Overcoming war and poverty, Shaesta Waiz hopes her personal struggle for the skies will inspire the next generation of women.
Beating the odds is not a new concept for Captain Shaesta Waiz. She escaped war as a child during the Afghan-Soviet conflict, is the first in her family to attend college, the first Afghan woman to be a certified civilian pilot, and now—at 30—the youngest woman in history to fly solo around the globe in a single-engine plane.
The journey took Waiz 145 days, 22 countries, and one single-engine 2001 Beechcraft Bonanza A36 aircraft. On Wednesday evening, October 4th, she touched down to complete her circumnavigation. She landed in Daytona Beach, Florida, the city where she first pursued her dream of aviation, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Waiz’s trip took her to India and Singapore, where she spent afternoons with fellow female pilots and the next generation of aviation professionals. Her trip took her to Australia, Egypt, and Sri Lanka, where young men and women lined up with flags to meet her. Speed wasn’t the point. At all her stops, she spread the message of women in STEM and in aviation.
Australian Lachlan Smart flew around the world solo at age 18 in 2016, one-upping American Matt Guthmiller, who was 19 when he made the trip in 2014.
Continue onto National Geographic to read more about Shaesta’s journey from refugee camp to aviation.