8:15 PM

A Genderless Sky

It is this time of the year when Women In Aviation, International kicks everything in their world into high gear and heads to their annual conference. This year, they are headed to sunny SoCal:

The 19th Annual International Women in Aviation Conference will be held from March 13-15 2008, in San Diego, California. This year's Conference will take place at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center.
Yes, San Diego is a few flight hours away from WAI's home in quiet little West Alexandria, Ohio, which is just close enough to Dayton to still be in the shadow of where those two Wright Brothers first fiddled with a flying contraption called the Wright Flyer. But holding the WAI conference in San Diego is a brilliant move, from an organization that seems to do lots of things right. By being down in SoCal, they can draw from an enormous population of girls and women to help fix this:
"According to the Federal Aviation Administration, of the nearly 700,000 active pilots in the United States, less than six percent are women and only slightly more than two percent ATP rated. Women account for only 2.13 percent of the more than 540,000 non-pilot aviation jobs in the United States."
Six percent, that is just pathetic. As my regular readers know, I am a huge advocate for enticing females to learn to fly, for a number of reasons. But since my day-to-day ad agency duties revolves primarily around aviation business, here is the best reason for all of us to try and get the ladies to earn a place in the left seat:
If women make up roughly fifty percent of our country's population, but just six lousy percent of the pilot population, that means there is HUGE potential for growth just asking to be captured by the 1,000s of GA businesses out there. See, women pilots need pilot supplies just as much as the guys, but this goes way deeper then yoke clips. In this business world, women increasingly are breaking through that class ceiling, earning wages closer to what their male colleagues earn. More and more women are upper managers, CEOs, corporation owners, major real estate investors...these women have serious dollars to spend. And trust me, Cirrus won't blink when a woman writes a half-million-dollar check for a new turbo SR22 GTS.
At the core of this movement to recruit women to the skies is Women in Aviation, International, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to the encouragement and advancement of women in all aviation career fields and interests" so says their web site. They have membership that tops 14,000 and includes astronauts, corporate pilots, maintenance technicians, air traffic controllers, business owners, educators, journalists, flight attendants, high school and university students, air show performers, airport managers and many others.

If you think this is some little fringe group, think again. A quick look at their membership list shows they are respected by the biggest and the best in all of aviation:
U.S. Air Force Reserve
Airbus North America Holdings, Inc.
Alpha Flying, Inc.
American Airlines
Bombardier Aerospace
Cessna Aircraft Company
Cirrus Design Corporation
Delta Air Lines
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Gulfstream Aerospace
JetBlue Airways
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
United Airlines
Pratt & Whitney
The Boeing Company
So listen up: When someone at the airport grumbles that there are just not enough students showing up at our flight schools, look them in the eye and tell them you know a solution to that problem. Tell them that recruiting women who aspire to join us in the sky is the answer to just about ALL of the issues facing general aviation. More female flight students = more ticketed women pilots = more airplanes sold = more fuel sold = more revenue for the FAA = more money in the FBO cash register...filtering down to everyone else on the GA money tree.

Do our aviation community a favor. If you know any 'tween age girls, get them to turn off Miley Cyrus long enough to go for an airplane ride. Nothing against Miley, her clean lifestyle makes her a role model for these girls. But you really need to take them up and tell them about how Eileen Collins became an astronaut, about how Jeana Yeager flew around the world with Dick Rutan and especially about Jerrie Mock, who also flew around this rock we live upon, with only her plane Charlie to help connect the dots on her chart. Tell them to keep a closed ear to any clown who says it's a mans world up there where the eagles dance with the clouds, because we all know those young ladies are the future of GA.

Because gender inequality is so last century.

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