Gender differences in general aviation crashes

Male pilots flying general aviation (private) aircraft in the United States are more likely to crash due to inattention or flawed decision-making, while female pilots are more likely to crash from mishandling the aircraft, according to a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study, published in the May 2001 issue of Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, identifies the differences between male and female pilots in terms of circumstances of the crash and the type of pilot error involved.

"Crashes of general aviation aircraft account for 85 percent of all aviation deaths in the United States. The crash rate for male pilots, as for motor vehicle drivers, exceeds that of crashes of female pilots," explains Susan P. Baker, MPH, professor of health policy and management at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Because pilot youth and inexperience are established contributors to aviation crashes, we focused on only mature pilots, to determine the gender differences in the reasons for the crash."

The researchers extracted data for this study from a larger research project on pilot aging and flight safety. The data were gathered from general aviation crashes of airplanes and helicopters between 1983 and 1997, involving 144 female pilots and 287 male pilots aged 40-63. Female pilots were matched with male pilots in a 1:2 ratio, by age, classes of medical and pilot certificates, state or area of crash, and year of crash. Then the circumstances of the crashes and the pilot error involved were categorized and coded without knowledge of pilot gender.

The researchers found that loss of control on landing or takeoff was the most common circumstance for both sexes, leading to 59 percent of female pilots crashes and 36 percent of males. Experiencing mechanical failure, running out of fuel, and landing the plane with the landing gear up were among the factors more likely with males, while stalling was more li

Contact: Ming Tai or Tim Parsons
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

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