More Women Pilots Flying

female student pilot doing preflight inspection

Women student pilot numbers are up dramatically in the past few years - photo Brandon Farris

By Gaby Merediz

In 1934, Helen Richey became the first female commercial pilot to be hired by a major airline. Since then, women are slowly but surely gaining more influence in the industry. It’s true that in the largely male-dominated aviation field, women are gaining numbers and credentials more than ever before. The FAA recently reported that in the past 11 years the number of female pilots has increased by almost 20 percent, while the number of male pilots has decreased. In addition, the number of women with Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificates—the highest level of aircraft pilot license available—has increased by 35 percent. Although a year ago female pilots with ATP certificates still only made up 6.7 percent of the total number of certified pilots recorded by the FAA, the number is growing, while the number of men with ATP certificates is dropping.

This shows that women are advancing not only in numbers but in their expertise. ATP-certified pilots must have demonstrated their skill and ability on the flight deck and pass a written exam and a flight test. Only pilots with an ATP certificate can command large aircraft with more than nine seats.

The beginning of the 21st century has also seen more women enter fields related to aviation. In ground instruction, for example, their numbers increased more than 14 percent. The number of female flight instructors also increased. One of the largest leaps was in the number of female dispatchers, which increased by 71 percent. The number of women holding jobs in aviation mechanics and repair has also risen dramatically.

However, it may be a long time before it becomes common to hear a woman’s voice come over the intercom when the captain welcomes the passengers to a flight. Flight training is a long and demanding process; it can take women away from their families for extended periods of time, making it a less desirable option for many women. In addition, pilot training is expensive. Many pilots get their start in the military, which means they don’t have to put as much money into their training. But women account for less than five percent of the pilots in the U.S. Air Force. Many of the men in the industry who were part of all-male pilot unions have retired, and many women who are pilots today explain that the industry is welcoming and accessible to both women and men. Women are breaking records in the field, and if current trends continue, the numbers will continue to soar.


Bio: Gaby Merediz is a freelance writer located in Wilmington, NC. With a background in journalism and art, she can spin any story into an informative news article or a creative, witty commentary. In addition to writing, her passion for the arts has led her into a successful career as a portrait painter. When she isn’t at her computer writing for her clients or working on commissions, she’s either playing with her two young sons (or trying to get them to take the ever-elusive nap) or blogging about natural living, parenting, and the chaos that is being a work-at-home mom at

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