Posted by: harrisonjones | May 24, 2011

Traits of a pilot`

A trait is defined as a characteristic or a quality that distinguishes someone. As a writer, I’m always looking for traits that allow me to describe a character. I have long since decided that there is no stereotype for a pilot; however I think we do share subtle commonalities. I’m not talking about morality or ethics; although I hope that as a group our standards are high. I’m thinking more of a thought process and how that process transfers to the ability to fly an airplane. Those of you who are flight instructors will probably relate to this discussion more  readily than others. When someone decides they want to learn to fly, they usually bring certain traits with them when they arrive for the first lesson. They are usually someone who enjoys a challenge and pursues it with a stubborn persistence. They don’t give up easily. There is normally an underlying wanderlust and a desire for new adventures. I’m sure you CFIs are beginning to recognize the new student. They arrive with a varying level of confidence, but  there’s also a bit of anxiety and sometimes fear.   

By the time the student becomes a licensed pilot, the self confidence has been raised to a new  level, but the anxiety or fear has been molded into a cautious and prudent attitude and an approach to flight with careful planning and consideration of alternatives and contingencies. Before long these traits begin to encroach on the pilot’s everyday life, no matter what the task. Speaking of tasks, the pilot is soon multi-tasking and wondering why everyone doesn’t do it. Scanning the instruments while flying the airplane, navigating and talking on the radio becomes second nature, allowing him or her time to consider contingencies and form a situational awareness of traffic and weather around them. He or she sometimes wishes they were a fighter pilot so they could also be shooting at someone during this process. If you see someone listening to music while watching TV and reading a book, it’s probably a pilot. If they’re playing chess at the time, it’s almost a certainty. If he’s also gobbling a sandwich like his hair  is on fire, he’s probably a flight instructor or a regional airline pilot.  

In all seriousness (wait a minute, I was serious), it seems that being a pilot does make a person  more responsible. It speeds the brain up and probably the metabolism too. When athletes reach the professional level, they often say the speed of the game is the big difference. When a pilot is on the ground, life seems to meander at a slow place. Their mind is usually three steps ahead of what they’re doing and a good practical joke is often lurking in there hoping for an opportunity.  

In my two novels, Shadow Flight (coming July first) and Equal Time Point, I tried to do justice  to the traits of pilots. I would be very interested in your perception of pilots and other traits to consider. Prioritizing, focusing…is there such a thing as multi-focusing…


  1. I think being organized is a key trait. You have to have a plan and a plan B. I have seen people multi-task without finishing anything completely. They leave a whole lot of mess behind them as they try to do several things at the same time.

  2. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? Do you think if a person like that became a pilot it would help them become more methodical? The trait I’m trying to think of might be “task oriented.” I guess most pilots evolve to a “complete the mission” attitude. Thanks for adding to the discussion. Now that Shadow Flight is done, I’m outlining a new book and looking for new characters and traits. Your comment gives me a couple of ideas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: