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    Pages from BT 4.2 pp 1-28 Final

    National Gay Pilots Association Advocates for Safety, Equality

    Aviation safety is on many of our
    minds now, after a two-year period of deadly crashes involving everything from the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 to last month’s Germanwings Flight 9525 crash involving co-pilot Andreas Lubitz. The latter proves just how important
    pilots are, given that our very lives are in their hands when we step on board a plane. We can at least take
    ample comfort in knowing that an incredible organization like the National Gay Pilots Association exists.

    NGPA is an organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender aviation enthusiasts from around the world. It hosts a number of events each year and works to promote aviation safety, aviation excellence and equal treatment.
    Through education, outreach and annual social events around the
    country, NGPA works toward the following primary organizational goals:

    • encouraging members of the GLBT
      community to begin piloting careers
    • fostering equal treatment of GLBT
    • aviators through advocacy and outreach
    • promoting aviation safety
    • providing an affirming social and professional
      network for GLBT aviators

    Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, NGPA started off rather humbly. Its first event, held in Provincetown, Massachusetts, included only a handful of gay pilots. Communication then was just via telephone, and members were identified by having an airplane on their shirts. It’s important to remember that during this time, members risked losing their jobs or being discharged from the military if they were outed as gay.

    Even now there is a certain level of respected privacy, given the inequalities, bullying and more that still exist in all professions, with aviation being no exception. Today the organization is 2,200 members strong and includes some of the world’s most impressive, experienced pilots. Our jaws dropped here at the San Francisco Bay Times when we heard about some of their incredible titles, awards and other achievements.

    One such pilot is David Pettet, who is the Executive Director of NGPA and has worked with many major airlines over the years. In fact, as we were interviewing Pettet, he was getting ready for a long flight to Australia, which went super smooth—per usual with him. For most of us, airline travel means the occasional vacation or business trip. For aviation experts like Pettet, it is a way of life. Thanks to his work and that of other talented airline industry professionals, our odds of dying
    in a plane crash are one in 11 million.

    To put that into perspective, your odds of dying in a car crash are about one in 491. The next time you get on a plane then, relax in your seat, take comfort in the statistics, and in knowing that NGPA members are working hard for our safety and equality both on the ground and in the skies. For more information, please visit


    Interview with National Gay Pilots Association Executive Director David Pettet

    DavidPettetIntWe were lucky to catch up with NGPA Executive Director David Pettet in
    between flights. The life of a professional pilot is a busy one!

    San Francisco Bay Times: Please share a bit about the history
    of the NGPA and the needs it serves.

    David Pettet: This year we are proud to be celebrating our 25th
    anniversary. When NGPA started, members didn’t know the last names
    [of other members] or whom they worked for in fear of losing their jobs.
    Today we host an annual job-recruiting event where recently we had 22
    airlines at our event actively recruiting our members.

    San Francisco Bay Times: How is flight safety promoted
    through your organization?
    David Pettet: NGPA is proud to offer our members safety tips and programs through our publications throughout the year, as well as safety seminars during our events.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Your group also offers important networking, as well as social opportunities. Please highlight
    some of those.

    David Pettet: Through our mentorship program we are able to place student pilots with a career pilot in the similar field to help during their training with questions and be an encouragement. NGPA hosts 3 major events a year: Palm Springs, CA, Fort Lauderdale FL, and Provincetown, MA. In addition to the three events, the NGPA is made up of local chapters that usually meet on a monthly basis. You can f ind a local group in most major cities, including San Francisco.

    San Francisco Bay Times: What are some of the LGBT-specific issues that your organization is focusing on now?

    David Pettet: The NGPA is working with the transgender community to help assist in equality through their transition. We also help assist HIV + pilots through obtaining their medical certificate to continue flying.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Given that you’re so well traveled, what are some of your favorite destinations that you would recommend, specifically for our LGBT readers?

    David Pettet: Personally, I love Europe. My roots are from Germany; it’s always a pleasure to go back to where my family originated from. The great thing about traveling as a job is, it never feels like a job. I’m always on vacation.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Any other travel advice to share with our readers? Vacations are obviously some of the best moments of our lives, but there is still skittishness associated with flying. What can the basic traveler do to improve the overall experience?

    David Pettet: Air travel is still the safest mode of transportation for someone to travel. The NGPA is made up of talented, experienced, and passionate aviators who have a dedication to public safety. We love to share our passion for f lying with anyone who is interested.