Hey everyone! My name is Deana (pronounced Deena), and I’m half Bahraini & half British. I was born in England and raised in Bahrain - a tiny island in the middle of the Arabian Gulf.
I’ve been around aviation my whole life. My parents actually met while working together for the same airline in Gulf Air, and my Grandfather was an air gunner & navigator in the British Royal Airforce during WWII.
So growing up I had a lot of aviation influence. From a young age I was traveling the world with my parents. My Dad would always take me up to the flight deck (back in the golden days) and say to me “Don’t you want to do this one day? You can be the first Bahraini lady pilot!” Of course my eyes would always light up with excitement and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I remember telling everyone “When I grow up I want to be a pilot!” I even had my own logbook that the captain would sign off on every flight. I collected quite a few thousand hours on that!
At some point growing up, I changed my mind from being a commercial pilot to a fighter pilot in the RAF. Somewhere after finishing school though, my life plans changed and I ended up moving to the US. I got married (and divorced) and moved to California where I was a single parent, working and going to college part-time. I changed my mind every semester about what I wanted to study. And I honestly forgot about the idea of becoming a pilot all together - Until 2009 when I got my big break.
My government had set up a program to send 100 Bahraini citizens to study at Oxford Aviation Academy in the UK to become pilots. I knew I’d have to go through a series of tests and interviews, and I wasn’t even sure if I’d get selected. But both my parents encouraged and pushed me to go through with it, and I can tell you it was the best decision of my life! I can’t thank them enough for all their support and not letting me give up.
Studying at Oxford was an amazing experience that I miss so much. It was both fun and tough. During ground school there were days we wouldn’t even sleep as we’d be up the whole night studying for our theory exams the next morning. I would advise anyone who’s thinking of starting a career in aviation that you have to take it seriously. First of all, we all know it’s quite costly… So you need to make sure you’re 100% ready to put the time and effort in. It’s totally achievable, it just needs focus and dedication.
My course at Oxford took me 18 months to finish, and I landed my first airline job flying the A320 a year and half later. I’ve been flying with the same company in UAE for the past 6 years now and I love it. It honestly doesn’t feel like a job. Except maybe the days when I have to wake up at 3am to operate an all nighter. Those are no fun! And I still haven’t mastered the art of falling asleep on demand at any time of the day yet either. haha.
As for the future, my next step is to get my fourth stripe and hopefully fly wide body someday!
The best advice I would give to my younger self or anyone wishing to become a pilot is: Never give up on your dreams! Don’t let anyone discourage or deter you from your pursuing your passion, and don’t convince yourself that you’re too old to its too late either - it’s never too late to reinvent yourself! I was 28 when I started my aviation journey. Anything you want to achieve is possible if you put the effort in and set your mind to it!