A trio of pilots has made history by becoming Royal Brunei Airlines’ first all-female crew - and they’re gaining attention thanks to the destination they flew to on their inaugural flight together. While it was a landmark moment for the carrier, the flight was also significant because the pilots landed at an airport in Saudi Arabia – a country where women are banned from driving a car.
To mark Brunei’s National Day, which celebrates the country’s independence, Captain Sharifah Czarena Surainy Syed Hashim, Senior First Officer Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem and Senior First Officer Sariana Nordin flew flight BI081, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, to the Middle Eastern country on 23 February.
The occasion came just over three years after Captain Czarena became the first female captain of a flag carrier in Southeast Asia. She told The Brunei Times in 2012: “Being a pilot, people normally see it as being a male dominant occupation.”Captain Sharifah Czarena
“As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it,” said the captain, who completed her initial pilot training at the Cabair Flying School in Cranfield.
And Royal Brunei Airlines is committed to getting more women into the industry as it currently offers an Engineering Apprentice programme to both males and females.
But the airline's landmark voyage also highlighted the restrictions women still face in Saudi Arabia. Although there is no law that prohibits women from driving, it is a rule imposed by conservative Muslim clerics.
Czarena was inspired to become a pilot after she sat in the cockpit on a flight as a young girl. She said: “Growing up, I wanted to become a "somebody" and it was my father who instilled confidence and taught me to do my best and be the best that I could be.”