See How This High-Flying Omani Planespotter Became An International Internet Sensation

20 Jul 2019
POSTED BY Alvin Thomas

Coffee with Y meets one Omani who has gained celeb status in the aviation industry – all in the name of an Instagram page dedicated to ‘plane-spotting’.

Making the best out of an existing idea and tweaking it until it thrives on its own – that’s the mantra to success.

To the average teenager, Instagram – the social media platform and image sharing app, is a great platform to showcase the various luxuries of life and share a few laughs with friends over the latest meme-of-the-day.

Currently, it’s among the most-used platforms in the Sultanate; but the story of one 18-year-old Omani going beyond what your average ‘influencer’ achieves is nothing short of inspirational.

This is how Hafedh al Ghannami rose from being a hard-working student to raking in enough followers – 12,100 and counting – to become one of Oman’s most-followed Instagram personalities.

Today, his page, Aviation Oman, characterised by the handle ‘@aviationoman’, not only serves as one of the leading news portals for aviation news in the Asian region but also as a platform for him to interact and learn from airport management, flight engineers, pilots, and cabin crew.

His dream: to become part of the managing team of an airline company.

Whether his dream will be fulfilled is an answer that lies in the future, but the young student – who plans to pursue aviation management in university – is already partaking in the jet-set lifestyle, travelling with crew on delivery missions of flights and hanging out with the CEOs and managers of various airline companies.

Speaking to Y, an enthusiastic Hafedh tells us: “My passion for aviation came at the age of 14 – which is only four years ago – but the intrigue I had in me when I just saw the flight fly over my head was great.

“I was so mystified by how well everything was put together; the wires, the panels, and how the engines were thrusting the heavy object upwards. I also questioned what would be going through the mind of a pilot of an Airbus A380, which carries 400 passengers.

“Would they find it challenging to fly a plane with so many lives on-board or is it just a part of their routine?

“It was at that moment that I knew I had a flare in me for aviation.”

Hafedh goes on to reveal how his first desire was to become an airline pilot. But it’s one that he shelved in pursuit of a more grounded job that’s also close to his family here in Oman.

“That’s when I thought of management. I’ve always had a penchant for managing – and even back in school I was heading eight departments – and I loved doing it. So, I’ve come to realise how that could be where I head with my career. Of course, managing an airline company is a whole different ball game – but it’s a challenge I’d like to take up.”

Seeing a vacant spot on Oman’s Instagram scene in 2016, Hafedh then started his first Instagram page to cover everything aviation.

His motto: provide Omani audiences with up-to-date and reliable news, interact with fellow plane-spotters, share images of Oman’s aviation with the world and, above all else, teach those interested in aviation about the various intricacies of the field.

“In Oman, we don’t have a support for aviation as many other countries do. So, someone interested in this field would have to sign up for classes before they even realised if they wanted to do it or not.

“That’s a gap I intend to fill when I restructured my thoughts on what this page would become.”

To achieve this, Hafedh constantly publishes aviation videos and pictures with tutorial captions – a trend that has been well-received.

“So, the idea is to post 100 per cent factual content that’s true and validated by officials in this industry. For example, when the Boeing 737 Max 8 grounding was happening worldwide, people were worried about whether the other variants of the 737 planes they’re flying in were also affected.

“I put up a post stating why that wouldn’t be the case and explained – with inputs from officials and engineers – what was really going on.”

Hafedh is also responsible for providing aviation news during the heavy rains that battered Oman in May; showing pictures of the airport and videos of how the winds affected the flights.

“In aviation, it’s important to not only be putting out photos of aircraft. It’s imperative that you get the stories out – irrespective of whether they’re positive or negative – but it must be explained in such a manner that people understand and learn about it.

Perhaps having contact with top CEOs such as Captain Mohamed Ahmed from SalamAir and various other flight engineers from companies such as Airbus at his fingertips also aids the cause. These are friends he picked up over the course of his tenure with his Instagram page.

Despite that, his big break came when he was offered exclusive access to a ferry flight (flying an aircraft for returning to base or delivery to customer when new) from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France to Muscat.

Talking about his experience on the flight, he says, “There’s something truly special about taking a ferry flight over a seven-hour-long journey. Being able to speak with the SalamAir CEO, the pilots who had kept their doors open for interaction, the quality control staff, sales manager, and commercial manager from Airbus and SalamAir just made it a dream for me to be part of.

“It was an immense learning experience, and a very insightful one too. At the end of the trip, the CEO even told me something that I will never forget. He said: ‘You can come with us on a delivery flight any time you want.’ And those were words of bliss for someone like me.”

Despite the success arising from his Instagram page, Hafedh hasn’t forgotten his roots. He says that he still makes his way to the Azaiba Beach area early on weekends to catch glimpses of flights approaching the runway.

He also snaps up images of the flights there.

“I can’t go without a bit of plane-spotting every week. For this, me and my brother grab a cup of coffee and go to the beach area near Azaiba that’s safe for parking. We then talk about life and various other things as we spot planes line up for the runway.

“It’s a very calming feeling,” says the young Omani.

When asked about whether his Insta-fame and his links with top-dog management staff will eventually land him a job with one of the airlines, he says: “It’s important to keep in mind how much of a difference this Instagram page has made. Not only could I meet people who make decisions in airline companies, I also learn a lot in the pursuit of facts

“I won’t say I know everything. Maybe my knowledge stands at two per cent of things in the industry. But what I do know is that I have learned a lot over the last two years and that there’s a long way to go.

“But, through it all, I have only one goal: to make a difference and a lasting impression on Oman’s aviation industry.”  ν

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