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OK all you male flight simmers and real world pilots out there, this article is directed at you.  Remember being at parties, hanging out for awhile, and eventually asking that question that seemed to have no answer, “Where’s all the girl’s!”  I had been to a few where the word had definitely not gotten around as much as it should have!  I had been to a few that were certainly lopsided as far as the genders went!  I find myself asking the same question these days, this time though, it concerns the flight sim community of virtual pilots.  Where’s all the female simmers?  Let me clarify here that my concern is not of the nature of trying to meet women, for I have a fantastic wife! It’s about the great things that this hobby of ours has to offer to both genders, not just us “guys”!

I started pondering this question after I had my nieces over for the weekend.  I have four nieces that live close by, and I’m fortunate that they like to visit their “Uncle” and
“Auntie” often!  Their ages are 10, 12, 16, and 24. The 24 year old isn’t that interested in flight simming but bought me a very nice joystick anyway, so she gets an honorable mention!   When the arrive, one of the first things they do after checking on the chickens and birds that we have, is to ask if they can “play the flying game”.  Arrggghhh!  The first thing I do, and this is just an automatic response at this point, is state that it’s not a game, it’s a simulator!  I suppose most of you out there can sympathize here!  This is said as I usher them into the office for a flight at the computer.  As long as they want to fly, that’s what counts, and that’s what brings us to our topic for this article, the apparent “gender gap” that exists not only in real world aviation, but also in the flight sim community, and what we “guys” might do to share the hobby with the gals out there!

Each of my nieces has their own particular tastes when it comes to the type of aircraft that they like to fly.  The two sisters’s both like fast jets, although one likes nap-of-the-earth flying, while the other just likes to fly around, FAST! Watch out Dad!  My other niece loves to fly the older biplanes, just like dear old “Uncle”!  All three enjoy the simulator immensely and I don’t question it, I only encourage them.  I was surprised one day when my youngest niece was sitting at the controls, and started asking questions about the panel functions.  You know, “what’s this, why is that there?” kind of questions.  I must admit that I was amazed at how fast she understood what things like altimeter, climb rate, and other various flight instruments and operations meant!  She further surprised me by grabbing a piece of paper and a pencil and started taking notes!  I think I see a potential pilot in the family!  I think I was still having trouble tying my shoes when I was her age!  I don’t bombard them with aeronautical information, I just let them have fun and answer any questions they may have, which is commonly “can this thing go any faster?”, and it’s a delight to see them having fun at the controls!  

Here's some shots I took, while they were concentrating on flying!   ;-)
Although I love to talk about my nieces, being the sweethearts that they are (big points for Uncle here!) this is not an article about them. It’s about making you guy’s out there aware that your daughters, sisters, nieces, girlfriends, and wives may just have some hidden talents in the flight sim arena!  Yes, there are female flight simmers out there, but I think that the gender gap situation is mirrored in the real world of aviation concerning female aviators as well.  It doesn’t seem to be a world wide problem, for if you search the topic of female aviators, you’ll come up with loads of information on famous and not so famous female aviators.  I’ve only got so much space here, so check it out for yourself, there’s some fantastic stories out there that you can read for hours!

Since the early 1920’s, women have seen the need to form alliances with each other.  One of the first of these types of organizations was the group of aviatrix’s called the Ninty-Nines, Inc.  During WWII, the WAFS and WASPS were female aviation units that were utilized by the military in non-combat roles such as ferry flights, testing of aircraft, transportation, etc.  Even though these female pilots flew dangerous missions, at times in hazardous conditions, were subject to the same rules of their male counterparts, and flew just about everything under the sun that had wings, the military still would not give them the rights afforded “military pilots”.  In 1944, efforts to “militarize” this flying branch failed, and it took 30 years for the government to finally recognize the fact that they were wrong. Women have been in the air from the start.  The Wright brothers' sister, Katherine, was the first woman to fly an airplane. In 1911, Harriet Quimby became the first American woman to obtain a pilot's license. During World War II, the all-female "WASPs" flew over sixty million miles.

In Russia, women have always been encouraged to fly, with an abundance of aviation clubs to aid in their efforts.  During WWII, Russian Female Aviators came together and formed three regiments of pilots and bombers, flying combat missions in defense of their homeland.  Check out the stories of the one’s that were called the “Night Witches”.  You’ll read about some pretty incredible combat stories, one of them being how they would shut off their engines and glide in over the enemy lines silently until they were just above the heads of the enemy, and only then switching on their engines and attacking!  Wow!  Female combat aviators were an accepted fact and not regarded as out of place at all.  In today’s US Army, about 9 percent of the female soldiers are aviators.  Today, female pilots are also flying combat missions in support of ground operations around the world.  This was a hurdle that has only recently been overcome in the United States.  The pilot roles that women hold today are many, and a testament to the efforts of those aviatrix’s of the past!

Women have come quite a ways since those early days of a male dominated field.  I had read some research papers that had dealt with the problem of equality in the aviation field, and some of them got right to the point.  In general though, the common factor across the board was the attitudes of the male aviation community and society as a whole.  Female aviators have proven themselves time and again and have in fact shown that they do possess the “Right Stuff” to handle these birds in the air, and yet, the dragging of the feet can be heard a mile away of some that would think that the flight deck is still no place for a woman, and government officials (lots of dragging on the part of the government!).  Now, all you male aviators out there don’t go blowing your stacks at me!  I realize the concept of a few bad apples in the crate can sour the bushel, so this is definitely not an all encompassing; every male aviator is a chauvinist pig kind of thing!  On the contrary, I do believe we have come a long way in accepting the fact that females can be excellent aviators. But the fact remains that old fashioned concepts are hard to break.

I’m just a simple country boy, and I have a real basic way of looking at things; is it right or is it wrong?  Can’t get much simpler than that!  The negative attitudes towards female aviators are simply wrong. This same attitude toward female pilots is not just a male oriented problem, oh no!  A few years ago, I was boarding a plane, and as we were getting situated, that familiar saying over the public address system could be heard crackling over the speakers, “this is your Captain speaking”.  Only it was a female voice.  I personally didn’t bat an eye, for having been in the military, I respected the abilities of anyone that could get the job done, male or female.  But as I looked around at the other passengers, I had noticed a few that were a bit surprised to hear the voice of a “girl pilot” (no offense here, please note the quotes!).  There were a couple of elderly ladies sitting across from me and let’s just say that their reaction was less than subtle.  After being assured that the Captain was one of the best and was very qualified to handle the aircraft, they seemed to calm down a bit.  The complimentary cocktails may have contributed to this calming effect.  The point here is that attitudes are not gender specific.  These ladies, who were very nice by the way, did not mean anything by what they were asking the flight attendant, they simply came from a time when those who flew planes were men.  The way I figure it is that if they have the shoulder boards on and the stripes on their sleeves, I’m banking on them knowing what the difference is between an aileron and an altimeter!

Way back in the “olden days” certain things were expected of girls, and certain things were expected of boys.  Even though in this so called modern age that we now live in, the fact remains that old traditions and ways of thinking are sometimes hard to change, but change they do, albeit slowly.  It just takes an effort on the part of the adults to make the world a better place for our kids!  Change starts at home. 
Early on in a young person’s life, their brain is like a sponge, soaking up anything and everything that is presented to them and it is during this very critical time that we, as adults, must guide and encourage them.  Young girls probably don’t have an immediate interest in flight simming or aviation until they have been shown what it has to offer…FUN!
There’s also a wealth of educational tools involved in flight simulation.  For starters, hand and eye coordination.  It’s a rather tough task landing even the simplest aircraft without this basic skill. 
The mathematics of flight, geometry, and especially geography can all be practiced while “playing the game”!  Just don’t tell them that they may be learning something.  
It would spoil their fun!  Eventually they might develop a knack for the development of aircraft models and flight dynamics.  The hobby of development can possibly spark the career of a budding aerospace designer, or flight dynamics engineer.
The possibilities that simming can open up are just incredible.  I bet you didn’t realize you were buying a great educational tool for the kids when you bought your sim, did you?
Even though this article is addressing the issue of gender imbalance in the virtual skies, and is focused on the female population, don’t let the educational benefits escape the young lads out there! 
The bottom line all you guys out there is this…don’t be greedy with all the fun you’re having zipping around in the virtual skies!  See if the other half wouldn’t enjoy it as much
as we do!  I would certainly be a very proud uncle if one of the nieces were to go on to become a rated pilot!  Don’t be surprised if your wives or girlfriends get a kick out of it also.  My wife likes to fly the helicopters, but then she also likes to crash them into bodies of water!  I really don’t believe she’s too serious about simming!  You brothers out there, may not think its right too share with your little or big sister, but just think of the advantages!  They just might leave you alone once in awhile!  ;-)

Captain Sim's 707's First Officer
"Nap-of-the-Earth"  Niece!
The "Speedster" Niece!
...and the youngest niece likes what "Uncle" likes!
Explore geographic wonders...
Show them the engineering marvels of the world...
Travel to far off lands...
Take "Field Trips"  to interesting places...
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Flight Sim Gender Gap???
By Farmboyzim