Women in Aviation

It seem that just about everyone in our beloved industry has their own opinion about the best way to halt the painful, grinding slide of general aviation toward the abyss. I’ve noticed that these schemes seems to have on thing in common: people. We need more people.

From that standpoint, I think Scott Spangler is correct when he says women are the key to aviation’s future. Without them, we lack the energy and resources of half the potential aviators in our midst.

At the moment, men outnumber women in aviation by a ratio of about 20-to-1. Even a modest improvement in those numbers would represent a dramatic changes in the number of pilots, mechanics, controllers, instructors, etc around us. For example, a 10:1 disparity would represent the addition of another 60,000 individuals to the aviation ecosystem.

Having said that, Mr. Spangler goes a bit too far in the end.

Women of Aviation offers a plethora of activities and contests designed to get females of all ages involved. More important to me is that it welcomes the participation of anyone who believes that aviation would be better off with more women involved, and each one of us can make a difference.

I’ll take that one step further. For the most part, we men haven’t done a very good job of nurturing the pilot population (or the nation). Maybe now is the time to step aside and give women a chance. They certainly can’t do any worse than we have.

There’s no reason for men to “step aside”. The industry’s problems aren’t going to magically disappear by virtue of the fact that women replace men in leadership positions any more than the advent of women in C-level corporate positions has eliminated such issues in other segments of the economy.

WASP pilot Elizabeth Gardener, circa 1950

It would be great to see women in aviation holding leadership roles, but if they do so it should be based on merit and not gender. To do otherwise would be degrading to everyone, regardless of sex.

Actually, I think men have done a good job of nurturing the pilot population. Consider the homebuilt industry, the Young Eagles program, the generous souls who gave a ride to that kid standing at the airport fence, or the countless aviators who have taught and mentored others out of sheer love of the game. They certainly don’t do it for the money. Sure, we all have to earn a living, but if participation in aviation was motivated primarily by financial concerns, the industry would a hell of a lot smaller and poorer than it already is.

The challenge of maintaining and growing the pilot population is not gender-specific, it’s economic. That’s why we need numbers on our side. Remember that an airport can have thousands of supporters and yet be shuttered by a tiny handful of politically active opponents.

Women in aviation aren’t going to make airframes, insurance, maintenance, parts, instruction, regulatory compliance, or fuel any cheaper. Women in aviation cannot, primarily by virtue of their gender, make friends of hostile airport opponents, free us from the specter of user fees, reduce the training drop-out rate, or solve any other issue confronting us.

What they can do to help is simply join the party, because without them aviation is not utilizing 50% of it’s human potential. More women flying means added political and economic clout where we really need it: fighting user fees, airport closures, voting for our interests, and ensuring the next generation of Americans is as plane crazy as the last.

  1 comment for “Women in Aviation

  1. Maharani
    January 10, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Just saw this and am proud to say that I am a woman student pilot!! I am 60-so OK it may be too late for me to have an effect-but I am glad I discovered the joys of flight training!! I encourage all my women friends to try it. A lot of people still think is prohibitively expensive, which it isn’t through a Flying Club. Some work could be done there, both to communicate its relative affordability and perhaps to make training more affordable. I could be spending the money at the mall: as it is, the money I’ve spent has enriched my life immeasurably.

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