Attitude, the most important factor for a successful career in aviation?

The aim of this blog article is to discuss the importance of having the right attitude towards a career in aviation. At AirlinePrep we help hundreds of clients per year prepare for their airline or cadet pilot interviews and with that we offer feedback about an indvidual's attitude towards the role of an Airline Pilot.

The word ‘attitude’, what does it mean to you?

If you look it up online then it really means ‘a settled way of thinking or feeling about something’. 

In commercial aviation, one of the current high priority risks to flight safety is the aircraft being in an undesirable state or having a bad flight attitude. Airlines are investing in their pilot training to ensure that pilots are equipped to make correct control inputs to recover the aircraft to a desirable state of flight attitude. Such training is becoming mandated under EASA for students undergoing flight training.

The emphasis of the training is to help pilots understand how undesirable flight paths can occur and how to quickly restore the aircraft to a safe flight path.

What’s all this got to do with recruitment? Well everything! Attitude is a personal attribute, positive or negative and whilst your personality is generally something that is hard wired or engrained, your attitude and behaviour can be changed.
When airlines recruit pilots, they want to recruit those with a positive attitude. But a positive attitude towards what? Attitude forms part of your employability and so the airline recruitment team will be assessing your attitude towards:

The recruitment process, Your previous employer , Your work and life experiences so far, Your training and development, Your potential employer, Working with people, Communicating, Decision making, Workload mangement and Customers.

A positive attitude starts from the outset of your journey in becoming an Airline Pilot.

From your first assessment with a flight school such as L3 CTS, FTE Jerez or CAE Oxford you’ll need to display a positive attitude and enthusiasm to becoming a Pilot.

When you join a flight school, the attitude you display towards your training will ultimately determine whether that flight school feel that they can trust you after graduating to be put forward for an interview with a client airline. That means you can’t treat your 18 months at flight school lightly. You’ll need to study hard and try to achieve an 85% average in your 14 ground exams preferably without any failures. That means you can’t afford to relax too much, the ground school phase is hard and good results hear are indicative of the ability to pass a type rating later on in your career. To achieve this you’ll need to put aside any distractions during the ground school phase, manage your time wisely and demonstrate to the school that you have the ability to move on to the flight phase.

A well known football manager said “God gave us two eyes, two ears and one mouth, so that we can do twice as much observing as we can talking”. This statement is very relevant during your flight training. Be a sponge, absorb the information, ask questions if you don’t understand, but don’t argue with your instructors. Arguing and bad attitude will get you an undesirable reputation which you’ll need to correct quickly.

The same applies during the flight phase of your training. Professionals will be trying to teach you all that they know so that you can gain your frozen ATPL. With so few hours, you aren’t an ace pilot, so just put into practice what you have been taught.

A good attitude displayed throughout your flight training will ultimately lead to a recommendation from your head of training and such a recommendation will stand you in favour when your training record is assessed by a recruitment team.

When you join an airline, you still need to continue to listen, learn and have a good attitude. You aren’t an Airline Pilot because you have 200 hours, an MCC certificate, a licence and a type rating. It takes a couple of thousand hours to gain experience and become a highly capable First Officer with the capacity to deal with potential unknowns. You might be an ace at handling the jet, but recruitment teams aren’t looking for aces. They are looking for capable pilots who can run the operation safely and comfortably.

During your career, you will inevitably have to overcome hurdles. A sim check in which you underperformed, a flight safety incident or being overlooked by your airline for Command. A pilot with poor attitude will look to blame someone else all of the time, find excuses and continue with the same negative behavioural traits. A Pilot with the correct attitude will self analyse such events, seek help, try to better themselves and be resilient to them. It’s these behaviours that a training department will look for when considering a First Officer for Command.

On the subject of Command, just remember that becoming an Airline Captain is not a right of passage. On a recent television programme following cadet Pilots through their training, a mother of one of the cadets asked the Captain “how long will it be before he is a Captain”. The answer was “4 to 6 years”. However, that was the wrong answer in our opinion. The answer should have been “if he/she displays the correct attitude throughout their career in the right hand seat, performs their role with the highest levels of professionalism, maintains high standards, performs well in the simulator and on line checks as well as displaying the company core values in the flight deck, working within the wider flight crew team and to the customers, then it is likely that the airline will see them fit to be a future Commander”. The point is that a Command is a privilege awarded by the company.

One final point to mention is that the attitude of an airline pilot is not restricted to the time you are at work. Pilots like to talk on forums, some where anonymity is not assured. You may think that what you write on a forum is private and secure, but people talk and aviation is a global but small industry where someone knows someone.

I was once sat having my hair cut. Next to me was young man called Tom. Tom was telling the hairdresser that he was a qualified Pilot, but through no fault of his own, his flight school wouldn’t put him forward for an airline interview. Tom then went on to be quite critical of flight schools, pilots and airline managements. What Tom didn’t realise is that he was sat next to an airline Captain. He could have been sat next to an Airline recruitment manager. Tom was currently working for a large low cost airline in the UK working as cabin crew. Tom was explaining how this was beneath him and that he was only doing it to makes contacts with the recruitment pilots at that airline, but at the same time Tom was being very negative about the airline in question saying that they were a terrible airline to work for. At this point I couldn’t help say something and explain to Tom that perhaps his attitude was the reason why he found himself in his current predicament.

Last We heard, Tom was still on forums berating the industry. 

If you are just embarking on your career, then take time to look at yourself and your attitude and try to change any negative behaviours that you may display.

If you are currently in a career as an airline Pilot, ask yourself if you have displayed a bad attitude in the flight deck, in front of a Trainer, manager or on a forum? If you have, then take ownership and either rectify what has happened or ensure it doesn’t happen again.
If you would like to know more about how we can support and help you with your Airline or Cadet Pilot interview, then please feel free to contact us.