23-Year-Old Becomes Afghanistan’s First Female Fixed-Wing Pilot

From a very young age, Niloofar Rahmani’s mother realized that there was something extra special about her daughter. Niloofar’s mom had taken the eight-year-old and her older sister to a theme park. Put down by an attack of childlike whining, she finally caved and let the girls ride the park’s superstar attraction: a rickety roller coaster.

“They were just kids,” her mom said. “I thought they would come back crying.” However, while Niloofar’s sister quickly became terrified and was crying when the roller coaster ended, Niloofar hopped off, jubilant and excited. She wanted to keep riding it.

A mere 10 years after that roller coaster trip, as Niloofar was finishing school, she listened to a radio show about just how Afghanistan would pass a law supporting women’s right to participate in its armed forces. Niloofar assumed this was her opportunity. Three years later, Niloofar Rahmani came to be Afghanistan’s very first female fixed-wing pilot. She is the first woman to be educated as an Afghan Air Force aviator in more than 30 years.

Niloofar came to be Afghanistan’s first female fixed-wing pilot despite the many people around her claiming she could not do it. Since she achieved her goal, numerous Afghans have been made aware of Niloofar. She has appeared on local television, and photos of her have been released on prominent internet sites. On television, she is professional and approachable.

When inquired about critics of her career choice, Niloofar claims she does not want people to know how to get under her skin and, notably, she does not wish to dissuade other women from pursuing their passions as well. Niloofar is not the only well-known female pilot. The highest-ranking female pilot is Brigadier General Khatool Mohammadzai, who trained as a paratrooper throughout Afghanistan’s communist period.

When Niloofar began her training as a pilot, international lawyer and friend of Niloofar Kimberly Motley says “it was a personal dream, but now that she’s older and evolving as a person, I think she sees it as a responsibility in which she has no choice but to succeed. She needs to succeed for her family and for Afghanistan.” And it looks like Niloofar is doing exactly that.