Sept. 21, 2017
Inspiring children around the world was an honor, Shaesta Waiz told attendees this week at the Seventh Meeting of the North American, Central American and Caribbean Directors of Civil Aviation (ICAO NACC/DCA/7), but now that her around-the-world solo flight is nearly complete, she has bigger plans.
“I’ve learned that it’s great to inspire, but we also need to empower,” Waiz said. “I encourage you all to stand up and support STEM education.”
Waiz founded Dreams Soar several years ago with a goal of inspiring girls to consider STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers, including those in aviation. With the help of partners, sponsors and volunteers around the world, she is nearing the end of her journey, in which she flew her Beechcraft Bonanza A36 more than 22,000 miles, visited 20 countries on five continents and met with thousands of young people face-to-face.
Dreams Soar, she said, has a scholarship fund with a goal of encouraging young people to apply for assistance to help them achieve their goals. “Empower these children who were inspired and just waiting for someone to invest in them,” she urged attendees.
Waiz also shared with the group her personal story of coming to America as a refugee from Afghanistan, growing up in an underfunded school district and being afraid to fly until her first commercial flight at age 17 inspired her curiosity to learn how aviation worked and fueled her dream of becoming a pilot.
From these humble beginnings, the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduate is now the first female certified pilot from Afghanistan.
“No matter what challenges I came from, I was always propelling forward,” Waiz said, adding that success is never achieved alone. She thanked partners such as ICAO and the FAA for their support, as well as industry groups such as NBAA.
FAA Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell, who introduced Waiz at the ICAO meeting, said her accomplishments “were nothing short of amazing.”
“The aviation industry is so wonderful because it redefines neighbors and it redefines opportunity, and no one embodies that precept better than Shaesta Waiz,” he said. “If you want to make a name for yourself in this business, you have to start with safety and I think that Shaesta Waiz understands that better than most. Really, Shaesta is showing us all that if you’re willing to work hard, if you’re willing to do your homework, if you’re willing to put in the time, you can soar – your dreams can indeed come true.”
During her visit to Washington, DC, NBAA presented Waiz with its prestigious Silk Scarf Award for her accomplishments and dedication to the industry.
Waiz will be the keynote speaker at Careers in Business Aviation Day, taking place Oct. 12 at NBAA’s Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE). The airplane, a Beechcraft Bonanza A36, will make its first U.S. appearance since returning from the flight at the NBAA-BACE Static Display at Henderson Executive Airport.