To Soar like Eagles

Women in Aviation: We need more!


DECEMBER 27, 2021

The other day I was travelling for a job interview and was walking down to board the airplane. To my surprise, I noticed that both the Captain and her First Officer were female. It didn't end there; on the plane itself, the entire cabin crew were all females. We had an entire crew of females! Not one man in sight. It was inspiring to see females succeeding in the aviation industry. I took my seat and enjoyed the flight.

The experience on board the flight was seamless. The fact that the flight had been entirely operated by women was no different from any other flight I had taken. It was a true testament to the skill and professionalism of the crew.

When you start looking at when the first woman began flying, they started at the same time as men, except the social acceptance would restrict women's involvement in the aviation revolution.

If you consider aviation history, women began flying at the same time as men. However, social standards restricted women's involvement in the aviation revolution. In fact, the first woman to ever fly was in 1784 in a hot air balloon. And did you know that the Wright Brothers had a sister who was involved in the preparation of the first powered flight? Her name was Katherine, and she was part of the team and was known as the 'Silent Partner.'

Women from different countries also began flying as flying machines were introduced to the world. The Chinese Zhang Xiahun in 1916 took off from a field and did a full circuit before she crashed but, luckily, survived. Twelve years later, in 1928, the Canadian Eileen Vollick became the first female licensed pilot at the age of 19 (Wikipedia). 

The most famous female aviator was Emelia Earhart, who disappeared after her attempt to fly around the world in 1937. She already had a strong pedigree with her successful solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. She never was found.

During the Korean war, the North Koreans had the first female fighter pilot in the world. She flew the Mig 15 in combat and rose to the rank of Squadron leader. 

After the Korean War, women became involved in all aspects of aviation, from Air Traffic Controllers to cabin crew and even astronauts. Nowadays, it's not uncommon to see full flight decks with at least one woman being part of the flight crew. I think we need to encourage all women to make the career move into the flight deck. Currently, the global average is no more than 3%. Shocking if you ask me. We need more, and it might just be what we need to combat the pilot shortage happening around the world.

During my time in the RCAF, when I was a flight instructor in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, I was appointed one of the first female student military pilots. The Canadian military wanted to experiment using only four females at a time to see the results. If the results were positive, they would open the door to all women.

My allocated student was a tall, slim, attractive young woman who knew that she was in the limelight. And so was I! I carried out the training as normal. Just as if she was one of the boys.

The training went very smoothly, and I did not see anything different from any other students I had. However, one interesting phenomenon I discovered while flying with her is that her 'G' tolerance was better than most male students. Pulling a high G load while flying a military jet is an essential attribute to all fighter pilots. The higher the G loading you can sustain, the longer you will survive in an air superiority theatre. It would mean the difference between life and death in an air combat scenario.

For the next 24 months of training, I tried every time to get her to black out (G-LOC - Loss of Consciousness). She was incredible. She could stay awake like there was nothing to it. Amazing!

I concluded that female pilots are better suited to be fighter pilots than men just because of their physical attributes that men don't have. I'll let the readers think about that one. 

She graduated with flying colours, and she went on to Transport Command, flying the mighty Hercules C130 aircraft.

In conclusion, I want to extend the challenge to all young women who might be tempted to become professional pilots. Go for it, I say and don't look back! We need you, and you won't regret it one bit.

Be safe, everyone and happy landings!


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