There is a very recent upward trend of female helicopter pilots entering into the “male dominated” helicopter industry. We believe this is good news, and this movement seems to be world wide. At Upper Limit Aviation we are finding that more women are donning flight suits with the aspiration of becoming commercial helicopter pilots.
This article focuses on this upward trend, and attempts to bring more awareness to women regarding the career opportunities in aviation – specifically the helicopter pilot segment of aviation.
Currently, there are many women working in the aviation industry – from airline gate agents and flight attendants, to every nook and cranny of the corporate airline arena. However, until recently, not many women have been found in the cockpit as pilots, especially in the rotorcraft world. But things are changing.
And on that positive note, the Whirly-Girls Scholarship fund has announced five additional scholarships to be awarded to women in the helicopter aviation industry. The application for procuring these scholarships closes on October 1, 2015.
One example among many is Starlite Helicopter and Fixed Wing Training Academy, out of Western Cape, South Africa. Starlite has seen a tremendous increase in the enrollment of women into their helicopter flight school. (see recent news video below). Starlite’s story is only one of many stories being played out all over the globe.
For many years now most everyone in the aviation industry has been trying to attract more women into the pilot’s seat. However, for women there seems to be insurmountable walls, hurdles, and obstacles preventing them from joining the commercial pilot ranks. We believe that we can be a part of changing that.
There has been a noticeable stagnation in the number of women pilots up until 20 years ago. The reason for the lack of growth is complicated. Some of the more obvious reasons are related to our culture, lack of funding, misconceptions regarding skill development, and lack of awareness of career opportunities. And, there has been some unexplainable “mysterious” reasons that no one can put their finger on.
Growth Trends of Female Helicopter Pilots in the Industry
Although women have been involved in the aviation industry since its beginning, the growth of women pilots over the last 100 years has been less than impressive. Nonetheless, we believe that there is a bright future for women in aviation, especially in the area of helicopters. There are strong indicators in the industry that the number of female pilots is going up, and will continue to do so into the next decade.
Currently, 5% of airline pilots are women, and only 450 sit in the captain’s seat. However, the 5% represents a big increase when compared to twenty years ago. We believe this growth trend will continue for fixed wing pilots. In the helicopter world women pilots make up less than 3% of the total number of pilots. Even though 3% seems small, its a huge increase when compared to even 10 years ago.
At Upper Limit Aviation we have seen a steady flow of women enrolling in our flight schools. However, we are not satisfied, and we are committed to work even harder to recruit female students until we see explosive growth and see more female helicopter pilots.
The Misconception of Skill Development in Women
It takes a great deal of physical coordination to fly helicopters. In addition, pilot’s have to have good eyesight, good hearing, and be able to handle mulit-tasking well (both mental and physical activities). It should also be obvious, that good pilots need fast and smooth reflexes, and stable minds (they cannot panic or crack under pressure).
Some industry experts say that women are better equipped than men in their ability to make the delicate and graceful controlled movements that are required of helicopter pilots. They even say that women can react more quickly, handle navigation with more finesse, and have a better sense of direction (intuition).
Some believe that women, in regard to their fine motor movements are more subtle, giving them an distinct advantage over men when movement involves piloting skills. Women pilots are also thought to have great leadership abilities. They are more patient, more humble, and more cautious. Whether any of these statements are true is debatable, and more importantly, irrelevent. Female pilots we have known have shown that women can be great pilots, just like men, period!
Generally, most women are physically and mentally equipped to be pilot helicopters. It is our experience that women make incredible pilots, and we would like to see more women enroll into flight school. If this is true, the issue must be that too many women do not think they can become good pilots.
To become a commercial pilot it takes a total 100% commitment. To become an employable (safe and competent) pilot it takes piloting skills, competency, and professionalism. We believe that women are just as capable as men, in regard to fulfilling the important elements of piloting. Women are just as committed, dedicated, and willing to make the sacrifices of becoming a professional pilot as the men. The only issue is that there are less women venturing into flight school. We would like to change this dynamic.
If you know any women that have dreamed of becoming a pilot, please go and encourage them to pursue their dream. Perhaps share this article with them and be a part of the movement of more women becoming commercial pilots.