Study: Gender Differences in Plane Crashes

ByPaul Payne

May 19, 2001 -- Air crashes involving female pilots are mostlydue to mishandling of the plane, while those with male pilots aremore often due to flawed decision-making and inattention, a studyfound.

Flying planes with known mechanical problems, running out offuel and landing with the gear up were typically male problems,said the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Healthstudy released last week.

Women's crashes were more often due to incorrect use of therudder, poor response to a bounce or inability to recover from astall, the study found.

"Males trade accuracy for speed," said professor Susan Baker,the study's co-author. "They would rather do something faster evenif they don't do it accurately.

"Women tend to be more cautious and pay greater attention todetails and rules."

The authors said women may have mishandled planes because theyhad less flight time and experience on average than men.

The study in this month's issue of Aviation, Space andEnvironmental Medicine was prompted in part by the more than30-fold increase in the number of female airline pilots in theUnited States since 1959.

Officials of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board andthe Federal Aviation Administration would not comment on the study.

Hopkins scholars looked at crashes of civilian, noncommercialplanes from 1983 to 1997 involving 144 female and 287 male pilotsover 40 years of age.

Aircraft mishandling was the most common problem for both menand women, but was blamed in 80 percent of female pilots' crashesand just 48 percent of men's.

Flawed decision-making, such as misjudging weather or flyingplanes with mechanical defects, was responsible in about 29 percentof male crashes compared with 19 percent of women's. Inattentionwas a factor in 32 percent of male crashes but about 19 percent forwomen.

Crashes are often the result of more than one error, theresearchers noted.

Lloyd Coleman of Beacon Flying Service said the depiction of menas hot-dogging mavericks and women as incompetent "borders on thestereotypical."

"You really can't say what happened in a crash because youweren't there," Coleman said. "I'm not sure how valid it is."

Crashes of noncommercial, nonmilitary planes kill an average of652 people per year, the study said.

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