Newer Pilots Need Mentors to Learn How to Fly Safely
My dad was a trainer in World War II in a Stearman. From a young age, he instilled the love of flight in me. Our family always drove a modest car, but had a small airplane in the hangar. Every year we would fly from California to Indiana or Seattle for family reunions, but more often than not, we took local flights for airport days or business. He was the one that used to rattle off the adage about old bold pilots.
I am lucky to have had my Dad as a mentor. Many newer or younger pilots could benefit from such mentorship. Dad was extremely cautious flying his family around. He amassed over 10,000 hours before he stopped flying. As a girl I studied him – he was my idol. I watched him as he planned for long flights, studied the weather, and was cognizant of baggage and loading.
Here, I want to focus on not only how to be a mentor, but some of the differences between mentoring males and females in aviation. Only 6-7% of the pilot population is female. Learning a bit about educating and inspiring them might help us to increase our ranks.
Here are some basic brain facts.
Probably the most basic is that I believe that men have waffle brains and women have spaghetti brains. Waffles have distinct lines, edges and areas that contain the butter and syrup. There is a little box for everything.
A bowl of spaghetti is quite different. Every noodle touches every other noodle, it is hard to tell where one ends and another begins. The entire bowl of noodles is connected.
In a nutshell, males tend to be organized with a drive to exhibit competence. Females tend to be hard wired for connection. If you want your mentee to learn to fly safely and make real world, real-time decisions about aviation safety please consider this:
- Men have larger parietal cortices [sense of perception] and amygdala [sexual and social behavior].
- Men have more grey matter full of active neurons; this might explain more physically or mentally active professions like airplane pilots, racecar drivers, and mathematicians.
- Larger amygdala: controls fight, flight and freeze responses.
- More likely to take action on negative emotion or fear response.
- Brain scans have shown that frontal lobes [the inner CEO] and limbic cortices [emotional responses] were larger.
- Women have more white matter, which is another reason they work faster.
- In women’s brains, the neurons are packed in tightly.
- Women have greater activity in the brain’s hippocampus.The female brain has a larger corpus callosum that connects emotion and cognition and lets them rely heavily on oral or verbal communication.
- The female brain secretes more serotonin and oxytocin, which connects them further to the emotional world.
Mentoring and teaching differences
If we talk about becoming a safer pilot, and show examples, mentees will see it as a possibility. Males will be excited about the individual mastery or competence in aviation-WAFFLE. Yet they might actually be held back in talking about fears due to organization around competency. Females will be excited to be part of a group of women pilots-SPAGHETTI. Yet they might not see many examples of other women pilots.
Males might be better with conceptualizing basic principles of safe flight and/or decision-making. Females would most likely learn better by hands-on demonstration or use of a simulator.
This is just a drink from the fire hose of mentoring and flight safety. Hopefully it will inspire you to be of service to other pilots or want-to-be pilots. We need to create a safe space for our mentees to be vulnerable as learners. Our judgment and decision-making are what helps us keep flying safely. Share what you know with others.