Bob sent me a survey the other day which included the top ten reasons why women do not complete their flying. I agree with most of these as reason why women (including myself) have thought that they are not cut out for the aviation world. However truthful these barriers may be, they are what anyone can experience in any field, male or female. I think it is our job as female aviators to not use these as excuses, but as reasons to push ourselves more. Below please see the top ten list . In italics are my actions to counteract these barriers.
The Top 10 Barriers That Stop Women From Learning to Fly:
The authors of Influencer: The Power to Change Anything explain in order to get anyone to do
anything, such as a woman learning to fly, she must see the “benefit” and, she must be convinced
she has the means and ability to learn to fly. Here are the barriers identified in the Wolf Aviation
Fund Teaching Women to Fly Research Project.
- Lack of money for General Aviation flight training.
- This I couldn't agree with more, it has been my main barrier since I started to fly at 16. I started on this road very seriously in 2004, though, and there are a few things I would have done differently. Save. Save. Save. It's much easier to have all the money up front. That means there are no unnecessary breaks amidst your training that causes you to be rusty and waste money relearning things you already know. Consistency is the key. I have spent many a dollar trying to brush up my skills that I had already learned after an extensive break. You must keep flying!
- Scholarships. Free money is always great, however, there are many people competing for it. I have applied to at least five scholarships for the past five years and have yet to get one...but I also have yet to give up. Always keep at it. Money2Fly is a great resource for scholarships and links to many from the Ninety Nines and Women in Aviation International as well. Both of these organizations require memberships; I have found WAI to be the most beneficial for me.
- Buy an airplane. After you KNOW aviation is right for you and what you want to do, buy an old Cessna 150 for your training. It will really cut back on the rental costs. I had to opportunity to do this a long time ago and wish I had. Now I am too far in debt to pay for my own aircraft. There are also other great benefits to owning your own aircraft, such as learning how to upkeep them and in turn more about aircraft systems and mechanics.
- Loans. These are hard to find now as Sallie Mae does not offer them through flight schools anymore. There were two in Florida last time I looked, but that was it. This is how I was able to finish up my private certificate and complete my instrument training. Pilot Financing, Inc. is a company I have looked into in the past. At the time they only offered funding for part time training, but that could have changed since. Note that these are private loans, not student loans. You have monthly payments on these loans throughout your training.
- Going to a university is the way to get student loans for your training, there are many universities out there that offer aviation degrees and flight training. I have been told that in the end you spend more and the training is slower than through an FBO, but that depends on your own situation.
- The military is also another option. I don't know much about this, but many have achieved their goals either flying for the military or using the money provided for their service towards earning their pilot certificates.
- Instructor-student communication incompatibility (Mars vs. Venus).
- Men and women do think, react and speak differently. This has been a frustration in my past, but not a barrier. In fact I started my flight instruction with a female CFII and she was actually the worst instructor I have had. Not all instructors are the same, male or female. It's about finding who is the right fit for you, it's OK to shop around.
- Instructor Interuptus- Instructors leave flight instructing to take airline or charter service jobs often requiring the student to start over with another instructor. This is time consuming, expensive and discouraging to many female students.
- Ahh instructor interuptus how you have plagued me. I've had one instructor leave for the airlines, another for corporate and one who was a doctor that became so important he had to stop instructing. Fun story: I had an instructor who I could tell after our fifth landing in the pattern that he was dreaming about the future and just waiting for his instructing days to be over. His arms were crossed and he looked out the window. My landings had been great, so he was no longer ahead of the airplane. We were in the flare, his arms were still crossed, legs relaxed, looking at the view when I slammed into the ground and bounced a few times. That woke him up.
- After three cases of "instructor insteruptus" I interviewed my instructor, I was direct, stated what I wanted and made sure that he would be there for the remaining of my training. He answered his goals in aviation honestly and said that he would be there to see me through and he did...until I moved lol
- Lack of female mentors and support systems to encourage the female student.
- True. For years had no female pilots to talk with. The Ninety-Nines group I had joined was quite a hike and not very active. I signed up for a mentor in my area but it didn't get beyond two email conversations. I was pretty much alone. I had yet to discover the world of blogging and online discussion groups. These are where I got my encouragement from. First, was MySpace, now very inactive but a few years ago it is where I got all my aviation support and training questions answered. There are some on Facebook as well, but they weren't as great. Many pilot forums are springing up online and I highly recommend joining a few as it is a great way to connect with other aviators.
- As I mentioned before, MyTransponder is another great way to connect with aviators, male and female, around the country. There are many forums to join on here as well. I have found this group of pilots to be very supportive in the ups and downs of my training, especially when it came to the fact that I may lose my medical.
- Follow blogs of fellow aviators, comment on their posts and befriend them through their social networking. One aviator I connected with through blogging and who convinced me to join Twitter where I befriended many more pilots was Karlen Petite from Flight to Success. I have yet to meet her in person, but she has become an amazing mentor for me.
- Personal lack of confidence in their ability and a “fear of flying,” especially stalling the airplane too early in the training process.
- I admit I am not full of confidence as I once was. Once you've been grounded so many times, it is hard to gather the strength to attempt flight again. I never had a fear of flying, just the fear that I was not cut out for it, which was hard because I had never wanted anything more. When you feel that fear creeping up inside you and you have the urge to cancel your lesson that's when you have to get in the air more than ever. Push through it, fly often. It will become easier and soon your confidence will soar.
- Lack of experience with and knowledge of mechanical systems.
- To me this is just an excuse. Yes, I don't know that many women who are engineers and I have no idea how my car works, only knowing that it can get me where I need to go is all I need. That does not work the same in the air. You cannot pull over. You will be on your own. If something happens, that extra mechanical experience could be the difference between life and death.
- There is a plethora of information available online, in magazines and at your own airport. There is no excuse to not find a way to brush up on these things. AOPA is a brilliant aviation magazine and there is always something to be read about systems whether they are discussing a new airplane or it's one of those "Never Again" articles. In the Flight Training magazine there is always a small section of things to look out for on your aircraft, for example hydraulic oil leaks.
- Go to the airport. Look in the hangars. You are bound to find one that shelters an aircraft with the cowling off and an engine to peer at. If there is an A&P around and not to busy, they may show you what is going on. I have helped on Bob's annual for his aircraft the past two years and seeing hands on what goes on inside the aircraft and actually participating in the work helped me learn more than if I were sitting at home reading a magazine article. For me, the best way to learn is to find a way to get in there and do it.
- Lack of map reading experience & orienteering skill sets.
- Ok, well then get them. That's what training is all about. So look over the sectional chart before a flight. Familiarize yourself with the area. Try looking at a satellite view of the same area, compare what you see in the satellite view to what's on the chart. Go in the air, find those points you saw on the chart and via satellite. The only way to conquer this barrier is by trying to. So practice, study and learn.
- Flight schools perceived as indifferent to female students.
- I was treated the same as my male counterparts at all of my flight schools. I wasn't treated like the weaker sex, nor was I treated better. I was thankful for that. I don't want special attention and I want to be put to the same standards as men. I do feel that flight schools need to find a way to reach out to the female population to help them stay in their training. Forming a female pilot support group for example. Most men I know would have no problem continuing training without one, however, women are a social bunch and rely on relationships for support and encouragement. This need for relationships could make or break a women pilot's training success.
- Famous female pilots largely unknown as role models to non-aviator women.
- Books to read: West with the Night by Beryl Markham, very inspirational aviator. Major page turner. Who can forget Amelia Earhart. I read the biography East to Dawn about her, extremely detailed, but very good. I find it funny how both these women are flying a different direction to different times of day :p Jean Batten, a New Zealand pilot breaking barriers in the 1930's you can read more about her in a previous post here. Anne Lindbergh, famed Charles Lindbergh's wife flew around the world with Charles creating some of the first charts for pilots. There is a good number of inspirational flying couples that you can read in another post of mine here.
- History is full of inspirational women aviators, but the present day is too! Patty Wagstaff is one of the most celebrated female aviators of our time. She became a member of the US Aerobatics team just five years after becoming a pilot and has been thrilling crowds with her low level extreme aerobatics ever since. Then there is Jessica Cox who became a pilot at 25 years old. Jessica \was born without arms but that hasn't stopped her getting a hold of the yoke, she just uses her feet instead. Jessica now runs Rightfooted.com and travels around as a motivational speaker. An female aviator does not have to be seen by thousands or have no arms to be inspirational, we are surrounded by inspirational women pilots every day. Check out Karlene's blog for her regular posts on Friday's Fabulous Flyer. Those everyday people are extraordinarily inspirational.
- Lack of emotional support from family & friends, who perceive flying as “too dangerous”
- I've had amazing support from my family and friends, they never discouraged me from flying. They had worries, but that was understandable. The best thing to do is help them to understand the passion of flight and know that with proper training one can be a safe pilot. Show them the Aviation Flight Safety courses that area available to improve on skills needed to keep a pilot safe. Finally, if you can, get them in the cockpit, that can make them understand.
If these barriers erode or destroy the female student’s perception of the “benefit” of or her “confidence” to achieve the goal of pilot certification, then she either never begins flight training or drops out.
I could make a list that would take an eternity to write on the benefits of aviation. Never give up, there is a whole sky up there waiting for you.