(From the Archive – 3/6/06)
There was another interesting post at AVSIM the other day, that the author also emailed to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, in which he offered suggestions for a "Wife Edition" of Flight Sim. It was full of jokes about shopping, shoes, housework, hair and make-up, etc. The full thread may be found here.
I don’t want to pick on the author, whom I’ll call "Andre" just as his parents did. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was just having a bit of innocent, if anachronistic, fun. Judging by the subsequent comments on the thread, those that responded had a good laugh along with him.
However, since the topic of women in aviation combines the two things I spend all of my time thinking about anyway, I thought maybe I’d dust off the bully pulpit and chime in.
I’ve never actually seen any customer data of ours broken down by gender, but it’s probably safe to assume that our customers are largely, probably even overwhelmingly, male.
I won’t presume to suggest that the gender distribution of our customer base breaks down the same as it does in the world of licensed pilots – for one thing, we have more customers than there are pilots in the world, so extrapolation can’t always be trusted – but it is interesting to note that, in the US, less than 6% of all licensed pilots are women.
The more interesting (or at least heartening) number to me is that 12% of all student (read: potential) pilots are women – hopefully, that figure will trickle up in the future and maybe we’ll see the overall numbers continue to slowly change.
Do I think that would be a good thing? Absolutely, if for no other reason than it would mean more women would see what they’re missing.
Regardless, it’s clear that men outnumber women in real world aviation, so it’s not likely unreasonable to assume that they do so in the virtual world as well. (Note to my long-time pal Katy Pluta: Stand fast!)
With all that in mind, here are some editions of Flight Simulator I’d like to see before we get to the Robert Young / Jane Wyatt Father Knows Best special commemorative release:
Flight Simulator 1911: The Harriet Quimby Edition – Hurry up and get your pilot’s license before men let you vote!
Flight Simulator 1921: The Bessie Coleman Edition – Learn to fly in another country, because your gender and your race prevent you from training at home.
Combat Flight Simulator 4: The Night Witches Edition – Fly as many as 10 missions a night, dead stick over enemy lines, hand dropping bombs on the enemy before gliding to safety back in the USSR – all as a woman.
Space Simulator 2: The Valentina Tereshkova / Eileen Collins Edition – Fly Vostok 6 and the US Shuttles Discovery and Columbia on critically low levels of testosterone. (We could also do a pretty interesting Mercury 13 add-on.)
Flight Simulator 2006: The Nicole Malachowski Edition – After working your way up through US Air Force pilot training and becoming an instructor on the F-15E Strike Eagle, transition to the F-16C, and try your hand as Thunderbird 3. (By coincidence, Malachowski is Polish for "Better pilot than you.")
I could go on and on, especially if the criteria were expanded to include some women who may not be quite as famous, yet . . . Anne, Laurel, Bette, Michelle, Beth, Kirstin, Jennifer, etc. In the meantime, at least Flight Simulator 2004 includes nods to Amelia, Patty, and Martha.
With that, I suppose I have made my point with typically clumsy sincerity. Special thanks to my wife (the world’s best navigator) and all my girlfriends for appreciating aviation, even when it doesn’t happen to be pink and covered with butterflies.