Is a Woman Flying That Jet?

By: Nina Anderson Sheffield, MA (PRWEB) May 11, 2009 Captain "Sully" elevated the image of pilot from airborne bus driver to hero in one big splash down the Hudson River. Everyone in the world now knows him. But who has heard the name of the woman pilot who set her corporate jet down safely on a runway after an airborne collision with a VFR glider pilot who was not announcing his position nor operating his transponder (instrument that sends a signal to alert pilots and controllers of the aircraft's location)? Appearing in the path of the corporate aircraft (that was on an Instrument Flight Plan and talking to controllers), the glider's wing knocked the front of the nose off the jet and put the instrument panel in the Captain's chest. The glider pilot parachuted to safety leaving the wounded jet's pilots to make an emergency landing. Maybe its just because there were so few folks aboard that the media didn't pick up the story or maybe because it wasn't in full view of New York City. Women pilots were heroes back during World War II but then they faded from the limelight. It became a man's world and for those women who really wanted to break into the male dominated occupation of airline or corporate flying, it was near impossible. Even though the women were equally qualified the doors remained closed and the term "glass ceiling" was coined to reflect their upward vision but blocked pathway. Finally in the 1970s women were hired by a few of the major airlines. This plus the Equal Rights Amendment enticed corporations to take a chance and put them in the front offices of their company airplanes. Today about five percent of the professional pilot slots are held by women. The stories of these early women pilots are unique, and a new book, "Flying Above the Glass Ceiling" reveals their struggles, discrimination, determination and successes. Excuses for not hiring women included, "the passengers would get off the airplane if they saw a woman at the controls," or "we have no bathroom for women in the dispatch office," or "you'd break up a marriage." The latter assumes all women were flying just to meet men. Misconceptions of women as pilots were and still are unfounded. Author, Captain Nina Anderson said, "When I got my first flying job I was relegated to flying freight only. The owner thought he would lose customers if they flew with a female." Women airline pilots have received some notoriety, but corporate flying has been out of the media spotlight until recently. Bad press about the flagrant usage of private jets caused many flight departments to sell their airplanes and add pilots to the unemployment roster. In her book, Captain Anderson justifies the need for corporations to provide a secure and efficient method of transportation for their valuable executives. As she describes, " Sure, airline tickets cost less, but the time wasted in an airline terminal, the risk of delayed or cancelled flights, inability to work in an airliner seat and the wonder of who is sitting next to you or who snuck by security with something in their underwear, is reason enough for the company to own a plane." And, she describes what a corporate pilot does besides fly - buy food, serve food, clean up food, clean the airplane, empty the potty, and among a long list of duties, deal with passengers who need to be told their oversized trade show displays can't fit on the airplane. Not only does a corporate pilot have to excel at flying, but they also have to be a diplomat and well versed in public relations. Appreciation for pilot proficiency has been enhanced by the Hudson splashdown and a new awareness of who is in the front office of an airplane is now on most passengers' minds. Women have found their place as pilots but as the book describes, it wasn't an easy road. The early women airline and corporate pilots are the true heroes for those who are looking towards an aviation career. They forged new territory despite the constant words of discouragement and set precedence for the opportunities women have today. In this book the early women pilots share their humorous, tearful and joyous stories with the reader and beyond that they offer inspiration.