Most Passengers Don't Trust Female Pilots; 28% Question Women's Ability To Handle Pressure

By Ben Wolford on November 5, 2013 4:01 PM EST

Most passengers
Most passengers "don't trust" female pilots, a new survey found.

Women can't be trusted in the cockpit, said most of the respondents in a survey by the online travel agent, Sunshine.co.uk.

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The answers leave little doubt that passengers don't believe female pilots are as airworthy as their male counterparts. According to a report in The Telegraph, 51 percent said they were less likely to trust a woman flying their plane. Of those, nearly two-thirds either said it was because "male pilots are more skilled" or because female pilots can't handle pressure.

Just 14 percent said they felt safer with a woman at the controls.

"To see that more than half would be less likely to trust a female pilot was absolutely astounding," Chris Clarkson, managing director of Sunshine.co.uk, told The Telegraph. "Clearly, many Britons have stereotypes that they need to get rid of."

He said these preconceptions don't make any sense.

"If pilots become fully qualified and are given their licence," he explained, "they are perfectly capable of flying a plane and getting you to your destination safely, regardless of whether they are male or female."

The survey questioned 2,400 people who had boarded a flight within the last year. Some said they didn't trust women because they rarely flew with them. One male American pilot interviewed by The Telagraph suggested it was the fear of the unknown that made people respond the way they did. Female pilots make up about 5 percent of cockpit crews, said the pilot, Patrick Smith, who has written a book about aviation.

In a separate survey reported last year by The Telegraph, Britons said they preferred the clear, crisp "Home Counties" accent used by most Londoners, but distrusted the lilting Cockney accent characterized by London's working-class East End.

Indeed, vocal stereotypes may have more to do with the results of the study than gender stereotypes do, said Brooke Magnanti, a forensic scientist, in a Telegraph op-ed. Generally speaking, she wrote, people trust those lower voices more than those with high-pitched voices. She cited a University of Miami study that found people were more likely to prefer a female candidate with a lower-pitched voice.

"When it comes to voices, study after study shows both men and women find lower-pitched voices more trustworthy," she wrote. "This gives the advantage to men, but the effects also extend to women with lower voices."

In other pilot stereotype news, it might seem easy to assume elderly pilots are worse pilots, but in fact it's just the opposite, according to an article in Science Daily. A 2007 study published in Neurology suggests that older pilots performed better than younger ones in flight simulator tests, an indication that experience is the ultimate factor in piloting skill.

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