FAA group urges move to gender-neutral terms, no more ‘airman’ or ‘cockpit’

A Federal Aviation Administration advisory group is urging the agency to replace words like “airman” and “cockpit” with gender-neutral terms like “aviator” and “flight deck.”

The FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee put forth the recommendations in a report released Wednesday, part of a broader push for equity in the agency and aviation industry.

“Research shows that the utilization of general-neutral language can lead to a more inclusive environment that draws more people to the industry and helps keep them there,” the report states.

The committee offered several alternatives for terms commonly-used in the industry, such as using “manufactured” or “fabricated” instead of “man-made.”

It also noted that the term “cockpit” has at times been used by male crew members to “undermine femme co-workers” — and proposed that “flight deck” be used instead.

The report indicated that gender-neutral words would lead to a more inclusive industry as a whole.
The report indicated that gender-neutral words would lead to a more inclusive industry as a whole.
Getty Images

The group — made up of representatives from different sectors of the industry — was asked by the FAA in February for suggestions on switching to gender-neutral terms, according to The Washington Post.

A Bradley Mims, Deputy Administrator of the FAA.
Deputy FAA Administrator A. Bradley Mims added the changes could be better for diversity.
Federal Aviation Administration

The idea was to refresh language in the drone industry, in the hopes that the broader aviation community would then adopt the changes, the article said.

The committee wrote that “adopting gender-neutral language is a positive step toward a more inclusive and diverse ecosystem.”

“Avoiding imprecise and exclusionary language can create a work environment where all workers feel safe sharing their views, thereby improving psychological and operational safety,” its report states.

The recommendations mirror changes already put in place by other agencies, like NASA, which in 2006 updated terms in the space program to become gender-neutral. For example, “manned” and “unmanned” became “piloted” or “unpiloted.”

Deputy FAA Administrator Bradley Mims told the Washington Post that the agency would take the suggestions under advisement.

“Implementing gender-neutral language into the aviation community is an important step towards achieving diversity and inclusion in the workforce,” he said.

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