Friday, July 27, 2012

Women Pilots: Why so few?

Celebrating 35 years as a commercial airline captain opened many memories and thoughts about being one of the first women to reach this goal. This led to my thinking about why are there so few young women today who are as passionate as I was to have such a career? Doing a bit of research, I recently read that “fewer than 500 women are flying as captains with major airlines worldwide.” They went on to say that fewer than 4 percent of jet-qualified pilots in the world are women. (I’m the first to agree that even these numbers don’t accurately reflect the category “flying as captains with major airlines worldwide” since many are flying as first officers, and I have no stats on how many non-US women ATP-equivalent pilots are out there.) Since I was amazed by these numbers, I began to query fellow pilots as to their thoughts on why so few women choose to go into professional aviation as well as did a bit of digging on my own. My first concern came when I came across a set of women pilot stats while cleaning out my files, dated 1987. The approximate number of women pilots with ATP ratings (which I assume is how they still determine numbers of women jet-qualified pilots) at the end of 1986 was only 3 percent, showing a mere 1% gain over the next 25+ years. So, assuming the number is still very small, I began to ask questions of pilots I flew with to get their input on why we still have so very few women interested in pilot careers. It quickly became apparent to me that there are many reasons which could account for the lack of female aviators and there’s no viable way to discover which may be real vs. those that are imagined. From my perspective, there are probably 7 categories for consideration: 1. Upbringing: How were they were raised and were they encouraged to consider various careers? Did she socialize only with other little girls or did she integrate well into a male oriented/dominated upbringing? 2. Influence/Encouragement: Did she have parents or close adult friends who encouraged her to become involved in non-traditional career paths? 3. Technical Skills: Did she have a natural bent toward things technical and/or enjoy how things work to help with the high technical skills/training needed to survive in the aviation world? 4. Passion to travel: Did she possess a wanderlust or passion for the apparently nomadic lifestyle pilots lead and did she find constant travel exciting and enriching? 5. Survival skills: Were strong survival skills a part of her personality allowing her to pursue a non-traditional career with little regard for possible harassment or discrimination? 6. Mentorship: Did she have access to the how-to information needed or at least a mentor to assist and encourage her program? 7. Funding: a most basic need for our expensive and extensive training. There are so many issues that can complicate the completion of what’s a rather long career path. Getting interested in the field is just the beginning. Enjoying the long road to a well-paid job is quite another. You need some real passion and desire to stay the course and arrive at the destination eager to continue. If you have any ideas on the subject, I’d like to hear from you. Next time we’ll talk about what it takes to survive the trials of a pilot job once you decide that this lifestyle IS for you.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Preparation, preparation, preparation

Preparation is the most crucial ingredient of being successful in aviation. Be your goal passing a check ride or landing that first flying job, preparation is fundamental to your ability to succeed. Indeed, from flight instructors to hiring managers, I’ve heard their laments that students and job applicants alike are arriving at their training or appointed interview sessions woefully unprepared. Why is good preparation so important? Your goal, as a student or job applicant, is to find someone to help you succeed in aviation. Those pilots, instructors, and hiring managers who subscribe to the “pay it forward” theory are looking to help those who have demonstrated that they are prepared, highly value their foothold in aviation and will work hard to move upwards. For me, as a general aviation pilot, Master CFI, and Airline Captain, preparation provides me with the confidence I need to safely and effectively get the job done, be a sim session or live airline flight. So whether you’re enroute to your goal or at the pinnacle of your career, remember that preparation is the key to your continued success. Here are some simple steps I take to ensure I am well prepared: • Review all material to be covered as well as consult any other resources to give you the big picture • Practice “chair flying” all maneuvers to be covered • Write down your questions as you review the material • Preview subsequent material to help you understand current subjects What are your concerns when it comes to preparation? • How do you make sure you are well-prepared for each lesson? • What are your three biggest hurtles to being well prepared? • Does anyone have a story about flying and being prepared (or not?) • What resources do you use to help you prepare for your flying? I’d like to hear from you and hope you’ll write me at captainkarenkahn@cox.net .

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Backseat iPilot Tests iEFB

Recently I had a chance to do some back-seat flying…as a passenger enroute to pick up my airplane after its annual inspection. The hour’s flight to Madera, CA gave me a good opportunity to play with my new iPad2 and the iEFB App for the iPad v 4.1. www.flightguide.com

Since I’m a basic “fly direct” person (that’s all I ever do with my older Trimble GPS), I was interested to see how easily I could modify a basic flight plan which had been previously entered in the program’s memory. Although I may enter a flight plan to give me that “line on the chart” (which I see as a basic security blanket, left over from my Private Pilot cross country days) I usually end up asking my nav equipment, whatever it may be (an old King KNS80 RNAV that came with my airplane when I bought it in 1994, to a Trimble TNL2000 VFR only GPS which I still have) to take me from point A to B.

If I get off course, due to winds, traffic or weather, I’d like to proceed from my present position direct to Point B. So this was my goal in testing the new iEFB (v. 4.1) from Flight Guide. After some practice (I’ll admit I printed out the instruction guide and kept it handy as my backseat journey progressed) I found the “go there from here” to be easier as I got used to pressing my finger on the appropriate spot, adding that fix (be it navaid, fix, airport or just a lat/long) and changing my course (that lovely magenta line) to go there, poste haste.

What really delighted me was a feature I’ve always wanted, ever since I became a CFII and tried to demystify the IFR world for VFR pilots. Reading an IFR approach chart is one skill, but being able to visualize where those fixes actually are, where that intersection is with reference to the ground beneath you (assuming a VFR day) was, I thought, the key, to helping an IFR student make sense of the cloudy world of airways, fixes, radials, courses, terminal routes, intersections, etc.

Now the iEFB chart overlay feature, which allows you to display an IFR chart directly on top of a current sectional is truly amazing. The semi-transparency of the chart allows you to clearly see the terrain beneath those fixes and suddenly, that IFR chart takes on a real-world understanding!

This “back seat” flight in a 1972 V34B Bonanza was piloted by an experienced IFR pilot with a new Private Pilot (who was working on her instrument rating) in the right seat. Both of them were as excited as I was to see the display of the two chart regimes, IFR and VFR, combined to give one excellent picture of where we were and where we were going…and it was geo-referenced, to boot!

The experienced IFR PIC was delighted to see a combined presentation that saved him from jumping back and forth from Sectionals to Approach charts, while the eyes of the new pilot lit up with understanding as she “saw” the fixes come to life on a sectional chart. It gave new meaning to the “plan ahead” warnings issued by all instructors who fear their student’s tunnel vision will completely overcome their situational awareness.

Now, with iEFB chart overlays, you can have instant positional awareness and plan/fly accordingly. Shuffling pages/charts becomes a thing of the past as you “see” your IFR approach plate on the seamless sectional and immediately sequence your IFR duties according to what you see as you watch your airplane progress toward your destination. Way cool, IMHO!