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Letters from our April 2019 issueLetters from our April 2019 issue

What problem?

Is the small number of women pilots a stubborn problem for the aviation community, or just a fact of life?

If “decades of attempts to fix the problem” of increasing women pilots haven’t budged the numbers much, then maybe it’s not much of a problem (“The 7 Percent”). Behind the veneer of manipulative “data,” pushing a narrative that aviation is infected with pervasive sexism, is the reality that women are welcome in aviation, compensated fairly, and have equal access to opportunity. In fact, in direct contradiction to that narrative, many major airlines aggressively recruit and hire women over more qualified male applicants.

Flying—especially professional flying—requires a commitment to continuously learn. Even the smallest details may one day be called upon to save your life and the lives of your passengers. Therefore, a pilot must be drawn to flying by passion, and I firmly believe an individual can only be pushed into aviation so far before their presence there is detrimental to themselves and the overall community.

The pilot community should nurture the interest of anyone who wants to fly, but it shouldn’t set political identity “goals” to appease activists and politicians who couldn’t care less about aviation. The only narrative AOPA should be pushing is that people who share the passion for flying are more alike than they differ. Dividing pilots by political identity is, at best, not constructive; at worst, it sacrifices our shared passion for aviation in this era of reckless, idiotic ideological outrage.

Jeff Horton
AOPA 1390854
Winter Haven, Florida

In the latest AOPA Pilot you consistently refer to the fact that only 7 percent of pilots are women as a “problem.” Furthermore, at the end of your article you say that women do not enter aviation after decades of attempts to entice them to do so and to remove all barriers. So, is this really a “problem” or is it just a fact that women do not pursue careers in aviation anywhere near the rate of men? Why does every profession require an equal number of men and women? How many men are nurses, for example? Some are. In fact my brother-in-law is one of the few. But it would be a fallacy to conclude that there is a problem getting more men into nursing. I think we can conclude the same for women in aviation and stop fretting about it.

Patrick I. Barron
AOPA 1166673
Pocopson, Pennsylvania

Thank you so much for publishing Ian Twombly’s “The 7 Percent” article. I found it exceptionally well-written about a topic that gets so little attention. I count myself extremely lucky for having a father who was both supportive of me pursuing any field, and who also happens to be a CFI. I’ll never forget my first solo at 17, and all I hope is that men and women all be given the same opportunity to pursue aviation.

Mel Hunt
AOPA 5795358
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Very much enjoyed your article on women in aviation. At our EAA chapter, we fly a lot of young ladies in our Young Eagle program. I would estimate it is close to 50/50 girls and boys. Our pilots always try to stress equality in the ability to learn to fly, starting with some of our female Explorer scouts who help teach our ground school. It also is instructive to have female Young Eagle pilots.

The problem of bias doesn’t always stem from the aviators. While flying, we can allow Young Eagles a little stick time, turbulence and desire permitting. On several such times, I have had young women say “I can’t do that, I’m a girl!” Again, this has happened more than once. I think that is the saddest thing I’ve ever heard from the mouth of a young person. Makes you wonder what the parent or guardian is teaching this child.

As pilots, we can foster and further the advancement of women in aviation, even outside of structured programs like Young Eagles. Just giving someone front seat time may be enough to show them that it is possible to do anything, perseverance and desire permitting. 

Jim Hantschel
AOPA 820749
Racine, Wisconsin

In the mid-1990s as president of U.S. Air Race Inc., I met Jamie Gonzales. She related the following. She often took her young children to Ninety-Nines events in her Beech Sierra where all the pilots were women. When she decided to race as co-pilot in Charlie Horton’s 400 Comanche, she took the children to meet him. At the introductions, she explained that Mr. Charlie would be pilot and she would be co-pilot. Her young son tugged on her hand and said, “Momma, he can’t be a pilot, he’s not a lady.”

Of the 38 first place awards in our events, 55 percent of the crews had either a female pilot in command or co-pilot. When women have the opportunity, their flying performance is about commensurate with their population majority.

Patricia Jayne Keefer
AOPA 263128
Dallas, Texas

Possibilities abound

I appreciate the article I just read on “The Possible Turn.” I have experienced this situation myself and I feel vindicated. You have a split second to decide what the worst scenario will bring. A straight-ahead into a populated area has consequences outside of the immediate personal concerns of body and airplane. And for me, that’s what it was. I hope Barry Schiff’s son’s program includes the psychological aspect of understanding that the critical issue at the moment is your decision on outcomes, not determining the problem. Turning around required extreme focus and no time to determine what the problem was. It’s a click “Oh, no,” a click “what’s ahead of me,” and a click “decision now.” That was the first second. The second second was to fly the plane. I’m looking forward to the broadcast.

Andy Behrman
AOPA 6847480
Tallahassee, Florida


“Destinations: Fly-Away Ideas” (April 2019 AOPA Pilot) misspelled the name of Gwennies Old Alaska Restaurant. Also, the water pipe mentioned in the article has been removed since the publication of the story.


An article about the San Juan Islands (“Island Hopping,” March 2019 AOPA Pilot) incorrectly described the trees in the area as pines. They are Douglas fir. AOPA Pilot regrets the error.

We welcome your comments. Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701 or email. Letters may be edited for length and style before publication.

Hangar Talk

LettersAOPA Live This Week Associate Producer Paul Harrop has been telling the AOPA staff about the High Sierra Fly-In and STOL Drag for several years, saying it is his favorite event. “So Senior Photographer Mike Fizer and I decided to see what Paul’s babble was all about,” says Julie Summers Walker, AOPA senior features editor. “We went at the last minute and didn’t plan to camp, but Paul said he was going to. When we arrived, we discovered Paul cooking breakfast at his campsite. After exploring the Dead Cow lakebed, we returned to find Paul cooking lunch for several friends. When we left, we bid him good night as he was grilling steaks. Driving in the next morning, I asked Fizer where he thought we’d find Paul and in unison we said cooking!” There’s a lot more to High Sierra, STOL Drag, and the Flying Cowboys than food, as Walker and Fizer discovered in “Meet the Flying Cowboys".

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