We all know that men and women learn in different ways and this is especially true when learning how to fly. Hence, a recent post by Max Trescott about female pilots and barriers to completing flight training is well worth reading as he wrote about the results of a survey he did of 55 women who were either receiving, or had received and completed or had not completed flight training.
Max’s survey showed that the most significant factor that determined whether one of his female survey respondents completed flight training was the age at which they started their training. On average, women who completed their training had started it at age 35 (with a standard deviation of 10 years). However, the average starting age for women who discontinued their flight training was around 46 years old, with a standard deviation of 16 years. Moreover, Max also quoted one female respondent who started her training at age 54 as saying:
“Biggest challenge was having the confidence that my middle-age reflexes and brain would be able to master a difficult new skill!”
In addition, Max also asked his survey respondents to comment about their flight instructors and the results were telling:
Male CFIs were more likely to be rated:
- Chronically unprepared
- Difficult to Schedule
Female CFIs were more likely to be rated:
- Accepting of me and others
All flight instructors were rated highly for being:
- Neatly Dressed
Max concluded his post by saying that his survey results suggests that Flight Schools should provide extra attention and support to female students pilots who are 50 years and older. He also concluded that they should consider matching female student pilots with female flight instructors when possible.
However, we also want to ask any female pilot readers out there about your experiences and what, if any, barriers did you encounter while learning how to fly? Moreover, how would you rate the training and attention you received from your flight instructor and would you have any suggestions for how flight schools could improve training for other would-be female pilots? Feel free to write about your own personal experiences (good and/or bad) or the experiences of other female pilot who you may know.
I don't think I did experience any special barriers while learning. Just a lot of the normal issues – finding the finances, available time, good weather, etc.
I don't think men and women learn in significantly different ways to warrant special treatment. Most of those "studies" that make the 'men are from Mars/women from Venus' claim are merely pop psychology and don't hold up to rigorous scientific investigation and repetition.
In fact, treating women as if they are so different would probably be more detrimental to them achieving pilot certificates – it might send them the message that the instructor thinks that they need this special care due to some inherent handicap, and so gives them the impression that the instructor has less confidence in them and/or that they should have less confidence in themselves.
And it's not just women whose reflexes can deteriorate with age! Perhaps the instructors should take into account more the student's age and not gender – that certainly affects learning more.
It would be better just to treat women pilots (and student pilots, and potential pilots) just as any other. But I think one of the biggest reasons that there aren't more women pilots is that women are treated differently in and around aviation: at airshows, airport pancake breakfasts, AOPA safety seminars, etc. women are treated as if they're invisible, or as if they're only there as tag-alongs when in fact they might be there because they themselves are interested in flying. But male pilots just don't get into conversations with women about how to go about taking lessons or whom to contact or what they'll need to know the same way they do with men. So men can enjoy that kind of support system to help them along the way, but a woman more often needs to be extraordinarily independent and determined just to figure out how to even get started with flight training.