It’s a known fact that men outnumber women in the aviation industry. Only 39,187—or 6 percent—of the 584,362 pilots in the U.S. are female, according to FAA statistics from 2016. However, 10 percent of pilots employed by New Hampshire-based fractional-share provider PlaneSense are female. The company, which operates a fleet of 39 aircraft, employs almost double the national average of female pilots and continues to support them throughout their careers.
PlaneSense finds it imperative to support female pilots, according to president and CEO George Antoniadis. Approximately 20 percent of the company’s current ground school class is made up of female pilots and the highest seniority pilot, Kris Hull, is female. Women lead divisions and serve as supervisors for the parts department and maintenance training. Antoniadis stressed that PlaneSense hires the most qualified staff for open positions, regardless of gender.
Jody Waring, a senior female pilot at PlaneSense who started her career in 1988, agrees with this sentiment as she feels the job of a pilot is genderless. She attended the University of New Hampshire and served eight years as an avionics technician and loadmaster with a U.S. Naval Reserve C-130 aircrew. She joined PlaneSense in 2004 because she saw the opportunity for growth in the up-and-coming company. Based on her her 29-year career in aviation, Waring praises the work ethic of female pilots.
“My job is no different than when a male is doing this job,” she told AIN. “There are some jobs where men have an advantage because of their strength, but in this job it doesn’t matter whether you are male or female. I do try to downplay it a little bit in the sense that I’m just doing a job just like a female surgeon would be doing open-heart surgery; the job is the same whether you are a male or female. The plane doesn’t know whether we’re male or female.
“We hold ourselves to a higher standard," she told AIN. "The females that I’ve flown with get all the details down and give 110 percent.”
However, some PlaneSense clients notice the amount of female pilots in the cockpit . Waring said that 90 percent of the time the comments she receives are positive and encouraging. Unfortunately the other 10 percent are not as kind.
“As a senior female pilot, it’s important to encourage my fellow female pilots who maybe had a negative experience with a coworker or a customer,” Waring said. “It’s important to forget about the negative comments and persevere. It’s also important to support younger girls who are not yet in the industry.”
While the number of female pilots is still miniscule compared to males, more women are joining the industry. Organizations such as Women in Aviation International have arranged scholarships, educational courses and international conferences to encourage and support women throughout their pilot training and beyond. Antoniadis has also noticed this trend and continues to take pride in the number of female pilots employed at PlaneSense.
“For us, [having double the national average of female pilots on staff] is a sign that interest in aviation roles is growing, which is important to the growth of the industry," he said. "At PlaneSense, we enjoy having a diverse team of pilots who bring experiences from all different backgrounds. We, and our clients, benefit from a well-rounded team with a broad scope of talent and skills. We hope that we’ll continue to stay ahead of the curve as more women get into the pilot ranks. After all, the women pilot success stories at PlaneSense will certainly pave the way for others.”
PlaneSense is preparing to be the launch customer for the PC-24 twinjet. Antoniadis announced at EBACE this year that the company would take delivery of the first aircraft, MSN 101, in the fourth quarter. PlaneSense pilots have been operating Nextant 400XTis to get acquainted with jet operations. The initial Pilatus order includes six PC-24s. Another five PC-12s are scheduled for delivery to the PlaneSense fleet this year.