Left in a lather about the left seat

Stuff, on its mission to manufacture outrage over the trivial, has leapt into the fray over the left seat gender gap. The left seat in the cockpit is where the pilot sits and Air New Zealand have just featured an article about the recent appointees to left-seat (pilot) roles. There is a clear gender seat gap in the picture. There is also a clear racial seat gap as well, but we will leave that for the next Stuff outrage piece. Quote.

A photo showing an all-male group of 45 Air New Zealand pilots is symptomatic of a lack of diversity in the industry, one aviation commentator says.

The group achieved first command status for the airline last year.

The photo, of the new captains being recognised at a celebration last year, was printed in an Air New Zealand Kia Ora magazine.

The accompanying text said being a captain and moving to the left-hand seat of an aircraft was a “milestone in every pilot’s career. It requires a high level of dedication and commitment and is something the airline is proud to formally recognise.”

Aviation commentator Irene King said it showed a level of unconscious bias and “people recruiting in their own mould”.

End quote.

Bollocks! If there are no women candidates having the requisite skills and experience then you cannot hire them. Simple! Quote.

She said part of the problem was female students not studying science, technology, engineering and maths at school.

Air New Zealand was restricted to hiring those who graduated from flight schools, she said. If it wanted to ensure more diversity it would have to start its own training facilities, which would be expensive.

Flight schools could help by making a conscious decision to bring in 50 per cent women students, she said. Data from Stats NZ shows there are 1932 male aeroplane pilots in New Zealand and 114 female. End quote.

If, for whatever reasons, people do not wish to enter a career, you cannot simply ‘make’ them enrol. Becoming a pilot is a very long and very expensive training choice. Finally ending up as a pilot on the long-haul legs may be very well paid but your home life and social life is constantly disrupted. Quote.

The photo has attracted social media criticism. […]

End quote.

Surprise! Quote.

A spokeswoman for Air New Zealand said it acknowledged an under representation of women in its pilot community and said it was actively recruiting pilots and encouraging women to consider aviation as a career.

She said there would be three new female jet captains at its next first command ceremony in April and most of the 45 new captains would report to a senior female pilot, A320 fleet manager Christine Ody. All ultimately report to the general manager of pilots, Nikki Dines.

“We have a targeted network of female pilots within Air New Zealand WiNGS (Women Inspiring the Next Generation) which is focused on improving pilot gender diversity.

“The group initiates and supports activities that promote an inclusive, supportive pilot culture and an equal opportunity workplace. The group’s purpose is to support and develop our existing female pilots, and increase opportunities for female pilots to take on leadership roles as well as focussing on external recruitment and attraction.” End quote.


Maybe it’s that women are more conscious of the fact that atmospheric cosmic rays are intensifying for the 4th year in a row. The new figures are of interest to air travellers, especially frequent ‘travellers’ like pilots. The sun?s weakening magnetic field and flagging solar wind are protecting us less than before from deep-space radiation.

Maybe this is one situation where having the best person for the role is really worthwhile? I do not want the people up front in any aircraft I travel on to be there because they tick some diversity box. I want the absolute best-qualified for the role that the airline can find.

Excellent Captain material – sign her up.