Passengers on board Kam Air flight RQ103 may have thought they were boarding a routine flight. But the journey from Kabul to Herat on February 24, 2021 was the first time Afghanistan had seen an all-female crewed commercial passenger flight.

Now, crew members of this historic and groundbreaking event have joined the exclusive ranks of AeroTime Aviation Achievement Award recipients, along with Josh Cahill who was on the flight and shared the story with the world.

On board the history-making flight

When boarding flight QR103, the crew did not fully realize the significance of the journey ahead of them.

“We just met up as a group of friends, as a group of professionals, and prepared for our flight. We just wanted to take our passengers from Kabul to Herat and back,” remembered Captain Veronica Borysova. She said that the crew was greatly supported by the airline and felt excited to be taking part in the all-female flight.

“So, I don't think that we actually realized how significant and historical it would be for the aviation industry and for Afghanistan, specifically until later on when it actually happened and articles were issued, and the video went out,” Borysova added.

When passengers boarded flight RQ103 they had no clue what a special occasion they were about to witness. “For passengers, it was a normal and routine flight,” explained Arefa Ahmadi, the flight purser. “But for us, the flight was not a normal flight. Because in the history of Afghanistan, it was the first flight by only women. I'm very proud to have been chosen as a flight purser for that flight.

“The most important thing that we wanted to show to the world, and especially to Afghan women, was to believe in themselves and to strive to achieve their goals,” Ahmadi said.

Despite the positive comments and warm messages that the crew received afterwards, there were still people who did not believe that an all-female crew carried out a flight. But this didn’t dampen the spirits of those on board.

First officer Mohadese Mirzaee, Kam Air’s first female Afghan pilot, said she was excited about the flight and the difference it was making for women in Afghanistan. “For me personally, it wasn't just another day at work. Deep inside I was waiting for this day for so long.

“I wanted to show to the world that the all-female crew of Afghanistan could fly this plane. As women, working side by side we can support each other and we can fly a plane and take people to wherever they want to be. We can connect people to their loved ones, bring a mother to her daughter or a son, bring loved ones to each other. So it was not just a normal day, it was a very rewarding experience.”

Kam Air’s crew receives AeroTime Aviation Achievement Award

For their role as the first all-female crewed flight in Afghanistan, Veronica Borysova, Muhadesa Mirzaiyi, Arefa Ahmadi, Shagufa Haidary, Freshta Darwish, and Nargis Mahmoodi have all received an AeroTime Aviation Achievement Award.

The award recognizes their dedication and commitment to their work, their promotion of equality in aviation, and their position as role models for the next generation of women to pursue their dreams.

When presenting the award, Vygaudas Usackas said: “I think it is a very powerful message to the Afghan people and to the world. Especially this year when peace negotiations and talks about reconciliation are going on. The future of Afghanistan lies in equal opportunities in respect of freedoms and women’s rights.” Usackas is a member of the AeroTime Global Advisory Board and served as the European Union’s Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2010 to 2013.

The Kam Air crew were not the only ones receiving an award on the day. Josh Cahill, the YouTuber who captured the historic flight and brought the story to the attention of the world, became the first male recipient of an AeroTime Aviation Achievement Award.

Cahill was recognized for his dedication to the aviation industry, promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion in the sector, for working with Kam Air and sharing the story of Afghanistan’s first all-female crewed flight, and for supporting and encouraging the next generation of aviators.

“Thank you very much, it is very unexpected,” Cahill said. “Congratulations to crew for receiving this award, it is very well deserved. I didn't contribute much, I was just standing there and annoying everyone with my camera. But I was lucky that it turned into this beautiful message across the world, aviation-related but also advocating equality.

“I'm very glad that I was able to show the world what the girls of Afghanistan are really like, and respectively Ukraine as well. It was a great team effort and it wouldn't have been possible without everyone else. Being among all those beautiful and successful ladies is something very, very special to me. Thank you for the recognition as well as for the crew. I hope there's so much more to come in the future.”

Richard Stephenson, AeroTime Chief Executive, said: “I’m so pleased to see these awards being presented to such worthy recipients. None of us should underestimate the significance of these achievements and it is right that we should acknowledge the efforts and dedication of everyone involved in this flight. On behalf of everyone at AeroTime, I want to extend our thanks and congratulations to the crew, to Kam Air and to Josh Cahill. We look forward to hearing more about significant developments like this in the future.”

Find out more about the historic flight here:

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Josh Cahill speaks to AeroTime about flying on Afghanistan’s first all-female flight and the Taliban threat that followed.