Lillian Todd was the first woman in the world to design and build airplanes back in 1906. Helen Richey was another pioneering female aviator in 1934, as the first woman to be hired by a commercial airline in the United States. Women have played a part in the world of aviation since the beginning, just not enough of them. The latest numbers released by the Federal Aviation Administration show the trend continues.
The good news – the number of women involved in the aviation industry has steadily increased over the years and they are represented in almost all flight categories. The bad news – despite this progress, the ratio of women compared to men in aviation is still significantly off balance. Statistics recently released from the FAA for end of year 2019 reveal that females represent only seven percent of the total manned aircraft pilot population. Those same statistics show the imbalance is also present in the growing drone industry.
Since the enactment of the small drone rule by the FAA in August of 2016, more than 160,000 people have obtained the Remote Pilot Airman Certificate which allows them to fly a drone for both commercial and recreational purposes. The number of women on that list has been growing, up to 10,818 according to the FAA’s latest count. Still, that number indicates females make up only 6.7% of the total certificated remote pilot population. As in other areas of the aviation industry, the representation of women is very low.
Diving deeper into the FAA statistics, there are some positive trends. The number of female remote pilots has exceeded the number of female commercial pilots of manned aircraft. As of end of year 2019, 7,038 women held FAA Commercial Pilot Certificates and 7,503 women were FAA certified Air Transport pilots. This shows that in just over three short years the number of women holding FAA Remote Pilot certificates has surpassed the number of women in the manned aircraft sectors who hold Commercial Pilot certificates and ATP Pilot certificates. The 2019 statistics also reveal the largest number of women obtaining remote pilot certification were in the 25 to 34-year-old age range. The smallest number is the 80-year-old and up category, where seven women obtained remote pilot certification. Still, impressive!