“Obviously you’re not the pilot”

So I was at Costco to stock up on things. I grabbed a hot dog on my way out because I was rushed and hadn’t eaten. Went over to the tables, and all the tables were full.

But a lady saw me looking for someplace to sit, and invited me to sit with her. I was feeling pretty awesome, new job and all, so I sat down and introduced myself. I told her how I was starting a new job, and stocking up on things for my new job, since I was going to be working for a small charter/air taxi operation and based at the airport 5 days a week.

And she said “Oh, that sounds exciting! What are you going to be doing for them? Obviously you’re not the pilot.”

*sigh*

I wasn’t nasty about it, I let it just be a learning experience for her; she backpedaled pretty fast when I told her I was in fact the pilot. Tried to say she’d said it because I looked too young, but you just know, the real reason was because I was a woman. But it was innocent; obviously she wasn’t trying to be sexist; it was an unconscious bias; I bet she didn’t think through what she said at all.

Or possibly even, she didn’t want me to feel like I was disappointing her if I wasn’t the pilot, unfortunate as the phrasing she chose was. I mean, when people hear someone’s a pilot, usually the first question is “Oh? What airline do you fly for?” And then the poor private pilot has to explain that they don’t have a commercial licence, they just fly for fun, etc. (And I’m not gonna lie, being able to reply to that question with the name of my current employer feels so frickin’ good, lol.)

But whatever the reason, it’s what comes when people don’t stop and be self-critical about the assumptions we make about people. And it’s why young women don’t look at jobs like commercial piloting, construction, electrician, things like that, as things they might be good at and enjoy as professions. Because, obviously that’s not the sort of job for them.

Obviously.

A co-worker back at the call centre told me one day about talking to her daughter about women pilots. Her daughter was convinced that being a pilot was a boy thing, and girls could not be pilots, and her mother had a hard time convincing her otherwise. She was four.

And it’s a prejudice that comes from outside the aviation industry almost exclusively in my experience. So far, I don’t have any story of sexism that I’ve experienced that has come from anyone involved in aviation. The only examples I have are from people who know nothing about it. We’re getting to a point where lots of male pilots have flown with women and they’ve mostly gotten past the oh-god-how-do-I-handle-this stage to just treating other crew members as crew members. My new boss seemed to care far more about my farm background than my gender. The one other pilot working for him at the moment is also another woman, and as far as his assumptions about my ability suitability for the job, the fact that I’m a farm girl seemed to trump all else.

In conclusion – yes, there’s progress been made. Yes, women pilots still deal with sexist attitudes. No, it’s not just the older generation, nor is it only men who share those attitudes. Because there are lots of old guys who are 100% supportive of women in aviation and think the idea that women can’t be pilots is absurd. So let’s move forward and celebrate our victories and successes, and let change come, until it’s obvious to everyone that women belong wherever their hearts are.

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Upcoming: Avians by Timothy Gwyn

I’ve been waiting until I had a little more to link to, but I’m super excited to announce that one of my critique group is getting his novel published!

Timothy Gwyn is the pen name of Tim Armstrong, a pilot who flies out of Kenora – about – well, okay, I’ve never driven to Kenora, but it’s about 45 minutes in a Cessna 172 – east of Winnipeg.

I met Tim at Keycon – he had found my blog fairly close to the beginning of my epic journey into the world of aviation, and he introduced himself to me at my home sci-fi/fantasy convention. I think he was the first pilot I met and got to know that I didn’t meet outside of my flight school. And he was there because he had a novel he was working on.

He offered to take me on a tour of one of the King Airs he flew, and I took him up on it – that was the day I made a kick ass landing in 9G17 straight across the runway in Kenora and naturally no one ever sees when you make a good landing.

Anyway, we had a fun chat about writing and flying, and I was intrigued by his worldbuilding, so we traded novels to give one another feedback. I really enjoyed it – I mean, I’ve said this before about my fellow local writers, but you read a local writers work ready to sift through and find nice things to say, but the local writers I’ve read, I’ve been pleased to find I don’t have to look hard.

The planet his story is set on had an atmosphere so dense that  it’s uninhabitable at sea level, and the human life exists only high on the mountain peaks. Which are mostly volcanoes. Can’t think of anything that could go wrong with that? Neither can I. (/sarcasm)

Society wise, he’s got what would normally be considered an iron age, except that for reasons you’ll have to read the book to find out, there is next to no metal available to the inhabitants of this planet. Their coins, instead of copper and tin, are made of glass.

Between the sparsely situated volcano peaks on the planet, is a trade network of mysterious airships. Communication with the airships is strictly limited to accounting and commodity availability, and the closest the planet’s occupants ever get to these ships is the glider pilots that deliver goods to the ships. Glider pilots like the main characters.

I think I read the original draft in two days – it sucked me in in a way few books do, to be honest. It’s young adult fiction, and that’s definitely something I enjoy, and it was the sort of thing I’d be happy to give to my young cousins or if I had kids myself, to read. I can only imagine it’s gotten better since he’s revised it himself. When my critique group lost a member, we invited him on my recommendation to join our group, and he brought a few scenes in to us. He mentioned in a blog post when my best friend and I went over his opening thirty pages to help him get them ready to present to the editor in time. But we were really just excited to be a part of a novel that we could see was worthy of publication, and we were over the moon to hear a contract was the result.

It’s set for publication in August of 2017, from the sounds of it, and you can be damn sure I’ll remind you all.  So if aviation, and in particular alternate aviation and it’s convergence with science fiction intrigues you as much as it did me, keep your eye on his blog, where he’s posted a blurb to taunt you. He’s got a informatively created planet, with aviation focused exclusively on women pilots, and a story that more than passes the bechdel test. This novel is gonna kick ass, and I will be plugging it in the future closer to the publication date, be prepared!