Aviation & Gender | Imagining a Day When it Doesn’t Matter

Aviation & Gender | Imagining a Day When it Doesn’t Matter

On April 17, Southwest Flight 1380 experienced a catastrophic engine failure, which resulted in the crew making an emergency descent and landing at Philadelphia. In the wake of the incident, Captain Tammie Jo Shults has been applauded for her professionalism and cool-under-pressure handling of the situation. Thanks to social media and widespread access to the ATC recording, the story of the “badass” former Navy pilot saving the day received extensive coverage in the news. I would imagine she is surprised and perhaps bemused by the attention heaped on her in the aftermath. One of the first U.S. Navy F/18 female pilots, she did exactly what a highly trained pro would do when faced with an engine failure, rapid depressurization, and damaged airframe. Gender had nothing to do with it; training and experience did. I hope every little girl who looks up when a plane flies over now knows the name Tammi Jo Shults. 

A question I’m asked often: why aren’t there more women in aviation? In the United States, while women make up about half of the overall workforce, professional female pilots represent about 5 percent of the pro pilot ranks, a stubborn statistic that has barely moved since I soloed in the early 1990s. In STEM fields, women are more prevalent: more than half of medical school students are women and engineering is attracting an increasing percentage. The barriers to the flightdeck, whether explicit or implicit, are real, and we all have a responsibility to keep chipping away at it. Sadly, in 2018, I still experience bias as a professional in this industry and when I fly. Just last week while on a trip, I asked an FBO customer service rep how they were coming on the fuel order for N*****, as it appeared every aircraft was receiving service but mine. The rep snapped back, “We’re waiting for the pilot to get here to confirm it.” When I replied that I was the pilot, the CSR said incredulously, “Really!?” A young male pilot standing nearby, clearly embarrassed for me, leaned in and whispered, “Sorry.” 

What’s my remedy? Do everything I can to encourage young women pursuing careers in aviation. Also, raise strong daughters who believe the sky is not the limit, including a Naval Academy aeronautical engineer who is on her way to becoming a “badass” Navy pilot. 

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Introducing T & T’s New Editor: Rebecca Groom Jacobs

More than 20 years ago, Bob Goff, then the conceiver, owner and publisher of Twin & Turbine approached me about becoming the editor of the industry’s only magazine focused on the accomplished owner-pilot flying cabin-class twins and turbine aircraft. At the time, I was a young woman armed with a journalism degree, instrument rating and about 10 years of professional experience writing for Beechcraft, Learjet and several other general aviation companies. 

To be hired as editor of a prominent business aviation magazine was nirvana. Looking back, I have to give huge credit to Bob for not only having confidence in my abilities, but to hire me when there were few, if any, women at the helm of any aviation publication. 

Now it is time to turn the page once more. On April 1, I accepted the position of executive director of the Malibu/M-Class Owners & Pilots Association (MMOPA). With the current director retiring, and having served as its magazine editor since 2016, it was a fantastic opportunity to put my business knowledge, aviation experience and marketing acumen to work for one of the preeminent owner-pilot groups in the industry. 

I am pleased to share that Rebecca Groom Jacobs will be assuming the role of editor, starting with the June issue. Raised around general aviation, Rebecca comes with an impressive background in the industry. While still in college, she learned to fly in a Piper J-3 Cub. Following graduation, Rebecca began her professional career with Piper Aircraft. It was during this time that Rebecca uncovered her passion and talent for writing. She was tasked with creating copy for Piper’s website, direct mails, and advertisements.

In 2014, Rebecca joined Sullivan Higdon & Sink, an aviation-centric advertising agency in Wichita, KS, where she worked with major OEMs, most notably Textron Aviation. In addition to providing strategy and branding input, she headed the team’s press relations and social media efforts. During her tenure there, Rebecca completed projects with Cessna, Beechcraft, Piper Aircraft, Doc’s Friends, Pratt & Whitney and several others.

Over the last year, Rebecca has been a key contributor to Twin & Turbine and has demonstrated her passion for aviation and our readership. I am honored to pass the baton to such a capable and talented writer and editor. What’s exciting for me is that Rebecca is close to the age I was when Bob Goff first hired me. It is rewarding to pass the baton to someone (and a female pilot to boot) who will bring professionalism and energy to the pages of this magazine.

I hope to continue to write for T & T, as I remain forever loyal to this magazine, its readers and its mission. Thank you again for your support through the years. 

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