The “Watch This” Factor

Because my daughter “Super Girl” is a new pilot and will hopefully be accompanying me on an overseas ferry trip this fall an article in Winged Victory:Women in webzine caught my eye.  It looks into the effects that gender plays in pilot error induced crashes.

  • Studies have shown variation in aptitudes, skills and cognitive abilities between men and women with the largest cognitive gender differences being in visual-spatial abilities. Apparently, research has proven that males possess greater visual–spatial skills than females but females may have better verbal skills than males. The former skills would be important when it comes to take offs and landing procedures, traffic avoidance and basic maneuvering of the aircraft while the later skills would be important to maintain safe air traffic control communication along with cockpit crew coordination.

  • Another study has found that the most common cause of crashes was loss of control during take offs or landings with 59% of female accidents and 36% of male accidents happening with either as a cause. Moreover, female pilots were found to crash more due to mishandling the aircraft while male pilots were found to crash more due to inattention and/or flawed decision making.

  • The ratio of pilot error between male and female pilot (from 1983 to 2002) reveals that female pilots may have a slightly higher proportion of pilot errors but another recent study found that male general aviation pilots were more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than their female counterparts. Those results support another finding that male general aviation pilots take more risks than female pilots and hence, have more fatal accidents.

The results seem to be that men are better stick and rudder pilots, the actual flying part of flying, and women are better at communication, the talking part of flying.  I’ve known and trained lot of pilots over the years and with a few exceptions I think the conclusions are fair.  The female flight instructor with 500 hours who when I was checking her out in my Cessna 182 porpoised her first solo landing that she ruined the prop and bent the firewall.  OK to be fair I’ve had 4 of my planes damaged or destroyed by dumb ass pilots and only one was female but that fact doesn’t fit with my male chauvinistic attitude so I will ignore it for now.  Of course their are exceptions to every rule, “Super Girl” is a great pilot with a natural feel for the aircraft and cool head.  The fact that she’s been flying with me since she was a little girl probably helped.  The final conclusion in the study is that female pilots have slightly more pilot error accidents but male pilots are more likely to get themselves killed.  This fact is easily explained.  When women fly it’s all business and no screwing around and when men fly too often it’s the exact opposite.  So you have to ask yourself, who do you want sitting up front on your next flight?

“We no longer call it the cockpit – it’s the box office.”


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