A young Iranian has become the first woman to obtain her private pilot's licence this year from the Emirates Flying School. Shahla Dehvari, 23, who began flying lessons six months ago, graduated last month. She had a fascination with flights since childhood.

"Since I was a child, I loved to play with planes and I loved to fly," she said. "When I learned that there was a flying school in Dubai, I decided to join right after I graduated from high school."

Dehvari, who was born in the UAE, said she would love to become Emirates airline's first female pilot and is now working on obtaining her commercial pilot's licence.

She explained that a private pilot needs 50 hours of flight experience before resuming lessons to become an airline transport pilot, which is basically flying commercial passenger flights.

In the meanwhile, Dehvari plans to take advantage of the school's facilities by renting a plane and flying friends and relatives to nearby emirates for practice.

"We can rent a plane from our school, but we cannot get out of the UAE. We can fly to Al Ain or Abu Dhabi. If it were my own plane, then I could go outside the UAE, but not with a rental plane," she said. Dehvari, who speaks English, Farsi, Arabic and some Urdu, is the first person in her family to become a pilot and the only woman to graduate from the Emirates Flying School so far in 2001.

Captain Hassan Al Aidirous, chief flight instructor at Emirates Flying School, described Dehvari as an eager pupil.

"She was a motivated student and she was the only girl in the batch. We've got a few more girls joining now but it looks like there won't be any more girls graduating this year."

He added that since the school opened 11 years ago, "there has never been as many girls as guys, but at least one girl has graduated every year."

Al Aidirous does not distinguish between his men and women students. "Actually, they are all the same. I personally graduated four girls myself. Women at times need a little more push for some parts of flying, but it depends on the individual."

Dehvari, who has two younger sisters, said her parents are "very happy because their daughter is a pilot", and expressed the hope that her sisters would become pilots too.