Why do women not compete in sports that men are predominant in? Well, here is why! There is something for everyone in my blogs! My Blogs are a 7 to 10-minute read.
AIR SPORTS– What is an Air Sport?
Air sports is not a single game but quite a vast sporting domain containing different aerial activities. Games which combine to make up the ‘Air sports’ include Air Racing, Aerobatics, Aeromodelling, Hang gliding, Human-powered aircraft, Parachuting, Paragliding and Skydiving etc. Each one of these requires different settings including high above the Earth like parachuting and paragliding, etc.
Many Air Sports are also termed extreme sports with only one rule of pushing the envelope as far as one can. These include air racing, hang gliding, paragliding, Wingsuit Flying etc. Be it a small aircraft or parachute on your back, the stakes are extremely high when you take part in Air Sports.
Aerobatics and Women in Aviation
What is Aerobatics exactly?
Aerobatics is an air sport which usually judges the skills of the pilots who are performing aerobatic flying. This amazing sport is usually practised in both piston-powered aeroplanes and single-engine gliders.
In this sport, a pilot enters the competition according to his/her category of choice, which will define the level of difficulty of the aerobatics stunts he/she is going to be performing in.
Every flight of the pilot is scored by a panel of judges who ranks every pilot according to his combined scores taken in all flight programs within every aerobatic stunt category and after that determine that category’s winner. The flying aerobatics stunts performed by the pilot in this sport can do rolls, stall turns, tail slides and loops.
This is a highly adventurous sport for those who love to fly and master the challenges offered in aerobatics.
Flight formation aerobatics are flown by teams of up to sixteen aircraft, although most teams fly between four and ten aircraft. Coloured smoke trails may be emitted to emphasize the patterns flown and/or the colours of a national flag. Usually, each team will use aircraft similar to one another finished in a special and dramatic colour scheme, thus emphasizing their entertainment function.
Aerobatics done at low levels and for an audience is called “stunt flying”. To enhance the show effect of aerobatic manoeuvres, smoke is sometimes generated; the smoke allows viewers to see the path travelled by aircraft.
Aerobatics are taught to military fighter pilots as a means of developing flying skills and for tactical use in combat. Many aerobatic manoeuvres were indeed developed in military conflicts.
Aerobatics and formation flying is not limited solely to fixed-wing aircraft; helicopters also play a role. All aerobatic manoeuvres demand training and practice to avoid accidents.
Accidents due to aerobatic manoeuvres are very rare in competition aerobatics, most of them happen when performing formation flying or stunt flying at very low levels at air shows or air racing.
Competitions start at the Primary, or Graduate level and proceed in complexity through Sportsman, Intermediate and Advanced, with Unlimited being the top competition level. Experienced aerobatic pilots have been measured to pull +/-5g for short periods while unlimited pilots can perform more extreme manoeuvres and experience higher g-levels, possibly up to +8/−6g.
Why do the majority of women not partake in Aerobatics?
Whilst the majority of women don’t partake, some do.
The world of aviation has long been known as a male-dominated occupation and hobby. Thankfully it is becoming an increasingly popular vocation for women to discover and enjoy. I have decided to reflect on and celebrate the women who made some of the most groundbreaking achievements with regard to aviation history.
Today women’s participation in the aviation sector is still low but growing. As of 2010, just over 7% of certified civilian pilots (both private and commercial) in the United States were women. As of July 2014, approximately 5.12% of certified airline or commercial pilots in the United States are women.
Introduction to female aviators
For decades, female aviators have had to defy social prejudices, despite their having achieved remarkable feats of skill and endurance. ‘Men do not believe us capable,’ the famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart once remarked to a friend. ‘Because we are women, seldom are we trusted to do an efficient job.
Like all pilots in the early days of aviation, women risked their lives every time they flew fragile aircraft made of wood, wire, and cloth. When male aviators were killed in aviation accidents, society saw it as bad luck. However, when Harriet Quimby was killed in 1912 when she fell out of her plane during an exhibition flight, it was said to prove that women could not fly. According to the New York Sun, ‘Harriet Quimby’s death showed that women lack strength and the presence of mind and courage to excel as aviators.
By the 1930s, people were eager to see or hear about women pilots, partly because these women’s successes suggested that flying was safe enough for even ‘the weaker sex’. Aircraft companies hired women pilots as demonstrators, hoping that their customers would believe that ‘if a woman could fly their plane, anyone could.
Allowing women to fly planes commercially, however, was an entirely different matter. When aviatrix Ellen Church applied to Boeing in 1930, the company was happy to employ her as the country’s first flight attendant, but certainly not as a pilot. Another small airline hired Helen Richey as a pilot in 1934, but the all-male pilots’ union forced her to quit within a few months. According to Yount, women in aviation have had to face more obvious and longer-lasting discrimination than women in a more gender-neutral environment. To overcome such strenuous opposition, women pilots have had to develop an extraordinary degree of self-confidence and persistence.
Addressing the Myths as to Why Women should not Fly
Women entering any male-dominated arena will, more likely than not, experience difficulties. Those who believe that women should not fly either for professional or recreational reasons have cited several arguments. Examples of this include that females allegedly have less strength than males do, that they are less intelligent, that they have a reduced innate flying ability and that they are an emotional liability, to name just a few.
One of the most sensitive subjects concerning women aviators relates to the subject of physical strength and dual standards.
According to some studies, women only have between 35 per cent and 85 per cent of the strength that males do.
A study was conducted with the aim of investigating whether women could meet the same physical fitness standards as that expected of men. Its results found that only 3.4 per cent of women achieved a score equal to that of the males, in a physical fitness test. The report also added that women suffered twice the number of lower extremity injuries and over four times the number of stress fractures than men did.
Studies showed, that without special training, women naturally only possess 50 to 60 per cent of the upper torso muscular strength and 70 to 75 per cent of the aerobic capacity of men.
The lesser physical strength of females remains one of the last obstacles in the issue of Aviation.
Even though it is a scientific fact that women are weaker in terms of physical strength, modern technological improvements in aircraft control systems have eliminated the need for great physical strength in aviators, these improvements are the use of servo controls, power-assisted systems and mechanical boosters were incorporated to improve aircraft handling. It was determined that the average woman can sustain only 55 to 60 pounds (25 to 27 kilograms) of longitudinal stick force on average.
Colonel Des Barker of the South African Air Force (SAAF) states that the reduced stick force per g of modern aircraft such as the F18 Hornet is well within the physical strength capabilities of women, even at 9g. Barker further concludes that training and skill are required to pilot a modern aircraft, not excessive strength, and training and skill are not gender-specific.
On average, females are smaller physically than males across a broad number of parameters. Aircraft, and especially military aircraft, are designed with a certain range of pilot dimensions and weights and require pilots to fall within these design dimensions. Differences in dimensions between males and females include sitting height, buttock-knee, buttock-heel and functional reach. Women are not only smaller than men but also have different proportions. Aircraft cockpit design has focused on accommodating males and has caused the rejection of several females because of their failure to fall within these parameters.
Size differences between males and females are not only important in the design of cockpit fit and control but also have an impact on the issue of safety equipment. This includes helmets, oxygen masks, flying suits, and ejection seats.
The design criteria of the ejection seat and crew-mounted life support equipment allow for most males to meet the size requirements, while only a small percentage of females are tall enough to meet the requirements. Females have a smaller cross-sectional area of vertebrae compared with males and therefore female vertebrae are exposed to a greater force per unit area than those males. Ejection seats are designed to operate within a certain mass and centre of gravity range and should the ejection be performed outside of a mass range; the trajectory of the seat may not guarantee a safe flight. This suggests an increased risk of spinal column injury in females. Further safety concerns were that women were forced to wear flight suits that were the nearest fit in men’s sizes. These were often ill-fitting. Subsequently the most famous of which has been the redesign of the flight suits for women.
Tolerance to thermal extremes
Cold conditions are often experienced in aviation, particularly in survival situations. According to research, females tend to tolerate cold environments better than males, possibly due to their greater than average fat cell storage. Females contain on average 25 percent fat whilst men only contain 15 percent. Females, therefore, have greater buoyancy, insulation and energy stores compared with males, and are better prepared physiologically in a cold survival situation.
Regarding the heat, men have demonstrated a greater work capacity. Women sweat less than men and therefore conserve their water stores more effectively. Females have been shown to react more severely when exposed to hot environments.
The effects of g-forces
Tests revealed that there were no significant differences between women and men in g-tolerance. However, in studies were done regarding height as having a strong negative influence on g-tolerance and where women were matched only by height to the men, the women’s mean g-tolerances were significantly lower than those of the men.
Further studies have shown that women generally have reduced body strength compared to males and therefore have difficulty sustaining anti-g straining manoeuvres, particularly at high g.
Studies were conducted where female subjects wore custom-fitted g-suits. Their test scores were compared to those of male subjects who were also outfitted in g-suits. The comparison demonstrated no significant differences in fatigue between the genders.
Hypoxia can be defined as a state of oxygen deficiency in the body, which is sufficient to cause an impairment of function. The most hazardous form to aviators is hypoxic hypoxia which is the reduction in the amount of oxygen passing into the blood.
They may be symptoms such as tingling, numbness, loss of colour vision, flushing, headache, loss of muscle coordination, agitation, lethargy, unconsciousness, forgetfulness, cognitive impairment, and inability to respond to emergency situations and the misinterpretation of instructions and/or instruments. According to studies, females have smaller values across lung parameters and generally have smaller lung capacities than males. Females have reduced haemoglobin and therefore reduced oxygen-carrying capacity.
Motion sickness has been defined as a condition the symptoms of which are pallor, sweating, nausea, and vomiting in response to an apparent motion with which a person is unfamiliar.
Studies have shown that women are more susceptible to motion sickness than Men. In women, this is aggravated by using oral contraceptives, menstruation, and pregnancy. This leads to the deduction that hormonal factors are an aspect that affects the increased effects of motion sickness. Studies have shown, that in World War II, an overall incidence rate of 11 per cent in trainee pilots with motion sickness accounted for 52 per cent of failures. However, a higher incidence of motion sickness in females should thus not disqualify all potential female aviators; instead, it should be managed on a case by case basis, regardless of gender.
Some medical conditions, such as migraine, urinary tract infections and varicose veins are more common in women. However, women have a lower incidence of serious conditions, such as heart disease. Also to add, a few of the women reported urinary incontinence whilst undertaking an anti-g straining manoeuvre. This symptom was not reported in men.
A study was shown that women were deliberately screened out with pre-existing gynaecological conditions. Dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) is the most common of the menstrual cycle symptoms. It is advisable that a woman is unfit to fly while suffering from dysmenorrhea. Another symptom associated with menstruation is the occurrence of menstrual headaches which are common and may be temporarily disabling and may impede a woman’s flight status.
Oral contraceptive pill
The oral contraceptive pill is cleared for use during flight, despite its potential side effects such as cardiovascular problems, including stroke, heart attack, thrombo-phlebitis and thrombo-embolism. The risk of vascular complications is heightened if a woman who takes the pill is also a smoker.
The risks of a female pilot being deemed medically unfit to fly are especially high in the first trimester, due to the risk of early spontaneous abortion, ectopic pregnancy, and the effects of g on the fetus have not been established, but it may be a matter of concern.
An argument that is often cited to preclude women from flying in combat units is that their presence will affect the unit’s cohesion or ‘squadron bonding’. The argument raised is that many men will consider the presence of women upsetting, which will affect the delicate balance by introducing the issue of sex and thus damage the essential bonding fabric.
Prisoner of war
Another reason that has been argued as to why women should not participate in combat missions is the possibility that a combatant can become a prisoner of war. The gist of the argument is that women will suffer sexual abuse as well as customary abuse as prisoners of war.
One of the main concerns expressed by governments when deliberating on the issue of women in combat is fear of the public reaction to women returning home from the war in body bags. Today, women join the military for the same reasons that other females become firefighters and policewomen; they have the ability to do the job and wish to serve their country.
Women are essentially different from men in many ways. However, many of the physical concerns can be addressed by re-engineering, whilst physiological differences in flight require more research. Providing and planning for medical issues and education regarding such medical issues can largely overcome medical fears. Culture is a dynamic entity and is always changing. It seems that there is no reason why women should not participate in aviation today.
Let’s pay some tributes to women in aviation.
In 1932, Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo. She began her journey in Newfoundland and headed for Paris in a Lockheed Vega 5B. Many ambitious achievements followed, from setting altitude records to being the first woman to fly solo across the Pacific.
In 1937 Earhart attempted to make a record journey flying around the world but the Lockheed Electra she was flying in disappeared and Earhart’s body was never found. Earhart is fondly remembered for her groundbreaking achievements in aviation for women.
Jacqueline Cochran was an acclaimed advocate of women participating in the air force and she wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt during the Second World War, proposing the idea of a women’s flying division.
By July 1943, Cochran was director of the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) and received a US distinguished service medal for her role after the war.
Coleman was inspired to fly by the heroic pilots of the First World War, but she was unfairly disqualified from attending pilot school in the US as she was an African American woman. Undeterred, she moved to France in 1920 to complete an advanced course in aviation and made a career in aerobatic shows.
Bessie Coleman’s career was cut short as she was killed in 1926 when she was thrown from her aircraft. She will be remembered as the first African American woman to gain an international pilot’s license.
When Sally Ride passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2012, it was a sad day for the world of aviation. Sally was the first American woman to travel into space, joining the crew of the space shuttle Challenger in June 1983.
During the NASA mission, she operated the robotic arm and assisted in deploying two satellites into space. As a result, Ride was added to the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2003 and she still remains the youngest American astronaut to travel into space.
Johnson won fame when in 1930 she became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia, doing so in a de Havilland Gipsy Moth. She was also the first woman in the world to qualify as an aircraft engineer.
During the Second World War, Johnson joined the Air Transport Auxiliary and died in 1941 when the plane she was ferrying crashed in the sea in bad weather conditions. Johnson remains a prominent female figure in the male-dominated world of aviation.
At the young age of 26, Tereshkova beat 400 other female candidates to become the first woman to travel into space and did so as part of the Soviet space program. She travelled in the Vostok 6 on the 16th of June 1963 and returned three days later on the 19th of June, after completing 48 orbits.
Tereshkova has received many honours and awards recognising her achievements and has since claimed that if a one-way ticket to Mars became available, she would happily take it.
In 1911 Quimby became the first female pilot to be granted a pilot license by the Aero Club of America. By 1912 she had become the first woman to fly across the English Channel when she flew from Dover to Calais in 59 minutes in a Bleriot monoplane.
At the age of 37, Quimby died when she was thrown from her aircraft in the air but despite dying at such a young age, she has left a lasting legacy with regard to women in aviation due to the many milestones she reached.
British aviator, Scott, was born in Worcestershire in 1922. She gained her pilot’s license in 1960 and became a demonstrator for Cessna and Piper aircraft to pay for her passion for flying.
Scott broke over 100 aviation records between 1965 and 1972; from being the first British person to fly over the North Pole in a small aircraft to be the first British pilot to fly solo across the world. Scott passed away in 1988 but she has left a lasting legacy for British women interested in aviation.
Polly Vacher MBE had always wanted to fly but her interest in aviation grew during a charity skydiving event in 1989. After obtaining her pilot license alongside her husband Peter in 1994, they circumnavigated Australia and in 1997 she flew solo across the United States and across the North Atlantic in both directions on a Piper PA-28 Cherokee Dakota.
After crossing the Atlantic, the next logical step was to fly around the world which she did during her first Wings Around the World Challenge in aid of the charity Flying Scholarships for the Disabled Next, she had to prepare to fly over the North Pole, Antarctica, and all seven continents which, in her own words started with “an atlas, a pen, and a ruler.” She became the first solo woman flyer over the polar regions.
After gaining her pilot license in 1980, Wagstaff trained with the Russian aerobatic team and became an expert at low-level aerobatic displays. She was the first woman to win the US National Aerobatic Championship and became a six-time member of the US aerobatic team in 1985.
Wagstaff is recognised for her groundbreaking achievements in aerobatics for women and her Goodrich-sponsored Extra 260 aeroplane is displayed next to Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Risk and Safety
Most people contemplating getting involved in aerobatics feel a bit apprehensive at first. By its very nature, aerobatics involves risks that are not involved in non-aerobatic flight. But as with most anything else in aviation, it is only as safe or dangerous as the pilot makes it. Discipline, planning, common sense, and knowledge are basic prerequisites to safety.
Aerobatics can be quite safe if certain safety rules are followed religiously. Examples include:
- Get proper training, especially in all types of manoeuvres.
- Fly at a safe and conservative altitude.
- Know your equipment and yourself and keep both well maintained.
- Don’t overstress the aeroplane (and never fly aerobatics in non- aerobatic aircraft).
- Always perform a proper, thorough aerobatic preflight.
- Set and observe strict personal limits (altitude, g-limits, flight duration, health, etc.).
- Stay current and take recurrence check rides. Don’t run out of fuel! (Should be obvious, but it happens a lot) Stay clear of conflicting traffic, either with regular clearing turns or an observer on the ground.
- Know how to handle emergency situations.
- Always leave yourself a way out.
- Always wear a parachute. Know how to bail out and use it.
- Learn by others’ mistakes, not your own.
- With higher performance aircraft and more advanced aerobatics, there are additional risks. The aeroplanes are less forgiving, the forces on plane and pilot are higher, some of the equipment is newer and less proven, and much of the flying is done at lower altitudes.
- Also, as skills and experience build, complacency and bad habits can begin to creep into the picture. One thing is for certain. Once you have learned to fly aerobatics, your increased knowledge will make all the rest of your flying safer.
Injuries and Deaths – 2019
- June 21 – Skip Stewart was forced to make an emergency landing in his Pitts S-2S after suffering an engine loss on a county road in Troy, Ohio just 6–7 miles from the Dayton International Airport in Vandalia, Ohio where he was set to take part in the Vectren Dayton Air Show. With his expert skills, he managed to land his Pitts S-2S with a perfect no power landing in a safe area, escape injury and keep his aircraft from suffering any additional damage.
- June 16 – Kent Pietsch and his Jelly Belly 1942 Interstate Cadet suffered damage from prop-wash that was caused by a nearby taxing Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The Interstate Cadet needs repairs; the C-130 Hercules was undamaged. No one involved in this accident suffered any sort of injury.
- June 15 – A pilot was killed flying an aerobatic display in a Yakovlev Yak-52 during the Płocki Piknik Lotniczy in Rzeka Wisła, Płock, Poland. The aircraft appeared to enter a flat spin. Late in the spin, the aircraft appears to enter a more nose-down flight attitude, a common procedure used by pilots to exit a flat spin. Unfortunately, the aircraft was too low to recover and impacted the ground, killing the single crew member on board.
- February 19 – Two BAE Systems Hawk Mk. 132 aircraft of the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team collided mid-air during a rehearsal for the Aero India 2019 near the Yelahanka Air Force Station. Three people were involved in this accident. Two pilots ejected safely, the third, Cdr. Sahil Gandhi succumbed to his injuries.
The “Equipment” – Aircrafts
After researching, the suggested planes are, to name a few:
Aerobatic aircraft fall into two categories—specialist aerobatic, and aerobatic capable. Specialist designs such as the Pitts Special, the New Laser, the Katana 52 the Extra 200 and 300, and the Sukhoi Su-26M and Sukhoi Su-29 aim for ultimate aerobatic performance. This comes at the expense of general-purpose use such as touring, or ease of non-aerobatic handling such as landing. At a more basic level, aerobatic capable aircraft, such as the Cessna 152 Aerobat or the R2160 Acrobin, can be dual purpose—equipped to carry passengers and luggage, as well as being capable of basic aerobatic figures.
Aircraft Suppliers – To Name a Few
Grob Aircraft – https://grob-aircraft.com/en/
Aerobatic Aircraft – https://www.aeroexpo.online/aeronautic-manufacturer/aerobatic-aircraft-3386.html
Aerospace Technology – https://www.aerospace-technology.com/projects/slick-360-light-aerobatic-aircraft/
Orange Aircraft – https://www.orange-aircraft.com/
Xtreme air – http://www.xtremeair.com/?lang=de-de
Trade a plane – https://www.trade-a-plane.com/search?make=PITTS&s-type=aircraft
South African Suppliers:
Slick Aircraft Company – http://www.slickaircraft.com/
Absolute Aviation – https://www.absoluteaviation.co.za/
Pilatus centre – http://www.pilatuscentre.co.za/Sales
If you have the itch, go big, go safe, and go inverted!
When you are ready to soar the skies, please take a moment and bow to people that are disabled, that cannot take part in such sports.
For all your avid gamers out there and wannabe aviators, Play Station has awesome aviation games, to name a few really cool ones:
- Ace combat 7
- Air conflicts
- Strike suit zero
- Blazing angles
- Air missions
- Assault horizon
- Birds of steel
- Airsport simulator
- Ace combat 5
- Airforce Delta
Keep an eye out for another of my blogs: BALLOONING
My views, comments and content are strict on my own opinion and research and are not governed or influenced by any marketing of companies or brands. It is of my own free will to mention companies and brands that supply sporting equipment pertaining to the sport in the discussion.