’s Careers in Business Aviation Day, held on the third day of NBAA-BACE in Las Vegas.

“This is an amazing opportunity,” she told the packed auditorium of middle-school, high-school and college students. “I’m so excited for all of you to go out on the show floor, see what the industry is all about, visit all the [exhibit] booths and see all the amazing aircraft on display.”

Waiz, 30, was born in a refugee camp in Afghanistan and emigrated with her family to the U.S. at the height of the Soviet-Afghan war. A commercial flight after she graduated high school led Waiz to pursue a collegiate education and flight training, becoming the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree, and the first certified civilian female pilot from Afghanistan.

On Oct. 4, Waiz landed in Daytona Beach, FL, capping a nearly five-month journey around the globe spanning 24,800 nm. She visited 22 countries and met with more than 3,000 students from many diverse backgrounds and cultures. During her talk, Waiz described the many stops along her flight and the unique experiences she encountered.

They included losing her aircraft’s high-frequency antenna while traversing the North Atlantic and being repeatedly asked “where’s the pilot?” by the befuddled Canadian customs agent who met her Beech Bonanza upon landing in St. Pierre. “I explained what happened, and he was like, ‘do your parents know you’re doing this?'” she recalled. “I figured I’d tell them when I got to Italy – ‘hey Mom and Dad, guess what?'”

Of greatest significance to the audience were the many people representing a diverse range of aviation professions whom Waiz encountered on her journey, including pilots and air traffic controllers, aircraft mechanics, aviation attorneys and insurance providers, dispatch services, and even international aviation authorities.

“Has anyone in here ever heard of the International Civil Aviation Organization?” she asked the students. “ICAO was one of our first partners and serves as the United Nations of the sky. It’s just one way to be involved in aviation through working to establish international policy and regulations.”

Barrington Irving, who in 2007 became the youngest person to complete a solo round-the-world flight at age 23, served as a mentor for Waiz as she prepared for her own global journey. “I asked Shaesta, ‘Why do you want to fly around the world?'” Irving recalled while introducing Waiz. “Her first response was, “I simply want to inspire women and all young people. That’s all I want to do.'”

More than 1,000 students registered for NBAA-BACE, with Careers in Business Aviation Day offering free attendance on the third day of the show for middle school, high school and college students, as well as faculty and chaperones. College students attending schools affiliated with the University Aviation Association were eligible for complimentary access to all three days of the event.

Waiz’s keynote presentation served as a fitting start to a day intended to introduce students to opportunities they may not yet have considered or ever dreamed possible to achieve. “You’re going to hear today from amazing people who found ways to make aviation their dream and their career,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “The message I hope you hear from them is that this is something you can do as well.”

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