Why are there so few women pilots on commercial airlines?



Have you ever entered a commercial aircraft, fastened your seat belt, and heard a female announce, “Hello, this is your captain speaking”? Chances are, you haven’t.


There are very few women captains piloting commercial planes, and the situation is not likely to alter much in the near future, even though there are more women who are first or second officers today. The demand for pilot jobs is immense, but there is a finite number of opportunities.


The founders and present-day executives of most of the major airlines have military backgrounds . Many of them saw and see their companies as paramilitary organizations. Traditionally, the talent pool for commercial airplane employment has been the military. The airlines were able to pick the cream of the crop from air force, navy, and marine ranks, pilots with thousands of hours of pilot-in-command time and experience with aircraft more sophisticated than they will probably ever be asked to fly as civilians.


 The academic curriculum of the military also tends to be more comprehensive than civilian education . Given an “all else being equal” alternative, how could the airlines be criticized for selecting the right stuff when the competition is mostly (male and female) flight instructors and corporate pilots?


Ever since the WASPS of World War II, women have flown transport planes for the military, but they have not seen combat action. There is no pressure on the military to change this policy. As a result, women (and nonmilitary men) are usually forced to pay for their own training, and to receive flight education that might be perfectly adequate, but less wide ranging and glamorous than their military counterparts.


WASPS from World War II did not break into commercial piloting. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that a woman attained the rank of captain at a large commercial airline, when Emily Howell broke the ranks at Frontier Airlines.


Obviously, cultural gender stereotypes are an important reason why there aren’t more women pilots. There are many other physical, hands-on technical jobs that have not attracted women. Women haven’t traditionally flocked into the ranks of civil engineers, for example. But when affirmative action legislation was passed, the airlines were on shaky grounds on their hiring history of all minorities, and greater attention was given to all minority applicants.


With the opening of doors to nontraditional candidates, the mix of military- to civilian-trained pilots also changed, so that now about half of all commercial airline pilots are trained outside of the military. Although it may be harder, financially and psychologically, for women to achieve the same level of piloting training as men, qualified women, if anything, have an advantage over men. The airlines look for qualified women----—if not for altruistic reasons (they could face the prospect of government and class action discrimination suits), then for practical ones.


Some sources, off the record, indicated that the airlines think that customers feel insecure with women pilots. Passengers, so the theory goes, feel queasy when they hear a female voice announcing she is commanding the plane---—some out of sheer sexism, others because they assume that no female could have enough experience to warrant having their lives in her hands.


In The Right Stuff Tom Wolfe talks about how pilots everywhere emulated test pilot Chuck Yeager’s verbal bedside manner. Pilots still imitate him . If our plane plummets thousands of feet, we can expect a husky male voice to drawl nonchalantly, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing mild turbulence. I’d recommend you keep your seat belts fastened until we correct this inconvenience. Isn’t that a lovely view of Lake George on the right?”


This is our image of pilots.


They are daring and macho, but also comforting and endlessly secure and confident. The notion of women pilots clashes with all sorts of cultural stereotypes. With far fewer opportunities to receive comparable training and little incentive or pressure on airlines to change hiring practices, the prospect for rapid change is small. Airline companies may now encourage men to hand out complimentary macadamias in the aisles, but women aren’t particularly wanted in the cockpit.





Is there any difference between

 toffee and caramels?


Not much. They share the same ingredients: sugars (usually including dextrose and corn syrup); milk; butter and other vegetable fats. Toffee has a higher butter and cream content than caramels.


The major difference between the two candies is that the toffee is processed to a higher temperature than caramels . Not only does this higher temperature make toffee harder than caramel, it helps create the distinctive toffee taste.




Why aren’t there seat belts in taxicabs?

 

Actually, there usually are seat belts in taxis . If you dare reach under the seat cushion, you might find a seat belt among the debris.

 

Taxis, like all automobiles, are required by federal law to be equipped with seat belts when they leave the factory. But most taxi commissions do not prohibit removal of seat belts.

 

Passengers hurriedly piling into back seats for short hauls find buckles more of a nuisance than a necessity. Even in localities that require seat belts in taxis, most cab drivers find that the path of least resistance is to hide seat belts behind the seat cushion---—there is no law that seat belts must be easy to find.

 

Many states have recently enacted laws requiring the use of seat belts by all occupants of cars, but taxis are usually excluded from such legislation and taxi jump seats always have been specifically exempted from needing seat belts.

 

Only when passengers demand and use seat belts will you find them in every taxi in the United States.

 


 

Why don’t cats like to swim?

 

Many people think that cats are afraid of water. They’re not. Occasionally, one can see a cat pounce spontaneously into the water.

 

Marlin Perkins fans can attest to the fact that many of cats’ larger relatives, such as tigers and jaguars, love to swim . Jaguars are even known to dive into rivers and streams and attack alligators.

 

Abandoned house cats will dive into water to do a little fishing. So why isn’t your cat likely to stick a paw into your back-yard pool? For the same reasons your cat always drives you nuts: He has a cleanliness fetish, and he’s lazy. Your cat, unlike your dog, refuses to have a good time and pay the piper. He won’t get wet because he figures that it isn’t worth the effort needed to dry and clean himself with his tongue to enjoy something as superficial as a marine frolic.

 

Unless you starve him and stock your pool with live herring, your cat is likely to remain landlocked.

 


 

Why do pennies and nickels have smooth edges?

 Why do all other U.S. coins have serrated edges?

 

The first generation of United States coins had smooth edges.

 

It wasn’t until the use of the steam press that it became technologically and economically feasible to create coins with reeded edges.

 

The serrated edges are not there for ornamentation. Back in the “good old days” when coins were made out of silver or gold and actually had intrinsic value, nefarious types used to pull a favorite scam. They would file or clip the edges off coins.

 

If they were diligent in their work and had access to enough coins, they could collect the valuable silver or gold chips and then palm off the amputated coin for its face value, turning a tidy little profit.

 

 

Milled edges proved to be an excellent deterrent, safe-guarding the integrity of the legal weight of the coin by making it obvious to the recipient whether or not the coin had been tampered with.

 

If a silver dollar had a smooth edge, a banker or merchant would know that some miscreant had scraped it, and could refuse to accept it.

 

Although many superstitious people tear corners off dollar bills, the paper itself was never purported to have intrinsic value---—only the promise of the United States government to redeem it. Bearers of silver or gold coins, however, clung to the notion of today’s survivalists ---—that even if the federal government went down the tubes, gold would still be “worth its weight in gold.”

 

The 20-cent piece is the only United States silver or gold coin with a smooth edge. Most have reeded edges, but many early gold and silver coins have lettering (e.g., ONE HUNDRED CENTS ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT) and a few have decorative designs.

 

After World War II, when the supply of silver fell and its price zoomed internationally, most countries eliminated or substantially reduced the silver content in their coins and used gold only for medals and commemorative coins aimed at numismatists and investors.

 

In 1965, the United States took this measure, and many coin collectors hoarded silver coins, figuring that any silver coin would soon be valuable when the country was flooded with copper-nickel coins. Their optimism was justified but most premature. When speculation hit its peak, with silver selling for $50 an ounce before the Nelson Hunt fiasco, pre-1965 coins were sold like scrap metal; the price rise had rendered the small differences in value between common coins obsolete. All pre-1965 Roosevelt dimes, for example, sold for more than the most valuable circulated dime was worth before the silver craze.

 

Silver is now selling for slightly more than one-tenth of what it fetched less than five years ago. The silver content of pre-1965 coins still exceeds their face value, so there is no reason for anyone to deface them. But there is also no need for the reeded edges to remain on American dimes, quarters, half dollars, and “silver” dollars. The copper-nickel isn’t worth clipping--—would-be criminals would be better off using metal detectors at the beach. Out of custom and inertia, the reeded edges remain on American coins, a nostalgic throwback to when there was a correlation between the actual and purported value of American money.



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