Friday, October 12, 2012

When Will We See The First Female Red Bull Air Race Pilot?

Fro RedBull Race Fan:  When Will We See The First Female Red Bull Air Race Pilot?


Russian Female Aerobatics Pilot Svetlana Kapanina
2012 has marked many notable achievements in the world of aviation for women, for example Nigeria and Afghanistan both decorated their first female air force pilots. Both these stories grabbed headlines around the world, but for this reason, it shows there still is a gender divide in flying.
Today in the United States there are currently 627,588 pilots registered with the FAA, only 42,218 are women (6.73%). The progression of women in this heavily male orientated industry is also not growing particularly fast, in the last 16 years the number of women pilots has increased by less than 7,000.
So we have to ask ourselves a difficult question, what is the chances of seeing the first female Red Bull Air Race pilot in 2014? Surprisingly I think it is quite high.
The Case For
Women in aviation, overall, have never particularly lagged behind men. In 1903 the Wright Brothers performed the first sustained flight, yet in 1906 E. Lillian Todd became the first woman to design and build an aircraft. In 1908 the first woman piloted an aircraft, and in 1910 woman received a pilot license. Everyone remembers Frenchman Louis Blériot crossing the English Channel in 1909, but in 1911 Harriet Quimby became the first U.S. woman to earn a pilot certificate and to cross the English Channel.
But what about in aerobatics? In 1915,  Katherine Stinson became the first female aerobatics pilot and in 1929 Louise Thaden won the first ever female air race. (You can learn more about female flight milestones here). So it is undeniable fact that female pilots are not disadvantaged by history in the development of aviation sports.
Furthermore outside of the civilian world, women pilots are now common place in the most elite air forces in the world. In 1974 the US Navy and USAF accepted women into pilot training and in 1991 Congress lifted the ban on women flying in combat aircraft.  Elsewhere in Britain in 1992, Jo Salter became the first fast jet female pilot in the RAF.
Not only do women have experience of both the high demands of civilian and military flying which is essential for the Red Bull Air Race they also feature prominently in the finest aerobatic teams in the world. In the RAF Red Arrows, the USN Blue Angels, the USAF Thunderbirds, Pakistani Sherdil and Canadian Snowbirds.
The Case Against
The pool of  female pilots is a lot smaller than that of their male counterparts. Females currently only make up around 4% of the USAF pilots and worldwide there are only 450 female airline captains according to International Society of Women Airline Pilots. Red Bull Air Race rules stipulate that every pilot must have at least 1,000 flight hours as the pilot in command.
Sadly Red Bull rules mean that even if female pilots pass this first test, they need to have in one of three international aerobatics competitions finishing in the top half, in the past five years. Currently only 118 women hold a sport license in the US capable of competing in these competitions. In the last five years less then twenty female pilots entered all three of the competitions.
Conclusion
Overall female pilots do have a long and successful history as pilots and although progress is slow women do have a foothold in the aviation world. Yet in our own little niche sector of the Red Bull Air Race the pool of availability seems to be down to less then twenty names. However I strongly believe that their the 2014 season will include a female pilot. Below are my top tips for the first female pilots of the Red Bull Air Race:
Svetlana Kapanina:
Nationality: Russian
Job: Aerobatic Pilot
Awards: FAI WAC: 1996, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2005 (female catergory winner) – 1997 and 2001 winner overall
Red Bull Connection: Flew alongside Sergey Rakhmanin for the Russian team numerous times
Kathel Boulanger:
Nationality: French
Job: Air France 777 Pilot
Awards: European Aerobatics Championship: won the women’s silver medal in an Extreme catergory 2012. 2008 Al Ain Aerobatics show $20,000 winner.
Red Bull Connection: Often appears at airshows alongside Nicolas Ivanoff
Aude Lemordant:
Nationality: French
Job: Air France 777 Pilot
Awards: European Aerobatics Championship: crowned European freestyle champion in a CAP332. Aude is the world vice-champion and the French aerobatics champion
Elena Klimovich: 
Nationality: Russian
Job: Aerobatics Pilot
Awards: FAI WAC: 2009 Women’s World Champion and 1st place overall finish in 2012 European Championships

 

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