Monday, September 29, 2008

OMG! Gurlz!

I still have to catch up on Oshkosh notes: that will probably take me all year, but Lite Flyer has reminded me of something. She reported that when she was airplane shopping, "Most of the exhibitors thought my husband was buying the plane and was the pilot."

I don't usually have this problem with the FBO personnel I meet. I guess they see me through the cockpit window as they marshal me in, I approach them and ask for fuel, and they live in the real world. I can't think I've ever got a "who's this chick? where's the pilot?" vibe from someone at an FBO. But at Oshkosh, I met the homebuilders for whom Women Fly merchandise would make an educational statement.

I and two other pilots, one male and one female, were browsing through the ultralight section of the show. The other female pilot was drawn to the powered parachutes and other not-quite-airplane contraptions, while I was looking at engines and materials and picking peoples brains for my then-upcoming ultralight ferry. If my fuel system is to onsist of tyvek tubing and and zip ties, I want to investigate the various ways they are connected and fastened. So I'm not too shocked when I see the actual airplane and so I won't be learning from scratch when I'm learning the finer points of preflighting it, from the manufacturer.

The ultralight section of the aviation world is a different world. I was expecting libertarianism, because the freedom to build an airplane out of stuff you found in your garage and fly it without government interference probably appeals to the same people who object to government presence in other parts of their lives, but I never equated libertarianism with a grade six boys club. You'd think some of these guys had never even met women before, let along considered selling airplanes to them. I guess these are the guys who were taking apart their motorcycles in high-school while the other boys were learning how not to scare off girls.

The lone male member of our entourage would try to peel back our female cloaks of invisibility so the vendors could see us, but what kind of sales presentations did we get? I wish I'd written down the bizarre comments for accurate reporting. One was roughly, "Hey, look there's women in here!" addressed to others in the booth.

When that one's attention came back to me, as opposed to calling attention to me. He explains, "We don't usually have women in the booth."

I know it didn't help the situation any, but I had to say it. "Maybe, that's because you react this way whenever one comes near."

And then I smiled and oohed and ahhed at his nice new engine. They don't sound like mosquitoes coming in for the kill anymore.


Tina Marie said...

I've gotten that a lot. When I got first airplane (a Starduster Too), it annoyed me so much I got a vinyl sticker that said "Tina's Toy" for the side. It didn't help. People seemed incapable of believing that it was, in fact, my airplane.

Later, I discovered the same thing was true at a motorcycle dealership. The local Harley place would simply ignore me at the parts counter - once, I watched 6 guys get waited on before me. That's when I started buying parts online.

Anonymous said...

I still remember several years ago I was hanging out at a swap meet and I'd just been introduced to an older gentleman who was...ah, somewhat charmed by me. He found out I liked commercial airplanes and had a particular interest in DC-10s, and he asked me, "Do you know what a KC-10 is?" Somehow I managed not to tilt my head and flutter my eyelashes like an airhead....

Thankfully, that's been the exception rather than the rule, and most folks I've dealt with in the aviation/aerospace world have treated me well. (Now, when it comes to taking my car in for service, it's been a different story.)

Wayne Conrad said...

By sheer coincidence, I ran across this gem by pilot and aviation writer Garth Wallace: Where Are the Women?

Anonymous said...

I've been watching this process as my 17 year old daughter learns to fly. My observations are that the old blokes are more supportive than the middle aged blokes and the m-a blokes are more supportive than the 17 year old blokes. In fact the old blokes (60-80+) are the ones who are determined to help her succeed.

The instructors are very supportive and generally civilised and well behaved.

The things I like about women pilots are that they are generally better pilots than blokes, they are demonstrably less likely to violate the rules and IMHO they make better company than the blokes.

Go gurlz....and may the doubters just get over themselves.


Anonymous said...

Oh yeah.

There are some dinosaurs out there. 99% of men are welcoming and not determined to enforce the boys-club rules, but that other 1% can really stun you.

At Oshkosh, I got really tired of hearing the airshow announcer go on about how so-and-so "is a stay-at-home MOM and her Most Important Job is raising Her KIDS yadayadayada and boy she can fly aerobatics too howabout that?!!" Give me a break.

I've also run into rare ones who genuinely believe the only role for women is home bound child care. Really. In the 21st century, American Taliban.