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Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers (1997)

Chapter:5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE

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Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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5
Diversifying the Aviation Workforce

The prevalence of white men in key aviation jobs, which we describe in Chapter 2, is the legacy of both explicit discrimination in hiring and an internal culture that from the beginning of commercial aviation gave heavy emphasis to the masculine nature of flying. Aviation is not unique in this regard; its history reflects not only its own traditions but also broad societal patterns in America and the particular closeness of the industry to the military, from which many of its leaders and employees have come. Aviation is changing, as are society and the military, although the employment numbers for the industry suggest that change has come slowly. One way to ensure that aviation has the future workforce it needs is to ensure that aviation jobs are open to all members of society. There is clearly untapped potential in groups that have been historically underrepresented in the industry. Even more important is to ensure that no individual is excluded from the occupation he or she might wish to pursue on account of sex or race.

Acknowledging that formal policies once barring minorities and women from aviation jobs no longer exist, the committee also recognizes that discriminatory attitudes and practices continue in American society. We believe that no industry is exempt from their effects, and our views are shared by others who have studied these issues directly and extensively. We cite as one example the major National Research Council report on the status of black Americans, which concluded that despite "genuine progress … race still matters greatly in the United States. Much of the evidence reviewed in this report indicates widespread attitudes of societal racism" (Jaynes and Williams, 1989:155). The writers of that report observed that "the status of black Americans today can be characterized as a glass that is half full—if measured by progress since 1939—or as a glass that is

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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half empty—if measured by the persisting disparities between black and white Americans since the early 1970s" (p.4). The experience of blacks in America is "unique—in its history of slavery and of extreme segregation, exclusion, and discrimination" (p. ix); it stands as the starkest reminder that the United States is nowhere near being able to declare victory in the battle to provide equal opportunities and equal treatment to all its citizens.

Aviation is clearly one of many areas in which more remains to be done. To accurately diagnose and prescribe remedies for lingering underrepresentation in this industry, it is helpful to understand something of its history.

A Historical Perspective

For much of their existence, U.S. airlines have been peopled mostly by white males, and it is still the case that white males dominate the management and piloting ranks of the industry (Henderson, 1995:33). One might be tempted to conclude from this that minorities and women have not been especially interested in aviation, but this conclusion is contradicted by the facts.

Current scholarship on the history of aviation (summarized in Nettey, 1996, and in Smithsonian Institution books such as Brooks-Pasmany, 1991; Douglas, 1991; C. Oakes, 1991a, 1991b; Hardesty and Pisano, 1983) makes it clear that minorities—particularly blacks, on whom the most has been written—and women were just as fascinated as white men were with flying and airplanes from the earliest days. This scholarship also makes it clear that for many years roadblocks were placed in the way of blacks and women that curbed their interest or made it much harder for them to turn that interest into action.

The extent of black interest and involvement in aviation has not been fully appreciated, due in part to a lack of reporting; as Hardesty and Pisano (1983:79) note, "because of the segregated nature of black aviation during the 1920s, '30s and '40s, coverage in white periodicals is very scanty." Black pilots, both men and women, were among the pioneers of flight, despite "the widely-held notion in the aviation community that blacks lacked even the aptitude to fly" and although "blacks found themselves arbitrarily excluded from flight instruction" (Hardesty and Pisano, 1983:5). Bessie Coleman, who in 1922 became the first black pilot to earn a license in this country, had to go to France for flight training. So did Eugene Bullard, who flew with the French during World War I. Efforts began as early as the 1930s to encourage black involvement in aviation despite the barriers of segregation. Flying clubs were established for blacks (some named after Bessie Coleman, who died in an aircraft accident in 1926). One club founder also wrote a book called Black Wings (Powell, 1934) and urged black youth to enter aviation as a career. Blacks also established schools of aeronautics during this period, and groups such as the National Airmen's Association and the Challenger Air Pilots' Association were created to promote aviation in the black community.

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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Women, too, faced questions from aviation's early days—questions that are "still unresolved in many minds"—about "whether aviation was or is a 'proper' sphere" for them (Brooks-Pazmany, 1991:1). Nevertheless, women also showed early on that they wanted to be involved in the adventure of flight. Katherine Wright worked with her brothers Orville and Wilbur on their research, although she didn't fly herself. (Orville rejected all the female applicants to the flying school the brothers opened in 1910.) Some women did learn to fly before World War I; after a wartime ban on civilian flying was lifted, more of them earned their licenses. In the 1920s, women pilots barnstormed, raced, carried passengers, and set records. In 1929, women pilots decided to establish an association through which they could share their experiences, encourage other women to take up flying, and in general promote aviation. Thus the Ninety-Nines organization was born, a group that continues to this day. The first woman pilot to fly for an airline, Helen Richey, was hired by Central Airlines in 1934, but she was forced to quit after only a few months by pressure from male airline pilots. Despite this setback, women contributed to the fledgling industry by writing and giving speeches promoting air travel; the Boeing Air Transport company hired the industry's first stewardesses in 1930. During these early days, women worked as engineers, flight instructors, and entrepreneurs in various aviation-related endeavors. In 1939, the Women Flyers of America, Inc., was formed as a national flying club open to any girl or woman involved in, or even just interested in, aviation.

World War II saw the lowering of some barriers facing minorities and women in aviation, especially in the military. The Civilian Pilot Training Program and War Training Service Program provided a pool of flight instructors and a trained cadre of about 2,000 black pilots. Black military aviators who took part in the war were graduates of these programs, including the famed all-black Tuskegee Airmen (Hardesty and Pisano, 1983; Shear, 1995). Women were also trained as pilots during World War II, including about 1,000 trained as WASPs (Women's Airforce Service Pilots), who by war's end had logged nearly 300,000 flying hours and had flown nearly every aircraft in the military inventory, including bombers and fighters. Even more than blacks (whose roles were still sharply restricted by segregation), women moved into jobs throughout civilian and military aviation during this period (Douglas, 1991; Holm, 1992:64-65).

World War II military aviators, both minorities and women, faced outright discrimination in the postwar years, however, when they attempted to enter the civilian industry.

None of the black aviators who flew in the war was hired by a major airline upon return to civilian life. Blacks were hired into blue-collar service jobs as skycaps and ground handlers in the commercial aviation industry, but they were excluded from being pilots or from filling key managerial and administrative positions. It took court battles and the civil rights movement to open the cockpit to blacks in the 1960s. Continental hired Marlon Green in 1965 only after he won

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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a case that had begun six years earlier and that had to be argued all the way to the Supreme Court (see U.S. Supreme Court, 1963). American Airlines was the first major airline to voluntarily hire a black male pilot, in 1964. The first black woman gained a cockpit job with a major airline in 1978 (Douglas, 1991; Hardesty and Pisano, 1983; Shear, 1995:A20; U.S. Congress, 1988:6).

Post-World War II demobilization also reduced the opportunities for women in the industry, as traditional attitudes about women's "proper role" reasserted themselves. No woman was hired as a pilot by a commercial air carrier until 1973. In that year, Frontier Airlines, a regional airline at the time, Eastern, and American each hired a woman pilot (Kjos, 1993:22-23; Maples, 1992:13). Until then, women were largely relegated to flying as flight attendants in the airline passenger cabin; for the most party they were also barred from mechanics positions and from certain other airline jobs (U.S. Court of Appeals, 1977:231). Minority women faced discrimination in the flight attendant ranks as well as in the cockpit. Mohawk Airlines was the first airline in the United States to break the barrier by hiring a black flight attendant in 1957 (Petzinger, 1995:38).

Opportunities gradually opened up for blacks and women, but progress was slow and often hard won. The airlines' employment practices were targeted in numerous legal challenges as well as federal enforcement actions stemming largely from the civil rights legislation and executive orders of the 1960s. The most far reaching, longest running, and highest profile court case ended only in 1995; it involved United, which was sued, along with five of the unions with which it bargained collectively, by the U.S. attorney general in 1973. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was substituted as plaintiff in 1975, and in 1976 the EEOC entered into a consent decree with the airline (U.S. District Court, 1976). The lawsuit charged United and its unions with "a pattern and practice of discrimination in hiring, termination, and other job related practices, based upon race, national origin and sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964" (from the government's April 14, 1973, complaint as reported in U.S. District Court, 1995:2). One specific allegation accused the airline of entering into collective bargaining agreements that contained discriminatory provisions on promotion, demotion, transfer, and layoffs based on seniority. The airline and its unions agreed to undertake remedial actions and to modify their employment and membership practices for minorities and women. The decree also established incumbency employment goals, to be reached over a 5- to 6-year period, for a number of job categories, including mechanic, storekeeper and ramp service, flight attendant, customer service agent, reservation sales agent, air freight agent, management, and clerical staff; it also set hiring goals for entry-level pilot positions. Progress in implementing the goals was slower than anticipated, although incumbency goals were reached in 1989. Pilot hiring goals were the subject of further enforcement action in 1988, when the EEOC determined that some pilot trainees and probationary pilots were being subjected to race and

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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sex discrimination (though it did not find a "pattern or practice" of such discrimination).

By 1995 the EEOC, the defendants, and the court agreed that the goals of the original decree had been met and that the decree should be dissolved. The judge noted that "[i]n short, in terms of minority and female employment, United is not the company it was eighteen years ago" and that "all of the parties, including the EEOC, now affirm that since 1988 United has been hiring minority and female pilots at ratios which consistently exceed application ratios." He went on to recognize the view of other objectors opposed to dissolving the decree, who argued that a fuller investigation would turn up evidence of continuing problems at United and that the EEOC had not adequately implemented, monitored, or enforced the provisions of the decree. The court disagreed with these allegations, though the judge also observed that the court's "conclusion is not a determination that employment discrimination may no longer be a problem at United. … We have no delusions that such invidious behavior has entirely ceased to plague the workplace." He ruled, however, that future remedies were properly addressed through fresh complaints to the EEOC rather than continuation of the earlier action (U.S. District Court, 1995:8, 9-10).

Congress has also investigated the progress of airlines toward making their workforces more representative. The Government Activities and Transportation Subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Operations held hearings in 1986 and 1987 on blacks in the industry, and the full committee issued a report in 1988 (U.S. Congress, 1987a, 1987b, 1987c, 1988). Although declining to make a specific finding of discrimination against the three airlines that had been the focus of the hearings (American, TWA, and United), the committee majority stated that "it is looking for the industry to make substantial improvements in increasing representation of blacks, particularly black pilots, managers, and other professionals," and made five specific findings (U.S. Congress, 1988:23-4):

  • The vast majority of black airline employees are in low-wage and unskilled positions.
  • Black pilots are experiencing multiple rejections for employment from most large commercial airlines.
  • For a variety of reasons, the airlines have failed to institutionalize and incorporate affirmative action into corporate policy.
  • Black airline employees are disillusioned and frustrated by their companies' treatment of blacks.
  • The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has failed to monitor adequately the airline industry for affirmative action compliance.

The majority of members of the Committee on Government Operations recommended shifting affirmative action oversight from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to the FAA, initiating systemic investigation of at

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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least four major carriers through the EEOC, and elevating affirmative action issues on the agendas of member airlines through the Air Transport Association, the official trade association of the airline industry.

A substantial minority of the Committee on Government Operations dissented from the committee report, citing problems with some of its findings and conclusions. (The Departments of Labor and Transportation also disagreed with the committee's recommendation to transfer affirmative action oversight of the airlines to the FAA (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1989:10), and this transfer never occurred.) Despite its dissent to the findings and conclusions, the House committee minority nevertheless agreed with much of the committee report's substance. The committee minority noted in particular (U.S. Congress, 1988:49):

After reviewing the EEO-1 data the airlines submit as part of the equal employment opportunity requirements, rather obvious questions come to mind. If the industry is as committed to affirmative action as it claims to be, and has indeed exercised its "best efforts" to provide employment opportunities for minorities and women, why haven't their efforts yielded more significant results?

Why indeed? Our committee discussions of this difficult question led us to the conclusion that increasing the diversity of the aviation workforce, and especially broadening access to its highly skilled and most senior positions, is a task that must include but also extend beyond the industry itself. We know from available statistical data (Table 5-1) that the proportion of certificated pilots and maintenance technicians who are women is still very small; we believe that the same is true for blacks, although we could find no data to prove the point. Efforts to diversify the aviation workforce, therefore, need to begin much earlier than the point at which potential employees apply for jobs. By enlarging the pool of people interested in and qualified for aviation careers, we can potentially address two concerns simultaneously. We can increase the number of minorities and women available for employment. We can also forestall any future supply problems by ensuring that the nation's increasingly diverse workforce is being fully utilized by the aviation industry.

We therefore conclude that the challenge of improving diversity in aviation must be addressed along three dimensions. Especially in light of past efforts to discourage minorities and women from participating in aviation, efforts must be made to develop the interest of individuals from underrepresented groups in undertaking aviation careers. There must be equal opportunities for minorities and women to develop the basic academic competencies to successfully pursue aviation careers if they choose. And any remaining barriers must be addressed that formally or informally have a disproportionate effect on the ability of minorities or women to pursue aviation careers if they have the basic academic competencies and the interest.

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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TABLE 5-1 Estimated Active Airmen Certificates Held by Women, December 31, 1995 (percentages in parentheses)

 

Total Certificates Held

Number Held by Women

Pilots-Total

639,184

38,032 (6.0)

Students

101,279

12,710 (12.5)

Recreational

232

16 (6.9)

Private

261,399

15,398 (5.9)

Commercial

133,980

5,694 (4.2)

Air transport

123,877

3,134 (2.5)

Flight instructor certificates

77,613

4,556 (5.9)

Mechanica

405,294

3,914 (1.0)

a Number represents all certificates on record. No medical examination required.

SOURCE: Federal Aviation Administration unpublished data.

Developing Interest

Given aviation's history, it is reasonable to believe that not only must formal roadblocks be removed (as many of them have been), but also special efforts must be made to encourage blacks and women to choose a field that for so long seemed hostile to them. Individuals from underrepresented groups need to know that aviation now offers career opportunities to which they can aspire. Hoping that this message will simply filter out of its own accord flies in the face of reality, as characterized by the relative absence of role models and the public's lack of awareness about many of the contributions minorities and women have already made. As Hardesty and Pisano noted in their 1983 catalog accompanying the Smithsonian Institution's "Black Wings" exhibit on American blacks in aviation, only in the 1980s were black contributions to aeronautical history in the United States "finally being documented and recognized after years of historical neglect" (p. 3). No wonder, then, that many black youngsters and their families need help in realizing the possibilities open to them in aviation.

Fortunately, many activities aimed at involving young people and others in aviation are already under way, sponsored by the federal and state governments; by private associations like the Ninety-Nines, Women in Aviation, International,

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
×

and the Organization of Black Airline Pilots; by airlines and aircraft manufacturers; and by the many professional associations that represent companies or employees involved in all aspects of commercial and general aviation. A full accounting of these programs would be impossible, but an indication of the variety of activities available is provided by A Guide to Aviation Education Resources (no date) published by the FAA on behalf of the National Coalition of Aviation Education. The guide describes numerous activities sponsored by the 26 members of the coalition: public information (via print, videotape, and computers), awards, scholarships, youth awareness and involvement programs, teaching kits on aviation, and others. State and federal agencies (through the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) and the FAA) have committed themselves to a formal partnership designed among other things "to further aviation education by increasing public awareness and providing programs geared to enhance all levels of our nation's education system" (National Association of State Aviation Officials, 1994:1). NASAO (1994) also reports that 41 of 44 state aviation offices responding to its survey participate in educational opportunities in some capacity, including a majority who are involved with teacher education.

It is difficult to paint a comprehensive picture of all the activities designed to spur interest in and knowledge of aviation, nor do we really know how many people are actually reached by these activities. The committee's review suggests, however, that there are several issues to which those committed to encouraging interest in aviation should attend.

Continuing Attention to Underrepresented Groups

As we have seen, blacks and women have suffered from decades of having to overcome barriers to pursuing their interest in aviation. One result is that there is less of an aviation tradition among these groups than among white men. Not surprisingly, then, voluntary programs are less apt to attract members of these underrepresented groups without special efforts to reach and recruit them. A number of aviation education programs undertake such efforts, including the FAA's Aviation Career Education Academies as well as more targeted programs sponsored by groups such as the Organization of Black Airline Pilots, the Ninety-Nines, and Women in Aviation, International.

The committee recommends that all organizations seeking to encourage interest in and knowledge of aviation focus special attention on the continuing need to reach and involve individuals from groups who have been and still are underrepresented in the industry.

In this regard, we again point out the almost total lack of information available on who is served by aviation education programs and suggest that greater efforts be undertaken to determine each program's reach and impact. This is especially important with publicly funded programs, whose administrators have a responsibility to be accountable to taxpayers for using public monies as efficiently

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
×

as possible. The absence of outcome data for aviation education programs is a problem not limited to this field, but government agencies are giving the problem increased attention in other policy areas, and we recommend that aviation agencies do likewise. In the related programmatic field of aerospace, the National Research Council (1994) recently completed a study on the education programs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, recommending indicators and indicator systems that should be developed to gauge the outcomes of its programs aimed at elementary through graduate education. Much of the information in that report would be useful to anyone interested in developing systems for tracking the effectiveness of aviation education programs.

We also note that most aviation outreach activities focus on precollege age groups. Another opportunity for outreach and support exists in the collegiate institutions that enroll significant numbers of minority and women students in aviation education programs. As we saw in Chapter 4, a number of historically black colleges and universities, as well as several colleges with large Hispanic enrollments, offer aviation programs. These institutions, along with schools attracting women into aviation education, offer excellent opportunities for the industry to provide assistance to individuals (such as mentors and internship opportunities) to encourage their persistence in aviation and to provide support for institutions that demonstrate their ability to attract underrepresented groups into the aviation field.

The committee therefore recommends that, to increase the pool of qualified applicants from underrepresented groups for pilot, aviation maintenance technicians, and other positions in the aviation industry, airlines and other employers work aggressively to build linkages with the aviation programs at historically black colleges and universities and other schools and colleges with large minority and female enrollments.

The Importance of Partnerships

Resources of time and money are likely to be used most efficiently when the various groups involved in promoting aviation and aviation education work together. We already see many instances of this occurring, as in the National Coalition for Aviation Education; under its auspices (according to its mission statement) 26 organizations are ''united to promote aviation education activities and resources; increase public understanding of the importance of aviation; and support educational initiatives at the local, state, and national levels." Another example comes from an FAA regional official, who reported to the committee that a very important benefit of the region's Aviation Career Education Academies "is the spirit of cooperation that develops between the FAA, the educational institution, the aviation industry, and the community in helping our young people succeed." This cooperation was exemplified by the number of organizations participating in the program, including the Organization of Black Airline

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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Pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter 34, the Confederate Air Force, the Air National Guard, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Ninety-Nines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Vought, Lockheed, Delta, NAS JRB Carswell, Delta Aeronautics, Interlink, the Vintage Flying Museum, several colleges and universities, Collmer Semiconductor, Inc., Lone Star Advertising, the Texas Air National Guard, Ben E. Keith Distributors, and many others.

There is more room for progress, however. A recent NASAO report (1994) indicated areas in which improvement is needed. On the basis of its survey of state aviation offices, NASAO reported that only 19 of 44 responding states had working relationships between the state aviation office and the state department of education. NASAO noted in particular the need to expand aviation education programs at the high school level, observing that most aviation education programs continue to be geared toward elementary and middle school students. (We have more to say about high school programs below.) NASAO also noted several resource opportunities that appear to be available but are not used to their fullest potential. More specifically, states indicated only limited involvement with organizations such as the Experimental Aircraft Association, Boy and Girl Scouts, 4-H, Young Astronauts, Civil Air Patrol, and the Academy of Model Aeronautics. These organizations provide valuable resources, and careful collaboration with state agencies and the federal government can advance educational opportunities through cooperative ventures (p. 27).

Using cooperative ventures to expand the reach and effectiveness of aviation education programs takes on greater importance in light of growing resource constraints in government aviation agencies. The 1994 NASAO survey found that over the three fiscal years covered, state aviation education budgets had decreased 18 percent.

Potentially more problematic, because of the agency's traditional leadership role in aviation, are cutbacks in the aviation education program at the FAA. Government-wide downsizing has led to the virtual elimination of FAA aviation education activities. We reported on the demise of the airway science program in Chapter 4. Here we focus on the FAA's other aviation education activities designed to encourage interest in aviation and aviation careers (the Aviation Career Education Academies, Aviation Education Resource Centers, teachers workshops, etc.).

The budget for these activities, which amounted to $767,000 in fiscal 1993, was reduced to $50,000 for fiscal 1996, including the value of headquarters aviation education support (these figures and the FAA explanations for the budget changes are from internal FAA documents supplied to the committee). The FAA has reduced its civilian workforce from 52,400 full-time employees at the beginning of fiscal 1993 to 47,300 in fiscal 1996. The overall discretionary budget authority for the FAA's parent agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation, is projected to decline from $39.3 billion in fiscal 1994 to $32.7 billion in

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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fiscal 2000 (Office of Management and Budget, 1995: Table S-14). In this climate the FAA expressed the necessity "to concentrate available resources on the core mission and activities of the FAA and eliminate secondary activities, such as the aviation education program." In doing so, the FAA noted that the program "has benefits and is well received by its constituents" and expressed the hope that the program "would continue under the leadership of the states, industry, and the academic community.''

Since FAA aviation education programs are often administered in partnership with state aviation offices, the committee contacted NASA and several individual state aviation officials to learn about the expected impact of the federal cutbacks. The effects will be variable; some states plan to use their own resources to replace the assistance formerly received from the FAA, and others have had to make some painful choices to cut back or retailer their programs. Many expressed particular dismay over cutbacks affecting printing and publications, since they believe FAA publications are of high-quality and have used them extensively in their programs. Formerly provided free, these publications will continue to be available in print and via computer, but FAA will charge for individual printed copies, and many state officials said they will be unable to purchase the quantities they need.

Although the committee recognizes the hardship that FAA cutbacks present, we also acknowledge that few other industries depend on government agencies for this type of assistance; other industries must build coalitions to provide these services themselves. On one hand, there are arguments in favor of continuing at least some of the FAA's aviation education activities. In particular, it seems to us that a centralized public agency is especially well suited to the task of preparing and making available high-quality and objective information on the industry and the career opportunities it offers; this kind of information is used by the many groups who share an interest in fostering aviation's growth and development. On the other hand, there are also clearly counterarguments in terms of other public priorities. The final judgment is one that the nation's elected officials must make. We recognize that the time may have come in the evolution of the air transportation industry—an evolution that has been marked by a rapidly diminishing role for government since deregulation—when at least some of the services historically provided by the FAA will have to be supported in other ways. We think that this is a development that the industry itself (perhaps through its industry representatives like the Air Transport Association and the Regional Airline Association) ought to address in cooperation with the state and private interest groups who already support so many aviation education activities.

The committee recommends that industry work in partnership with state and private groups and the FAA to maintain basic aviation education and information services. The committee further recommends that the FAA and its parent agency, the Department of Transportation, reconsider their decision to cease providing (at no cost) basic information on the aviation

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
×

industry and career opportunities that can be used by other aviation agencies and organizations to promote interest in the field.

Public Images of Aviation and Vocational Careers

The final issue we want to raise in relationship to increasing female and minority interest in aviation has to do with what we shall call image. In both small and large ways, aviation suffers from some image problems that may hamper its attempt to diversify its workforce.

A comparatively small image problem (but one not lost on women in these days of heightened awareness) is the persistent use of the term airmen to describe specialized aviation personnel. Official FAA publications continue to report statistics on certificates held by "U.S. civil airmen." It's time to find another term. Recently a private committee of aviation professionals was successful in working with the FAA to change the title of the FAA's Airman's Information Manual to Aeronautical Information Manual and to make the language of the document gender neutral. The first issue of the revamped publication was issued in July 1995. That committee is now working to develop proposals for making the language of the Federal Aviation Regulations likewise gender neutral.

The term mechanic similarly fails to convey an accurate image of the modern-day maintenance technician who often has highly specialized skills and works on aircraft loaded with extremely advanced technology. Fortunately, this terminological problem is on its way to being resolved thanks to proposed regulatory reform that will codify in the names of new certificates the occupational name aviation maintenance technician, which is already in widespread use in the industry. The FAA, the U.S. Department of Labor (which publishes the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and other occupationally specific materials), and others who provide career guidance materials should be encouraged to move quickly to adopt the new job title in their publications and presentations.

Even the job of pilot is very likely misunderstood by many. With the advent of glass cockpits and fly-by-wire technology, flying the most advanced aircraft made is less a physical challenge than an exercise in systems management and crew leadership. Those unfamiliar with the modern airplane or steeped in the movie imagery of the "Top Gun" military fighter pilot may harbor outdated perceptions of the pilot's job and accompanying beliefs that women in particular are less well suited to performing it.

Another of aviation's image problems is the narrow view most people have about who works in aviation (Eiff et al., 1993). From the earliest days of aviation, the public's imagination was fired by the daring exploits of pilots, and, even in the present, pilots continue to be the first group most people think of when they think about jobs in aviation. Taking a different approach to the aviation workforce by focusing on those occupations that require elaborate formal training and licensing

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
×

to ensure the public safety, one again thinks of pilots, along with aviation maintenance technicians.

As we have emphasized in this report, however, these specialized aviation occupations represent only a small portion of the aviation workforce and account for quite a small number of workers (roughly a quarter of a million people). Moreover, pilot jobs in particular have been and may well continue to be highly sought after; it is unclear that there will ever be the kind of shortages that so worried policy makers in the late 1980s. Some public officials recognized the dangers of an overly narrow focus in their aviation education efforts. An aviation/aerospace task force report to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (1994) stated that respondents to an industrial survey warned the task force not to fall into "the pilot shortage trap, deeming other career areas to be more critical." The task force found that Oklahoma was producing an overabundance of entry-level mechanics (with airframe and power plant certificates) and primary commercial pilots and urged the state to spend less on this type of training and more on training for other aviation and aerospace fields.

Individuals interested in aviation are very likely to find it much easier to enter the industry if they take and are encouraged to take a much broader view of the opportunities available. As the Oklahoma report suggests, aviation and aerospace are closely linked and together offer employment in many areas requiring advanced knowledge and skills. Even within aviation and its affiliated services (like airport operations, air traffic control, and safety inspection) there are good jobs that may go unrecognized. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is one group that has shown how students can be exposed to the wider picture. The group publishes a "help wanted" brochure on careers in aviation that shows career titles, salary ranges, educational requirements, and typical employers for 62 career fields in 10 major categories; the 10 are: pilot careers, airline and airport operations, airline and airport services, aircraft and systems maintenance, aircraft manufacturing occupations, scientific and technical services, law-related services, health services, office professionals, and food services.

A much deeper and more difficult image problem for aviation is the low regard with which technical jobs and vocationally oriented education and training are often held in this country. Several prominent reports (Marshall and Tucker, 1992; National Center on Education and the Economy, 1990; William T. Grant Foundation Commission, 1988) have highlighted America's comparative inattention to how it trains its workforce and especially to the unfocused, outdated, and generally second-best education frequently provided to high school students not studying on the academic track. These reports have struck a nerve in large part because of widespread fears that the United States is losing its competitive advantage in the global marketplace. The 1990s have seen significant reform of vocationally oriented education programs at the federal, state, and local levels and the creation in many states of comprehensive workforce development agencies

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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and boards. Most of these reforms are new, and their outcomes are as yet uncertain.

Reform efforts aim in part to prove that technical and vocational education can be as rigorous as traditional academic coursework and, in doing so, to raise the status and appeal of preparation for technical occupations. The hope is also to provide educational alternatives that will appeal to students who in the past found school irrelevant or uninteresting and dropped out before gaining the skills that will be needed in a fast-paced, competitive, technologically driven workplace. Many of them are black and Hispanic students who come from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds, whose high school completion and college enrollment rates have historically trailed those of whites.

Aviation, with its inherent appeal, clearly has much to offer to these reform efforts. Numerous programs demonstrate how aviation-oriented education can be used to encourage interest in mathematics and science, to spur students to stay in school, and to improve coordination between high school education and technical training in community colleges, as well as to boost interest in aviation careers.

Survey results published in 1994 (Mitchell) identified 34 secondary magnet schools offering some kind of aviation or aerospace technology program. Though the first whole-school aviation magnet program dates back to 1936 (Aviation High School, Long Island, New York), the concept appears to be growing and spreading. Many of the schools reported that they "assertively" recruit minorities.

Opportunity Skyway, a national career preparation program headquartered at a historic airport site in Prince Georges County, Maryland, uses a coalition-building approach to developing high school, and to a lesser degree middle school, programs. By relating school curriculum to a broad range of careers in aviation, this program aims to keep students in school, maintain their interest in learning, and focus them on careers. A nonprofit organization, Opportunity Skyway was founded in 1990 by the Prince Georges Private Industry Council and today has programs operating or under development in 13 states. Through the program, students have the opportunity to learn aeronautics integrated with math, science, and other subjects, to attend private pilot ground school and receive flight training, and to participate in internships and apprenticeship-type workplace opportunities.

National school reform efforts have featured new school-to-work approaches, such as youth apprenticeships to link schools and employers and technical-preparation programs aimed at coordinating technical-preparation curricula in high schools and community colleges. Although we are not aware of any strictly aviation programs that embody these approaches, we do know of an example in the related field of aerospace that shows what can be done. The Middle Georgia Aerospace Youth Apprenticeship Consortium prepares high school and postsecondary students for work through a combination of applied academics and

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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structured workplace learning. McDonnell-Douglas and Northrop-Grumman cooperate with three county school systems and three technical institutes. Students are selected to participate in the program after their sophomore year in high school and follow a tech-prep curriculum designed for aircraft manufacturing technology. The aerospace companies provide a paid 2-week internship at the end of the apprentice's junior year and a more intense, paid 8-week internship at the end of the senior year. The program leads to certification as an aircraft structural specialist, which is a nationally recognized certification, upon completion of the apprenticeship program at a technical institute. Students have the option of pursuing an associate's degree. While no job is guaranteed, the successful apprentice receives priority in consideration by participating employers. Of 71 apprentices currently in the program, 32 are white males, 12 are white females, 15 are minority males, and 12 are minority females (information supplied to the committee by Alicia Long of the Middle Georgia Aerospace Youth Apprenticeship Program).

In aviation, because many entry-level jobs are with fixed-base operators and other relatively small employers, school-to-work programs may require special leadership by school and industry groups and may need adaptation to the special circumstances of these employers. The committee urges groups in areas in which entry-level employment jobs are numerous to explore the advantages that such programs might offer.

We also urge local, state, and federal authorities and others involved in promoting these programs to give special attention to follow-up and evaluation. Too often in the course of researching this report, we have identified promising initiatives of one sort or another (school-industry collaborations in Chapter 4, programs to spur interest in aviation in this chapter), but we really can't say whether the programs make any difference or not because only informal and haphazard efforts are made to evaluate program outcomes. Improving the diversity of the aviation workforce, along with the other goals of the programs we have been describing, has proven hard to accomplish. The chances of succeeding can be increased by taking seriously the need to determine whether particular efforts do or do not help change people's behavior.

The committee recommends that the responsible agencies and groups work to create more accurate public understanding of modern aviation careers and acceptance of the technical education needed to prepare for them.

Basic Academic Competencies1

In broadening the diversity of its workforce, aviation shares a dilemma with other industries dependent on advanced and rapidly changing technologies: unequal

1  

In preparing this section, the committee has drawn in part on the work of the Committee on the Feasibility of a National Scholars Program of the National Research Council's Office of Scientific and Engineering Personnel.

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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preparation of minorities and women in mathematics, science, and technology-related subjects. For all these industries, part of the answer to diversifying their workforces is increasing the pool of individuals from historically underrepresented groups who have the basic academic competencies that will allow them to pursue more specialized education and training.

The problem of poor preparation in math and science and its implications for employment in scientific, mathematical, engineering, and technical jobs has been widely studied. Although it is not clear how many of these research findings are applicable to aviation careers, what is clear is that a solid grounding in precollege mathematics and science is essential for individuals wishing to pursue many aviation-related training opportunities. Committee members who work in aviation education note that students with poor precollegiate training in math and science will not be adequately prepared to enroll in many collegiate aviation programs. Engineering (including aerospace engineering) will also be closed off to students without adequate backgrounds in math and science. Furthermore, one airline that has publicly described the criteria it uses to select pilot trainees has indicated that proficiency in scientific subjects at school is a good predictor of success in flight training (Acton, 1989:74). The rapid advance of technology in aviation requires not only that students have the basic mathematical and scientific competencies to undertake initial training but also that they be able to continue learning throughout their working lives.

College graduation statistics show that minorities (especially blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaskan natives) and women major in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology fields at comparatively low rates (Table 5-2), but the problem of underrepresentation in these fields starts much earlier. The inclination toward a career requiring math and science abilities has often been determined by the time an individual finishes high school (J. Oakes, 1990a; Transportation Research Board, 1992). Therefore the opportunity to develop these abilities in school (kindergarten through 12th grade or K-12) becomes of paramount importance in understanding the readiness of underrepresented groups.

Research has provided a great deal of evidence about differences in mathematics and science participation and achievement among minorities and women at the K-12 level (National Science Board, 1996:1-2). The good news is that attention to these issues appears to be paying off: achievement is improving and gaps are narrowing. Sex differences in mathematics achievement test scores at the precollegiate level have all but disappeared, and sex differences in average science achievement test scores have diminished, though boys continue to score higher at each grade level tested. Standardized mathematics and science test scores of black and Hispanic youth continue to lag those of non-Hispanic white youth, but the differences decreased from the late 1970s to 1992. Moreover, "since the average scores of all groups have increased over this period, the convergence is real improvement and not a 'leveling down' of scores toward greater equality."

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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TABLE 5-2 Baccalaurate Degrees Conferred by Institutions of Higher Education by Racial/Ethnic Group and Sex of Students for Selected Fields of Studies, 1992-1993

 

Major Fields of Study

 

Computer/ Information Science

Engineering

Engineering-Related Technologies

Mathematics

Physical Sciences and Science Technologies

Transportation and Material Moving

All Fields

Total degrees conferred

24,200

61,973

15,904

14,812

17,545

3,930

1,159,931

Percentage awarded-total

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

White non-Hispanic

68.2

73.9

81.3

80.1

81.4

88.6

81.7

Black non-Hispanic

9.3

4.2

6.7

6.6

4.8

4.1

6.7

Hispanic

3.6

3.7

3.9

2.9

2.5

3.5

3.9

Asian/Pacific Islander

9.5

10.6

4.8

6.3

6.4

1.9

4.4

Other

9.4

7.6

3.2

4.1

4.9

2.0

3.3

Percentage awarded-men

71.9

84.2

91.1

52.8

67.4

89.3

45.7

White non-Hispanic

52.0

63.0

74.7

42.2

56.2

79.4

37.5

Black non-Hispanic

4.4

2.9

5.5

3.0

2.2

3.3

2.5

Hispanic

2.3

3.0

3.5

1.7

1.7

3.1

1.7

Asian/Pacific Islander

6.3

8.5

4.4

3.4

4.0

1.7

2.2

Other

6.8

6.7

3.0

2.6

3.3

1.8

1.8

Percentage awarded-women

28.1

15.8

8.9

47.2

32.6

10.7

54.3

White non-Hispanic

16.2

10.9

6.6

38.0

25.1

9.2

44.2

Black non-Hispanic

4.9

1.3

1.2

3.6

2.7

0.8

4.2

Hispanic

1.2

0.7

0.4

1.2

0.8

0.4

2.2

Asian/Pacific Islander

3.2

2.1

0.5

2.8

2.4

0.2

2.3

Other

2.6

0.8

0.3

1.6

1.6

0.2

1.4

 

SOURCE: 1995 Digest of Education Statistics, Table 257 (available on the Internet).

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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Clearly, though, there is still work to be done. A brief review of what has been learned so far indicates the challenges that remain. For minorities who are also at a socioeconomic disadvantage (especially blacks and Hispanics, on whom the most information has been collected), disparities in educational resources and opportunities to learn are apparent as early as elementary school and persist throughout the K-12 years. For girls, resources and opportunities are less the issue than are social and cultural mores that by high school have left many of them disaffected from mathematics and science.

Minorities

Math and Science Exposure in Elementary School

Research has shown that minorities have fewer opportunities to gain exposure to math and science skills. Reasons include interest, time devoted to math and science instruction in predominantly minority schools, teacher treatment or encouragement, and the impact of programs designed to develop interests and competencies.

Differences in attainment are evident by the third grade in mathematics, and they grow thereafter. Nationwide, only a small percentage of elementary schools have substantial science and mathematics resources. Moreover, minority students have less access to computers in elementary school (J. Oakes, 1990b; National Science Board, 1996). Minority and lower income students also lag behind wealthier students in their access to the Internet. A recent survey of 917 public schools found that only 31 percent of low-income schools (defined as those in which 71 percent or more of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches) had Internet access, compared with 62 percent of schools in which 11 percent fewer students were eligible for subsidized lunches (National Center for Education Statistics, 1996).

Interestingly, however, schools with the largest percentages of black and Hispanic students and those in inner cities are reported to devote the most time to mathematics; this additional time spent on mathematics has not been gained at the expense of science instruction because the schools involved had longer class days (J. Oakes, 1990b). Oakes notes that most of these schools are eligible for federal Chapter 12 funds targeted at improving disadvantaged students' basic skills. She found, however, that federal assistance did not seem to directly affect the time spent on mathematics instruction, but it did affect the time teachers said they spent on science. Oakes speculates that the extra resources provided by Chapter 1 funds—specialist teachers and instructional materials—may enable

2  

Now called Title I. The reference is to the first part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, first passed by Congress in 1965 and amended periodically since then.

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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schools to free up more teacher time and resources for science instruction. She speculated that "raising students' mathematics achievement is thought to be important enough to command a large share of time with or without Chapter 1 funding" (p. 29, emphasis in original). In contrast to these school differences, she did not find differences in the amount of time students in low-, average-, and high-ability classes spent on science and math lessons. Because schools often regulate the minimum amount of class time for various subjects, teachers may have little discretion over the amount of time they spend with students of different ability levels.

According to J. Oakes (1990b), the time teachers allocate to lessons is far less important than the time students are actually engaged in tasks. Achievement data showing a slow but steady decrease in the black-white mathematics gap in the elementary grades over the past decade suggest that some factor in basic skills instruction may be having a modest benefit.

Math and Science Exposure in Middle and Junior High Schools

The middle school years usually determine whether a student will participate in the academic track, traditionally a prerequisite for access to advanced math and science courses. There appears to be no significant racial or ethnic difference in eighth-grade students' attitudes toward math and science. In fact, a greater percentage of black, Hispanic, and American Indian eighth graders than of white said that they looked forward to their math and science classes. At the middle/junior high school stage, however, minority achievement begins to decline. These years are a time of great developmental change for youngsters (Clewell et al., 1992); they also appear to be a time when obvious educational inequities exist between minority and majority students.

J. Oakes (1990b) has documented numerous differences between schools with student populations that are more than 90 percent white and schools with similar populations of minorities. Science programs at the largely white schools were more extensive (nearly 4 classes per 100 students) than at the largely minority schools. No significant race-related differences were found in the size of mathematics programs. Many junior high and middle school students are required to take only one semester of science; additional science courses are either electives or are recommended for high-achieving students. Oakes concluded that high socioeconomic status (SES) schools and predominantly white schools have either greater science requirements or offer greater numbers of optional science courses.

The lower-SES schools in the Oakes study had significantly larger class sizes in mathematics than did the most affluent schools (averaging 26 and 23 students per class, respectively). Junior high schools serving the largest concentration of low-income students allocated less time and fewer teachers to mathematics. Oakes concluded that the advantages of more time on mathematics

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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instruction in elementary schools serving large numbers of low-income and minority students may disappear when students reach middle school or junior high.

Differences in teacher attitudes are also evident at this stage (National Science Foundation, 1994). Teachers at economically advantaged schools typically report high morale and positive attitudes about students, while those at economically disadvantaged schools report substantial difficulty motivating students. Only 7 percent of white eighth graders attended disadvantaged schools, compared with 15 percent, 36 percent, 39 percent, and 40 percent of their Asian, black, Hispanic, and American Indian peers, respectively.

Almost 46 percent of white eighth graders were taught math by teachers who had majored in math, compared with 44 percent, 40 percent, 33 percent, and 30 percent of Asian, black, Hispanic, and American Indian students, respectively. For science, 53 percent of Asian eighth grade students had teachers who majored in science, compared with 49 percent of whites and blacks, 47 percent of Hispanics, and 40 percent of American Indians (National Science Foundation, 1994).

Math and Science Exposure in High School

Minority student interest in math and science continues to compare favorably with that of other students into the high school years. White 12th graders were less likely than their black, Hispanic, and American Indian counterparts to say they liked math, and less likely than their Hispanic and American Indian peers to say they liked science (National Science Foundation, 1994). Nevertheless, disparities in resources available to and achievement of minority students are again apparent.

In contrast to the similarities in teacher qualifications at the elementary school level, teacher qualifications in secondary schools differ substantially across school types. Teachers at schools with predominantly economically advantaged white students and teachers at suburban schools tend to be the most qualified (J. Oakes, 1990b).

This study also reveals that the principals of low-SES high schools were less likely than those of higher-SES schools to report having had computers available for instructional use (77 versus 95 percent, respectively). Moreover, teachers at low-SES and inner-city schools reported that computers were less readily available at their schools, or, if they were available, they were difficult to secure for use in instruction. More recent evidence (National Science Foundation, 1996) confirms that science teachers in high schools with high minority enrollments continue to be more likely to report needing computers, as well as other equipment, that is unavailable. There are also some recent findings, however, that black students are becoming more likely than white students to use computers in science and mathematics classes. In addition, in 1992 a higher percentage of black than white students reported having ever been taught a computer skill or a programming course.

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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While considerable evidence attests to the importance of high school course taking for mathematics and science achievement, black, Hispanic, and American Indian children continue to complete fewer advanced science and mathematics courses by the time they graduate from high schools than do Asian American or white students (Peng et al., 1994; National Science Board, 1996). Secondary schools vary considerably in the time they allocate to science and math. Differences in course taking patterns are related to school characteristics: location, type and size, and socioeconomic status and ethnic status of the student body. Course taking is generally lowest for extremely rural schools, followed by disadvantaged urban schools. The pattern of lower-level course taking for students in schools with more low-income families (defined as a higher percentage eligible for subsidized lunches) was consistent across all courses. Lower percentages of students took courses as the percentage of non-Asian minority students increased. Except for chemistry and biology, schools with the highest proportions of minority students showed a slight advantage over schools with minority enrollments between 50 and 74 percent (National Science Foundation, 1993).

Students who take more advanced math and science courses in high school have been shown to receive higher math scores on college entrance exams (National Science Foundation, 1994) Participation in college preparatory mathematics (geometry in particular) is strongly associated with college attendance (Pelavin and Kane, 1990).

Data from the 1992 National Assessment of Educational Progress indicated that about 73 percent of white 17-year-olds had taken geometry or higher-level mathematics courses, compared to about 60 percent of black and Hispanic students. This reflects a doubling in the percentages of black and Hispanic students taking these courses since 1982. However, the math scores for whites in 1992 were still significantly higher—by over 20 points—than for both blacks and Hispanics (National Science Board, 1996). These differences in course taking and in the scores of 17-year-olds may be traceable in part to developments in the middle school years, when higher-scoring students are placed in higher-level mathematics classes and minority students are more likely to be placed in lower-level and remedial courses (J. Oakes, 1990a).

Teacher Attitudes Toward Minority Achievement

Several observational studies of classroom interaction have shown that teachers have different expectations for minorities and treat them differently. Trujillo (1986) found that majority teachers, in interaction with black and Latino students, spent less time responding to their questions, asked them less complex questions, and did not give them as many hints and clues for improving performance as they did for majority students. Trujillo suggests that this pattern is due to low expectations. Teachers reserve their best attention for students who are perceived to be the best and the brightest and give other students short shrift. However, earlier

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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work by Rubovits and Maehr (1977) suggests that teachers may also treat bright students differently depending on race. They found that, although bright white students received the most attention from their teachers, bright black students received the least attention from their teachers. Furthermore, the higher a teacher scores on a measure of prejudice, the more likely he or she is to ignore bright black students.

Studies by Contrearas and Lee (1990) and Kahle and Lakes (1983) suggest that differential expectations of student performance based on race extend into science and math classrooms. A further demonstration that teachers do not have the same expectations for all students comes from the Equity 2000 program of the College Board (College Board, 1995a). Based on the findings of Pelavin and Kane (1990) and others, this project attempts to reduce ethnic differences in academic achievement and college attendance by increasing participation in algebra and geometry by all students (eventually reaching 100 percent) in 14 sites around the country. Project sponsors have been surprised by the unanticipated attitude they encountered among teachers and others that all students were not capable of mastering these courses. Although the Equity 2000 findings do not indicate that expectations about who can and cannot achieve in science and math are based on the race of the students, they are disturbing to many who believe that low expectations in fact often hold minority students back.

Women

For women, particularly nonminority women, broad social and cultural mores, stereotypical attitudes, and societal biases are paramount in discouraging and deterring them from studying science and mathematics (J. Oakes, 1990a; Vetter, 1994). These issues are more important for women than are the long-standing economic and educational inequities that confront underparticipating minority populations, because student socioeconomic status is not associated with sex. Although the kind and quality of the classroom experiences of girls may differ from those of boys, the elementary and secondary schools they attend are not inferior to those of boys; girls, in theory, have access to the same curriculum as boys.

The attitudes of girls and boys diverge early, however, particularly in the area of science. Even in elementary school, girls show less positive attitudes toward science and science careers than do boys and report fewer science experiences. These patterns are also found in middle and high schools. Moreover, by high school, researchers found girls expressing more negative attitudes about mathematics as well (J. Oakes, 1990a), although this may be changing, with girls now virtually achieving parity with boys in mathematics course taking in high school.

Whereas girls' mathematics achievement as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 1992 was virtually the same as boys' for 9-year-olds

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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and 13-year-olds, and only slightly lower for 17-year-olds, girls continue to lag behind boys in science achievement at all ages. This parallels course taking patterns, with virtually no difference in mathematics, but a sizable gap in science, in which girls are slightly more likely to take biology and chemistry but noticeably less likely to take physics (National Science Board, 1996).

J. Oakes (1990a) reports numerous studies suggesting that boys see mathematics as more useful than girls do and that substantial numbers of students think that studying science is more important for boys and that boys understand science better. Although some of these studies are 10 to 20 years old, a study conducted in 1989-1990 showed girls more likely than boys to say that they failed to take a mathematics or science course in their senior year because they didn't like the subject and/or because they had been advised not to (National Science Foundation, 1994). Research using the same database indicated that male 10th graders were more likely than females to report talking to their parents about science and technology issues. In addition to expressing less liking for math and science and less tendency to talk about them with parents, girls are less confident about their ability to succeed in mathematics and science, even when they are in fact equally able. They are also more likely to perceive role conflicts if they aspire to mathematics and science careers (J. Oakes, 1990a). Vetter (1994) reports that girls who are mathematically gifted are less likely than similarly qualified boys to be selected by teachers and principals for special mathematics programs and that those who are selected and who enter are less likely to be encouraged by parents, peers, and teachers to continue in such programs.

Finally, there are sex-related differences in classroom experiences. J. Oakes (1990a) summarizes studies showing that boys tend to have more experiences with science equipment and different kinds of science instruments in elementary school classrooms, that elementary school teachers interact with boys more frequently than with girls during instruction and provide greater encouragement for boys in both science and mathematics, and that high school teachers were observed initiating more interactions with boys and providing more specific feedback to them. A National Science Foundation report (1994) similarly reports on research showing that math and science teachers make more eye contact with boys than with girls in their classrooms, pay more attention to boys, respond to wrong answers given by boys by challenging them to find the correct answers, and give sympathy to girls. Boys also tend to get to operate the equipment and perform science experiments, whereas girls tend to record the data and write up the results.

Improving Mathematics and Science Competencies Among Minorities and Women

The task of improving mathematics and science competencies so that minorities and women are prepared for aviation careers if they so choose is bound

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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up in much larger questions of reforming K-12 education and of improving the preparation of all students for science, math, engineering, and technology careers. The remedies lie in efforts to improve these larger systems. Some important things have been learned from past efforts, but there is also a widespread belief that most initiatives to date have had modest if any success.

Over the past quarter of a century, numerous programs have attempted to increase the participation of minorities and women in scientific, mathematic, engineering, and technical careers. Many of these programs emerged from the civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s and were aimed at reducing the extreme underrepresentation of women and minorities in these fields. At first, the programs were mainly local initiatives based on locally identified needs. Once these programs had been in existence for some years, however, they began to attract national attention and federal and foundation funding (Clewell et al., 1992).

K-12 intervention programs tended to utilize approaches different from those of the traditional educational system, because of the recognition that formal education had failed to address the problem in the past. Consequently, although these intervention programs may be in-school programs offered during the school day, they operate separately from the school system and have a number of distinguishing characteristics (Clewell et al., 1992).

  • They focus on counteracting some educational inequity experienced by one or more of these groups.
  • They use innovative instructional techniques, materials, and curricula.
  • They often address one problem area, such as math or science, rather than the whole range of educational problems.
  • They engage in activities that address many aspects of the problem, not just those that are focused on achievement.
  • They employ multiple strategies to obtain their objectives.
  • They are sensitive to the needs of the groups that they intend to serve and develop their intervention approaches around those needs.

Although the first intervention programs targeted students in high school and college, there has been a growing awareness that the factors impeding minority access to scientific, mathematical, engineering, and technical careers are present long before high school and that intervention to increase the talent pool is best undertaken before the ninth grade, whereas strategies to decrease attrition from the pool should be targeted at all points in the process.

These lessons are important in guiding the evolution of programs to improve the academic preparation of minorities and women in mathematics and science, but educators agree that there are no quick fixes for the problem of underrepresentation in scientific, mathematical, engineering, and technical careers (Matyas and Malcom, 1991; Institute of Medicine, 1994; Malcom and Chubin, 1994) or

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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for the larger problems of K-12 education. The long-term goal must be the fundamental reform of the education and training system that presently relegates so many students to mediocrity or failure. Indeed, this is the goal of many ongoing efforts: by the federal government (the Goals 2000, School-to-Work, National Science Foundation Systemic Reform initiatives); by state and local governments (standards-based reform); and by private groups and coalitions (Equity 2000 of the College Board, the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering).

Whereas the ultimate goal of educational reform should obviate the need for special programs targeted on minorities and women, such targeted programs continue to serve necessary purposes. There is a growing consensus, however, about the need for improved collaboration (Institute of Medicine, 1994; Board on Engineering Education, 1994; Quality Education for Minorities Network, 1990). Efforts to improve collaboration are occurring. A significant example at the federal level grows out of the commitment of the National Science and Technology Council to produce a human resources development policy and the declaration that all federal agency educational programs in science, mathematics, and engineering will have as one measure of their success their impact on increased participation by underparticipating groups (Office of Science and Technology Policy, 1994). The strategic plan prepared by the NSTC Committee on Education and Training states that, beginning in fiscal 1996, the committee ''will have in place and implement a coordinated strategy designed to foster increased participation of underrepresented groups" (National Science and Technology Council, 1995).

It is the conviction of this committee that all those interested in improving access to and the preparation of young people for aviation careers (including federal and state agencies, schools and colleges, the industry, and aviation interest groups) should recognize the linkages between this goal and the larger goals of improving K-12 education and increasing minority and female representation in scientific, mathematical, engineering, and technical careers. Especially at the precollegiate level, the purpose of motivating and preparing students to pursue further studies that require a solid mathematics and science foundation is widely shared. Thus aviation's interests will be well served by effective efforts to reform the general preparation of students in math and science, as well as to improve academic performance more broadly. Where specialized aviation programs exist at the K-12 level, they are likely to be most effective when they collaborate with rather than operate independently of systemic efforts to improve educational performance.

The committee recommends support for efforts to improve the general preparation of elementary and secondary school students in mathematics and science and stresses the continuing need to focus special attention on improving opportunities for and the academic achievement of minorities and women. The committee also recommends that those responsible for

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
×

specialized aviation programs at the K-12 level collaborate with larger systemic efforts to improve educational performance.

Barriers

Formal barriers restricting the employment of blacks and women in aviation may be gone, but there are still obstacles to be overcome. One clear-cut obstacle is the cost of training. More subjectively, we, like the judge quoted earlier in the United consent decree case, are under no delusions that invidious behavior has entirely ceased to plague the workplace. The more intangible barriers that result from such behavior, such as those that may affect how individuals are selected for jobs or what kind of climate they encounter in schools and businesses, also need continuing attention.

Costs

The costs of specialized training for aviation careers, particularly for pilots, are substantial. High costs are likely to pose a special barrier for students who come from households with below-average incomes. Many black and Hispanic households have incomes substantially below those of whites and Asian-Americans (Table 5-3).

Flight training can add as much as $7,500 annually to the regular cost of postsecondary education, depending on the college attended. Regular tuition, room and board, and other expenses for academic year 1994-1995 at U.S. colleges averaged $6,454 at public four-year institutions and $15,528 at private four-year schools3 (College Board, 1995b:6).

When flight training is part of a student's regular collegiate program of study, it is considered a "lab fee" and can be included along with tuition and fees in determining eligibility for publicly funded student assistance that is awarded on the basis of the applicant's financial need. The federal government provided approximately $35 billion annually in aid to postsecondary students, primarily through Pell Grants ($6 billion) and student loans ($26 billion). These programs were established to equalize access to higher education in this country (as were state student aid programs that exist in every state and amount to $3 billion annually). Aviation students along with their colleagues in other fields of study benefit from the opportunities opened up by this assistance. At the undergraduate level, public programs do not provide aid based on the course of study undertaken.

Although these programs are helpful, they do not remove all the cost barriers

3  

Annual costs of attendance at public and private universities that offer graduate programs are higher than at colleges offering undergraduate programs only: $7,035 and $21,152, respectively, in 1994-1995.

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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TABLE 5-3 Household and Per Capita Incomes by Racial/Ethnic Status, 1994

 

Median Income (1994 dollars)

Household

 

White non-Hispanic

$35,048

Black

20,032

Asian/Pacific Islander

39,329

Hispanic

23,472

Per capita

 

White (includes Hispanic)

17,230

Black

10,116

Asian/Pacific Islander

16,093

Hispanic

9,056

 

SOURCE: Bureau of the Census, data compiled from information collected in the March 1995 Current Population Survey (available on the Internet).

facing students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The maximum annual Pell Grant was $2,470 in academic year 1996-1997; the maximum annual student loan for an undergraduate still financially dependent on his or her parents is $5,500.4 For students whose parents can provide little assistance, clearly additional financial aid funds will be needed. Colleges provide some funds from their own resources; industry and aviation interest groups also provide scholarships. But we have been told that the costs of education still pose a barrier for many students and discourage some from undertaking expensive options such as flight training. We have also been told that privately sponsored scholarship programs are sometimes unwilling to allow the incremental costs of flight training to be included in the costs of education they will cover.

The situation of students in flight programs who must borrow relatively large amounts of money and then face years in low-paying jobs while they build up flight time and experience poses another question: Can they repay their loans? Recent changes in loan programs are likely to be helpful. Traditionally students faced loan repayment schedules that required them to begin payments 6 to 9 months after leaving school and to make equal monthly payments over a 10-year period. This schedule was not well suited to the earnings patterns of borrowers with very low earnings in their first years in the labor market, even if their later earnings prospects were good. Program changes made in 1994 now permit more flexible repayment options, one allowing graduated payments that increase in

4  

Actually, this annual limit applies only to juniors and seniors; freshmen and sophomores are limited to $2,625 and $3,500, respectively, annually under the largest federal loan program.

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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amount every 2 years, presumably as income grows. An income-contingent repayment option sets annual repayment amounts based on the borrower's adjusted gross income and the total amount of debt. Student borrowers now also have the option to extend their loan repayments for up to as much as 30 years.

These new loan options should ease the way for students who have to borrow to pay for their undergraduate education. Nevertheless, because flight training is expensive, there is no real low-cost college alternative available to would-be pilots, as there is for students in other programs who might choose to enroll in low-tuition public community and four-year colleges. This fact suggests that financial barriers still exist, especially for students from lower-income families who are generally thought to be more reluctant to borrow than students from families with average or above-average incomes (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1995). In addition, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, with the largest undergraduate population of future airline pilots in the country, reports (in a communication to the committee) on the basis of a preliminary survey of recent graduates that their black and other minority pilots appear to be having more difficulty finding employment after graduation than their white male and female counterparts. This is a disturbing finding indeed, not only for the ability of these students to repay their loans but also for their prospects of moving up through the post-college steps that lead to jobs in the aviation industry.

Serious financial obstacles may exist in any event at this transition phase between initial flight training and employment by an airline. Student loans are not available to finance the many hours of flight time that pilots must accumulate after college to be ready to apply for an airline job. These jobs generally require at least 1,500 hours of flight time and a minimum of 250 hours of multiengine time. Pilots who must pay to fly multiengine planes can face per hour flight costs between $150 and $300. We also saw in Chapter 4 that a tight labor market for pilots has allowed some airlines to require that pilot candidates themselves pay additional training expenses that once would have been paid by the company, such as training for type ratings and post-hire training on company planes and procedures. Such training can cost $10,000 or more.

The committee recommends the establishment of financial assistance programs to help applicants for pilot positions meet the costs of flight and transitional training. We think the aviation industry should take the lead. If employers actively participate now in efforts to help individuals who want to fly obtain the necessary training, they can help themselves avoid the far larger costs they would incur if they had to provide training themselves (through something like ab initio programs). Employers might consider making grants or loans to individuals in training programs or donating funds for financial aid to collegiate aviation programs. Industry trade associations might develop such programs on behalf of airlines in general, perhaps pooling resources from their members. Trade associations might also be appropriate sponsors of loan programs for pilots trying to meet the costs of transitional training, to provide access to loans for

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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individuals whose flight schools have not developed their own lending arrangements. Airlines that require applicants to pay for their own airline-specific initial training should consider making loans available to cover the costs of this training.

Selection Procedures

Investigating barriers that may restrict access to aviation jobs for minorities and women naturally raises the question of selection procedures. The issue arises especially for professional pilots, who are still predominantly white and male. There are actually two questions: What procedures do the airlines use to choose pilots? Are there elements of the pilot selection process that create obstacles for nontraditional candidates?

We were not able to investigate these questions in depth, but in some initial explorations we were surprised to discover how little information is available in the public domain about how pilots are selected for civilian employment. In its pilot's guide, FAPA (1993) gives some illustrative examples of instruments used by airlines. FAPA (until business ceased in late 1996) and similar services help individual job applicants, for a fee, to learn about the selection procedures of specific airlines based on the experiences of previous clients who have been through the process. Books (often written by pilots—e.g., Griffin, 1990; Mark, 1994) describe the process as the pilots have experienced it both as job candidates and as airline employees serving on selection panels. But the information appears to us highly unsystematic and the process still relatively mysterious.

A more transparent process would seem helpful both for training schools and for would-be pilots. It could also help individuals judge when they are ready to apply for airline jobs. This is important, since we have been told that airlines generally do not call people back for a subsequent interview if they have once been rejected. Thus, applying too soon relative to the carrier's criteria can result in a permanent rejection from that company.

The committee recommends that airlines formalize and publicize their hiring criteria so that schools can develop appropriate programs of study and individuals can make informed decisions about training and career paths.

It appears that pilot selection criteria are also in need of review and that changes suggested by new job task analyses and research on crew performance might improve selection procedures and also reduce barriers for women and minorities. Addressing this issue directly is complicated by the fact that not only details of airline selection systems but also the underlying research basis is considered proprietary by the airlines. Very little information is available in the published research literature on civilian pilot selection (Damos, 1995; Hunter and Burke, 1995). Virtually all of the available literature focuses on military pilot selection and training. To the extent that civilian airlines prefer military-trained pilots when they can get them, however, military selection procedures are of

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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TABLE 5-4 Air Force ROTC Pilot Training Candidate Pool and Selection Rates by Sex and Ethnicity, 1981-1992 (percentages in parentheses)

 

Air Force ROTC Applicants

Air Force ROTC Graduates Receiving Commissions

Commissioned Air Force ROTC Graduates Selected for Pilot Training

Selection Rate

Male-all

219,887 (81.4)

30,280 (85.0)

9,239 (97.5)

30.5%

Female-all

50,081 (18.6)

5,354 (15.0)

237 (2.5)

4.4

White (all)

212,238 (78.6)

31,066 (87.2)

8,955 (94.5)

28.8

Minorities (all)

57,503 (21.3)

4,568 (12.8)

521 (5.5)

11.4

Black

32,798 (12.1)

2,645 (7.4)

186 (2.0)

7.0

Hispanic

12,647 (4.7)

771 (2.2)

172 (1.8)

22.3

Other minority

12,058 (4.5)

1,152 (3.2)

163 (1.7)

14.1

Ethnic status unknown

227 (< 0.1)

 

 

 

Total

269,968 (100)

35,634 (100)

9,476 (100)

26.6

 

SOURCE: Carretta (in press) and information provided by the Air Force.

interest because they affect who will be available in this pool of potential airline applicants. Any military practices that work against the acceptance of minorities and women into flight training, for example, will have downstream consequences for the airlines. Military selection procedures are also of interest because they are thought to influence how selection is conducted by at least some air carriers (Damos, 1995), despite the fact that the military is selecting individuals for pilot training, whereas the airlines are selecting from among job candidates who are already experienced pilots.

Our review of the literature on military pilot selection provides rather dramatic evidence that minorities and women may be more interested in flight training than their numbers in the pilot ranks would suggest. Carretta (in press) recently examined candidates for Air Force flight training who were applying on the basis of their participation in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). (Applicants who were graduates of the Air Force Academy were not included in the study because they are not subjected to the same selection procedures.) For the period 1981-1992, 19 percent of the individuals applying to participate in Air Force ROTC were women; 21 percent were minority (Table 5-4). Of those actually receiving military commissions upon graduation from Air Force ROTC

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
×

programs, 15 percent were women and 13 percent were minority. However, 30 percent of the white men and 22 percent of the Hispanics with commissions were accepted for training, but only 4 percent of women and 7 percent of blacks were accepted. Thus, white men constituted almost 98 percent of the group selected for pilot training; minorities, both man and women, constituted only 5.5 percent.

The Pilot Candidate Selection Method5 used by the Air Force to select pilot candidates from ROTC clearly had differential impacts on the selection of individuals from different groups into pilot training. This does not necessarily imply that the various measures used are biased or that minorities and women were discriminated against in the selection process. Such a conclusion cannot be drawn without knowing something about the range and distribution of capabilities within the various applicant pools. As Carretta (in press:15) points out: "It is possible that well qualified females and ethnic minorities are less inclined to view the Air Force as an attractive career choice. Another possibility is that females and ethnic minorities are less likely to take courses or pursue leisure interests that might increase their performance on the [Air Force Officer Qualifying Test]." Research indicates that, in terms of predicting success in flight training, the tests and composites used by the Air Force are not biased against women or minorities (Carretta, in press:13).

The primary problem with the current military selection system is that its predictive validities are low. The highest prediction of performance in undergraduate pilot training using all available predictors is only .426 (accounting for only slightly more than 18 percent of the variance), which means that a large amount of the variance in flight training performance is not accounted for (Carretta and Ree, 1994). Traditional explanations for this low level of prediction are psychometric: (a) a dichotomous dependent variable (pass/fail in undergraduate pilot training); and (b) a severe restriction of range on the predictor variables due to dealing with an already highly selected group of pilot candidates. Low levels of predictive validity also leave open the possibility that performance is driven by social factors not being tapped.

There is also another problem: what is being predicted is success in training, not performance on-the-job. Predicting job performance, however, requires job analyses (which are scarce and even nonexistent for some specialties like pilots flying military transports rather than fighter planes) and then the development of valid, reliable measures of performance (Damos, 1996).

Since the military pays for pilot training, selecting candidates on the basis of procedures designed to predict training success has some justification. The situation is more complicated at the airlines, where candidates are already experienced pilots; performance on-thejob is of more interest at this stage than success

5  

The method includes the following components: medical/physical fitness, college performance, previous flying experience, the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test, and the Basic Aptitudes Test.

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
×

in training. In addition, the job of the airline pilot is changing in ways that raise uncertainties about whether the present selection procedures tap into the skills critical for success in piloting modern aircraft in a commercial setting.

Many current policies guiding pilot selection criteria were developed when aircraft were far less reliable than they are today and emphasized technical proficiency standards appropriate for single-pilot aircraft. Modern commercial aircraft, by contrast, are highly reliable, utilize computer systems management skills more than physical dexterity, and require pilots to work in a multicrew environment. As hardware failures have become less and less the cause of aircraft accidents, human errors have become more important, being implicated in two-thirds of all accidents worldwide (Foushee and Helmreich, 1988).

Human factors researchers (e.g., Damos, 1995, 1996; Helmreich et al., 1986) have highlighted the need for new job task analyses in modern aviation. They argue that pilot job task analysis needs to include attention to the social and personality skills associated with effective crew performance as well as the technical skills involved in flying the aircraft. From the employer side, Acton (1989) has described the central role that British Airways gave to a new job task analysis in reevaluating its selection criteria for ab initio pilot training. The company decided that six main pilot roles should serve as the basis for selection criteria: aircraft handler, systems manager, team leader, decision maker, communicator, and company representative. Similarly, Cathay Pacific, a Hong Kong-based carrier, used a new job analysis to guide its revision of selection procedures for choosing new first officers (copilots) and second officers (needed on so-called ultra long haul flights on the Boeing 747-400 airplane introduced in 1990). Cathay identified six areas of competence required of Cathay pilots: technical skill and aptitude; judgment and problem solving; communications (written and oral); social relations, personality, and compatibility with Cathay; leadership/subordinate style; and motivation and ambition (Bartram and Baxter, 1996:150-151).

Research in recent years has focused on predicting job performance, not just success in initial flight training. It has led human factors psychologists to identify a number of dimensions of personality factors that correlate with crew performance both in flight simulators and on-the-job as a commercial pilot (Chidester, Helmreich et al., 1990; Chidester, Kanki et al., 1990). Three profiles have been identified based on an algorithm developed by Chidester (1987, 1990). The most effective flight crew performance is associated with captains who exhibit both high achievement motivation and interpersonal skill. The least effective crew performance is associated with captains who are below-average in achievement motivation and have a negative expressive style, such as complaining. An intermediate category includes captains who demonstrate high levels of competitiveness, verbal aggressiveness, impatience, and irritability. Crews may eventually adapt to this personal style, leading to adequate levels of performance.

Pilots fitting these various personality profiles can be identified through a

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
×

self-report inventory, such as the Personal Characteristics Inventory (Pred et al., 1986; Spence and Helmreich, 1976; Spence et al., 1979). This inventory is reportedly being used in the pilot selection process by at least two commercial airlines. The Air Force is developing a test of skills required for effective crew coordination, communication, and decision making that will be added to its battery, drawing on similar concepts (Hedge et al., 1995).

The committee is not in a position to evaluate the research on pilot selection and performance or the new instruments being developed. The point of reporting the findings of our initial foray into selection procedures is to emphasize how much room there appears to be for new approaches. Concerns about the usefulness of existing pilot selection measures in predicting job performance in the modern commercial cockpit suggest that improvements are quite possible, at least in theory.

New approaches to pilot selection also offer the possibility of reducing selection barriers for women and minorities that are unrelated to their true ability to perform the job. Too little information is available in the public domain for us to judge the extent of experimentation with new selection approaches among the commercial airlines or the consequences of new selection measures on the characteristics of the pilot workforce or pilot performance on-the-job. All we can say at this point is that the experience of one airline (Northwest) that was willing to share its experience with us is promising.

Northwest recently began hiring pilots after a five-year abstention. The company has proclaimed its commitment to hiring the best employees at all levels, including the best and brightest women and minorities. It formed a task force to reevaluate its selection procedures from top to bottom. The airline continues to use flight time as one criteria in pilot selection but is giving increased attention to education, personality, and teamwork. It sees systems management skills as increasingly important as the company makes the transition to airplanes with glass cockpits. It is using a matrix approach to rating individuals, so that it can balance different selection factors within the overall pool of applicants. It has adopted the Personal Characteristics Inventory to screen for both positive and negative traits that are important to the company and has found that women and minorities perform better on this measure than on some traditional instruments. It is evaluating candidates on their ability to perform in a company with a diverse workforce. It continues to use a panel of company pilots for final selection (as most airlines do), but it has provided interview training to members of selection boards and has standardized interview questions. (Acton, 1989, also emphasizes the importance of training pilots on selection boards in interviewing techniques, as well as in the philosophy, process, and skills required to successfully identify good pilot candidates.)

More than 7,000 people applied for the 192 pilot jobs available at Northwest in 1995. Of the group selected, 5 percent were women and 34 percent were individuals the airline identifies as "people of color." This percentage of women

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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exceeded the percentage of women with commercial and ATP licenses (4.2 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively). Although no data exist on the number of minorities with such licenses, the results at Northwest are clearly extraordinary based on employment levels in the industry as a whole.

The major airlines, because of their size, may be in the strongest position to initiate new approaches to pilot selection, but it is crucial that the smaller airlines pay attention to this issue as well. These airlines are increasingly likely to be the starting point for pilots beginning their airline flying careers. Their filtering role, as well as their training role, will grow in importance. The smaller airlines and the start-up airlines in fact may be ahead of their larger, older brethren, because they have been less dominated by military pilots and started operations at a time when more attention was being paid to the importance of a diverse workforce. Nevertheless, these individual companies may not be as well positioned as the majors to devote resources to reviewing the effects and effectiveness of their selection criteria and modifying them if necessary. One possible remedy is for the major airlines to work on this issue on behalf of their affiliated carriers; another is for the smaller airlines to address the issue jointly through their trade associations.

The committee recommends that all airlines examine their selection criteria and use procedures consistent with the best available knowledge of job tasks and effective crew performance.

School and Industry Climate

This chapter began with a recitation of the long struggle that minorities and women have faced to become full members of the aviation community. Throughout this report we have seen that victories have been achieved, but the battle is not yet completely won. The remaining job is in some ways even more difficult, because it requires addressing not blatant policies of discrimination and exclusion but habits of attitude and behavior that are much more difficult to identify and root out. It means creating a climate in which minorities and women can work as productively and comfortably as their white male colleagues and no invisible or artificial barriers restrict any individual's chances for advancement.

Aviation, like most of American society, isn't there yet, certainly not in the view of those who were excluded for so long. This can be seen in the frustration expressed by many blacks in congressional hearings in the mid-to-late 1980s examining discrimination in the airline industry, and by the objections raised by some groups not party to the case to ending the EEOC legal action against United in 1995, on the grounds that serious problems still remain. It can be seen in the work of Eiff et al. (1993), describing the conditions found during a firsthand look at maintenance technician training schools, conditions presenting "many subliminal and covert barriers to learning" for women and minorities that ranged from unequal facilities and expectations of students to the display of materials with offensive racial and sexual overtones. It can be seen in the incidents of harassment

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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and hostility that have greeted some women and minority pilots when they ''invaded" the formerly white male world of the cockpit (Henderson, 1995, 1996; Wentworth, 1993).

Like much of American industry, aviation has to rid itself of some unfortunate legacies from its past. Also like other industries, aviation still has to shatter the so-called glass ceiling: the invisible, artificial barriers blocking women and minorities from advancing up the corporate ladder to management and executive positions (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, 1995a:iii).6 The Glass Ceiling report provides context for a discussion of the glass ceiling within the aviation industry.

The report found, in its comprehensive review of U.S. businesses, that the world at the top of the corporate hierarchy did not look anything like America, where two-thirds of the population, and 57 percent of the working population, is female, minority, or both (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, 1995a:iii-iv). The report confirmed that at the highest levels of business there is a glass ceiling rarely penetrated by women or minorities. Specifically, it found (based on a 1989 survey) that 97 percent of the senior managers of Fortune 1,000 industrial and Fortune 500 companies were white and 95 to 97 percent were male; and that 3 to 5 percent of senior managers were women, and, of that percent, virtually all were white (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, 1995a:12). Black men and women constituted less than 2.5 percent of total employment in the top jobs in the private sector (p. 9). We have no reason to assume that the airline industry represents a different profile from the profile of U.S. businesses generally or that the glass ceiling problems and issues described by the commission are not equally relevant and applicable to the airline industry.

As we have noted throughout this report, U.S. airlines have been peopled mostly by white men, and it is still the case that they dominate the management and piloting ranks of the industry. This may be changing, but not at a rapid pace—and the change did not start at a particularly early stage in the industry's growth (which, as we discuss, may have important implications for dealing with glass ceiling issues). For example, it has been suggested that as late as the 1970s, airlines did not have a consistent policy to encourage women who sought to work in management and executive positions (Douglas, 1991:96). In the 1980s, on the basis of its own examination of employment practices by three major air carriers, Congress found the industry wanting in providing employment opportunities for women and minorities in key professional and managerial positions (U.S. Congress

6  

The Glass Ceiling Commission, a 21-member bipartisan body appointed by President Bush and congressional leaders and chaired by the secretary of labor, was created by the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Its mandate was to identify the glass ceiling barriers that have blocked the advancement of minorities and women as well as the successful practices and policies that have led to the advancement of minority men and all women into decision making positions in the private sector.

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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1988:23-4; 49), particularly noting the absence of minorities in the top tier of those companies (p. 9, 17, 19, 23). Factors that were found to have contributed to the lack of progress included the existence of a white male "old-boy" network for hiring and promotion decisions and the failure of airline companies to place minorities in mainstream positions or positions that are regarded as essential to company operations (U.S. Congress, 1988:3). A more recent assessment of women and minorities in the corporate offices and boardrooms of airline companies presents a more encouraging picture, with several impressive examples and illustrations of how the face of senior airline management is changing (Henderson, 1995, 1996).

A closer look at the Glass Ceiling report may help to bring into sharper focus the particular history and current status of women and minorities in senior airline management positions. The commission identified three levels of barriers to the advancement of women and minorities in businesses: societal, governmental, and internal structural barriers within the control of business (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, 1995a:26-36). The internal structural barriers within the control of business include restrictive outreach and recruitment practices and pipeline barriers (initial placement and clustering in staff jobs that are not the career track to the top; lack of mentoring, management training, and opportunities for career development; and other internal practices that limit advancement) (pp. 32-36). The discussion of recruitment and pipeline barriers seems particularly relevant to the airline industry.

The Glass Ceiling research suggests that preparation for key corporate jobs requires 20 to 25 years "in the pipeline" with broad and varied experience in the "right" (core) areas of the business, which minorities and women generally have limited opportunity to obtain (pp. 15-16). The report notes that women and minorities tend to be in support, staff function areas and that movement between these positions and line positions is rare in most companies (pp. 15-16). We have already discussed that both women and minorities are not well represented in the core areas of the airline business—flight and maintenance operations and perhaps some others, such as sales, marketing, and finance. That has implications for both their recruitment and their movement within the airlines' corporate management structures. The linkage between experience in the core business of the airlines and success in moving up the corporate ladder has been recently highlighted (Henderson, 1996).

If it is necessary to be in the pipeline for 20 to 25 years and have access to and experience in the core business areas to make it into the top tier of corporate management, then women and minorities would seem to be facing a particularly difficult challenge to break into the airlines' corporate ranks in significant numbers in the near future. The numbers of women and minorities recruited and hired by the airlines, particularly as pilots, have been limited in the past. The airlines' interest and initiatives to more aggressively recruit, hire, and develop women and minorities for key management positions appear to have taken root later than has

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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been the case for other major industries. It is unlikely, then, that there will be significant changes in the makeup of the industry's top leadership and management ranks any time soon. As the Glass Ceiling report points out, only businesses that sought to diversify their workforces in the late 1960s are now "cracking the glass ceiling," whereas most of those who started later are far behind (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, 1995a:36). From every indication available to us, we would have to conclude that the airline industry falls in the latter category, with substantial progress yet to be demonstrated.

Drawing on the experience of businesses with successful programs and its own expertise and research, the Glass Ceiling Commission, in a separately published set of recommendations, has laid out a roadmap for businesses to follow in eliminating glass ceiling barriers (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, 1995b:13-15):

  • Demonstrate commitment by the chief executive officer by setting company-wide policies that actively promote diversity programs and policies that remove artificial barriers at every level.
  • Include diversity in all strategic business plans and hold line managers accountable for progress.
  • Use affirmative action as a tool, ensuring that all qualified individuals have equal access and opportunity to compete based on ability and merit.
  • Select, promote, and retain qualified individuals, seeking candidates from noncustomary sources, background, and experiences and expanding the universe of qualified candidates.
  • Prepare minorities and women for senior positions, expanding access to core areas of business and to various developmental experiences and establishing mentoring programs that provide career guidance and support to prepare minorities and women for senior positions.
  • Educate the corporate ranks, providing formal training at regular intervals on company time to sensitize and familiarize all employees about the strengths and challenges of gender, racial, ethnic, and cultural differences.
  • Initiate work-, life-, and family-friendly policies.
  • Adopt high performance workplace practices.

We know from journalistic accounts (e.g., Henderson, 1996) and from information supplied by airlines to the committee that many airline companies now have in place or are developing policies and practices that track these broad recommendations. We are not in a position to evaluate these efforts, but we applaud and urge serious attention to them. We also acknowledge the reluctance of companies to share information on successful programs for competitive reasons but hope that the industry will try to find ways to learn what approaches are

Suggested Citation:"5 DIVERSIFYING THE AVIATION WORKFORCE." National Research Council. 1997. Taking Flight: Education and Training for Aviation Careers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5433.
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most successful at breaking down the barriers that hold back talented minorities and women.

The committee recommends continuing efforts, vigorously led by top officials, to root out any remaining vestiges of discriminatory behavior in aviation training institutions and aviation businesses and to provide a favorable climate and truly equal opportunities for all individuals who wish to pursue careers in the aviation industry.

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The commercial aviation industry is a major part of the U.S. transportation infrastructure and a key contributor to the nation's economy. The industry is facing the effects of a reduced role by the military as a source of high-quality trained personnel, particularly pilots and mechanics. At the same time, it is facing the challenges of a changing American workforce.

This book is a study of the civilian training and education programs needed to satisfy the work-force requirements of the commercial aviation industry in the year 2000 and beyond, with particular emphasis on issues related to access to aviation careers by women and minorities.

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