After breaking the stereotypes of women profession in Lebanon, Rola Hoteit and Erica Chbeir are no longer the only female airline pilots in the country. Four new women have now proven their efficiency to pilot and join the piloting crew.
Middle East Airlines has opened its doors to every trainee, regardless of gender. The requirement remains very strict in proving such efficiency as to fly their own plane.
These leading Lebanese women did exactly that, bringing themselves to the pilot seats by their own merit, and against the cultural odds.
Captain Hoteit's story began in 1993 while completing her BS in Mathematics at the prestigious American University of Beirut.
Her colleague showed her a newspaper that had a sarcastic joke about MEA recruiting also female pilots, "Women cannot drive a car. How will they be able to fly an airplane?" The gender-bias message, meant to be funny yet was not, defied her into action.
She ran to compete, unintimated whatsoever by the two thousand other applicants. Hoteit proved herself to her society that a woman can achieve equally to men whatever the cultural restrictions and assumptions.
Only nine applicants were accepted. Hoteit was one of them, becoming an inspiration and an encouragement to her Lebanese peers.
Captain Hoteit led her first single trip in 2010, heading to the Jordanian capital Amman. Onboard among the passengers was Former Prime Minister Tammam Salam.
Rola Hoteit entered Lebanon history as its first-ever female pilot. Her pioneering in the field motivated Erika Chbeir to embark in her example. In 2016, Chbeir braved the odds and applied to the Middle East Airlines, becoming Lebanon second female pilot.
We say it takes one brave pioneer to lead the way. And so it is that four more Lebanese women followed suit.
First Officer Stephanie Kteily is already up and flying. Training First Officer Angela Mourad has already accomplished her Flight Training Europe (FTE) in Spain. Cadet Stephanie El Helou and Cadet Yara Darwish are currently pursuing theirs, in Spain as well, to take their places at the captain seat of the MEA flights.
We feel honored by the accomplishment of our six female pilots, and proud indeed, considering that only 3% of the airline pilots around the world are women. Six of this small percentage are our countrywomen!
Hats Off for these brave women standing as accomplished role models for many young ladies inland and out there ...and up in the skies!