While many children glorify pilots much like they do with teachers, firefighters, and police officers, the daily grind of being a pilot can be challenging. While flying a plane is an amazing feeling, doing it as a job comes with spending long hours sitting in a cockpit, spending nights away from your family, living out of a carry-on sized suitcase multiple days a week, bearing the mental stress of difficult flights, and so much more. For that reason, there are a few important qualities that many successful airline pilots have.
1. GOOD COMMUNICATION
Pilots must have excellent communication skills. Whether they are communicating with air traffic control, passengers, flight attendants, or their co-pilot, communication is key to a safe and successful takeoff, flight, and landing. Pilots must be able to speak clearly and authoritatively and be able to get straight to the point. They must also be able to understand what others are trying to communicate to them.
2. DECISION MAKING SKILLS
Pilots must be able to make decisions based on their knowledge and experience. While most flights will be completely by the book, if something out of the ordinary happens, a pilot must be able to call on their previous experience or understanding and make split-second decisions about how to handle a situation.
A pilot might have to make the decision to turn the plane around if there is a medical emergency onboard or they might need to commit to a field or stretch of land as the result of an emergency landing.
Pilots need to have grit. Grit refers to the ability to persevere even when things get difficult. This is not only necessary during those 12+ hour flights, but also during the length of your career. You must understand that even on the tough days when you feel like you haven’t seen your spouse or children in a week, you are working toward the long-term goal of a long career as a pilot.
That said, it is also important to know when you need help or need to take a break. Having grit doesn’t mean go-go-going to the point of fatigue and mental exhaustion. It means understanding your limits, showing up for your passengers when it is most needed, and being able to rest or step away from the profession if it is no longer a good fit for you.
4. THE ABILITY TO REMAIN CALM UNDER PRESSURE
Pilots must be able to demonstrate the ability to remain calm even in difficult or scary situations. Whether a passenger is being unruly or threatening, you lose communication with the ground, something malfunctions on the plane, or a major storm forms, you have to stay calm. When you begin to panic, you lose your ability to make informed decisions about what to do next.
Thankfully, during your commercial pilot training, you are taught how to handle a multitude of emergency situations. Knowing what to do is often the most difficult part of remaining calm. If you are often affected by nerves, it doesn’t mean that you cannot succeed in becoming a commercial pilot. It simply means you will have to work harder to find ways to cope with those emotions.
5. ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Pilots need to have a strict attention to the details. You likely remember the first time you looked into the cockpit and saw dozens of buttons, gauges, and levers. There are a lot of things that must be accounted for and letting one step slip your mind can be disastrous.
Along those lines, they must also have good situational awareness. They must have awareness of other aircraft, weather conditions, speed, altitude, aircraft systems, fuel levels, and much more.
6. RESPECT FOR THE CRAFT
This quality has two meanings. First, you must have respect for the craft of flying. You must also have respect for your actual aircraft. Respect for the craft of flying includes never taking shortcuts and ensuring that you follow all procedures each and every time you fly. You recognize that the flight attendants’ and passengers’ lives are literally at stake when you take control of a plane, and you put safety first whether you are flying from Miami to Orlando or from Miami to London.
You also must have respect for the physical aircraft. You need to understand its power and abilities, learn everything you can about it, and always understand that flying a plane is a privilege that is not to be taken lightly.