Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Marwan Al Maktoum is unstoppable. As the UAE’s first female pilot from the Royal Family and the first female pilot of Dubai police airwing, she has already accomplished incredible feats at just 26. But don’t expect her to stop there! She is fuelled by the adrenaline rush she gets in the sky and by the satisfaction of inspiring young girls and women. Sheikha Mozah still has a lot to do.
As the granddaughter of the late His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the brother of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikha Mozah grew up in her home country, the United Arab Emirates, surrounded by inspiring role models who would encourage her to chase her dreams. She became fascinated by air travel at a young age. Despite a scarce number of women working in the aviation industry globally, she pursued her passion of being a pilot. She became the first Royal female pilot and the First Lieutenant Pilot at Dubai Police. She was the first female to attain this position before being promoted to Captain Pilot in 2023.
But her work is not done yet. Sheikha Mozah has many aspirations up her sleeve and her journey is only just beginning. Moving forward, she will focus on channelling her passion for aviation and her experience into inspiring others and encouraging young girls to chase their dreams, just like she did. We find out more.
Congratulations on all your work so far – what would you say has been the most significant achievement to date?
Thank you. I am really proud of all my achievements, but I am always looking forward to the next accomplishment. I am motivated by continuously pursuing a better version of myself, so I am often guilty of focusing more on tomorrow than on today. Having conquered milestones that can inspire other young girls to do the same, this remains my number one motivation in everything I do. So, what I am most proud of is my ability to see past the achievement in search of what comes next, treating every milestone as a pebble on the path instead of a reason to stop and contemplate without a forward action.
We know many women look up to you as an inspiration – how do you hope your achievements encourage others to follow their dreams?
I sincerely hope that every young girl sees me as an inspiration to have a difficult conversation with their family to support their dream pursuit. When you come from a more traditional background or you don’t have female role models in your immediate family, it helps to say, “but look at her, she did it, so I should be able to as well”. It’s a powerful tool to enable communication and bring down barriers. I hope I can be that for them, a reason to try.
You have achieved so much at such a young age – what more do you still want to do?
Yes, there is a lot I still want to do, but I don’t like to talk about wish lists, I prefer to discuss achievements and the process in retrospect. There is something special about keeping your wishes for yourself without declaring them to the world. First of all, it gives me freedom to change my mind without judgement and that in itself is something I like to hold on to. Secondly, it allows me to relieve the pressure that comes from the expectations of being a public figure. So, you will have to wait for the next accomplishment!
What are you working on currently?
My most exciting project, which has been in the works for a long time, is the upcoming publication of my first book. It’s a children’s book about women in aviation across history and from around the world. I believe their names and stories will inspire young girls in the pursuit of incredible things and teach young boys that men and women have been braving the skies almost in parallel, that for every man that broke a record, there is a woman too. When introduced early on in schools, this kind of representation will enable a different type of growth based on default inclusion. I can’t wait to present the book, and I will hopefully do a tour of schools, bookstores, and festivals starting this fall.
We know you are no stranger to adventure and taking on adrenaline challenges – is there something on your wishlist at the moment?
I always have my eyes on the latest tech when it comes to sports and aviation. I love to try things out before anyone else because I enjoy the thrill of the challenge. Can I do it? Will I do it? It’s what motivates me. I have been looking at a few prototypes of drones and copters that would be fun to experience but safety comes first. When I flew the Leonardo Tiltrotor, while I was the first woman, the aircraft had obtained all the certifications, and safety was not an issue. I have a keen interest in sustainable flights, like the solar pulse and Human jet Flight, which I hope to do in the near future. I have been fascinated with space travel, and space tourism and Space Perspective is working on a balloon that goes into space, in what they define as a safe life life-changing experience. I will be ready when they are ready, so who knows what will be first.
How did you develop your passion and love for the aviation industry?
I guess you could say it was “love at first flight”! It was during a family holiday in the UK, I was only 12, and I really wanted to try as many new things as possible. I was really into extreme sports and always up for a challenge. I had the opportunity to fly on a Robinson 22. It’s a small helicopter. I will never forget the feeling of that day. It was a hot summer’s day, and the doors of the Robinson 22 were removed; as we were soaring up in the sky and the breeze passed through, I felt an incredible sense of power, freedom, and excitement, and I decided there and then that I wanted to learn how to fly.
What is something else that interests you aside from aviation?
I have a lot of interests, and I see aviation not as an interest but as a passion and my work. I love animals and nature and try to learn as much as possible about them and our environment.
Any extreme sport that requires skills and courage, count me in, I have skydived more times than I can count, but I am also incredibly interested in technology, its use in aviation and beyond and especially Artificial Intelligence. Lastly but probably most importantly Health and wellbeing, that I not only try to apply in my daily life but I am actively learning and researching so that I can be in my best form all the time.
Where do you like to travel to when you want to take time out?
Oh, that’s classified information! But what I can share is that I love nature, and I love to immerse myself in the outdoors as much as possible. Sea or mountain or jungle, wherever I can swim, hike, dive, practice sports and be with animals, it’s definitely when I am in my element.
I have often visited the Maldives because it’s a close destination offering incredible relaxation and unprecedented marine life. For us in the UAE, it’s accessible for short trips, too, which is often all I have access to between work and my busy event schedule.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
“Your altitude is only limited by your attitude” – be the best you can be, and you will achieve everything you set your eyes to. Approach everything with a high spirit of possibilities.
What is a book you have read recently that you would recommend?
I am going to do a shameless plug here; it’s the book I have written about women in aviation across history. I have just finished a final review before passing it on to my editor for the last tweaks. There is something magical about reading your own creation, and I hope this book will make it to the shelves of many homes around the globe. It’s coming out in November and I don’t want to give anything away before then, so check on my website for news on the release, and final title. I have three possible titles fighting in my mind at the moment; such a hard decision!
Who is someone who has inspired you throughout your life?
The Leadership of my beloved country has served me as a compass in all my choices and opportunities. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum have opened doors for me to enable and support my aviation dreams and allowed me to become the first female pilot of the Dubai Police Airwing. They are never afraid to lead by example, and I am honoured to humbly pay my dues by serving my country.
But, also my beloved mother, who had wished for an independent daughter, and since my birth has supported me so fiercely in all my decisions and endeavours, accompanying me on my very first flight when I worked for Emirates. She booked for herself and a few friends to make sure she could cheer for me all the way. How sweet is that? It cannot be easy to give so much freedom to a young girl when nobody has done it before, so her courage and trust in me inspire me every day to give my best never to let her down. I hope I am making her proud after all; she is the one who gave me my first pair of wings, allowing me to be who I wanted to be. Thank you, mum!
What does it mean to you to see so many Emirati women now in the workforce and doing jobs that perhaps they wouldn’t have previously done?
I am only 26, and in my short life, I can say that I entered the world when progress had been in motion for quite a while. I don’t recall a moment of ever feeling that anything was off-limits for a woman. From the examples around me to the stories I heard and witnessed, I grew up with the certainty that men and women were equal and I could have pursued anything a man could have if I wanted to, and so I did.
Can you tell us about women in the aviation industry, specifically today and how that has progressed?
Women in aviation represent only six per cent of the aviation workforce globally. It’s an exceptionally low number, but things are changing fast and should improve exponentially. Conversations about inclusion and improving the recruitment process for the industry are happening everywhere, and different actions are being implemented to guarantee a future that includes more women.
In my personal capacity, I have established Shehana, the Women in Aviation Association, to facilitate this inclusion in the aviation industry, not just for female pilots but for a full spectrum of female professionals who could add incredible value to the industry’s future. Shehana will be at the Dubai Airshow this year in an exclusive partnership that seeks to engage youth and promote female speakers from the aviation field. I am extremely proud of this work, and I look forward to creating traction, opening doors and manifesting opportunities for women and youth.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned throughout your life?
Patience. I am a very impulsive person; I want it now, and before I get it, I am already focusing on the next goal or the next want. I chose the wrong career for that; patience and a stoic approach is what is most required in what I do, and I am learning, more often than not, against my will. But patience is definitely the hardest lesson, as jumping ahead has made me walk on quicksand many times. I am getting better as I get a little older. I look forward to being in a place where I am so at ease I can patiently exist in the chaos that surrounds me.
What is a message that you would send to women who are about to embark on a new career or journey?
Be confident with your choices and know that while nothing is inherently easy, your attitude can open doors and bring you achievements beyond your wildest dreams. Approach everything you do with incredible positivity, a humble spirit and the willingness to always be taught and shown how to do better. Ultimately, commit to doing your best and giving your best in every situation. This way, even if you don’t win or don’t achieve, you have for sure learned a lesson the humble way. Lastly, treat everyone around you with respect and kindness so that you can be remembered for that.