I am a Pilot, Not A Chick

Eric Armsweak, Staff Writer

This is my first story as an Aviation Daily News writer so I want to tackle an uncomfortable subject: labels.

I am a pilot. I used to be known as a “female pilot” and I hated that label more than being called a chick, which is highly derogatory by all definitions. A chick is a newly hatched baby chicken and chickens can’t fly so when people referred to me as a “chick” it was highly offensive.

As a new first officer on the DC-10, I was struggling with crosswind landings. After spending the past year as a flight engineer I had lost the feel for flying in general and was frustrated with myself that I couldn’t deal with crosswind landings.

I could do crosswind landings, but they were a fight every time. One trip I vividly remember, the third flight leg of a five-leg day and I had just finished slamming another landing onto the runway during crosswinds. It wasn’t that bad but I didn’t have the “feel” for good crosswind control of the airplane.

I didn’t want to be known as the “female pilot” who couldn’t land the plane so I watched the male captain and his exquisite crosswind landing skills. He would line up a screw on the window frame with the runway and grease it right on. That moment taught me how, in this case, thinking like a man might help and then I realized how offensive that thought was. It’s even more offensive when I see it in writing.

Flying is not a male or female thing…it is a learned skill just like driving a car or riding a bicycle. I truly regret all the time I have spent trying to divide men and women with sexist phrases and ideas. We are all pilots.