Mahek Shah: Taking flight to her dreams | Aga Khan Academies

Mahek Shah: Taking flight to her dreams

Mahek Shah, a Diploma Programme student at the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa, believes she knew she wanted to fly as soon as she learnt to walk. A young aviator who is driven to change the fact that the aviation industry is male-dominated, Mahek attended a 12-day British Aviation Camp from 16-27 July in the United Kingdom. She is also the curator of Wings for Women, a project she started as part of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme curriculum that educates teenage girls in Kenya on becoming pilots.  

Captain Irene Koki Mutungi is the inspiration behind her project. As the first African female captain of the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft, Captain Koki actively emboldened Mahek to spread awareness among young girls through her initiative.  

“Captain Koki encourages women to break stereotypes and work hard to achieve their dreams,” Mahek said. “She has held several motivational sessions within Kenya and has played an important role in shaping careers of numerous women.”  

Wings for Women is currently based in Mombasa, with workshops being successfully conducted in both Mombasa and Nairobi. At present, Mahek’s 14-member student led team, is focusing on scaling up the project by expanding their target audience across Kenya.   

Born in the UK, Mahek was raised in Mombasa, and looks forward to attending college in the UK. The summer camp organised by Brookfield Aviation has fortified her ambition of becoming a pilot.   

The camp comprised of flight training courses which consisted of three, one-hour flight lessons in a light aircraft (Piper A28). In addition, Mahek underwent ground school training in Air Law, Navigation and Communications. She also attended aerobatic flying and helicopter lessons. 

According to Mahek, practising on simulators at the Emirates Full Motion Simulators was the most challenging and exhilarating aspect of her training.  

“Flying two different simulators took some getting used to,” Mahek said. The A-380 simulator used a joystick, and it was only after two trials that I managed to land the plane. The B-777, on the other hand, was much easier to fly using a yoke.” 

Another important facet of her training was meeting airlines and touring headquarters, as part of which she underwent Safety and Emergency Procedures (SEP) Training at British Airways, and visited the British Airways Heritage Centre.  

Mahek’s passion and ambition to be a pilot has snowballed into a bigger mission of advocating for gender equality in her chosen field. According to Mahek, the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa and the guidance of her teachers have been instrumental in shaping her experiences in steering through the aviation industry.   

I use the Academy’s learner profile attributes, specifically caring and open-mindedness to engage with people from the aviation industry,” Mahek said. “This experience has enabled me to become a more ethical decision-maker, who is also very tolerant and pluralistic.”  

by Vidushi Mehrotra