Emiratis flying high at Etihad ceremony

Up to two years of hard work pays off as talented trainees step up to claim their rewards and dream of their future careers.

ADU DHABI // Sixty-three Emiratis were yesterday among almost 90 graduates from the Etihad Airways training programme. The 38 cadet pilots, 19 graduate managers and six engineers are the largest cohort of Emirati trainees to complete the programme. An additional 26 trainees of other nationalities also completed the course.

"Throughout the duration of 18 to 24 months, these trainees have not only proven that they are more than ready to take on those challenges, but they have also paved the way to a bright future," said Haitham Subaihi, the former business development manager - North America, who was also among the first batch of graduates in the trainee programme. Addressing a crowd of 450 at Al Raha Beach Hotel in Abu Dhabi, Mr Subaihi recounted how he sat in the trainees' place just a year ago. He had been offered an international work placement in New York.

"These training techniques and many more have rewarded me with unparalleled experiences in the US and have allowed me to utilise my time abroad and enhance my understanding of the airline industry tenfold," he said. The cadet pilots, whose course lasted 18 months, have now joined the airline as second officers. Among them was one woman, Roudha Mohammed al Mansouri. "I can't really describe the feeling," the 22-year-old Emirati said. "I've always liked taking new challenges. I hope to enter the field of politics in the future.

"I want to pursue a degree in political science and economics." Fatima Rashid, who was in the audience to support her brother, one of the trainees, voiced her admiration for Ms al Mansouri. "I look up to my brother Khaled Rashid and to the pilot cadet Roudha as well," she said. "She is a good example and role model for UAE women. It's great that she accomplished her goal." Etihad's Emiratisation programme has 150 UAE national trainees across the airline, including 112 cadet pilots, 16 graduate managers and 22 technical engineers.

The ceremony had special meaning for Taha Mansour al Hashemi. Having worked for 25 years in the aviation industry, yesterday he saw a second son follow in his footsteps. "I'm very proud," he said. "I know it's challenging, but this profession allows you to develop your skills and gain knowledge," he said. "My son will also have the opportunity to visit many countries and be exposed to new cultures."

His son, Lutfi Taha Mansour, 23, began Etihad's training programme after graduating from Abu Dhabi Men's College. "I would watch my father and eldest brother from a young age and I decided to follow in their path," he said. "I've wanted to be a pilot ever since eighth grade, so I'm going to do the type rating [pilot grade] for eight months so I can apply to be a first officer." Etihad Airways says it is on track to reach its target of increasing its proportion of Emirati employees to 15 per cent this year from 12 per cent.

"We're very proud of the calibre of our young people and today is, frankly, about their success," said James Hogan, the airline's chief executive. "What it means for the development and future leadership of Etihad Airways is that they receive the right foundation to ensure their success."