Shaesta Waiz is a pilot originally from Afghanistan and currently living in Florida. By engineering fuel tanks to fly further, Shaesta became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world in a single-engine airplane. "Discovering You: Engineering Your World" is produced by NBC News Learn in partnership with Chevron, the American Society for Engineering Education and the National Science Foundation.
Discovering You – Engineering Your World – Shaesta Waiz
SHAESTA WAIZ (Dreams Soar):
You know how I see the airplane is that it’s an extension of my hand.
My name is Shaesta Waiz, and I'm the youngest woman to fly solo around the world in a single-engine airplane.
My family and I came to the United States as refugees in 1987, which at that time, it was the peak of the Soviet-Afghan war. And when my family came to the United States, they settled in a small town called Richmond, California.
It wasn't until I went on board an airplane at the age of 17 where I completely fell in love with aviation. I remember thinking, "My gosh, this plane is probably going launch into the sky like a rocket," but to my surprise, when that plane did take off from the ground, it was magical.
I had this idea of flying a small, a single-engine airplane around the world to bring STEM and aviation to young girls and boys in communities where the percentage of STEM and aviation professionals were low. I started a nonprofit organization called Dreams Soar and within the course of three years, we were able to fundraise, acquire an aircraft, establish the route and really prepare for this amazing journey around the world. The Dreams Soar global flight for STEM consisted of me flying a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza around the world visiting 22 different countries, hosting 32 different outreach events across five continents where I flew a little north of 24,000 nautical miles.
These are what provides fuel to each cylinder. And then these are the spark plugs right here. Before I took off around the world…
What's so fascinating about engineering is that you just take something that's perfectly fine in the state that it's in, and you can engineer it to make it better. And in my case engineer it so that I could fly further.
My copilot was a 59-gallon aluminum tank and my passenger was another 165-gallon fuel tank. Rather than completely altering a perfectly fine fuel system that we know is very reliable and it has worked, what we did is we added plumbing to these two large tanks and connected it to the right fuel tank. So in the airplane at any given time, I was transferring fuel from six different tanks. Engineering these tanks really showed me that you could take a perfectly well-operating machine and really extend its performance.
When you go from an idea to actually building it, engineering it, and then seeing it come to life, it's just such a rewarding feeling. I never expected a young girl from Afghanistan who was a refugee would be the seventh woman to successfully fly solo around the world. But that girl did it. That girl is me.
Shaesta Waiz, a pilot, was the first woman to fly solo around the world in a single-engine airplane. Learn about another brave pilot, hurricane hunter Jessica Williams, in this TIME for Kids story.
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