When I started my flying career in 1979, the The Ninety-Nines celebrated their 50th Birthday. As the only international organization of female pilots in the world, I considered joining the 99s founded by my hero Amelia Earhart and named after the original 99 members.
Had I joined the 99s, I likely would have benefited from contact with the other members, if I could have contacted them. But I was flying in the northern regions of Canada where I was a rare female voice surrounded in a wilderness of male pilots.
The international ratio of male to female commercial pilots was – and still is – 20 : 1. But in Canada this ratio was more like 20 : 0.5 (or 2-3%). In other words, for one hundred male pilots there were 2 or 3 female pilots.
My only source of contact with other female pilots belonging to the 99s would have been (brace yourself) telephone or snail mail. No internet. No instant access. No email. (How did we survive?)
Aviation was – and still is – expensive. And, contrary to popular opinion, not lucrative until you became a captain with an airline. As an instructor and then as a First Officer, I was paid only slightly more than I had earned at the bank.
Joining any group costs money. Money was tight and I was a single mother. True, my ex-husband and I had agreed (another miracle!) upon joint custody, a recent legal creation. When our son was with me, I received child support. But that was for our son, not for aviation. So I didn’t join the 99s.
In some ways I miss flying commercially – and now that I’m no longer in the bush or the Central American jungle – I finally decided to join nearly forty years after my first flight.
I might even attend the 2018 Conference in Philadelphia!
Happy flights, everyone.