AVmail: May 23, 2011
Letter of the Week: Gender Shift Explained
Regarding the story "Gender Shift In Aviation": There's an explanation in the footnotes.
In the tables published by the FAA in 2010, I did take notice of the big jump in the total number of women pilots from 36,808 in 2009 to 42,218 in 2010. When I noticed that most of the increase was driven by a 74% increase of women student pilots, I was even more excited.
As we celebrated the Centennial of Women Pilots in 2010 and the first annual Women of Aviation Worldwide Week in 2011, I, along with many women and men in the U.S. and around the world, spent countless volunteer hours raising awareness and introducing girls and women to aviation to try to change the historical trends. Could it be that our cumulative effort had such a positive effect?
However, as one of 5,580 women pilots holding ATP certificates in 2010 (just 3.9% of all ATP certificates), I have been well trained to always read the small notes, and they clearly explain that the jump in number of student pilot certificates is due to the change in duration of the student pilot certificate from 24 months to 60 months.
There is no doubt that the participation of women is increasing in commercial flying, from 3.1% of the ATP pilot population in 2000 (4,411 out of 141,596) to 3.9% in 2010 (5,580 out of 142,198) and from 4.76% of the commercial pilot population in 2000 (5,807 out of 121,858) to 6.6% in 2010 (8,175 out of 123,705). But let's not lose sight that in 1980, more than 30 years ago, the female pilot population in the U.S. totaled 52,902 (6.4% of the pilot population). In 2009, before the numbers were skewed by the change of the student pilot certificate validity period, women pilots totaled 36,808 (6.2% of the pilot population). There has been no real change in trends in the last 30 years. Much has yet to be done to change that reality.
Some claim that women will never constitute 50% of the aviation population for various reasons. 100 years ago, similar claims were made when only 5% of car drivers were women. However, today, a little over 50% of the people holding a driver's license are women.
Just as the illusion of safety in GA recently discussed in AVweb is believed to hamper the popularity of aviation among the general population, I believe that the illusion of significant progress in terms of the participation of women could deter the much-needed industry effort to encourage more women to participate.
Feathering Is a Real Drag — Or Not
Your story on the SpaceShipTwo drop test with "feathering" repeats something I've seen a lot and that I think is erroneous — an assertion that the Rutan design's re-entry mode is slow because of drag created by the rotated tail section.
Specifically, you said that on reentry, the ship is "...descending, almost vertically, at around 15,500 feet per minute, slowed by the powerful shuttlecock-like drag created by the raised tail section." I think it's pretty clear that the drag is caused by the flat belly of the ship in the relative wind and that the rotated or "feathered" tail section just stabilizes the ship in that belly-first position.
A shuttlecock, by comparison, does get its drag from its tailfeathers. Your description would be accurate if it said "raised tail configuration" instead of "raised tail section."
Diamond vs. Canada
While I don't know the particulars of the situation with Diamond, government funding is critical to aircraft manufacturers, especially during vulnerable stages such as start-up of a new company or a new project.
As an electric aircraft start-up owner, I can vouch that having government support is essential. These economic times are shaky, and getting a good deal out of the private sector is difficult and risky at the same time. Just look at Cirrus.
Government support should be considered if the company can make a reasonable business case and there is a reasonable chance of paying back the loan.
No, no, no. General Motors should not have gotten a bail-out, either — nor should taxpayers' money be used for sports stadiums. If you can't survive in aviation manufacturing, maybe you need to be in another business.
It would be interesting to speculate whether Diamond would have been successful in securing the federal government loan had the factory been located in the province of Quebec.
In Canada, it seems there is nothing a Quebec-based business wants that will be denied by the federal government. Bombardier has been the recipient of massive loans and outright government subsidies since it entered the aviation business. This is bribery paid to Quebec to buy loyalty from its citizens.
Diamond doesn't get this treatment as a foreign-owned company, despite the fact that it is a solid employer of Canadians and brings superb technical expertise to the Canadian aviation market. It is fundamentally unfair that Bombardier has benefited from Canadian government largesse while Diamond is potentially allowed to lie fallow.