Amelia Earhart – the world’s most famous woman aviator – received her first flight training in Long Beach, California strapped into a Kinner Airster prop plane back in 1920. It cost $10. A lot has changed since then but one thing hasn’t – the life of a woman aviator is still a challenge. Discrimination still persists and the obstacles are formidable. Only 6% of all pilots are women and only 3.5% of these are commercial pilots. This figure is expected to increase significantly, however, in the upcoming years with returning female veterans from the armed services and with the barriers of discrimination against women in aviation coming down.
Captain Karen Kahn
Captain Karen Kahn is one of the nation’s first female commercial airline pilots and she is still on the job. She has been actively involved in the aviation industry for 40 years. Prior to starting her airline career in 1977, she was a flight instructor and operated her own weekend ground school teaching private, commercial and instrument courses. “Pursuing a career as a pilot, particularly a commercial pilot, is a painfully complex business,” Kahn said.
Kahn has addressed both sex and age discrimination in commercial aviation. “The average age for hiring an airline pilot is 35,” Ms. Kahn noted. “With age (and sex) discrimination looming as a legal deterrent, airlines no longer list limits for new hires, preferring to consider pilot qualifications on their own merits.” She wrote and published a terrific book entitled: “Flight Guide for Success: Tips & Tactics for the Aspiring Airline Pilot.” The book answers the tough pilot career questions without sugar coating the answers.
From getting started and finding the first flying job, to marketing oneself and preparing for the interviews, this book lays it on the line. Kahn’s no-nonsense book illustrates the underlying point that honesty and integrity matter not only in an airline career, but also in life.
Flight Training Schools for Women
All major flight training schools and colleges are co-educational and offer
co-educational facilities and conveniences. One popular co-educational flight training school is Aviator College in Ft. Pierce, Florida. Several of the faculties are female and they have first hand experience about the difficulties a female flight student can face.
Organizations for Women Aviators
WAI (Women In Aviation) is the biggest organization for women aviators and their website (www.wai.org) is full of valuable information, including scholarships, assistance with flight training schools, and many other helpful tips.
The International Organization of Women Pilots aka the “Ninety-Nines” is another good organization for women pilots and aspiring pilots. It was established in 1929 by 99 women pilots to provide mutual support and advancement of aviation. Today, the organization promotes world fellowship through flight, provides networking and scholarship opportunities for women and aviation education in the community and preserves the unique history of women in aviation. Please visit their website.
As it was back in Amelia Earhart‘s time, the difficulties for a woman aviator continue today. The focused and determined female flight student – however – will overcome these obstacles. She will excel and join the ranks of a very special few.