There are several skills and qualities all great pilots have in common.
You may not currently have all of them (few aspiring pilots do), but odds are that you already possess at least a couple of the qualities and skills you need to become a pilot.
Most can also all be learned and improved upon, too, even if they don’t come naturally.
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The 7 Most Important Skills & Qualities You Need to Become a Pilot
In our experience, here are 7 of the most important ones that every great pilot possesses.
Becoming a pilot isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a time-consuming, strenuous, expensive journey that isn’t suited to everyone.
Lots of time spent studying and honing your skills in and out of the cockpit is required.
Let’s not even get started on the FAA’s 1,500 rule, which requires pilots to log 1,500 hours of flight time to become an airline pilot.
This can take years, even if a pilot is able to dedicate all their time to flying.
Determination is therefore the number one quality you need to become a pilot.
There’s no doubt that pilots can be paid very well, especially captains of major airlines who can earn over $300k a year. But you won’t come across too many pilots who decided to fly for a living solely due to the money.
Pilots are usually people who have had an interest in aviation from an early age. If this doesn’t sound like you, don’t worry; some pilots are late bloomers.
A couple of flying lessons, it soon becomes clear that flying is something that you were born to do.
Becoming a pilot becomes that much easier when you are working towards fulfilling a passion.
Mastering all the individual factors of flying a plane isn’t necessarily hard, but the ability to master these factors at the same time, and maintain a high level of situational awareness is.
The weather, ATC procedures, navigation, and airspace congestion are just a few of the things pilots need to keep track of.
From takeoff to landing, a pilot’s mind needs to be active and switched on.
Communication error, which consists of the amount of information, unclear pronunciation, and misunderstanding, has played an important role in many aviation accidents.
Besides being able to clearly and concisely convey information every time a pilot communicates with air traffic control, good interpersonal communication skills are also important.
Pilots don’t necessarily have to be “people” persons, but as they work with and communicate with a wide range of people, including crew members and passengers, good interpersonal communication skills are a plus.
Self-confidence is another key quality that pilots should possess. Pilots should be assured of their skills and trust the decisions they make.
While a lack of confidence can result in second-guessing decisions and result in problems, overconfidence is also something to avoid.
The best pilots manage to strike just the right balance between the two by being well-disciplined, showing humility, acknowledging their limitations and are comfortable enough to seek guidance or advice when necessary.
The cockpit is no place for someone who can’t take self-responsibility.
Pilots, whether they are flying cargo, just a couple of passengers, or hundreds of passengers as a captain of a commercial airliner, understand the importance of their role and the faith put in them.
Regardless if it’s through pilot error or unforeseen events, a flight can quickly take a turn for the worse.
Whether this results in catastrophe or not often comes down to whether a pilot is able to remain cool and calm under pressure, and make the correct decision at the right time.
Composure isn’t necessarily something a pilot is born with.
The ability to remain calm and not panic can be learned and achieved after years of training in which maneuvers can be practiced to deal with serious problems, as well as learning what steps to take in worst-case scenarios.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.