Exclusive: Two 21-year-old Emirati female pilots on carrying out air missions for Dubai Police

Dubai - When dreams take flight: Emirati female pilots Mahra bin Hammad and Dana Al Mazmi on the journey that led them to carry out air missions for Dubai Police


Somya Mehta

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Photos by Neeraj Murali
Photos by Neeraj Murali

Published: Thu 4 Nov 2021, 6:45 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Feb 2023, 4:40 PM

According to a recent survey for Women, Peace and Security Index by Georgetown University, women feel safer in the UAE than any other country. This research comes amidst the nation’s rapid progress in fostering a gender-inclusive space — one that allows women of the country to thrive.

With several such breakthroughs in the last year, where women have been at the forefront of battling gender stereotypes, leaving their mark in male-dominated industries, a particular feat that stood out was an image of two young Emirati women walking through the passageways of the Dubai Police Air Wing. Defying gender roles and making news ahead of Emirati Women’s Day on August 28, two 21-year-old female pilots, Mahra bin Hammad and Dana Al Mazmi, officially began their air missions with the Dubai Police with the one and only dream — to fly.

In a conversation with wknd., we caught up with the two lieutenant pilots at the place that gave wings to their dreams. Catching them in action in the early hours of mid-operations at the bustling Al Maktoum International Airport, one cannot help but wonder when the seed of these fearless ambitions had been planted in the young pilots’ lives.

For Mahra, this had been the only dream she’s ever had. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to pursue and join the aviation industry. It contributes directly to my passion and interests,” she says. On the other hand, Dana, who now cannot imagine her life without flying, admits it wasn’t really a childhood dream. “It was something that I discovered late, in my teenage years, which led me to pursue aviation for higher studies,” says Dana. “This was a turning point in my life. The idea of becoming a part of such a diverse field, where women can fly, literally, was very appealing. It made me realise that my place was in the aviation field,” she adds.

It was in 2019 that the Dubai Police made an announcement for the very first time, requesting female pilots to join the Police Air Wing. “I considered it a golden opportunity to join a distinguished government. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the Dubai Police’s achievements and history,” says Mahra. And it all started with a social media call to action. “There was a post on Instagram that mentioned the Dubai Police was looking to recruit cadet female pilots. It felt like a golden ticket for us to apply right away and show them what we’ve got — a dream come true,” adds Dana.

Undergoing intensive training over the course of two years to now carrying out critical air missions for the Dubai Police, Mahra and Dana have been trained in undertaking search and rescue missions for people who may have lost their way in the desert or the mountainous regions. Recounting the hands-on journey of training with the Air Wing, Mahra mentions, “We have received the highest level of training associated with the highest standards of safety and quality in the region. It not only improved my knowledge and skills but also made me confident in my abilities to carry out air missions efficiently.”

Other domains of the Emirati pilots’ responsibilities include transmitting live images from scenes of accidents to the Dubai Police control rooms. “We learned from the best academic facilities in the region, with high-ranking instructors from the UAE and abroad, making our training journey a delightful one,” says Dana. “One we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives.”

The two pilots who’ve dedicated their lives to show unwavering support for the safety and protection of their nation, being at the forefront of important missions, also acknowledge how fear plays a pivotal role in furthering their ambitions. “Fear pushes me to my limits and shows me my strength. And at the end of the day, it’s an honour to serve my country despite what the risks might be,” says Mahra. Especially so, in an environment that demands undeterred resilience and commitment. “Fear is a very powerful driving force in my life. Fearing to be in a male-dominated environment made me realise this is what I want to do and this is where I want to be,” says Dana who aspires to become a captain in the coming years.

“I get my strength from my government. Our leaders have shown tremendous trust in us and this is our chance to give our best for them,” says the Emirati pilot, adding that there’s no such word as “risk” in her dictionary. “They’ve given us all the opportunities to show the world, not just the UAE, that women are capable of being in male-dominated industries. This is what gives me my strength,” she adds further.

Amidst the support of the UAE government and colleagues at the Dubai Police Air Wing, the young Emiratis mention that the encouragement from their parents has been an unparalleled catalyst for their accomplishments. “They were my first source of inspiration and motivation in this journey,” mentions Mahra. “Despite it being a male-dominated industry, my parents were the first people to believe in me, encouraging me to push myself to my limits,” adds Dana.

In their two-year-long training journey, there were no obstacles big enough to throw them off course, the pilots reveal. “There were no challenges that could make me feel like I can’t go through with this. If anything, I got more courage to push forward and turn the challenges into my strengths. I wanted to show people that women are capable of being in any field they want, not just aviation,” says Dana, adding that the thrill of flying amid Dubai skyscrapers and giving the leaders of the country a reason to trust young women superseded all temporary pit stops that came their way.

Having no apprehensions setting foot in a male-dominated environment, Mahra adds, “The UAE has always empowered and supported women in various fields, which is why we’ve seen so many different women shine in a variety of industries.”

Recently, several Emirati women have been making headlines for achieving various “firsts” in many fields. However, it was Mahra’s mother who inspired her to embark on this journey.

“My mother Dr. Amal Buharoun has always inspired me to be selfless in my aspirations because most of her projects have been dedicated to giving back to her community, all throughout her leadership at Dubai Healthcare Authority,” says Mahra. “It’s from her that I’ve learned how to believe in myself and transform my goals into reality,” she adds.

Mariam al-Mansouri, the first female fighter pilot of the UAE
Mariam al-Mansouri, the first female fighter pilot of the UAE

“Growing up, my role model was Mariam al-Mansouri, who was a military air force pilot and the first female fighter pilot of the UAE,” says Dana. “When I came across her in the headlines and saw her accomplishments, I knew that I wanted to become like her.”

There was never a feeling of being a misfit for the female pilots at the Dubai Police Air Wing. “The men here in the Dubai Police have welcomed us as though it’s a female-dominated environment. They gave us their trust, time and effort to make us reach where we are today,” add the Emirati pilots.

Hoping to see more young women participate actively in the aviation field in the coming years, Dana mentions, “It’s such a diverse field. We need more and more women to be a part of it — you can never have enough! And I think women are more than capable of becoming pilots, aviation maintenance staff and so much more,” she adds.

As a message to all the young girls who dream of flying, Mahra says, “Take advantage of every possible opportunity without any hesitation. The best investment you can make is in yourself,” she adds.

“I want to tell all the young girls that even when no one believes in you, believe in yourself. Push yourself to your limits and you will shine in any field you choose,” adds Dana. “Everything is achievable. Any young girl who wants to be an astronaut can be an astronaut, or wants to be a pilot can be a pilot. There are no limits,” the young pilot signs off. And with a journey that is testament to this very notion, the pilots continue to embody this spirit, of there being no limits (not even the sky).

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