By Beverly Weintraub | Special to The Washington Post
A feeling of pride swept through the small community of female pilots Wednesday as word spread that the captain who had safely landed Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 after an engine blew out in midair the day before was a woman. But disappointment tempered that sentiment. Virtually all news coverage of the incident put the word “female” before “pilot.” As a private pilot, aircraft owner and airplane racer, I shared both the pride and the disappointment.
Why not call the hero captain simply a pilot? Was Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger — to whom Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was aptly compared — referred to as a “male pilot” after landing US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River?
And why the surprise that a former Navy fighter pilot and seasoned airline captain, as Shults is, could handle an emergency situation calmly and competently?
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Part of it could be the numbers: In 1960, there were 25 female air transport pilots — licensed to fly for the airlines — in the United States; in 2016, there were 6,888, a huge increase, but still only 4.4 percent of the U.S. airline pilot population. Overall, of nearly 600,000 pilots licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration, approximately 39,000 are women. That’s around 6 percent, and that proportion has held steady for decades.
But lack of exposure goes only so far as an explanation. Women have been flying for more than a century, and flying professionally for nearly as long: first for airplane manufacturers and in airshows, then for the airlines, the military and the space program. The first licensed female pilot in the United States, Harriet Quimby, received …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World