FAA Urged To Do Gender-Neutral Rewrite


An FAA committee is recommending the agency adopt gender-neutral terminology systemwide to purge its millions of pages of regulations, reports and correspondence of terms like cockpit, airman and even NOTAM. The FAA Drone Advisory Committee Task Group 10, which was co-chaired by AOPA President Mark Baker and Patricia Gilbert, executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, tabled the hefty report at the June 23 meeting of the drone committee as a step toward “modeling the leadership and behaviors that will build a more inclusive aviation community.” It even included a style guide for those tasked with the monumental chore of doing the edit.

Since it was part of the drone committee the task force first tackled the dominantly male nomenclature that has become established in the relatively new lexicon supporting the pilotless aircraft industry. The committee says “drone” is the perfect catchall genderless term for all aircraft for which there is no onboard pilot. “We believe that this is a useful and increasingly widely used word that encompasses all of the various flight and control modes (from remotely piloted to fully autonomous) and aircraft types that currently fall under the category of ‘unmanned,’” the committee’s recommendations said. Other countries have gone with RPAS, for Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems, but that doesn’t capture autonomous vehicles.

As for the rest of aviation, the committee admitted the challenges are greater and the implementation more complex, but it also said that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t move forward. Obvious sticking points like “airman” and “cockpit” would be replaced by the obvious “flight deck” and slightly less obvious “aviator.” But aviator works better in some downstream applications like the replacement for NOTAM. The committee says that should go to “NOTAV,” short for Notice to All Aviators. There’s also an escape clause for the committee’s recommendations. It says the world and technology are changing so the new terms can’t be set in stone. “These recommendations must be harmonized with other aviation terminology initiatives,” the report says.

Various groups have been advocating for this kind of change and Mireille Goyer, president of the Institute for Women of Aviation Worldwide, said it’s definitely a step in the right direction. “Gender is an essential part of a person’s identity,” she said. “Gender-exclusive words deter minority entrants and erode the sense of belonging among the minority. Years of relentless advocacy are paying off. We are proud that, thanks to our efforts, common sense is taking precedent over tradition.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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    • To be honest I think this is of near zero importance but I did feel the term ‘airman’ was odd and archaic and probably should have been retired long ago.

      With that said I’m glad all the real and important problems of life on Earth have been solved so our elected and appointed officials can focus on item like this…

        • 1That is 33 minutes longer than it should have! What a waste of time for people that are supposed to make flying safer!

    • The term “mankind” is a gender neutral term; the term “unmanned” also covers both genders.

      • Only if you understand English grammar. Most people these days got a participation trophy and a self-esteem “A” in English.

  1. Another woke joke from the really stupid folk.

    The number of people they are trying not to offend are outnumbered a thousand fold by the rest of us who are offended that this is even an issue.

    • And that, perhaps, is exactly why males dominate females in this field with attitudes like that.

      • Absolute hogwash. This gender crap has nothing to do with why women are in the cockpit. It’s their choice….. period.

      • Unlikely that a woman with a drive and personality to be a pilot would be put off by such minutia.

        • Maybe, maybe not, but the sexism of many male pilots (re: the ones who use the phrase “women aren’t allowed on the flight deck because it’s a cock-pit”, etc) is certainly off-putting. Changing the terminology won’t correct this (the sexist pilots will still just refer to the original terms), but there’s no sense compounding it either. Besides, changing things like “airman” to “aviator” makes more sense than changing “student” to “learner” or “biennial flight review” to just “flight review”, and those are changes that have already been made.

  2. I will feel so much safer flying on the airlines now knowing that the FAA is really on top critical things like this. They have been wasting far too much time on silly stuff like safety, aircraft inspections and other such nonsense. BTW, I thought of another term for the place where the pilots sit, but it’s not gender neutral either and AV Web would definitely not publish it.

    • Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? This nonsense is an insult to all the wonderful ladies I have met who joyfully fly along ignoring the petty gender bias of aviation or, in fact, see it as a challenge that just makes it that much more fun.

  3. What the H is our country evolving into? This is pathetic. Democrats and their pandering is beyond embarrassment.

      • Exactly. It doesn’t. In fact the committee was co-chaired by “AOPA President Mark Baker and Patricia Gilbert, executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association”, neither of whom are known to be partisans. The crotchety old armchair quarterbacks who fear any kind of change and love to gripe on AvWeb are the ones calling it “Democrat pandering”.

    • It’s pretty much over Doug.

      I think it will take a catastrophe such as war or recession to drive the political pendulum to the right far enough to make it in the center.

  4. Typical governmental do-gooder ignorance of the facts. Initially, the word cockswain is used to describe the person in charge of a small vessel. The title comes to us from “cock,” an Old English term for a small boat, and “swain,” which means servant. A cockswain is a boat servant. Over time, this title led to the steering compartment of smaller boats, where the cockswain sat, being called a cockpit. As many nautical terms were adopted to a fledgling aviation community, this is most likely the reason for the use of the word today. They have to justify not only their jobs, but their existence.

  5. Us women have been successfully flying airplanes for over 100 years, well before the FAA was even formed. FAA verbiage has never stopped us. Can we lease spend these tax dollars on something useful?

  6. God created Eternity, Humans created time.
    God created 2 genders, Man and Woman. Humans created “more”.
    God created humans. Humans are trying to kill God.
    The FAA can’t manage themselves. Snowflakes now seem to control the FAA.

    • Actually, humans created god. Or more accurately, humans created thousands of gods, but the plurality of religious people in this country decided to settle on one version of a single god who conveniently happens to be male, which explains why so many people commenting here are offended by any movement to reverse 250 years of inequality. Also, there are more than 2 genders. There are at least 54 known genetic genders (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sex-redefined-the-idea-of-2-sexes-is-overly-simplistic1/), and the fact that humans are getting smarter and starting to recognize these variations as natural instead of being threatened by them is actually a good thing (after all, didn’t your “god” create all life including these gender variations?)

      Seems to me that the real “snowflakes” (what a stupid term) are the folks who comment on AvWeb and seem to be afraid of the possibility that much of what they were taught growing up might be wrong.

  7. I gotta say, I always kinda liked considering myself an Aviator. Seemed kinda Wright Brotherish somehow.

  8. What a load of crap!
    Can’t believe AOPA is part of this! I might have to rethink my membership.
    I will buy off that the other gender is equal when they can beat me at arm wrestling!

  9. After I finished reading this article the old expression “Dumber than a fishing.worm!!” came to mind.

  10. Mostly seems pretty sensible, but…

    When did “cockpit” become a gender-specific term? It’s no more gender-specific than “aileron.”

    If the people doing the rewrite think this is a gender-specific term, perhaps they shouldn’t be editing documents written in English.

    • Never mind… it seems the editors know perfectly well, but we have male pilots out there who don’t, and who have been telling women aviators that they don’t belong on the flight deck because it’s a… cock-pit.

      You know who you are.

      • Sadly, a majority of them will probably claim the excuse “I was just joking” when called out on it. I suspect they’re the same ones that get offended if they’re told they’re “acting like a girl” – suddenly gender-specific terminology offends them.

  11. To be honest I think this is of near zero importance but I did feel the term ‘airman’ was odd and archaic and probably should have been retired long ago.

    With that said I’m glad all the real and important problems of life on Earth have been solved so our elected and appointed officials can focus on item like this…

  12. Some of my best students were women. None of them could have cared less about the so called gender bias of the terminology.

    This is 2021. Can’t we just be intelligent enough to know there’s a difference between etymology and the relevance of a word’s use today? For God’s sake, these terms are not being used to boast male dominance on a grand scale, they just originated at a different time and have woven their way into the fabric of aviation.

    Also, how many are actually hurt by these terms? Poor poor babies! Trying to change them now for the sake of political correctness is unnecessary and a colossal waste of resources.

  13. Glad to see my tax dollars being spent intelligently, fixing the broken bureaucracy of the FAA, which has been failing at its most important mission very publicly lately, instead of wasting time addressing meaningless gripes about inconsequential things.

  14. Wow! Now to form a business entity to bid on the government contract to overhaul all the FAA’s documentation… First order of business, recruit a woman CEO to maximize favorable consideration. The project will be completed a year or so late, a coupla three million$$$ over budget, and by the time oversight is applied, my “team” and I will have relocated to an extradition-free nation. Someplace nice, like Cape Verde. OK ladies, who’s in?

  15. Reading only the story title above it was immediately clear that this comment section would be full of the usual suspects howling out their gender insecurity. And none of you disappointed. Methinks you ladies protest too much. What an entertaining hoot. You really flushed them out of the woodwork this time Russ.

    • It’s funny how one can guess exactly who would comment here, and what they would say. The gender insecure snowflakes are very predictable.

    • No, we’re howling about people financially hurting aviation for zero tangible benefit. The FAA needs to stop their recent trend of high costs and imposing nonsense.

      • The real problem is that they would have to spend any significant amount of money to do this. Finding replacement words should be quick and easy and cost nothing. Notice to Aviators is fine, so is Notice To Pilots. This isn’t hard. They can be phased in as publications are revised at little to no cost. Drone is a better term for what everyone except the FAA calls a drone anyway.

        I look forward to the change away from the term Notice To Airmen as part of the complete overhaul of the NOTAM system. “They’re garbage, that’s what they are.” So lets fix them, and at the end to celebrate we can rename them while we’re at it.

  16. When are we going to realize the men and women ARE different. However, we all have the same opportunity…. well, not any more. Women and minorities CLEARLY have the advantage and have so for the past 50 years. Can we just get back to neutral?

    • If “women and minorities have the advantage”, then why aren’t all fields supporting equality dominated by women and minorities by now? 50 years should have been enough for the fields to become dominated by them by now, no?

      • Who says they’re not? Economist Mark Perry thinks it’s a question of what you focus on. He recently published this chart, with data sources:

        There is plenty of solid evidence that men face substantial and multifaceted institutional and structural disadvantages in our society, few of which are discussed or even recognized. Instead, there is persistent focus on the advantages they have (or had, 50 or 100 years ago).

        None of which means we should be disrespectful towards, dismissive of, or anything other than encouraging and welcoming to women who want to fly.

  17. No wonder it’s taking SO long to get something going on MOSAIC !

    I’m now going to rethink retaining my membership in AOPA.

  18. I have no issue changing terms that some reasonable amount of people find sexist.

    I have big issues with what now seems to be a large amount of professional trouble makers demanding unneeded changes that cause more problems than they solve. Isn’t it supposed to be necessary to show a benefit to these policies? Changing “cockpit” will only create reactionary sexism, alienate older pilots, waste time, and waste resources. The jerks will have no problem finding other word games so what real value has been created?

    The only value these demanding Twitterphiles provide is to signal where too much money is being spent on payroll. (I’m looking at you government, academia, and big corporations). The latest stupidity is “birthing person”. They’ve finally crossed the line with that one, and it’s hopefully going to end this trend. How fantastically stupid does someone have to be to think they can change a word that is defined by almost every newborn when they make one of the first syllables they can while looking at their ma, mama, mom…?


  19. Let’s start at square one. What real evidence is there that this will make any difference? Where is the scientific data? Where are the studies that will justify this?

    If there’s no data then this is all unreasonable.

  20. “Airman” is a gender neutral term unless the PC crowd thinks “Woman” is a masculine term. Both Airman and Woman have the second syllable as “man”…. .

    “Aviator” is somewhat gender neutral but is more masculine than Airman. Aviator is not exactly a gender neutral term because “Aviatrix”…….is specific to women. There are no male Aviatrix’s (with a few exceptions).

    I grew up surrounded by women pilots . My mother earned her Private Pilot ticket in 1942. She used her auto gas ration-stamps to buy fuel for the Taylorcraft that she learned to fly in. My mother was a charter member of the Michigan 99’s. In October 1946, just 2 months after Hiroshima my mother moved from Detroit to Northern Michigan where she opened the first civilian airport in the community. All of the Michigan 99’s flew to Northern Michigan for gala event. My mothers favorite pilot was Jackie Cochran. In the 1950’s and 1960’s My brother and I attended countless 99er air races and functions where the flying was all about women. It was wonderful. Although I can not speak for these women pilots today, because most have passed, I can say with certainty that they were proud to be called Aviatrix’s and Airman.

    God bless.

  21. I’m all for this. There’s a reason that flying is a male-dominated hobby and profession, and if changing a few words here and there helps make aviation seem more inclusive (or more accurately, less exclusive) for half of the population, do it! It doesn’t hurt anyone (other than, apparently, the feeling of a lot of men).

    • Do you actually think that changing a few trigger words is going to cause a stampede of women to enter the world of aviation? Seriously? Wow.

      • Well, when your political power is dependent on having victims, you need to invent them where none exist.

    • Bryan, people who say that flying is “male dominated” show that they neither have a grasp of language nor actually care about offending one gender.

      An yes, changing the verbiage in every regulation, AIM and training course does hurt people financially and for zero gain. Doing so hurts aviation.

    • My granddad’s first flight instructor in 1941 was a woman. My first flight instructor in 1989 was a woman. Women have always been making their mark in aviation. I fly with outstanding female FOs all the time. I have no doubt that there still is a boy’s club mentality in some sectors, but that is declining as time goes on. In the 121 world at least, there’s never been a better time to be a woman. The problem lies in parents and schools who don’t even tell girls that something like aviation is an option. Even in 2021, I still hear college girls who make no bones about the fact that they’re going to college for their MRS degree. And these are girls who have the intelligence and resources to pursue any field they want. Terminology isn’t keeping women from pursuing aviation.

  22. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the really important stuff like MOSAIC. Why? My smart phone has more aviation navigation and safety features than all of my TSO’d avionics in my certificated aircraft combined and by a wide margin. I dropped AOPA membership a loooong time ago over other issues, and I see there still isn’t a good reason to come back. Hint: If you’re p*ssing off a large part of the community with your proposal, are you really trying to be inclusive? Because that’s the opposite of inclusive. But it makes sense in the context of 1984 with the Ministries of Truth, Love, Peace, and Plenty where the reality is the polar opposite.

  23. Here’s a thought…instead of changing the term NOTAM, how about they actually, you know, fix the NOTAM system? I know very few male pilots who don’t want to see more women in aviation. There’s bubbas in every industry, but they’re getting fewer all the time. The women aviators I know don’t give a flying f#$^ about gender neutral terminology. It’s not terminology that’s keeping the female pilot population low. It’s parents and schools who, even in 2021 aren’t telling their girls that it’s an option.