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Nobody Asked Me, But…The Female Naval Aviator: A Free Ride?

By Lieutenant Richard P. Shipman, U. S. Navy, Naval Safety Center

A second discriminatory aspect of the noncombatant law is how it affects waviator's career patterns. Ask any male aviator what the most odious aspects of his job are and what factors are the greatest deterrent to making the Navy a career and he will usually cite the extended cruises and the arduous sea duty. Where is the arduous sea duty for the females? A composite squadron in Virginia Beach? A transport squadron based in Rota? A helo squadron that never leaves San Diego? If the Navy could offer all its aviators a rotation like that, retention would be in the 90% range. But then, who would man the carriers?

Regardless of what tales detailers tell, most "good jobs" are ashore and most "bad jobs" are at sea, and unless everybody takes his (her) turn, rotating between the good and the bad, you have an unfair situation. While the number of female aviators in existence now is insignificant, expanded inputs of women will necessarily result in the decrease of good shore duty flying billets for the pilots coming off sea duty.

The very concept of the female aviators is unfair to their male counterparts from the beginning of flight training. The physical training (PT) standards at Pensacola preflight are necessarily stringent, and their importance is such that men failing to meet the minimum requirements must stay in that phase until they qualify, or are dropped from the program. Of the initial eight women accepted for pilot training, seven advanced to preflight, although none met the minimum PT qualifications.

Once at Saufley Field and primary training, it's no secret that the ladies' flight instructors were handpicked, leaving the less talented, less experienced, and occasional "screamer" instructors to the male studs.

The demanding tempo of training, flying, and studying can get pretty hectic in the Air Training Command but, while the male students grit their teeth and bear it, the ladies get a once-a-month grounding for several days for "upper respiratory infections."

The struggle for good flight grades in the training command is intense, because grades normally determine eventual assignment to type billet and aircraft. However, before the first waviators got airborne on their first hops they knew what communities and what aircraft they were going to-all good billets, "fleet seats." Even if these billets had not been pre-selected, and this will probably be the case for subsequent inputs, the ladies have an advantage over the men because they don't need CQ. This is unfair to the men because the lowest graded stage statistically is CQ, and thus, the women's flight grades are artificially inflated.

If there were a critical shortfall of male aviators to man combatant cockpits then the augmentation of the shore facilities with female aviators could certainly be justified. However, the opposite is actually the case. There are many male aviators now serving in shore or non-fleet flying billets simply because there were no available "fleet seats" when they were designated. Therefore, not only are the waviators unneeded, but they are taking seats that should be going to aviators who have been "stashed" for a tour.

Until such time as women are legally and physically able to occupy any job in any location under the same conditions as men, a most unfair and discriminatory practice exists, and the Navy must move to stop it. Let's chalk up the initial input of female aviators to an interesting experiment in equal opportunity that didn't really provide equal opportunity, and stop at that.


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