27 Mar

Women in aviation: where are they?

It seems that in the 21 first century women and men have become so equal, that there is so little that could surprise you. And still, when you sit back in your chair preparing for a flight and you hear a female captain’s voice addressing you from the cockpit, you will definitely be surprised. The reason for that is very simple. Even nowadays, when there is no distinct line between the professions mastered equally by both women and men, it appears that only five percent of all pilots are female. According to the FAA, in 2011 there were approximately just 25,500 women who held private, commercial or airline transport licences.

Why is the number so low?

A study made back in 1979 showed, that there were no significant differences between the genders entering pilot training with equivalent graduation rates, flight training performance factors and trainee impressions of their flight training experience. Yet, after decades of years the low percentage of women in aviation still speaks for itself. The Teaching Women to Fly Project has recently conducted a research and identified the most important barriers for female pilots.

  • The biggest barrier for women to become a pilot is the lack of money. There is no doubt that aviation training expenses may be quite a challenge. To be fair, this issue can be pressing to both female and male candidates, yet it appears that women find it harder to locate the necessary funds for training than men. The lack of female mentors and support systems may discourage female students from pursuing their dream of studying for a pilot’s career.
  • Personal lack of confidence in their ability and fеаr of flying.
  • Lack of experience and knowledge of mechanical systems.
  • Lack of map reading experience & orienteering skill sets.
  • Famous female pilots largely unknown as role models to non-aviator women.
  • Lack of emotional support from family & friends who perceive flying as a dangerous.
  • Other barrier which may sometimes get in the way of a pilot career is the communication incompatibility between an instructor and a student, referring to gender differences.
  • Instructor change, when instructors take airline or charter service jobs, which means that a student will have to continue training with another instructor.

In addition to that the respondents of ‘Feminine leadership in commercial aviation’ (2011) research said that they had had some cases when the male colleagues had expressed reluctance about women being in „their“(men) profession. Also they had mentioned being faced with ridicule, harassment or malicious comments from co-workers or even passengers.
What men say

The importance of this topic and the need to debate it more widely raise no doubt. As much as this issue applies to women, it is also quite pressing to men in this industry. It would be simply not fair to ignore them at this point. Needless to say, every story has two sides. There are some insightful answers/advices from the male flight instructors to the women counterparts that should not be ignored:

  • Male instructors, just as most men, are not mind readers
  • Do not use subtle or strong hints, just simply ask for what you want.
  • “Yes” and “No” are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question, especially during a flight.
  • If something an instructor says can be interpreted two ways and one of them would make you sad or angry, be sure he has meant it the other way.
  • It is important to learn the terms, especially with regard to the instrument panel. And if so happens that you do not understand the word, say that immediately so the confusion can be avoided the next time.
  • It is “OK” to be scared. Male pilots-in-training are scared too.

Baltic Aviation Academy would like to encourage all the women to pursue their dream of becoming a pilot. Also, we would like to encourage all the men in aviation to be supportive and helpful. Let’s make a difference together.

If you have a story or opinion to share on the current topic, please do not hesitate and write us: [email protected]


‘Feminine leadership in commercial aviation: success stories of women pilots and captains’ by Geraldine E. Hynes and Marisa Puckett http://www.aabri.com/manuscripts/11889.pdf

Project Teaching Women to Fly http://www.teachingwomentofly.com/default.htm