I’ve mentioned before that the figures from AOPA about the number of female PPL holders are truly shocking. 6%.
That astounds me. I still don’t quite get it. It means that in some aspects I’m still quite a novelty in the air.
And on the ground as well it might seem. I was sat at the flight school with my epic stack of paperwork in front of me, quietly contemplating the horror awaiting me. Namely my first solo cross country flight.
People walked by, some stopped to chat, to commiserate, to offer advice. Some I recognised, others not so much.
One blonde, middle aged woman wandered passed with instructor in tow. We exchanged pleasantries. “Studying hard?” She enquired, nodding at my ever increasing stack of paperwork. “Hmm, not really, “I whimpered. “Flight planning, cross country, solo” I explained.
“Oh. WOW.” She exclaimed. She opened her mouth to say something else but her instructor returned. I lost track of her for a while.
A little later she emerged from the classroom. We spoke again, briefly. I’ll admit that I wasn’t my usual chatty, exuberant self. Preoccupied would be a better description.
Obviously she is just at the start of her journey as her instructor arrived brandishing the PSTAR test folder.
I wished her luck as she set off to attempt it. I went back to having my angst attack over contemplating this flight.
After a short while she emerged, test finished. She looked at me one last time and said “I just wanted to say, well done. Doing it for the girls. Good on you.”
I really didn’t know what to say. Coherent conversation wasn’t top of my list of priorities at the time. But now looking back, I can kind of imagine what was going through her mind. When you are still trying to figure out how to make the plane go forward, the students who go off and fly places on their own seem like gods. You never, ever think you’ll get to that stage.
To see someone who has, who you can relate to in some small way, helps enormously. It gives you a goal, a feeling of the fun stuff that lies ahead. Something to aspire to.
Somehow, even when I was at my very worst (believe me I was in a terrible state!) I managed to act as a small spark of inspiration to someone I’d never met before.
I’d like to think that I am “doing it for the girls”, that eventually that 6% will get closer to the 50% it should be. At the moment though, I guess I’ll just carry on feeling that little bit guilty everytime I rely on being the novelty female to get me what I want. Whether it’s the nice gentlemen at the uncontrolled airport delaying their takeoff to give me plenty of time to land when I admitted it was my first time there solo. Or sweet talking the Unicom in to giving me directions to a parking spot.
I’m doing it for the girls.