Dr Enas Al-Alawi likes to spend her spare time away from solid ground. She belongs to one of the region’s least known minorities; the flying enthusiasts. It all began with a phobia.
I remember it well, in 1991, as a medical student in Ireland, on a family vacation to America. The turbulence during the flight from LA to Las Vegas was so horrific, I became petrified of flying. Every plane journey after that was an eternity of anxiety and fear. Finally, after ten years, I decided it was time to do something.
A few months later I moved to Liverpool as part of my work commitments, and immediately signed up with the Liverpool Flying School. Hour after hour, as I began to understand how these machines work, my love of flying grew and soon I started enjoying the bumpy rides. My first solo flight was a rush of such freedom and joy.
My first solo flight was a rush of such freedom and joy.
I was working in Derriford hospital in Plymouth in the UK by this time, and there was a local flying school. I walked in and asked for a trial lesson. I explained my problem to the instructor and as luck would have it, the instructor was an aerobat! The session lasted 30 minutes and I thought I was going to die. Back on earth, it occurred to me that I must try again. Two weeks later I went for another aerobatic jaunt and actually enjoyed the ride! I signed up for flying lessons and it all took off from there.
Looking down on the River Mersey and flying over Chester on my own was so releasing. I couldn’t stop smiling; I had done it! Looking back, I really loved the navigation sessions and very much enjoyed cross country flying. I find flying to be the best remedy for stress. I went flying almost every weekend to unwind and de-stress. Then in September 2005, with over 120 hours of flying in my logbook, I returned to the region. I looked for a flying school but there was nothing here. Dubai was the only place in the Gulf where I could fl y. With my long working hours and full schedule, going to Dubai every weekend was almost impossible. But this was important to me and after overcoming my personal fears and training for so long, I could not just quit. To keep up with the flying I take annual leave every few months and travel to the UK. It is far from ideal and I still hope to find an alternative.
Dr Enas Al-Alawi is a Consultant General Surgeon at Saad Specialist Hospital, Al Khobar. Originally from Bahrain, she left to study in the UK at the age of 15, graduating from medical school in 1996. After studying and working abroad for almost 20 years, she returned to the region in 2005. Dr Enas flies the single-engined Cessna 152, PA 38 and PA 28.