10:32 PM

Just over 5 percent.

That’s the percentage of active, licensed pilots in 2004 that were female, according to an FAA report found here. Of 618,633 pilots, only 32,711 button their shirts the other way, including 14,620 private pilots, 7,421 commercial ticket holders, 4,811 ATPs and 5,589 CFIs.

These numbers confirm what many of us already know. They tell us that the non-flying female population is an untapped resource, and one that the aviation community should embrace, no pun intended.

Yes, there was a day – long ago – when ladies were not welcome in the cockpit, or in the sky for that matter, unless they were in the back serving coffee, tea or milk. Thank God that those prehistoric and chauvinistic days are over. Today, we all know women who are very good pilots, members in good standing within our ranks. The truth is, they’ve always been that way, and the 17th Annual International Women in Aviation Conference which concluded this weekend in Nashville will celebrate women who fly:

With the theme of "Reaching New Heights of Success," participants in the 2006 WAI Conference will be immersed in the tactics and strategies necessary for successful aviation careers. More than 3,000 women and men from all segments of the aviation industry are expected to attend.
Today, the conference winds down, but not until some very important people in our community took to the stage. Some of the standouts were:
  • Brian Binnie, the test pilot who flew the first and the last powered flights of the X-Prize winning SpaceShipOne vehicle.
  • Eileen Collins, Colonel, USAF (retired), a veteran of four space flights, who has logged more than 872 hours in space, including STS-114, Discovery (July 26-August 9, 2005) NASA’s “Return to Flight” mission.
  • Robert "Hoot" Gibson, an Astronaut Hall of Famer who’s accumulated more than 12,000 hours in more than 60 types of aircraft over his career as a pilot, astronaut and aerospace consultant.
  • Nicole Piasecki, vice president of Business Strategy and Marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, responsible for leading strategic business planning and marketing of The Boeing Company's products and services.
  • Will Whitehorn, Director of Virgin Group and President of Virgin Galactic, the company on the cutting edge of commercial space travel.
General and business aviation is enjoying a massive growth spurt right now, this we know. But what we don’t know is what grand things the industry can accomplish if we are successful in recruiting thousands of new female flight students to drop the dime and start learning to fly. There are literally millions of women out there – from 18-year-olds to baby boomers – who have the money or the passion to start flying.

Just think about one thing: If we can double the percentage of female pilots, we gain roughly 32,000 new aviation customers who will buy airplanes, fuel, avionics, headsets and flying lessons. So I ask you to join me in pledging to find one woman in the coming months that gives you a hint that she might like to try flying, and then go ahead and take her flying. While you are up, look over at her, and if she’s grinning from ear to ear, take her to a flight school near you and SIGN HER UP!

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