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What is a pilot?

June 10, 2013
pilot 7

In the 1950s, the Air Force trained monkeys to fly. The program was scrapped because of the price of bananas.

Hey Y’all,

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.

My friend Steve sent this to me over the weekend. I am sharing it with all of my pilot friends; I hope you find this as informative as I did. My personal comments about myself will be in bold print. In about five years, I hope my kids will read this so they know how to deal with their old man. Now that I am armed with this information, I will strive to change and be a better citizen. Or maybe, I will set out to change the world around me and make you all become better subjects.

Pilots are a distinct segment of the general population. In addition to flying skills, pilots are selected for their personalities and for a distinct “pilot persona.” These characteristics make them safer pilots.

pilot 6

This is Robin Olds. He is a man’s man and a fighter pilot’s fighter pilot. All of the following pictures are of pilots who wished they were a man like him.


Pilots tend to be physically and mentally healthy. Pilots tend to be “reality based,” because by the very nature of their work they are constantly testing reality. There are those, however who would dispute this claim. (I live in the reality of the world revolving around me. Probably the reason this post exists!)


pilot 4

Proof that anyone can be a Airline Captain.


Pilots tend to be self-sufficient and may have difficulty functioning in team situations without CRM and other training. (I work great in a team environment as long as the team is doing what I want.) They have difficulty trusting anyone to do the job as well as they can. Pilots tend to be suspicious, even a little paranoid. (I was constantly looking for the black helicopters, until a friend pointed out they use drones. So now I am constantly looking for the black drones.) In moderation, this quality serves them well within their environment and is, in fact, a quality that managements look for in the pilot personality. Outside the cockpit, this quality shows up in the tendency of many pilots to set two or three alarm clocks– even though he or she may generally wake up before any of the clocks go off. (I do this all the time. I even call the front desk and have a wake-up call set.) The suspicious/paranoid tendency also affects the way pilots function in their private lives, as well.


pilot 1

The scary thing is that this guy is probably flying you around on your next trip.


Pilots tend to be intelligent but are typically not intellectually oriented. They like “toys”– boats, cars, motorcycles, big watches, etc. (I thought everybody did this. My guilty toy will be an outdoor cooking area outside and a three story detached garage with an indoor basketball court. I haven’t built it yet, but the plans are inside my head.) They are good at taking things apart, if not putting them back together. Pilots are concrete, practical, linear thinkers rather than abstract, philosophical, or theoretical. On a scale that ranges from analytically oriented to emotionally oriented, pilots tend to be toward the analytical end. (I think this is a problem in my writing. I can’t seem to find the words when I am writing about an emotion.) They are extremely reality and goal-oriented. They like lists showing concrete problems, not talking about them. This goal orientation tends towards the short term as opposed to the long term. Pilots are bimodal: on/off, black/white, good/bad, safe/unsafe, regulations/non-regulations. (Just because there is a regulation, doesn’t mean we have to follow them.)


pilots 2

There is a rule about taking pictures while in flight. I don’t know why it is important.


Pilots are inclined to modify their environment rather than their own behavior. (So true. I once told a friend that I didn’t have a gambling problem, I had a losing problem.) Pilots need excitement; a 9-to-5 job would drive most pilots to distraction. Pilots are competitive, being driven by a need to achieve, and don’t handle failure particularly well. Pilots have a low tolerance for personal imperfection, and long memories of perceived injustices. (I am my own harshest critic, and I still can’t stand Joe Montana for throwing that pass to Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC Championship game that beat Dallas.)


pilots 8

I would let go of the hate, but what would keep me warm in the winter?


Pilots tend to be scanners, drawing conclusions rapidly about situational facts. Pilots scan people as if they were instruments; they draw conclusions at a glance rather than relying on long and emotion-laden conversations. (I was a Psych major in college and I even thought about going to Grad school in Psychology. Listening to people drone on and on about their problems would have driving me crazy. That would have been a poor career choice.)


pilot 9

I call people jack wagons all the time now. My favorite commercial of all time!


Pilots avoid introspection and have difficulty revealing, expressing, or even recognizing their feelings. When they do experience unwanted feelings, they tend to mask them, sometimes with humor or even anger. (In school, I was always the smallest kid in my class. It is my mom’s fault and I didn’t like being picked on. So every day after school, I was getting into a fight with someone. That usually didn’t turn out so good, so I learned to tell jokes, instead. I found it was better to make people laugh and forget to throw me on top of the lockers, as opposed to get beat up and then be thrown on top to the lockers.) Being unemotional helps pilots deal with crises, but can make them insensitive toward the feelings of others. The spouses and children of pilots frequently complain that the pilot has difficulty expressing complex human emotions toward them. (My wife has been telling me this for years. Maybe I will start to listen to her. Who am I kidding? My hearing is shot from too many years of being around airplanes.)


pilots 3

Maybe I shouldn’t blame all of my hearing loss on the airplanes. I saw a lot of concerts when I was younger, but never these guys.


This emotional “block” can create difficulty communicating. How many incidents or accidents have occurred due to poor communications? The vast majority of Professional Standards cases will be caused by poor communication. (Fortunately at FedEx, I have not had to deal with anyone from Professional Standards or Flight Management. When I was in the military, I had the opportunity to spend some time being counseled. Maybe my communication skills are improving, or maybe they haven’t figured out the real me yet. Hope I can hide it for another sixteen years.)



Yes it is true anyone can be a Airline Captain. Maybe Fed Ex should calculate the price of bananas.


Courtesy of ALPA

Until next time, keep on rockin!


From → life

  1. Karlene permalink

    I love this! I think I’m a pilot. lol.

  2. Thank Karlene. When I first read this from my friend, I thought it was a joke. Then I realized that he was describing me. Then I realized he is describing all of us. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Ha! You are your own special form of psychopath! Aren’t we all! Some of this reminds me of my hubby, but I have to say, I’m in many ways a total empath. I err on the side of understanding what people are going through too well. Probably a good thing I married my own special psychopath. He keeps me grounded and I help him “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”

  4. wvuc130fe permalink

    Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean the black drones are not following me.

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