Women of Aviation Week's KABQ Event is One Part of a Worldwide Effort to Tap Into GA's Secret Weapon for Growth

10:42 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Six percent.

The pathetic statistic above is the percentage bantered around by anyone who has ever researched the most obvious part of general aviation's growth problem. That's the number of female pilots, which means GA has completely missed this demographic, and whatever the industry has been doing to attract women to come fly in our male-dominated skies has just not worked.

According to the United States Census, in 2013, 50.8 percent of our citizens were female. But that same year, FAA released data showing females made up only 6.6 percent of the overall pilot population. When you look at the dismal amount of females who have earned a pilot's license, it is crystal clear that the message being sent to these girls and women is all wrong. There remains a major disconnect between females in this country and aviation, and this is the Holy Grail of all aviation marketers, Titans of Industry and influencers right now.

There's been many motivated people and organizations that have tried to pull women into flying. It would take more space than I have allowed myself in this post to list the efforts made to attract women to come fly with us in the left seat. But try as they may, regardless of the attempts made, nothing has stuck and the six percent(ish) number sadly still applies.

As anyone who has ever contemplated gender differences knows, what works to attract men to flying obviously does not work with women. Here's a clue:
In his best-selling book, "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships" by John Gray, Ph.D., Gray states that "not only do men and women communicate differently, but they think, feel, perceive, react, respond, love, need, and appreciate differently." The book does not waste ink discussing "why" men and women are different, but instead focuses on what the specific differences between men and women are...how they react to stress, what motivates them, and their emotional cycles and needs.
These differences between the way men and women view flying seems to be the unanswerable question. If we as an industry can ever successfully solve this riddle, we can all stand back and watch GA grow exponentially.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that this issue is one of extreme importance to me. So with that in mind, I am stoked beyond belief to be working with Texas pilot Dianna Stanger on the Women of Aviation Week Fly It Forward Challenge event she and Del Sol Aviation are organizing at Albuquerque International Sunport (KABQ) on March 2-8.
I have only met Stanger one time - last summer at #OSH14 - as she walked from yet another appearance on Boeing Plaza beside her big, bold new jet, the custom L-139 Albatros 2000 fighter that she has added to her stable of airplanes. Forget the business jet she owns, or the completely groovy late-model Waco biplane, or the Cirrus, or the EC135 helicopter she just bought. When you buy a one-off jet like the L-139...it just SCREAMS that you are so passionate about aviation that you'll stop at nothing to share your world with others.
As AOPA.org reported, Stanger has a big mission in mind for the L-139. She plans to fly the jet around the country to aviation events with the sole purpose of showing girls and women that they too can come fly with us. She already has the sunglasses, and is working on her fighter pilot swagger.

But long before she lands and spools down the massive Garrett engine in the L-139, she will be found at KABQ in early March flying as many laps around the airport in anything she can find that will hold as many females as possible to enjoy free "first" flights. She'll be joined by an army of volunteer pilots and ground crew, helped at all times by Jasmine Gordon, and the people at Del Sol Aviation and Cutter Aviation.

Along with my agency's Managing Partner, Julie Celeste, my firm has been brought into the project as the PR/marketing team, and I could not be happier. If just a tiny bit of Stanger's enthusiasm for aviation rubs off on me during this project, it will be a good thing not only for my aviation marketing team, but also for GA overall.
This event is developing by the day, with new static displays being lined up, including  possibly some heavy iron from the military. Aviation's finest - people like Eric Auxier and Ramona Cox - have signed up to come to ABQ as speakers and volunteer pilots. And that was just the first week of working on this project. We have two more weeks to blow this event into something even more massive and special!
So here's the drill: If you agree that bringing more females into flying will grow GA, follow @woawABQ on Twitter and "like" the event's Facebook page. Bookmark Flywoaw.com - the event's official website, and if you can get there, stop by ABQ March 2-8 and fly some "first" flights or just hang around and feel the love. If you tweet about this event, use the hashtag #woawABQ and be sure to post this news on all of your social channels.

Together, we might be able to make a dent in that six percent. If you can't get to ABQ, look here on the WOAW site for an event near you.

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