Young Saudi aviation enthusiasts here are showing that the sky is the limit if one is prepared to work hard and passionately at fulfilling one’s dreams. Abdulaziz Al-Dakheel is a young Saudi businessman who decided in October 2013 to do exactly that, having dreamed since childhood of becoming a pilot. “When I was about 13, I built my first airport model out of foam board.” “When Microsoft Flight Simulator was launched in 1995, I began practicing my passion virtually. Things were tough at first because my family did not support me,” he said. “Some people think we’re crazy, while others consider us brave. However, everything started to change when they discovered that I was determined to become a pilot. “During my studies in the United States, I flew a two-seat single-engine Cessna airplane with my instructor pilot. Whenever I travel to a new country, I search for a flight simulator center so I can virtually fly the machine that pilots use in training.”
“I was able to take off and land a Boeing 737 safely using my flight knowledge and skills developed on the Microsoft Flight Simulator application,” he said. Al-Dakheel said sports aviation is not developed in Saudi Arabia. It is mostly supervised by the Saudi Aviation Club in Riyadh. However, the Kingdom has the most sports pilots and aircraft in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and also manufactures light sports aircraft called Arab Wolf, he said. “I fly to discover the scenic beauty of my country from above. I believe we have hidden treasures and my role is to document and present them to the public through photographs and videos.”
Al-Dakheel is also a member of Aoun Rescue Team that searches for people lost in the desert. “Some people think that what I’m doing could lead to my death. Death is inevitable, we should not let fear control our lives. We should make safety our first priority, tie our camels but then enjoy life as it happens.” Ali Almarhoon, 26, from the Eastern Province, is also involved in the challenging field of aviation. He is currently working as a jet engine technician, and aspires to be an engineer after he completes his education. “I fell in love with the industry as a child. I was inspired by my dad who is an aircraft technician. I had dreamed of becoming a pilot but that did not happen. So I completed a diploma course at an aviation academy in the United Kingdom.” “Life is all about risks. Flying sports aircraft, contrary to what people think, is much safer than driving cars. There are strict rules and regulations in terms of maintenance and safety. Skydiving, paragliding and parasailing provide thrill but are also safe,” he said.
Almarhoon said there are no aviation clubs in Saudi Arabia with proper events and activities. “Aviation is an expensive field and needs huge funding. It does not get the financial or media support such as football, for example. Most people think that air sports are only for pilots.” He urged investors to get involved because they can make a lot of money. “Most people would love to experience flying in one form or another. Skydive Dubai is a good example. This can work in Saudi Arabia because there is a shortage of entertainment.”