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.”