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A Day in Life of Maryam Yousuf bin Ismail, First Officer (Boeing 777)

When did you join Emirates?

I joined in August 2013 when I was accepted into the National Cadet Pilot Training Programme, which works in partnership with Emirates.

What was your experience of the programme?

The programme looks a little different now to when I trained. For me, only the first year was spent in Dubai, with the remainder overseas. Now the academy has developed and hosts the full programme in the UAE. When I started, I was the only woman in my batch but two others joined shortly after.
The initial 12 months was primarily academic and classroom-based. Following this, I travelled to the FTEJerez Academy in Spain to start my aviation training. At the end of almost two years of training, I went to Phoenix, in the US, to get my Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL), which took four months.
Next was instrument rating training in Oxford, UK, and finally I returned to Dubai to complete four months of simulator training on the Boeing 777. Altogether my training took about four years. After simulator training, I completed my first flight accompanied by a training Captain, and without customers. I then began to fly commercial flights under the guidance of a Captain for the next nine months.

What made you want to become a pilot?

When I was a very young, I thought airplanes were stars moving across the night sky. I was fascinated with them. I saw my first aerial display with my father when I was 10 years old during the Dubai Airshow in 2003. It was at this point that I knew I wanted to become a pilot.

What does your role involve?

I’m second in command after the Captain, but we both share the responsibility of operating the aircraft safely from the point of origin to the destination.
As a First Officer, I make sure the flight is prepared for take-off. I run checks to ensure the navigation, safety and operation systems are working properly. When the Captain is flying, I monitor take-off and landing to ensure the safety and comfort of all our customers. I also carry out fuel checks and regularly monitor the climate and route so that we’re prepared in case of turbulence or emergencies.

What’s the best part of your job?

I love meeting new people every day and learning about different cultures. My role has really helped me to get out of my comfort zone. It’s changed me – in my opinion, for the better. Flying defines who I am. It encourages me to apply my experience and knowledge. I love the challenge of flying a huge aircraft. It’s a dream come true.

What are your flying highlights?

One of my best memories was the first time I flew an aircraft solo. I was in the US, and training for my CPL. We did a trial flight called a circuit, which included taking-off and landing. It was the most amazing feeling, and the excitement I experienced was out of this world. Another highlight was the first time I flew a Boeing 777, in December 2017 at DWC, following four months of simulator training. This was a real milestone for me, as this was the aircraft that I would later fly as a First Officer.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced during your journey?

Being away from my family was hard in the beginning. When I went overseas for my training, it was the first time I had travelled without them. We are a close-knit family, and I found it hard to adapt to new surroundings without them there. Once training began, I felt much better as my fellow trainees and I supported each other throughout the process. One person in particular who helped me during this time is my fellow First Officer, Bakhita Saif Al Muhairy. I really appreciated her support. She is definitely someone I look up to in the industry.

Tell us about a memorable incident.

A funny thing happened after a flight to Cairo. A family waited onboard to greet the pilots after we landed. They were baffled to meet me because they weren’t expecting a female pilot, and a petite one at that. I was quite happy that I surprised them.

What advice would you give to anyone inspired by your story?

Well, my nieces all want to be pilots now, which is amazing. I’d tell them, and anyone else, that anything is possible if they work really hard to achieve their dreams. Whether that’s learning to fly or any other ambition, the sky is the limit.