Eric Thompson

Pilots’ Union Pushes for Inclusive Language: Replacing ‘Cockpit’ and ‘Manpower

In a move that has sparked considerable debate, the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), the largest airline pilots’ union globally, has issued a directive to its members to adopt more inclusive language. This initiative includes discouraging the use of terms such as “cockpit,” “airmen,” and “manpower,” aiming to reflect the diverse composition of the union and promote a more inclusive workplace environment.

Pilots’ Union Tells Members To Be More ‘Inclusive’: Stop Saying ‘Cockpit,’ ‘Manpower’ Video:

The directive, detailed in a diversity, equity, and inclusion language guide released in 2021, explains the rationale behind these changes. The guide notes that the term “cockpit,” while historically used since the early 1900s, can be perceived as exclusionary towards women. Many female pilots have reportedly encountered derogatory remarks implying that the term indicates a male-dominated space. This shift in language, ALPA asserts, is intended to prevent such marginalization and foster a more welcoming atmosphere for all pilots.

In addition to “cockpit,” the guide advises against using “airmen” and “manpower,” suggesting alternatives such as “flight deck,” “aviators,” and “staffing.” This approach, according to ALPA, is part of a broader effort to ensure that the language used within the aviation industry does not inadvertently perpetuate gender biases.

The union’s stance has elicited varied reactions. Some members and observers view it as a positive step towards greater inclusivity and sensitivity in a historically male-dominated field. However, others argue that such changes are unnecessary and detract from more pressing issues within the aviation industry. This sentiment is reflected in the response to United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby’s comments in 2021, where he announced a commitment to ensuring that 50% of the company’s graduating pilot classes would be women or people of color. Critics, including conservative commentator Brigitte Gabriel, accused the airline of prioritizing diversity quotas over merit.

ALPA’s initiative is part of a broader trend within various industries to reevaluate and update language to be more inclusive. This effort, while commendable in its intent, raises important questions about the balance between inclusivity and tradition, as well as the implications for operational effectiveness and cohesion within highly specialized fields like aviation.

Such initiatives may be seen as an overreach of political correctness, potentially undermining the focus on qualifications and performance that are crucial in professions demanding high standards of competence and safety. The primary concern for many is that emphasis on language and quotas might overshadow the fundamental criteria of skill and experience that are essential in aviation.

Supporters of the language guide argue that fostering an inclusive environment can enhance teamwork and morale, ultimately benefiting overall performance. They point to studies suggesting that diverse teams can offer a wider range of perspectives and problem-solving approaches, which can be advantageous in complex and high-stakes environments such as aviation.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to consider the practical implications of such changes. The aviation industry, like many others, relies on a shared vocabulary and clear communication standards to ensure safety and efficiency. Any modifications to this lexicon must be carefully evaluated to avoid confusion and maintain operational integrity.

ALPA’s statement to Fox News underscores the importance of maintaining high standards in training and qualifications while also opening doors of opportunity to a broader range of candidates. The union emphasizes that the real threats to aviation safety are efforts to reduce pilot standards through automation or lowered experience requirements, not initiatives aimed at increasing diversity.


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