Riyadh (Agencies) Saudi women will now be able to learn how to fly, weeks after the kingdom lifted a decades' long driving ban on women, local media has reported.
Oxford Aviation Academy has opened its doors to women and will start accepting applications from Saudi women who can begin their training in September.
In January, Eqbal Darandari, a member of the Saudi Shura Council–the kingdom's legislative body, called on national airlines to empower women by creating jobs.
"Airlines take one step forward and two steps back when it comes to pilot and flight attendant positions," Darandari said at the time.
"We've seen Saudi women piloting aircraft outside the kingdom. Now it's time for [Saudi Arabia’s aviation authority] to take the initiative. Saudi women deserve to find work in their own country."
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's announcement last year that women would be allowed to drive from 24 June.
The move was hailed from some sections of international media, although others believe it failed to tackle real social issues in the kingdom.
Largely seen as the force behind the lifting of the ban, the crown prince's economic Vision 2030 reform plan - for a post-oil era - seeks to elevate women to nearly one-third of the workforce, up from about 22 percent now.
Oxford Aviation Academy has already received applications from hundreds of women hoping to start lessons in September at a new branch in the eastern city of Dammam.
“People used to travel abroad (to study aviation), which was difficult for women more than men,” said applicant Dalal Yashar, who aspires to work as a civil pilot. “We are no longer living in the era were women were allowed in limited arenas. All avenues are now opened for women. If you have the appetite, you have the ability,” she said.
The academy is part of a $300 million project that includes a school for aircraft maintenance and an international centre for flight simulators at the airport.
Students receive three years of academic and practical training, said executive director Othman al-Moutairy. A decades-long ban on women driving was lifted last month, as part of sweeping reforms pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aimed at transforming the economy and opening up its society.
The lifting of the prohibition was welcomed by Western allies as proof of a new progressive trend in Saudi Arabia.