About Captain Niloofar Rahmani
Niloofar Rahmani began her journey to become Afghanistan’s first fixed wing female fighter pilot, when for the first time since the Soviets, Afghanistan allowed women to join the armed forces in 2010. She entered Afghanistan’s military academy, breaking through social barriers to demonstrate confidence, leadership, and decisiveness—essential qualities for a pilot. She performed the first solo flight of her class—ahead of her male classmates—and in 2013 became Afghanistan’s first female fixed-wing air force pilot. Her actions, which included encouraging Afghan women to join the Afghan Air Force (AAF), brought attention and threats that were ignored and discounted by her superior officers.
In March 2015, Rahmani received the International Women of Courage Award in Washington D.C. That August, she was selected to attend C-130 training in the United States over objections from the AAF. In February, she completed the Defense Language Institute English Learning Center and C-130 instruction at CAE’s Tampa Training Center in August, 2016. She completed C-130 training in December, 2016 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.
Continuing threats against her family led Rahmani to flee to the United States, where she claimed asylum. She has received permanent residence status and currently lives in Florida where she is attending flight training to obtain her commercial rating. Her parents joined her in October of 2021 after fleeing Afghanistan aboard a United States Air Force C-17.
In 2022, Rahmani was honored by The Gathering of Eagles Foundation, a private, non-profit organization that aims to preserve the United States Air Force’s legacy through the celebration of 70 years of airpower. She was selected as an eagle for her “outstanding courage as a female aviator, becoming the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan Air Force despite ethnic discrimination, sexism, and consistent threats to her life.”