Attrition: Female Pilots Sharply Reduce Helicopter Losses

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March 3, 2014: U.S. Army Aviation has come to realize what automobile insurance companies have known for a long time; women are safer drivers. While ten percent of army helicopter pilots are women, only three percent of helicopter accidents occur when a woman is the pilot. This not a new or unique situation. For thousands of years it was known that women were better than men for a lot of combat support tasks, like camp management and tending the wounded. There have been numerous situations where women ended up in command (usually because of noble birth and the death of available male nobles to command) and performed exceptionally well. As firearms replaced weapons that depended more on muscle (which men still have a lot more of) women began to show up as superior for combat tasks as well. During World War II Russia found that women made better snipers. This was a task that did not depend on a lot of muscle, but did require exceptional stealth, concentration and patience. By the end of the war over 2,000 women had served as snipers and the list of the best snipers during the war was full of females. Several of the female snipers got over 300 kills. The best male snipers had over 500 kills but there were only a handful of them. Most Russian snipers did not survive the war. Only 25 percent of the female snipers did. It was much harder for a woman to become a sniper in the first place because women were not allowed in the infantry. But early on it became common knowledge that many women were good at sniping and many commanders let their female support troops know that there was always a need for effective snipers for those who wanted to try out.

The Russians had a similar experience with female pilots, although there was a lot of resistance to having women fighter pilots. But those who did get into fighter units did so because they were exceptional pilots and had no problem pulling the trigger. Like the United States, Russia used women pilots for a lot of non-combat flying jobs. But the United States never even let the women wear a uniform, the female pilots were all contractors. As such they performed a lot of difficult tasks, like flying aircraft from factory to air bases despite frequent encounters with horrendous weather. In Russia female pilots wore a uniform and were treated as military pilots.

Eventually women got into military aviation and eventually served as combat pilots. As their numbers and flight hours increased there was enough data to show trends. One result is that the army now knows what the insurance industry has known for over half a century. The military also found that women excelled at intelligence work and many administrative tasks. As more women entered these fields the average effectiveness of people in those jobs increased and the military benefitted. These are lessons commercial firms learned decades ago and once more another military “innovation” is little more than adopting ideas that have already been discovered, tried and proven in commercial organizations.

 

 

 


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