NOTAMS, airmen, and inclusion

Today, the FAA changed the words in the acronym NOTAM from Notices to Airmen to Notices to Air Missions. And the internet has blown up. There are men (and some women) all over social media in an uproar. They are saying that we need to honor tradition and why is it a problem for women and girls to be called “airmen.”

Now I don’t want to make this blog political, but I am not going to let this one go by without a comment. I work in a very male dominated profession. Thankfully, very strong women went before me and paved a path for me to follow. There is still much work to be done. But I vividly remember seeing Sandra Day O’Connor being sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. Even though I had been told I could do anything (like become a pilot and build an airplane), it meant something that society recognized that women could be in places of power.

Little girls look at aviation and see fewer than 7% of licensed pilots look like them. They look at pilots’ certificates and they see “airman” under the name. They internalize that they are not the people expected to be in this arena. Words matter. The words that we tell girls and women matter. They can lift up and they can beat down.

Is this the biggest issue facing aviation? Nope. Not by a long shot. But it is important. Inclusion is important.

When I bought my Van’s kit, I got an email back from them saying how excited they are to see more girls and women building airplanes. That meant something. Those few little words meant something. Language matters.

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