A pilot sitting in the cockpit of an airplane.

Picture this: soaring through the clouds, the world beneath you, the horizon stretching out before you. It's a scene straight out of a movie, but for pilots, it's just another day at the office. 

Many people believe that being a pilot is all about the thrill of flying and visiting exotic locations. While these aspects can be part of the job, there's also a great deal of responsibility, technical knowledge and skill involved. Moreover, the profession requires a specific set of personality traits that not everyone possesses. Understanding the relationship between personality and career choice is crucial, as it can greatly influence job satisfaction and success.

What Does a Pilot Do?

A pilot is a professional who operates the flying controls of an aircraft. This broad definition encompasses a wide range of tasks and responsibilities, depending on the type of aircraft and the nature of the flight.

Commercial airline pilots, for example, transport passengers and cargo across the country or around the world. They plan flight paths, communicate with air traffic control and monitor the aircraft's systems. On the other hand, military pilots engage in combat missions, reconnaissance and training exercises. There are also helicopter pilots, test pilots and drone pilots, each with their own unique set of duties and challenges.

What Are the Skills Needed to Become a Pilot?

Becoming a pilot requires a combination of hard and soft skills.

  1. Technical skills: Pilots need to understand the complex systems that make an aircraft function. They must also be proficient in navigation, meteorology, and aviation regulations.
  2. Analytical thinking: Pilots must be able to make quick decisions in high-pressure situations. This requires the ability to analyze a situation, evaluate options and choose the best course of action.
  3. Communication skills: Clear and effective communication is crucial in aviation. Pilots need to relay information to air traffic control, crew members and passengers.
  4. Physical stamina: Flying can be physically demanding, especially on long-haul flights. Pilots need to maintain their physical health to handle the rigors of the job.
  5. Stress management: Pilots often work under stressful conditions. They must be able to stay calm and focused, even in emergency situations.

Which Personality Types Make the Best Pilots?

Certain personality traits can be beneficial in the aviation industry. Using the Big Five personality traits and TypeFinder types as references, we can explore how personality influences professional aptitude in the field of aviation.

Big Five Personality Traits of Pilots

  1. Openness: Pilots need to be open to new experiences and adaptable to change. They often encounter unexpected situations and must be able to adjust their plans accordingly. Pilots with lower levels of openness can excel in practical and concrete decision-making. 
  2. Conscientiousness: This trait is crucial for pilots, who need to be meticulous, organized and responsible. They must follow procedures and regulations to ensure safety.
  3. Extraversion: While not essential, extraversion can be beneficial for pilots. They often work in teams and need to communicate effectively with others. However, much of a pilot's time on the job is spent solo, so it can be a great career for those with low extraversion as well. 
  4. Agreeableness: Pilots need to cooperate with air traffic control, crew members and passengers. Agreeableness can help in maintaining harmonious relationships, although this is not a crucial trait for pilots. 
  5. Neuroticism: Low levels of neuroticism are preferable for pilots. They must remain calm under pressure and handle stress effectively.

You can take our Big Five personality test to see how these traits play out in your life.

TypeFinder Types of Pilots

Certain TypeFinder types may find the profession of a pilot more suitable. For instance, ESTJs and ISTJs, with their practical, detail-oriented nature, may excel in the structured environment of aviation. On the other hand, ENTPsESTPs and ISTPs might enjoy the variety and adaptability the profession requires.

Take our TypeFinder assessment to find out your unique type!

How to Become a Pilot

If you're interested in becoming a pilot, start by researching the profession and its requirements. Consider taking an introductory flight lesson or enrolling in a flight school. You might also find it helpful to take a career assessment, such as the Career Personality Profiler, Holland Code, or DISC test, to gain insights into your aptitudes and interests.

Every personality has the potential to excel in the profession of a pilot. It's all about finding the niche or specialization that aligns with your personality and skills. Whether you're an adrenaline junkie drawn to the thrill of flying or a detail-oriented individual who thrives on structure and routine, there's a place for you in the cockpit. 

So why not take the next step in exploring this exciting profession? The sky's the limit!

Megan Malone
Megan holds an MS in organizational psychology and manages content and brand marketing at Truity. She is passionate about helping people improve their relationships, careers, and quality of life using personality psychology. An INFJ and Enneagram 9, Megan lives quietly in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and two pups. You can chat with her on Twitter @meganmmalone.