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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Gender Differences in Pilots

Male and Female...

Paul Payne at ABC news regurgitated a "study" from John Hopkins University evaluating pilots  and accidents.  Payne stated, "Hopkins scholars looked at crashes of civilian, noncommercial planes from 1983 to 1997 involving 144 female and 287 male pilots over 40 years of age."   

Based on the findings....

I have yet to read the actual report to see how the study was conducted and if it held any rigor, validity, and basically...  how it was conducted. Yet, let me share with you what Payne reported:

"Air crashes involving female pilots are mostly due to mishandling of the plane, while those with male pilots are more often due to flawed decision-making and inattention, a study found. 

Flying planes with known mechanical problems, running out of fuel and landing with the gear up were typically male problems, said the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health study released last week. 

Women's crashes were more often due to incorrect use of the rudder, poor response to a bounce or inability to recover from a stall, the study found. 

"Males trade accuracy for speed," said professor Susan Baker, the study's co-author. "They would rather do something faster even if they don't do it accurately. 

"Women tend to be more cautious and pay greater attention to details and rules." 

Complex Aircraft Operations...

In airline operations with highly automated aircraft, pilots no longer hand-fly they manage the system. Under normal law the Airbus doesn't stall. Pilots no longer trim the aircraft. We manage the operation. Yet, decision making is essential and will be more so in the future.

Thus, while this report was sent to me as a question to the ability of female pilots... I had to laugh. Because, the strengths and weaknesses in current and future operations favor the "reported" female strengths.

Men... Do Not Worry!

Men and women are equally competent, and can be trained in complex aircraft. If properly trained, with knowledge and understanding of the aircraft systems and automation functionality, the best situation awareness prevails, resulting in the best decision making. How can you make the best decision if you don't understand what the aircraft is doing? You can't. Training and understanding are  the keys. Not gender.

This study was old school. General aviation. Did it take into account experience level of the pilots? How were the pilots trained? Where were the pilots trained? Be careful when you read studies... they might be implying something that is not necessarily true.

In this case, it's a shame that this report disparages male pilot's decision making abilities. We love you guys! And we know that given the opportunity you can make great decisions too. :) 

Enjoy the Sky!

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene


  1. Good job pointing out the flaws in the study. But I am convinced that women are better pilots in the glass era. There are so many subtle clues imbedded in the display. After two years of being a glass guy, it still amazes me when I see something new (to me) pop up on the display. Men just don't pick up on the clue birds very well, but women are wired to see these things.

    1. Rob, you are so right. The skills of old flying, and new management have shifted for sure. We are so wired for that. We'll even see if you don't take the garbage out or put the toilet seat down. It's just pops up on our radar.

  2. So, the female should run the show when things are going right, and make the guy fly the plane when things are going wrong?
    Of course, the airline accident record shows that the guys screw up too. That is, at least the ones with little hand-flying experience to draw on when the chips are down. There may not be enough females in the airline world to get a good statistical read on this. You'd have to look a lot deeper than accidents into things that didn't even qualify as incidents, then arrange according to gender. I'm pretty sure nobody is doing this.

    1. Haha...that's funny. And since things rarely go wrong, your gender would be a back up. Seriously, this article really bothered me and I was trying to make light. They used GA aircraft, and no information on demographics other than gender. One thing I've learned in my studies is to raise the red flag when statements are made on incomplete data more than facts and research.


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