WASP pilots of WWII
3 min read

There is no question who is winning.  Male pilots outnumber females by a commanding 94 to six margin, plus or minus a little. This is true of pilots in general as well as airline pilots.

When my friend Bonnie Tiburzi became the first female to be hired by a major U. S. airline (American) I thought maybe that would mark the beginning of a big change. It was a start but females only got up to that six percent of the total in airline flying.

Everyone acknowledges that we are facing a dwindling and aging pilot population with more falling out than are coming in. It is sort of like a minister who does more funerals than christenings. Draw the line out and it eventually gets to zero. Could it be that getting more females involved could reverse this trend?

WASP pilots of WWII

The WASPs flew almost just about every airplane during WWII.

Why hasn’t aviation attracted more females? Certainly in my years in the magazine business we went out of our way to encourage females. One way this was done was by glorifying their exploits. A long flight flown by a female would be a record; the same by a male would be a ferry flight.

I often wondered if some of those “record” flights were worthy of note. In most cases, all they proved was that the pilot stayed awake and the engine ran the whole time. Maybe all they were really good for was the personal celebrity of the pilot flying. We’ll never know whether or not this activity encouraged any females to learn to fly.

Is there some stigma to being a female pilot? Some male chauvinist pigs referred to WW-II Wasps (Women Airforce Service Pilots) as “leather ladies.” They were a tough bunch, though, and couldn’t have cared less about male attitudes as they flew every airplane in the inventory all over the world.

Where all the flight training of WW-II flooded the pilot ranks with males, almost a half a million of them, there were just over 1,000 Wasps. No big percentage there.

I used to judge in an instrument flying contest sponsored by Sporty’s and FLYING at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association air meet. The contest involved a for-real instrument flight and, hands down, the best pilot I ever flew with there was a female, Lauri Laushkin, a student at Mount San Antonio College. The weather was low IFR and she flew a virtually perfect flight.

I have always thought that females can be better pilots than males. I think they take fewer chances and treat airplanes more gently. The personality traits that lead to accidents are mostly male but maybe that is because males are so predominant that there is little female influence on accident statistics.

Could it be that females are not attracted in number because they take one look at male pilots and think, “Yuk, I don’t want to be like that.

It is my opinion that we males have created a fraternal bond in flying that largely excludes females. If so, how do we change that so more females will feel welcome as general aviation, airline or military pilots? None of the past efforts have helped. What do you think would help? Or do you think we should work to keep this wonderful activity a boy’s club?

Richard Collins
88 replies
  1. DMLou
    DMLou says:

    I am not an experience aviator — I’ve only just started some training and I don’t know when I’ll actually complete it. However, as a computer programmer, I often see much of the same behavior in my field as you’re seeing in aviation. One thing I did notice is that there were many “Women in Computing” sorts of advocacy groups that tried to bring more women into the field and perhaps that may be necessary in aviation as well.

    Also similarly, computing also tends to be something of a boys’ club too. I’m not sure if the reasons why are the same as in aviation, but the end results do appear similar.

    • Bump
      Bump says:

      Aviation has not attracted more women for the same reason that interior decorating has not attracted more men……it is not where we want to be.

      If there were only non-commercial fun day vfr flying, it would probably be 50/50.

      For professional pilots, the main responsibility is the safe outcome of a flight. When all goes well, a monkey could do it. However; very often in commercial flying, things don’t go as planned. This is where you see the difference. Most (most!) girls do not handle unexpected dangerous scenarios as well as men. Probably for the same reason they don’t go hunting, race cars, or go base jumping.

      I’ve flown over 7000 hours in 2 crew jets, approx 550 hours with girls, pic and sic.

      The best pilot I ever flew with was a girl. When they are good, they are very good. She also liked hunting, racing cars, and base jumping.

      The other 12 girls were very intimidated by weather, strong winds, short runways, or any abnormal situations….. As I would be trying to match the drapes.

      It’s just who we are.

      If you don’t mind single engine approaches to mins at mountainous airports at night, with low fuel, low-time sic, and moderate icing with your de-ice systems failing…..

      then come join the club !

      Or join the club even if you’re intimidated, and use your minority status to get to the airlines quickly, where Boeing, Pratt+Whitney, and your Captain will keep you safe.

      Thanks for the truth John and Marv ——

      “Males have motors, females have empathy. Not always true, but having raised a gagle of kids and watched them from infancy it’s pretty clear that wiring is different between the genders. Maybe as we see more UAS operators we’ll see more female interest and participation. Despite the gender equality rhetoric, I’ve observed what look like inherent,large differences in willingness to accept physical risk. Again, I’m talking in terms of populations. Just as there are excellent female aerobatic pilots and nurturing males, we have outliers in every population. I’d like to see more females enthralled by aviation. I’m sure we will. I am skeptical we’ll see a majority of females among pilots and mechanics. It’s interesting that in other professions, like law and politics where high verbal skills are at a premium females now out number males in many schools”

      “Little boys like to jump things on their bicycles and tear things apart to see what makes them tick. Little girls like to have tea parties. Why don’t we just face it, we are different. I am a veteran instructor and can tell you from experience that girls just do not get it when it comes to mechanical things like airplanes. They can memorize facts and pass written tests just fine. They are much harder to train to fly. My personal thing is looking in the cockpit when I get on an airliner. If I see 2 girl pilots I am getting off that airplane. Girls fly fine if there is nothing bad happening. When the stuff hits the fan I want male pilots not someone who thinks the emergency procedure for losing and engine is to break out crying.”

  2. Joseph
    Joseph says:

    To continue DMLou thought in the computer industry females are not a very large percentage of the work force. Many I have worked with are great at the work. However there is a certain Geek mindset required to do software engineering (I’m not talking about dumb T-shirts and cargo pants, but the attitude). And lets be honest pilots are as much geeks as computer programmers when it comes to the attitude, they are just though of as more macho I suppose. This Geek mindset has always been off-putting to girls. There is a feeling that one must accept and become part of the lifestyle to succeed in the industry.

    I would not consider myself the typical software engineer. I fly planes, race cars, hike, and mountain bike. I have more tools than any one person should. And I don’t play video games (well except for flight sim occasionally). I’m always slightly outside the peer groups, but I’m good enough at what I do it hasn’t been a problem.

    My wife likes flying but doesn’t really consider learning to fly as something she wants to do.

    How do you change this… I don’t know but the associations etc will help attract a few (but may add to my point about user groups). I have a feeling its the life style that one is surrounded with more than the work. I guess its why you don’t know many girls putting together models, building engines, building electronic kits, boating etc. Very few are attracted to detailed hobbies it seems, and to fly professionally or as a hobby one must love it.

    The chauvinistic attitude is much less of an issue than the overall life style.

    I guess we could define a rule-of-thumb, if the job comes with a built in user sponsored celebration convention (Airshows, CES, programming competitions etc) than it doesn’t seem to attract women. Law for an example doesn’t have any (they do have conferences and training) but they don’t get together and “play law” on the weekends.

    • Bobby
      Bobby says:

      I am a 35 year pilot and self-proclaimed computer geek. Most of the macho pilots I have known were not computer geeks at all. They only thought about airplanes and flying 24/7

      • Joseph
        Joseph says:

        Not computer geeks, but aviation geeks its the same core personality just with a different technology. They live and breath their work and hobby, they are defined by it. The problem is when one is both a computer and aviation geek. Finger points at myself when I say that. Aviation is a life style not a hobby or a career, its not something you go in and do 8 hrs and leave each day, at least if its something you want to succeed in.

    • Maureen
      Maureen says:

      Re:other detail-oriented hobbies among women pilots – most of us have been or are into needlework, knitting, quiliting, etc. all require the same attention to detail that are required by assembeling models.
      Those of us who are pilots are just as puzzled about why more women don’t fly. And believe me, we try to encourage our non-pilot friends.
      Yeah, many of us are geeks, too, with lots of electronic toys and other combustible engines like motorcycles, tractors, atv s, etc.

      • Joseph
        Joseph says:

        You are correct I even thought of those hobbies after I wrote this, but there is something different between those and technically detailed hobbies. I run into the same issue with friends (guys and girls) I always try to convince my friends to take lessons. A few do at least one, but unless you have the bug its hard to justify the cost.

        I want my wife to take a few lessons so that she can land the plane if something happens to me in flight. She has agreed to that but doesn’t really want to go beyond that.

        One thing I would say in general. Aviation does a great job of marketing to the Aviation community. I’ve never gone to a non-aviation related convention or event where they were advertising flying careers or lessons. So unless you subscribe to airplane mags, or go to air shows, or seek them out you are not seeing the advertisements.

  3. flyboy
    flyboy says:

    My flight school has a lot of female employees, instructors and students. Maybe it’s changing already :)

  4. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I think the anti-science, anti-math, anti-technology mindset starts very young for girls, probably middle school. Studies have shown that girls keep up with male peers and say they like math, for instance, in grade school but change their attitudes in middle and high school.
    I think we need to reach females much earlier. I, for one, always wanted to fly but didn’t start until age 40. Girls just didn’t become pilots.
    My daughter went to an all-girl school. When I get my license, I plan to do outreach (like Young Eagles Day) for those girls.

  5. Rulon Bravo
    Rulon Bravo says:

    A great and thought provoking article. Remember when motorcycling was an exclusively male activity? Now you go into a bike shop and half the customers are women. Women are riding choppers, baggers, and bullet bikes because they’ve discovered that it’s fun. It’s nice to see that change take place. But a big part of the change was twofold: the motorcycling culture that allowed it to happen, and women themselves deciding that to h@ll with public opinion, I’m going to do it. That still hasn’t happened with aviation. I know my share of women pilots. I know a woman who flies a Pitts, an AT-6, and women who fly jets. But most women, while accepting of the idea of their peers riding choppers, still seem to pause at the idea of flying a plane. That’s what has to change.

  6. babs
    babs says:

    The flight school I attended has about 20 female pilots but we all keep pretty low profiles.
    Girls just aren’t exposed to flying unless they (we) seek it out…
    there is awesome support and comraderie with my fellow aviatrices though ~ I think we all really strive to fly it forward!

  7. LarryH
    LarryH says:

    I agree. The best pilot and instructor I’ve ever flown with was female.

    She got me my ticket and would do anything to help me do that.

    I do remember that she lamented that it was hard for her to find other women to fly with, either as students or pals.

    I don’t pretend to know the female mind, but if our culture could somehow cultivate women into flying in the same way they have have taken to driving would be big step (I’m old enough to remember when womwn weren’t into driving).

    I would say that for men, do your your best to encourage your wives, girl friends or daughters to seek out female instructors and/or mentors to learn how to fly. They may benefit more from the shared experience even if a male instructor may have “better’ credentials.

  8. John
    John says:

    In the 1930’s my mother was a teen building models and reading everything she could about flying. She came home one day to find that her mother and aunt had thrown it in the trash as flying was not something a girl should do. I gave Mom her first plane ride April 24th, 1999. My daughters have never contracted the flying bug but I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with the current male top heavy population.

  9. Faith
    Faith says:

    I don’t think the problem is enticing women to fly: I think that the problem is framing the conversation as being about Women Pilots.

    I am a 34-year-old woman. I have been a pilot for 14 years. I can certainly tell stories of the tribulations of being a Woman Pilot: first to mind is the introductory flight where the CFI wouldn’t let me touch the controls and said he figured I was just learning to fly so I could meet a husband. I could go on, but analyzing gender prejudice is not the answer. If someone wants to learn to fly badly enough, he or she will overcome whatever challenge is in their path.

    I don’t think of myself as a Woman Pilot; I’m just a Pilot. I’m not a member of the 99s, and I think it’s okay if there’s a gender imbalance. We should support anyone of ANY gender who wants to learn to fly, and we should work to kindle the spark we see in ALL children. So what if more boys show interest than girls? Are we complaining that not enough boys are showing interest in learning to cook? Of course not, but some boys go on to be great chefs. And some girls go on to be great pilots.

    Focus on the fight to make aviation more affordable, and more people from both genders will be able to take part. Try to inspire anyone and everyone you meet, and more people will reach for the sky.

    • Peter
      Peter says:

      Excellent answer. The real motivation to fly, not just it’s romantic appeal, is one that arises from within. It’s spiritual. How we follow that inspiration, how much effort we put into it and what we’re willing to sacrifice is an individual thing having little to do with gender.

      • Bob Shlafer
        Bob Shlafer says:

        Great answer, Pete. Couldn’t more agree. Flew as a regional airline type for many moons and BUSEX & Eagle had many female pilots. Those I flew with did just fine.

        And …. we have girls flying jets off carriers today … :)

    • Dave Krall CFII
      Dave Krall CFII says:

      More than a few male pilots will not “risk” letting an introductory flight student handle the controls, especially by themselves because they’re afraid of not being able to recover the Cessna/Piper/LSA aircraft should the student do something untoward.

      It’s rather funny actually because such pilots are not speaking very highly of their own abilities to recover from an unusual attitude.

      • Josh
        Josh says:

        I’ll pretty much let anyone fly if they want to as long as it’s not a critical stage of flight. i.e. landing. I’m not a CFI, but one that I flew with a few times has a good theory. Don’t let them get anywhere close to the edge of the envelope.

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      I agree with your statement that ANY challenge can be overcome if someone has the desire to. It’s about getting kids inspired…

      I grew up oblivious to gender discrimination and it wasn’t until I volunteered at a local fire department I realized it didn’t matter how well I did the job, the first thing people saw was that I was a “girl” – It REALLY bothered me initially, but one time a little 4 y/o boy called me the “lady fireman”. I started to realize it was important for little boys and girls to see female firefighters who are just “firefighters”. I don’t go around wearing shirts that advertise “female firefighter” – that’s completely off-putting. Kids need to see women doing jobs because they love it- not touting girl-power. Gender isn’t an issue to doing what you love, but we as adults need to make sure we don’t send the opposite message.

      We need to help little kids dream big, encourage adolescents to not give up those dreams, and help teenagers start learning about how to accomplish them.

      And most parents don’t want to encourage their 11 y/o daughter to “be sexy” but let’s face it -girls are trying to do that anyway- I think a partial answer is to reinforce the idea to both boys and girls that SMART IS SEXY…be it flying or gaming or whatever.

      I’m just about to solo (w/only 10 hrs) and I can tell you that being smart has paid off in about every way I can imagine- I LOVE FLYING and I’m good at it- I won’t dumb down for anything or anyone, but I don’t wave a feminist flag or wear shirts that say “woman pilot”. Kids can see just fine that I’m a “girl”. I do what I love doing – that’s the best way to inspire anyone to take a leap…

    • Mark S.
      Mark S. says:

      I really appreciate your take on this. Gender shouldn’t be a factor. Anyone should have the right and ability to pursue their interests without hinderence because of gender, or any number of other factors. We should stand or fall by our abilities.

      The term “prejudice” used to be commonly used to describe what we call discrimination these days. I think it was a good term. If a CFI won’t allow a woman to touch the controls on an introductory flight, that is prejudice on his part; pre-judging that a woman is not likely to be a good candidate for becoming a pilot. That is patently unfair.

      When I worked as an A&P, there were plenty of men whom thought that women shouldn’t work on airplanes. Female A&Ps were a rarity, but I remember being quite impressed by the skills of the females I worked with. I recall one whom was an exceptionally skilled with sheet metal work. Sure, there were alpha male types all over the place, but the women in the industry more than held up their end of the bargain.

      People are individuals and should be treated as such. Many women have no interest in aviation and that is their right. A relative handful do have an interest in aviation and that is their right also. I am a complex person with a wide range of interests, not all of which are related. Does the fact that I am good at baking make me more, or less qualified as a pilot? The answer is that it is unrelated.

      An individual, any individual, should be able to pursue their interests as they see fit and should be judged only by their efforts, not their demographics.

  10. Tones
    Tones says:

    Anyone think women can’t fly, think again. History has many many significant female pilots. I intend to encourage my daughters to fly if they so desire. I have shown them a very inspirational movie, Speed & Angels. If anyone hasn’t seen it, SEE IT!!! The 2 messages in the movie, girls can fly anything and never never never give up if you so desire it. The movie is the REAL Top Gun, 2 junior officers learning the F 14 Tomcat, sometime before they were decommissioned in 2008.

  11. MaryH
    MaryH says:

    As a woman pilot, I have formed a few opinions about why so few women fly. As a recreational pilot, I think a lot of women would not commit that high percentage of the family discretionary budget to an expensive ‘hobby’. For commercial pilots, the lifestyle (especially in the beginning) can be horrible – erratic schedules, last minute changes, spending a lot of overnights away from home in not necessarily the nicest hotels, until you’ve paid your dues and can get a more predictable schedule. Not very conducive to having a family.

    • JLVaughn
      JLVaughn says:

      Mary, I think you’ve nailed the real reasons more women don’t fly. These sorts of reasons are never discussed, but are far bigger issues than blaming the boys and having another program will every solve.

      My wife has always wanted to fly. Instead, she chose to become a math teacher. For our 30th wedding anniversary, I bought her flying lessons. She cried for joy. But now she frets about the expense. We can surely afford it.

      Heck, 10 grand for 30 years, I’m willing to pay another 10 in advance, if she’ll stay on another 30 years with the same terms.

      I’m now taking lessons. We’ll both soon have our pilot certs and have our eyes on a cute little C152. That’s certainly cheaper and more fun than a motorhome.

      • Anita
        Anita says:

        aww… What a good man! your wife is truley blessed.
        Not to mention one who really gets it. A true woman will always, always put her family first before her desires.

  12. JohnF
    JohnF says:

    I’m a male student Pilot with 3 hours to my name. My sister in law is a private pilot whom I look up to, and can talk to her about what ever question or problem I’m having in training. Of my experiences over the past almost 30 years of life and have come up with a simple synopsis on just about any subject like this. “It’s not the gender of the individual, it’s the attitude and devotion to the task at hand that set’s people apart.” – My self

  13. Mireille
    Mireille says:

    There are many studies that have shown that perception is everything. Society has told women in so many ways that flying is not something they are meant to do that qualified women are not even considering flying as an option. http://goo.gl/txbHr

    Although well intended, talking about a basic flight as a major accomplishment is actually fairly demeaning because it sounds like flying is a novelty for the female gender. Women have been flying aircraft for over 200 years and airplanes for more than 100 years. There are plenty of truly accomplished female pilots to talk about although none seem to be good enough to be named as mentors of major outreach mixed programs.

    If money was the problem (it can be but that’s not a gender based issue) then the many scholarships available would fix the problem. They have not. The fact is that the number of women earning more than $100,000 a year has tripled in the last decade alone. What’s more, while the cost of new airplane has skyrocketed from 3.5 times the average cost of a new car in 1960 to nearly 10 times the average cost of new car in 2010, the average cost of a flight lesson has held fairly steady from between $20 and $25 ($115-$143 in 2010 dollars) in 1970 to between $130 and $160 in 2010. http://goo.gl/txbHr

    As the founder of Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week, held annually during the week of March 8, a week that aims to change perceptions and participation trends, my question is: “Why is there still so much resistance to the idea of celebrating women during International Women Week?”.

    Significant pilot population growth is not possible when excluding half of the population. Furthermore, while there was a time when society was segregated by sex, class, color, today’s society is mixed. In such society, groups that are not mixed feel unnatural and unattractive to both men and women.

  14. Gerald Heuer
    Gerald Heuer says:

    While I am a student pilot now, I am a retired United States Air Force Navigator. My first operational assignment after Nav School was with the 41st Air Refueling Squadron, 416th Bomb Wing, Griffiss Air Force Base, New York. Our Operations Officer’s wife was a WASP and she had more time in a B-17 than her husband (they met in England on one of her ferry flights)–she had 4000 hours. Great lady and a lot of fun and a match maker for the squadron bachelors like me. A lot of fun a Happy Hour on Friday’s too.

    Am wondering if you have the names of the WASPs in the photo–the second from the right looks like my Ops Officer’s wife. Saw the same photo in the Air Force Museum on Wright-Pat, but it had no names.

    My only concern about women pilots, was and still is (at least in the military), when the order to bailout is given, and the aircraft commander (AC) is a women , will the male crew bail or wait for the AC? Aside from that, they do just fine and will continue to do so.

    Old School

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      @ Gerald re your concern – Actually you are dead-on about your question if the A/C was a woman… It’s one of the fundamental reasons why completely desegregated military units don’t work well (there are many studies I’ve read conducted by our own army and navy; studies from other countries are not quite the same, but they also have different culture norms even in developed nations like Sweden etc).

  15. JTMcD
    JTMcD says:

    I would truly enjoy helping my wife to achieve her pilot’s certificate. It would, in my mind, add greatly to the enjoyment of our trips-by-air. When I read of how John and Martha King trade off – and the mutual respect which that shows – I dream of attaining that partnership with my wife. And she is interested. Her concern is the difficulty she has dealing with math problems, etc. As one commenter has already stated, math and science phobias do seem more gender biased. I’m hoping Martha’s and John’s excellent training materials will get her over the hump. (I do believe she’ll be a great pilot)
    So, how do we encourage women to become pilots? Kind words, encouragement, and letting them enjoy the wonder of flying every chance we get. A female instructor throughout the whole process doesn’t hurt.

    • Lesley
      Lesley says:

      I am a female pilot who started to learn to fly at age 50 after my husband took me for my first flight in a small plane. I loved it so much, I decided to get my license. One of the obstacles was that I’m not a technical person, so math is not a strength for me. I overcame that with my husband’s help. I can recall many evenings at the dining room table with an E6-B, with my husband giving me problems to solve. I eventually mastered it and I aced my written and flying exams!
      And I had a female instructor, which helped tremendously.
      I encourage you to share this post with your wife. If I could do it, so can she. And it’s so much fun sharing your passion…taking turns like John and Martha!

  16. John
    John says:

    2 Points:
    (1) It’s nonsensical to say we can’t grow pilot population while excluding half the population when the starting point is much less than 1% of total males are pilots.
    (2) Males are, on average, much more visual thinkers than females; that goes a long way towards explaining the gender discrepancy.

  17. Beth
    Beth says:

    I don’t think we can place this all on male pilots, for society at large does not see females as pilots…it is considered too much of a risky involvement. In the same time span where other previously male-dominated professions, doctors, for example, have seen significant increases in the female percentage, female pilots have, if anything, decreased. When I wear my flight jacket in public, I’ve gotten comments such as ” what a nice jacket, your husband must be a pilot”. Or when we stop to refuel at an airport, they ask my husband if he’d like fuel. (He refers them to me.). Or, even if they see me in the left seat, the assumption is that my husband is an instructor (he is not a pilot). At my age these things do not bother me…they are educational moments for others…but somehow the barrier appears to be the ongoing assumption that activities that are perceived as “risky” are not easily accepted as being in the female domain. Perceived risk level appears to be the main difference and with aviation accidents being reported in such visible coverage, I’m not sure when the public perception will change.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer says:

      I agree with your point 100%. My own mother argued with me when I started learning how to fly, because “you have children to think of; you shouldn’t be doing such dangerous things.”
      Making the point to her that statistically it is way more dangerous to drive a car didn’t sink in for quite a while, haha.

      • Stephen
        Stephen says:

        Maybe it didn’t sink in for quite a while because it’s not true! The statistics don’t support that private flying in light aircraft is less dangerous than driving a car.

        • Jennifer
          Jennifer says:

          From reason.com: “But how afraid should Americans be of terrorist attacks? Not very, as some quick comparisons with other risks that we regularly run in our daily lives indicate. Your odds of dying of a specific cause in any year are calculated by dividing that year’s population by the number of deaths by that cause in that year. Your lifetime odds of dying of a particular cause are calculated by dividing the one-year odds by the life expectancy of a person born in that year. For example, in 2003 about 45,000 Americans died in motor accidents out of population of 291,000,000. So, according to the National Safety Council this means your one-year odds of dying in a car accident is about one out of 6500. Therefore your lifetime probability (6500 ÷ 78 years life expectancy) of dying in a motor accident are about one in 83.

          What about your chances of dying in an airplane crash? A one-year risk of one in 400,000 and one in 5,000 lifetime risk. What about walking across the street? A one-year risk of one in 48,500 and a lifetime risk of one in 625. Drowning? A one-year risk of one in 88,000 and a one in 1100 lifetime risk. In a fire? About the same risk as drowning. Murder? A one-year risk of one in 16,500 and a lifetime risk of one in 210. What about falling? Essentially the same as being murdered. And the proverbial being struck by lightning? A one-year risk of one in 6.2 million and a lifetime risk of one in 80,000. And what is the risk that you will die of a catastrophic asteroid strike? In 1994, astronomers calculated that the chance was one in 20,000. However, as they’ve gathered more data on the orbits of near earth objects, the lifetime risk has been reduced to one in 200,000 or more.”
          Yes, you are statistically way more likely to die in a car crash than an airplane crash.

          • Stephen
            Stephen says:

            Jennifer, if you directly compare driving a car to flying privately in a light airplane, you are statistically more likely to die in the airplane. Of course air travel on the airlines is statistically much safer than either travelling by light private airplane or car. This is all readilly available fact.

            Of course, you could tell your mother what I’ve told mine: you’re much safer in your airplane at 8,000 feet above the ground than you would be in your car at 8,000 feet above the ground!

  18. Peter
    Peter says:

    Like it or not … we’re all brought up with gender in-equalities from childhood. And girls are generally taught to be more risk averse … and that becomes more apparent when “girls become lovers, and turn into mothers” to quote John Mayer. I noticed that in my flying habits too … when the kids came along, I gave up the more risky side of aviation, and stopped frequently visiting those remote African bush strips … confining my flying activities to well serviced airports and airspaces.

  19. Larryo
    Larryo says:

    I don’t see the “fraternal bond” excluding females, and I don’t think it’s an issue.

    I also do see any reason to change things. Why do we want more females? They are certainly welcome, but I don’t see a need for a crusade. I could argue to encourage a woman to be a pilot, just like you would a man.

    There are good women pilots and there are bad ones, and after flying with many of them, they fly just like pilots.

  20. John
    John says:

    52% of us are female. And each of these individuals can do whatever they want without help or permission from the 48%. As the majority they can even legislate their wishes if they choose. Not sure there is a problem here that needs to be solved, and the mindset that men must solve this only confirms to women that they are somehow unable to make these decisions on their own.

  21. Michael McDowell
    Michael McDowell says:

    I have two daughters that I would love to see as pilots. They go with me from time to time and my oldest seems to be a natural. Very soft on the controls. My first thought was that her technique on the controls was indicative of a female. It was just a thought. Not really sure if it was sexist or not.

    Like most social issues there are passionate feeling on both sides.

  22. ginny wilken
    ginny wilken says:

    I do think that women have a skill set and emotional makeup that is very well-suited to the tasks of flying. I also think that men will “club up” forever, in every field. We can ignore it, or tease them about it, and just go on our ways doing what we please. My dad wanted a son, and so I got to do many traditional “boy” things when I was young, and went flying with him on his VA money lessons when I was tiny. When I got around to flying myself, I had already done many non-traditional things: running printing presses, riding motorcycles, drag racing and autocrossing, model building – all while remaining 100% girl:) Flying and working on planes is a huge part of my life these days, and I am well-accepted by my male peers. I fly as many girls as I can with YE, and suppport the WAI, who do a great job with far more than just saying “You can do this!” And yet, this is the message, and it’s working. Just look at the new Navy and other services’ pilots. I am sure however the future of aviation shapes up that women are now a permanent and growing part of it.

  23. Tim Rapp
    Tim Rapp says:

    Wow – a huge response to this topic. Women are breaking all kinds of “glass” ceilings all the time. I am of the opinion that no matter how much we might encourage and incentivize women to come into aviation, it is only going to happen over time. I see more and more women at flight schools, I hear more and more women in ATC and on the air from other airplanes, so I think we are on the right trend and the numbers are rising.

    I lived in South Africa from the point of the fall of apartheid onward. The same phenomenon occurred there. African blacks moved into aviation slowly…trickling in at the beginning and fighting a lot of resistance from the existing workforce. They were encouraged and that helped, but partly, the old timers had to dissolve away to really improve the outlook.

    I think it is similar. The established bunch of pilots (the 94% male pilots) have to help by dropping stigmas and do everything they can to encourage it.


  24. blaine banks
    blaine banks says:

    It is so interesting to see this “trend” that has been taking place in placing women in the so-called “male work force”. I was a Firefighter for 20 years. In that time frame, I saw the introduction of females to that industry..it changed it forever, and in my judgement, it was not good. Each industry has it’s “plus’s and minus’s” and the required aptitudes that make an individual successful or not. I don’t understand the “need to promote” females in Aviation, or any other endeavor. Let the people come, both male and female that have the aptitude and desire to do the various jobs that are in all industry. To think that all men are alike, and that all women are alike is just plain silly, and needs to be recognized. I have been an instructor for 40 years and it is quite obvious when someone does not have the aptitude to be a safe and stable pilot, regardless of their education or background. To push these people, whether they be male or female should not be done. If the individual is attracted to aviation, or anything else, then they need to have an opportunity to prove that they can do what they want to do. However, it should also include the scenario that if the abilities are not there, but still a desire, whelp, in my experience with the fire department and aviation, that person needs to reconsider, given that the career path in both of these particular endeavors involve life and death of others, not just the fact that inabilities can only create a “glitch” in the system. Females in Aviation, absolutely, just make sure that they, along with the males, have the abilites and aptitudes to perform as needed. I have trained a number of females, and like anyone else, they have their strong points and weak points, just like the men. One of the problems that arose in the Fire environment was that many of the females that came on board were hired because they were female and they were there for the “benefits” of the job. From this, we came up with a saying…”equal pay for equal work, AND, equal work for equal pay”..didn’t happen due to the hiring environment.

  25. Bobby
    Bobby says:

    I flew with and trained many women pilots in the military. I don’t remember any feelings of their being differences in piloting skills. The only difference I remember is when there is a woman in the flight station, the atmosphere is usually at least a little more professional than when it is all guys. Especially on 12 hour missions.

  26. JLVaughn
    JLVaughn says:

    There is a simple fact that gets overlooked in all of these boys vs. girls discussions. A large percentage of women 1) hope to marry, 2) plan to have children, and 3) expect to stay home with their children some or all of those years.

    These women consciously and purposefully choose a career path that is “safe,” they will be home every night, and that they can easily enter, leave (for several years if necessary), and reenter.

    Aviation is not “safe.” Professionals are not home every night. Piloting skills diminish quickly without constant practice (or at least that is what the FAA currency standards imply). How would an airline respond to 35-year-old pilot that had suddenly quit at 25 and hadn’t flown since?

    My wife wanted to be an astronaut, but chose to be a math teacher. She made this decision in high school, years before we met. Now that our kids are grown, she’s finally decided to take to the skies.

    Where are her friends who can also afford such an expensive hobby? “I’d love to do that, but its so dangerous.” “I’d be afraid to get in a small plane.” A colleague used to sit in the left seat while her husband (former RAF pilot) flew. She has the aptitude. She’s flown in the left seat, but she’s afraid to take flying lessons.

    We may question the rationality these women’s assessment of safety, but the other two issues in their decision to forego a career in aviation are completely rational. Professional pilots are not home every night and you can’t just leave and come back years later.

  27. Gennaro Bruno
    Gennaro Bruno says:

    I’m still in the aircrat maintenance end of it. Commercial that is. I have seen quite a bit of talent as far as the flight crew goes. It is the proficency of the person that is what counts. Now if you are looking for numbers. This is something that you don’t push people into either man or women. The first commercial woman pilot was from Europe I believe. The women are of their own chosing on what career path they chose. I myself was instructed by three women pilots. For my first lesson to solo in a Citabria, checkride in a 172 and checkide in a Cherokee 180. Also my Biennial rides. The aircraft maintenance end probably has the same numbers in relation to male and female mechanics. All the military branches have pilot training aviation programs. Is their anything to show on paper or some records of how many tried and did no get in to the pilot training. Please take what I mentioned earlier in this this is not an are wher people can be pushed into. I get 50 to 75 hours flying in for a year, and it’s only a private pilots license. Thats because I still work. Flying is full time work. Something else we all men and women start at a youthfull stage like high school. We don’t start in life with a family of our own. If we miss that step of good opportinity, well try and get that step back in time to try again. We all know the info on the web sites are their for flying. I did meet women commercial pilots (Captains left seat) and you know they talk maintenance just like mechanics. They also say hello and goodbye.
    Gennaro Bruno

  28. Gennaro Bruno
    Gennaro Bruno says:

    Hello again,
    Gennaro again please excuse any miss-spelling. Here is one that is good. A women with a plan. I was an aircraft maintenance for adult education for the Aircraft and Powerplant course. The yuong lady was lso an instrument rated pilot. During the time of taking this course, she had a baby. Came back finished the course and got her A&P license. The young lady had a plan to get her Inspection Authorization (IA) after three years of having her license. This way when her day was done flying for the Forest Service in Alaska she could fly the plane home and work it because of her IA. Now thats a PLAN. And the sharpest young lady for test taking. Also hands on for the the practical part.
    Gennaro Bruno

  29. Ken Kokjer
    Ken Kokjer says:

    My ongoing flight instructor for flight reviews, recurrency, etc. has been a woman for many years. My mechanic for the last 13 years is a woman. I don’t get many comments within the flying community that this is remarkable — only from the non-aviation community, and that not very frequently. We need to encourage more people to enter aviation, whatever their gender.

  30. Forrest Ward
    Forrest Ward says:

    Richard you are barking up the wrong tree.
    In 29 years of flying (privately and commercially), I have flown with a good number of female pilots; some were above average, some were average, and some were below average, (just like the male pilots I have flown with).
    Their ability was directly related to their aptitude and inclination (just like male pilots). If there was some barrier based on gender I would expect to see the women who overcame that barrier be better than average; (that has not been my experience). A better question to ask is why fewer males choose to become pilots today?

    ANGEL OLEA says:

    I am a 58 years pilot who have flown since 15 from experimentals to corporate jets and 13000 hrs. My experience with women has been very pleasant. All of them kind but firm with the plane, and study a lot.
    I am encouraging my daughter and begins along with his brother, ground school this month. I hope more women get interested.
    Learn to fly ladies. It is really fun! After so many years of flying I am still having fun,

  32. Blackjack33
    Blackjack33 says:

    Why change? If you measure male pilot abilities, you get a Bell Curve. If you measure female pilot abilities, you get both ends of a Bell Curve, but nothing in the middle.

      • JLVaughn
        JLVaughn says:

        He can’t. Flying ability is a multi-dimensional skill set. No single measure can exist.

        And flying is like any other endeavor, in that, certain skills can be used to overcome deficiencies elsewhere. I, and every other competent male, rely heavily on that simple fact. We are supremely competent because we avoid our incompetencies.

        Measuring specialized abilities among males will get you a bimodal distribution. It will not get you a Bell Curve.

  33. Brad Subler
    Brad Subler says:

    I agree with Forest Ward.The problem is the total number of males and females new to aviation. What is different now than the late sixties.When I got my private license in 1968 ,the county airport where I flew and hung out at was a beehive of activity,now I rarely see another airplane there. My 29 year old son seemed to be interested in aviation so I told him I had a deal he could not refuse.He could use my Tecnam Sierra for flight training at no cost to him except the gas. That was two years ago and he has still not started.It seems to me there is a basic lack of interest with the younger people toward aviation.

  34. Larry Butler
    Larry Butler says:

    It seems to me that women have made extraordinary in-roads in the various fields aviation. While still WAY outnumbered by the men, what women have accomplished in the military, stunt and aerobatic flying, and commercial and private aviation is really quite remarkable. And certainly that should be celebrated.

    In terms of where do we go from here in order to create more parity and generally just get more women involved, I think that the watch word is “education”. I have two girls, 8 and 6, and we talk about flying ALL the time – because their father is a plane nut and loves to fly. Bedtime stories are sometimes themed around flight, aviation adventures, or pilots, many of whom are women.

    We need better, and more far reaching, educational programs on all levels, and we need existing organizations to begin thinking about putting programs in place that are designed specifically to attract girls to aviation, girls who will one day be women (pilots).

  35. Dave Krall CFII
    Dave Krall CFII says:

    Amelia always said women don’t have the kind of nerve for flying but, there’s always been a small percentage that do. I’ve flown with a proportional amount of women flight students, pilots and CFIs that have been just fine and sometimes presented some more pleasant options during flights than males.

    Many are too smart to fly. Many know they can ride along and fly or just sit, whatever they please, as there is no shortage of willing pilots of any gender to fly them around. They can enjoy the flying without the work of training, preflights, flightplans, testing, etc, so why not?

    The longstanding 6% fraction of women in aviation could change slightly upward from time to time but I doubt anything soon will have a significant change, which is not a problem for anybody anyway.

  36. Paul Craig
    Paul Craig says:

    Given that the number of high risk distance and world records that have been set by female pilots I conclude that the core limiting factor for women entering aviation is based more on access to equity. The Amelia’s of this world were independently wealthy which allowed them to ignore the gender stereotyping which restricted most females access to opportunity by denial of funding, training or employment.
    Underlying many mens views is a hard to justify belief in their innate superiority to manipulate anything that has some sort of motor in it. This has the obvious exclusion of anything in the home like a sewing machine or blender as they aren’t half as much fun.
    Dont get me wrong here as I am not out to ear bash all my fellow males it just that aviation is still a relatively conservative pursuit which is great from a safety point of view but hard to justify in this day and age of complex machinery that negates any argument based on the strengths of a male. The ability of males to dominate in society used to be based on physical strength but if a plane needs strength to operate nowadays I’d suggest it should be back in the hanger getting examined.
    I hadn’t thought about this topic much until I was flying back from a job in a chopper cruising low along the coast and after a flow of narrow minded misogynistic bollocks from the ageing pilot covering the gay resort below and other such offenses he finished it off with a comment about the female pilot on the radio position reporting near us with the timeless gem of “Women shouldn’t be pilots, the should be at home in the kitchen”. She turned out to be the CFI of my aero club when I finally began flight training and a fantastic instructor. I would rather spend a lifetime with people like her than another flight with an old relic like him.
    Maybe its people like him make women not persist with aviation.

  37. Kaffeenjunkie
    Kaffeenjunkie says:

    I have wonderful young lady in my employ who is currently going through the flight school program at WMU. Every time I talk to her my words are nothing but encouraging. Every issue of AOPA and EAA magazines go to her. She has that same sparkle in her eyes and same excitement in her voice as any guy. she has noilots in her family and had never been in a small plane.

    One more thing. I asked when she was getting ready to solo how many girls and guys had done so. She told me that two girls and none of the guys had soloed.

  38. Gene
    Gene says:

    A pilot is a pilot no matter what gender, race creed or color. Bessie Coleman was an early aviatrix in the years of Amelia Earhart both known as the most respected and skilled pilots in the day.

    Over the years many of my students went on to the airlines or commercial operations such as check delivery,(Pre internet). My only observation was that at times flight examiners gave in to weakness and did
    allow one to pass with less than mininum standards and we did wee one loss of life due to inexperience and control. I however, cannot blame the CFE as she must have demonstrated the ability but the CFI that signed her off must have had his or her doubts in training.

    Patty Mae was my ground school student,

  39. Irma
    Irma says:

    I’m a student pilot with about 15 hours training and oh yeah, I’m a woman. I’m the only woman I know at my flight school learning to become a pilot. I am totally fascinated by airplanes and there are many great guys at the flight school. My CFI is really great although I wonder why he yells sometimes ;) all in all, I am finding myself to be part of a different “culture” with bunch of guys. But I like them…I’m outgoing and playful while many of them take themselves too seriously at times. But then again, who cares. I wish there were more women actually, and have this desire to recruit them. It would be nice to have a feminine touch (I can hear the guys go “nooooo” haha) Frankly, I really like the guys and wish there were more women and women CFI’s. Different styles, different dynamics, differences we can celebrate but also it’s what drives us to be more creative and innovative – My respect goes to all pilots xxx from a future fearless pilot

  40. Mark
    Mark says:

    Aviation has not attracted more women for the same reason that interior decorating has not attracted more men……it is not where we want to be.

    If there were only non-commercial fun day vfr flying, it would probably be 50/50.

    For professional pilots, the main responsibility is the safe outcome of a flight. When all goes well, a monkey could do it. However; very often in commercial flying, things don’t go as planned. This is where you see the difference. Most (most!) girls do not handle unexpected dangerous scenarios as well as men. Probably for the same reason they don’t go hunting, race cars, or go base jumping.

    I’ve flown over 7000 hours in 2 crew jets, approx 550 hours with girls, pic and sic.

    The best pilot I ever flew with was a girl. When they are good, they are very good. She also liked hunting, racing cars, and base jumping.

    The other 12 girls were very intimidated by weather, strong winds, short runways, or any abnormal situations….. As I would be trying to match the drapes.

    It’s just who we are.

    If you don’t mind single engine approaches to mins at mountainous airports at night, with low fuel, low-time sic, and moderate icing with your de-ice systems failing…..

    then come join the club !

    Or join the club even if you’re intimidated, and use you’re minority status to get to the airlines quickly, where Boeing, Pratt+Whitney, and your Captain will keep you safe.

    • Kane
      Kane says:


      You’re a twit. I’ll take you working a wildfire suppression or natural childbirth any day of the week. Try finding some real women to hang out with to give you a better perspective.

  41. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    Mark- “and your Captain will keep you safe?” Are you kidding me? Your statement undermines the role of the FO, male or female. I don’t know where you work or what kind of employer allows such chauvinism but at my company the flight crew works as a crew and we keep each other, and the 75 folks in the back, safe.

    My hobbies aren’t base jumping, hunting or race cars. Actually I love cooking, shopping for cute shoes and my pets. But I also enjoyed and learned from the time I spent before my airline job ferrying piston aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean to Europe and Africa. And I didn’t operate “low fuel, low time sic, with moderate icing and de-icing systems failing” as you seem to think is a great adrenaline rush by your post.

    So called “minority status” does absolutely nothing when you are half way from Greenland to Iceland. Try it sometime, buddy.

    • Dick Collins
      Dick Collins says:

      Evelyn Bryan Johnson of Morristown, Tennessee, is being laid to rest this morning. She was 102 and had 57,635.4 hours in her logbooks. An inspiration to us all, boys and girls alike.

  42. Kane
    Kane says:

    I have to admit, I was NEVER interested in anything having to do with flight… Too many long hours in searing sun in early years on family vacations enduring too many tours of air/military museums. It was just never presented to me in an interesting fashion… it was always engine power, bomb capacity, or year it was made. For a young girl, this is just not the right presentation. As an adult, and married to a warbird nut, I’ve now ‘endured’ the searing fields of Osh Kosh every year… and come to love it. It’s just a matter of understanding the complexities of flight, aircraft design, and hero figures to make it enjoyable. If I knew more, I’d be very happy to do Interpretive programs for kids… but, my knowledge base is still slim. (Former US Nat’l Park Service Park Ranger) Now, with my son obsessed with everything in the air, I take him to local small airports – and never fails… there’s never a ‘Public welcome’ sign to indicate that you can even go in… and IF anyone ever greets you it’s a male, who really can hardly be bothered with your interruption to his day. As soon as he can, he’s back chatting with the other guys in the back… and we are left to sit and ponder the planes on our own – saving questions for Dad later at night. If you want to expand the ‘flight club’ – friendliness and a truly engaging experience is required. (Just my opinion of the airports I’ve experienced.)

  43. John
    John says:

    Males have motors, females have empathy. Not always true, but having raised a gagle of kids and watched them from infancy it’s pretty clear that wiring is different between the genders. Maybe as we see more UAS operators we’ll see more female interest and participation. Despite the gender equality rhetoric, I’ve observed what look like inherent,large differences in willingness to accept physical risk. Again, I’m talking in terms of populations. Just as there are excellent female aerobatic pilots and nurturing males, we have outliers in every population. I’d like to see more females enthralled by aviation. I’m sure we will. I am skeptical we’ll see a majority of females among pilots and mechanics. It’s interesting that in other professions, like law and politics where high verbal skills are at a premium females now out number males in many schools.

  44. Marvin Homsley
    Marvin Homsley says:

    Little boys like to jump things on their bicycles and tear things apart to see what makes them tick. Little girls like to have tea parties. Why don’t we just face it, we are different. I am a veteran instructor and can tell you from experience that girls just do not get it when it comes to mechanical things like airplanes. They can memorize facts and pass written tests just fine. They are much harder to train to fly. My personal thing is looking in the cockpit when I get on an airliner. If I see 2 girl pilots I am getting off that airplane. Girls fly fine if there is nothing bad happening. When the stuff hits the fan I want male pilots not someone who thinks the emergency procedure for losing and engine is to break out crying.

    • JLVaughn
      JLVaughn says:

      Preach it brother. Like those three Air France Flight 447 pilots who couldn’t recognize a stall horn while their plane fell out of the sky. I’m sure you would have gotten off the plane when you saw that crew of “girl pilots” in the cockpit. Yes, we want real men to fly our planes. Men who can spit in the face of danger and pull the stick back until the plane hits the water. We don’t want any women who can’t do that flying our planes do we?

      Didn’t they teach you that anything in flight school? The way out of a stall is to quit doing what got you into the stall in the first place. Letting go of the stick, even for a good cry would have saved the lives of 228 people. Unfortunately, it was something those men were incapable of doing.

      When I get into a plane and see a woman in the left seat, yeah, I get out

      my camera and enjoy the flight.

      • Tim Rapp
        Tim Rapp says:

        Yes, boys and girls are different, and thank goodness for that! But I do not Think it equates to a difference in ability to manage a car, airplane, business, or any other human endeavor. The two will go about it differently, but with training, the outcome will be the same. Personally, I think men tend to lean Towards risk and women away from risk. Frankly, I see absolutely no difference what gender occupies the from two seats.

  45. Chris G.
    Chris G. says:

    I think tailoring ANYTHING or any program to a specific group of people or specific gender or what have you is a crime! If we are open to ALL who apply or apply themselves to a given endeavor, then we’ll ALL benefit. There are plenty of great women aviatrix(es ?) out there who I’d fly next to with no question; AND there are many male pilots with whom I wouldn’t even get into a car!
    Tailoring ATTITUDES is what’s needed, and it’s not just “for” women; it’s for everyone you meet. Many, many people “want” to be pilots, but most realize it isn’t a reality; however, that shouldn’t prevent anyone from trying if they so desire.
    Someone mentioned above that women don’t do it for family reasons, amongst other thoughts; and I fully agree with that. There will always be other considerations as to why someone does or doesn’t do what “we” want them to do or think they should do. I worked at a company that wanted to “tailor” the job description for one of our positions for more women applicants to “balance” the group, as it was mostly men/guys. I argued that because it was a job that was more physical in nature, no matter what we did, there would be less women applying.
    Most rational people realize what they can and can’t do based upon the facts and/or reality of their particular situation; but tailoring a job or “adjusting” to gather more into a net than that “should be” included doesn’t work. It only reduces the value of those already in that position, whether it be flying or any other job all the way down to janitor.
    We should be encouraging ALL those with whom we come into contact the value, the fun, the enjoyment, the enrichment, and the fulfillment of flying and allow them to make up their minds as to whether or not it’s for them. Then we take the next step as they come through the door for flight training and a career in aviation and continue to foster and mentor them and pass along what we’ve learned and include them into “our” world. In that way, we’ll have growth and more interest in entry into this expensive but rewarding world we call aviation.

  46. Miami Mike
    Miami Mike says:

    I taught ground school for 11 years, probably saw 4,000 students in that time. Pilot candidates are pilot candidates, regardless of gender. Some are excellent, some should be banned from riding a skateboard.

    Men and women LEARN differently. Women want to be sure they understand what they’re doing before they try it, guys sometimes have no clue but will do it anyway because they don’t want to lose face in front of their buddies.

    Women may make safer pilots – they tend to be more cautious and more reflective. You will never hear a woman say “Hey guys, hold my beer and watch THIS!!!”

    Women also fit into the cramped cockpits of a C150/152 better than most male flight students, and they usually smell better ;-)

  47. David Albright
    David Albright says:

    I gave instruction for abour 43 yrs. Male and females.
    I guess I was luckey. I loved fying with who ever was in the airplane.
    Dave 22,000 hr.Pilot

  48. chris p. from NY
    chris p. from NY says:

    I think everyone agrees it’s not a skills issue.

    the problem is related to the same reasons why all students drop out.

    Teaching Women to Fly has a link to a large study as to why women drop out and the top ten list looks like any list a man would have written.


    where is the biggest complaint centered on? the experience at the FBO.
    money is #1, but when you peel back the onion, money really equates to ‘value’, and a poor experience equates to not getting the value out of hard earned dollars spent on gear and gas and lessons.

    FBO’s are notorious for not being very welcoming for potential students. yes, they need students, but CFI’s don’t have a direct incentive to run a profitable business. they are simply there as any other any worker at a retail establishment. the owners have the incentive, but it’s all a numbers game for them. they often aren’t involved with individual students and whether or not the customer service is turning away students.

    think about the atmosphere at a college. there’s a welcoming tour. they would love to have you as a student. there’s orientation to get familiar with the facilities and meet other students. there’s a student government association that encourages student involvement. and after graduation, there are alumni outreach programs.

    At the FBO there is a tour, and an intro flight, but the CFI’s know many people might not sign up for lessons. so there is no real sense that they really want you as a student. once you do become a student, there is no sense of community. CFI’s stick to themselves, and students come and go without ever talking to each other. Maybe there’s a couch or two, or some coffee, but there is usually no reason to hang around the FBO. a very unfriendly atmosphere.

    So at the rough spots during training, there’s nobody to really chat up about your experience. and when students drop out, there isn’t a single call from anyone to see how you are doing and if there is anything to help with.

    and once you’re alumni, since you never really met other students, there is no sense of pilot community at the FBO. there’s a sense of isolation.

    successful FBO’s get that the customer experience is important. any person that walks in the door is a potential pilot that should be treated with friendliness and respect. even if that person doesn’t sign up, they might recommend the school to someone else that is interested. and once a student begins lessons, everything should be done to make sure that the student gets the ‘value’ out of aviation. and once that student becomes a pilot, it’s important to keep them happy because they are potential customers for further training or renting airplanes.

    Learning to fly is fun. The customer experience should reflect that. The atmosphere should reflect that. So even if a person is not behind the controls, there are so many other ways to be involved with the community. There’s something for everyone: could be flying to Martha’s Vineyard for the day, camping in the back country, attending an airshow, flying around a great skyline at night, meet ups, classic airplane restoration, or simply heading out to visit friends and or relatives.

  49. Jim Frankenfield
    Jim Frankenfield says:

    My first ride in a plane was when I was about 8 yrs old, in an old Waco bi-plane banner-tow, flying off the beach at Wildwood, NJ. Pop held me in one arm and my older brother in the other, front cockpit, off we went (sans the banner) for a great ride up and down the beach. I was hooked, but I had to wait ’till I was playing sax in brother’s dance band, that I met a waitress, and she mentioned that she was a pilot, and that if I would meet her at the airport the next day at 10 am, she would take me for a ride. This she did, in a Cub, and the next day I went back to the airport and told “Trig” that I wanted to begin lessons. That summer I got my private ticket (35 hrs, $310. bucks). After the 2 yr Army stint I ended up as airport mgr., and chief pilot. “Trig” went on to become chief pilot, of the Bethlehem Steel fleet of G-4s).

    Later, I met Louise Sachi, who made her living ferrying light aircraft accross the Atlantic. I once flew with her as SEC, IFR into JFK, while she showed me “how it’s done”. She was great! Behrl Markham did the Atlantic from east to west in a small plane and wrote a book “West Into The Night” or something like that.

    Later, I was a DPE and had the honor of conducting the commercial certification check ride for a Bertie (Barringer) Peterson, a former WASP, a very petite lady, no more than 110 lbs I’d guess. (She was married to the Barringer family who owned the “Metior Crater” east of Flagstaff. He passed, and she later became Mrs. Peterson.) She gave me a fine ride and I was honored to fly with her and sign her Comm. Ticket.

    Just a week ago (sat.) I enjoyed the expertise of Patty Wagstaff, a superb aerobatic pilot, at the Valkira Airport “Air Fair”, just south of Melboourne, FL. She was magnificent in her Extra 300.(She even autographed her photo, for me.)

    Finally, the love of my life, Mary, who went west Apr. 2012, came to me at “Trig’s” pea patch to get away from her instructors at the municipal airport, who were getting too amerous with her while giving her ‘dual’, in the 172. We, in a much more professional manner, worked with her to her private certificate. I met her husband (who she said knew nothing of her learning to fly until after she had soloed, and when he found out, he tore up all of her flight books), and her five kids, before the family moved to Ft.Lauderdale. She contacted me in 1970, after Bill was killed in a road accident. We married in 1971 (instant family) and I moved to FLL. She drove motorcycles and competed in the ‘hill climbs'(up north), went bear and deer hunting and loved flying and water skiing. I had built a two-holer aerobatic (225 hp) biplane in ’68 and ‘courted’ her PHL to FLL for the year before we were married. Of course I checked her out in the “PJ” and got her proficient in loops, bbl and snap rolls and cuban eights. Slow rolls were a problem –couldn’t get her to push fwd. stick while inverted….so she’d go screaming out of it in a split S. She’d practice solo but I had her begin at 7-8 thousand ft.(sitting on a current parachute, of course). She cried when I (we) sold the PJ (couldn’t afford the hangar rent on flight instructor pay) to an Eastern Captain in New Jersey. We delivered it to his grass strip, he gave me $$$$ and his Messerschmittt-Boelkow Jr 208 to seal the deal. She cried all the way to FLL.

    Yes, I’ve been fortunate to know some great women in aviation, and they have my greatest admiration and respect. Jim

  50. LoPinto
    LoPinto says:

    Karen, the answer to the question “Why So Few” is answered in the book “I was a woman pilot in 1945” by Winnie LoPinto. Kindle item B00DUQB20I. Winnie uncovered something that has affected women flyers for years after the war. I would urge anyone interested in this topic to read this revealing memoir.

  51. LoPinto
    LoPinto says:

    The book “I was a woman pilot in 1945” written by our aunt Winnie reveals why we had such a backlash against women since the second world war, when it comes to flying.

    This is a detailed account of her experiences with the WASP program in 1945, and it is something you didn’t expect.

    One of the papers she had in her files prior to death was a letter from Jacklin Cochran and a detailed record required by Jackeline of the pilot’s menstrual cycles, as they felt they could not fly during that. Much more is revealed about why women were not welcomed as flyers after this program and it has taken decades to make up for this.

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