o my goddess! women flying without men

Es­ti­mated reading time is 4 min­utes.

 in­deed for the fairer sex is the cur­rent brouhaha over South­west Air­line’s first “un­manned” flight—that is, women flying a com­mer­cial air­liner without a man in the crew, in­cluding the cockpit. I use the word ‘du­bious’ in re­gards to this event only to bring at­ten­tion to the fact that it took this long for an Amer­ican air­line to as­semble an all-female crew on a com­mer­cial air­line flight.

This should have been seen as rather as­tounding and re­marked upon by the cor­po­rate media.

It was not.

As pub­licity, this has been a nat­ural for decades! In fact, I can’t help but wonder how many people in how many air­line pub­licity de­part­ments did sug­gest just such a ploy over the past few decades only to have it shot down by the powers-that-be.

While the term the powers-that-be is gen­er­ally “is a phrase used to refer to those in­di­vid­uals or groups who col­lec­tively hold au­thority over a par­tic­ular do­main” (that is, the people in au­thority), in con­tem­po­rary America it is also com­monly a eu­phemism for older, white, wealthy, con­ser­v­a­tive males with only in­ter­ested in main­taining the status quo that main­tains their po­si­tion as the powers-that-be.

Women flying: an advertisement for Southwest Airline's "No-Hidden-Fee Zone."

Now known for their clever and col­orful ad­ver­tising, South­west Air­lines was once better known for its col­or­fully and cleverly—if scantily—attired stewardesses.

Yesterday’s big deal today

For what­ever reason—it’s fi­nally hap­pened: on Oc­tober 18, 2017, a male­less Boeing 737 Max 8 flew from St. Louis to San Fran­cisco, kicking off a flourish of media at­ten­tion. Was the flight was by de­sign? Or was it a co­in­ci­dence caused by the ran­dom­ness of a com­puter as­sem­bling a crew out of those avail­able and not giving a hoot as to the sex of the as­signed human?

Ei­ther way, what we have been reading for the past few days is what a Big Deal it is, when we should be reading about why it wasn’t a Big Deal thirty years ago.

For those who want to read a little more—and a little more is all we’re being offered—click on over to “South­west Cel­e­brates First ‘Un­manned’ Max 8 Flight While Shut­ting Down Haters” by Carla Her­reria (Huff­in­gton Post on Oc­tober 18, 2017). The third sen­tence reads:

“The flight staff took a photo of them­selves after re­al­izing that the day’s shift was made up of all women,” can be read to mean that the staffing of an en­tirely fe­male crew was not intentional.

Women flying: photo of six members of the all-female crew of Southwest Airline's recent "unmanned" flight.

This is a ca­sual photo of the all-female crew used in thou­sands of pieces on the event. The minus? There wasn’t any in­for­ma­tion on who these people are at­tached to this photo. The plus? They didn’t tell us what the crew was wearing.

No-hidden-male zone

But do enough research—even on the much ma­ligned World Wide Web—and you will often find that the truth is out there—or at least I do. Ap­par­ently, the whole brouhaha over this “un­manned flight” was a pub­licity stunt!

South­west was not calling at­ten­tion to the first time an all-female crew flew one of their flights, but were heralding the flight as the first-ever all-woman flight crew aboard the com­pa­ny’s new Boeing 737 Max 8 air­craft fleet!

That is, this wasn’t much of a first at all. The air­line’s own web­site noted that “it’s not un­common to see an en­tire Flight Crew of women. Oak­land Cap­tain Cindee Goes hap­pened to no­tice on a re­cent flight to Las Vegas that her en­tire Crew, as well as the Op­er­a­tions Agent and Cus­tomer Ser­vice Agent at the gate, were all women!”

It seems that it would not be un­fair to read into this that South­west was be­lat­edly re­al­izing that it had not cap­i­tal­ized on the pub­licity of the orig­inal first all-female-flight when­ever that event took place years ago—that they were simply playing a clever form of catch-up with this all-female event in 2017.

Women flying: photo of Sherri Maple, first female Chief Pilot for Southwest Airlines and her unidentified female co-pilot

“Cap­tain Sherri Maple made his­tory at South­west Air­lines by being our first woman Check Airman, and she also be­came the first fe­male pilot to be­come a Chief Pilot at South­west at our Phoenix base and one of the first fe­male Chief Pi­lots in the US air­line in­dustry in 1997.” (South­west)

Women flying without brooms!

My ini­tial in­ten­tion with this ar­ticle was to poke fun at the cha­rade that this event is marking progress, when it can just as easily be read as ev­i­dence of how far be­hind we’re lag­ging in over­turning gen­er­a­tions of gender inequality.

I had also in­tended to men­tion the pop­ular as­so­ci­a­tion of hag­gard witches flying on equally bat­tered brooms, but thought better of it. (As Radha Mitchell de­light­edly ex­claimed throughout Mozart And The Whale, “Hah!”)

But at least the at­ten­dant pub­licity for this flight has given us an an­swer to the age­less question:

Are women as ca­pable as men of flying 200 pas­sen­gers at 600 mph through the friendly skies of America on a daily basis without sleep while under the in­flu­ence of drugs and alcohol?

FlyingWoman1 1200X500 1

FEATURED IMAGE: I found the great photo at the top of this page by typing “flying woman” into Google and then pre­viewing the im­ages that ap­peared. Oddly, while I was able to ac­cess the image, the link to the ac­com­pa­nying ar­ticle led me to a blank, white 404 error page, so I can’t give anyone the credit they de­serve for this photo.



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