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Committee wants FAA to replace terms like ‘cockpit,’ ‘manmade’ with gender-neutral language

Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

America's airline industry may soon be getting a woke language makeover.

An advisory committee this week recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration replace burdensome gender-exclusive terms such as "cockpit," "airman," and "manmade" with more inclusive language such as "flight deck," "aviator," and machine made."

The recommendations were made in a report issued Wednesday by the Drone Advisory Committee and obtained by the Washington Post.

In the report, the committee — a subset of the FAA reportedly made up of representatives from 17 organizations in industry, labor, airports, and local government — suggested that the drone industry should begin adopting gender-specific language to evolve along with society, and so should the FAA.

"As it grows and matures, the drone industry has an opportunity to use and embrace gender-neutral language that defines it as an industry that is respectful, welcoming, and brings value to the receiver," the report stated. "We look forward to continuing to work closely in assisting the FAA, the drone community and the aviation industry as a whole in supporting and adopting these recommendations."

Among the "gender-specific" terms recommended to be replaced were "airman," "cockpit," "repairman," "manmade," "manned aviation," "unmanned aviation" -- and, of course, "he" and "she" and "him" and "her."

Replacing them would be more inclusive terms such as "aviator," "flight deck," "technician," "machine made," "traditional aviation," and "uncrewed aviation."

The committee argued that exclusionary language is a big part of the reason that "women and other marginalized groups are significantly underrepresented in the aviation industry."

"Avoiding imprecise and exclusionary language can help create a work environment where all workers feel safe sharing their views, thereby improving psychological and operational safety," the report noted. "Research shows that the utilization of gender-neutral language can lead to a more inclusive environment that draws more people to the industry and helps keep them there."

What's more, the committee argued, is that the aviation industry has a long history of "homogenous gender and racial participation."

While language changes won't automatically result in a more diverse workforce, the committee hopes that the changes will serve as an important first step. And it appears the FAA is on board.

In response to questioning from the Washington Post, Deputy FAA Administrator Bradley Mims confirmed that the agency plans to review the committee's recommendations.

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

The FAA is not the first institution to consider implementing gender-neutral language. NASA made the move in 2006. Earlier this year, House Democrats proposed eliminating all gender-specific language in the chamber.

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