Around the Airport

Friday, July 3, 2015

Sex in the Cockpit

A few days ago I stumbled on the results from a survey about sex in the cockpit.  The big question the poll had posed was designed to determine which gender people would prefer at the controls of their airplanes.  Naturally, there was a lot of twisting of words with the outcome.  There were also other questions designed to force the issue if the desired results weren't attained.
The reader responses quoted were typical for today.  Everywhere you look there seems to be people who are shocked that men and women are different.  I guess we're no longer teaching biology in school.  How could anyone view the sexes as being the same?  It's a hilarious and sad statement on modern society.
If it was discovered the absolute future of mankind (peoplekind for the PC) came down to the nurturing of one child; that one month from now we'd all be dead if the kid wasn't properly nurtured; do you believe a man would be chosen for that job?  If so, you've lost your mind.
When faced with life or death, you can bet your butt that all that fantasy of the sexes being the same would be out the window and 97% of people would choose a woman.  They are genetically designed for it and we all know it.  That doesn't mean they can't hunt or remove lids from jars.  It also doesn't mean that men can't be nurturing.  I'm just merely pointing out that despite the popular idea that there are no differences in the sexes the notion is factually outright silly.
When it comes to flying airplanes, there's no doubt in my mind it is this instinctual understanding of gender which makes the majority of the population choose male when given the choice.  Maybe it is their understanding of greater genetic strength or less emotion in men that causes them to make this pick.  Whatever it is though, it doesn't mean they are correct.
Through the years I've seen good and bad pilots from both restrooms.  When I hear "women don't make good pilots" I always think of someone from my last job.  Without fail, that aviator was better than the others when it came to flying the plane; that person was a female.  And then there's Ginger?  Shecan jump in any airplane and fly it.  I'll never forget, telling her to take the Gullwing around the pattern (with zero practice or training).  She flew it as well as anyone could.
But again, men and women are different and they have different interests from birth.  When I hear people wonder why there are not more women in aviation, I can't help but shake my head.  Sure, there have been many forces that attempted to steer women in certain directions.  But, if you were to take them away, women, just like men, would naturally gravitate toward, and away from, some things more often than others.  If you expect and want to force an equal percentage of sexes in something based on the percentage of the population they hold, you're PC level is off the charts crazy.  You are denying reality in order to chase fantasy.
What's hard for many people, when discussing this subject, is the notion this means some things should be considered a realm for only one sex.  I'm not saying that.  I say, let those who want to be part of it, be part of it, as long as they can meet the standards.  Are we clear?
OK, this brings me to discussing the sexes in the context of work.  Years ago I had the typical, classic, major airline, total BS, dog and pony show interview.  It was with F~~E~.
Here's the setting.  I was half-way through the interview and had been told by the instructor I had done very well in the sim ride.  My performance earned me an invite to the second day.
Arriving early the next morning, it was obvious I had not been given the VIP ticket to the party.  Everyone but me showed up with the same suit, same shoes, same red tie, and same inside scoop. They were also all military guys carrying 18 references minimum.  Before the process started, it was hard not to be disheartened.  The phrase "circle jerk" comes to mind.  Yet, I forged on determined to get through.
Unfortunately, it would only go downhill from there.  Every part of that interview was a joke.  So dumbfounding was the process, by the time the second day was half over, I didn't care.  It was obvious I wasn't what they were looking for.  That's when I was called to the panel segment.
The panel segment had potential employees sitting at a table across from a few line pilots who would be asking them questions.   My panel included a member of both sexes.
When the panel part of the interview was concluding, the usual, "Do you have any questions for us" was asked of me.  I responded that as I mentioned earlier, I had been following F~~E~*** for a long time, wanted to work for them when most didn't even know they existed, and therefore there was little I could think of to ask.  This of course was not true.  I had one question I wanted to ask but had been told not to.
That day, at that moment, my answer wasn't good enough.  Determined to pull a question from me the panel insisted surely there was something I wanted to ask.  My response was, "There is one question I would like to ask but it could be uncomfortable so I'd rather not."   At that point it was up to them whether or not I set it free to fly about.  They asked; I opened the cage.
"OK, I've been watching F~~E~ very close.  And anyone paying attention knows that you've had roughly one accident every six months for a certain amount of time.  I also happen to know the accident rate got so bad that your insurance company insisted on an independent review to find what the problem was.  I also know that the independent review made a determination but that it has not been shared with the pilot group.  If I get hired here, and I'm a flight engineer, and I therefore do not have my hands on the controls, if I'm sitting back there with my life in someone else's hands, I would like to know, what did the panel determine to be the common factor in all those accidents?"
The female on the panel did not seem phased and almost excited to answer but she couldn't.  Therefore, this is very close to an exact quote of what she said, "Well now, I can't reeeaaally saaaay, what maaay or may not have played a role in the accidents, but if I weeerrree tooo take a guess (wink wink), hypothetically speaking, I would saaaay that maaaybe it was that the place has become to much of a good old boys club and that quite a few people passed check rides when they should not have."
Then the rains came.  It was a moment I'll never forget.  In my interview this happened.
As that last word, "have," sailed past her vocal cords, the guy on the panel was already responding.  Pushing back from the table; looking at her but answering me (picture that), he said sharply, "Well, some people might say that it has more to do with the sex of the pilots who were in the seat during those accidents."   An uncomfortable silence fell across the room.  I was thanked for my time and I left to resume the dog and pony show.
Why did I want to discuss the subject of gender and the cockpit?  It is obvious a lot of issues need to be dealt with but all the frail sensitivities out there keep people from logically debating them.  The other day, a friend told me I love controversy.  That actually is not true.  I merely want people to be able to talk about the things that make them uncomfortable and all it usually takes is for one person to be willing to take the hit of being the first to speak out.
Think about a major airline not being able to answer a truly serious question and you'll find an airline that flies into the ground because one of the pilots doesn't feel comfortable speaking up.  Now consider how incredibly tragic it would be to know that a plane would not have crashed if it weren't for the preconceived notions of each sex; that two professionals, despite their training, would allow that to get in the way of communication.  Even worse, how tragic would it be that neither shared information because of being afraid to offend the other.   It happens more often than you know and originates from both sexes.  It's time to get over it.
 
 
 
***At the time, the other big cargo operation wouldn't have me because my brother worked there.

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