The Pilot Personality
I was chatting to a friend earlier who is quite new to the pilot Gf thing… She is feeling a bit hacked off about her Bf’s self indulgence towards his career. I used to feel exactly the same way, but over time, have come to realise that it is not about a short-coming in me, but rather it is just the way he is, and will always be. She said that he appeared to have no concept of his making compromises concerning his career, when it came to the future of their relationship (the way she has to). It reminded me of a personality profile I have seen many times before; and I thought I would share it with you.
Some time ago, I saw this same profile on a blog I enjoy reading called The Pilot’s Wife in an entry she called ‘Meet my husband’. At the time I was amazed at the accuracy of a generic personality profile to capture the essence of my pilot’s personality. I kid you not, this is so close to who he is, that even he agreed!
It is a personality profile published by ALPA (Air Line Pilots Association Int, the American Union for airline pilots).
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.
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.
Pilots tend to be self-sufficient and may have difficulty functioning in team situations without CRM and other training. They have difficulty trusting anyone to do the job as well as they can. Pilots tend to be suspicious, even a little paranoid. 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 these go off. The suspicious/paranoid tendency also affects the way pilots function in their private lives, as well.
Pilots tend to be intelligent but are typically not intellectually oriented. They like “toys”– boats, cars, motorcycles, big watches, etc. 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. 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.
Pilots are inclined to modify their environment rather than their own behavior. 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.
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 converstaions.
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. 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.
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.
Courtesy of ALPA
In fact, reading through it again, I can identify with EVERY single part of it!
“Pilots tend to be physically and mentally healthy” – CHECK! – Bf is a complete health nut, if either of us eats too unhealthily, or doesn’t get enough exercise, it totally bugs the hell out of him.
“Pilots tend to be reality based” – CHECK! To the point that it bugs the hell out of me sometimes. Open your mind for crying out loud!
“Pilots tend to be self-sufficient and may have difficulty functioning in team situations without CRM and other training.” – CHECK! – He is SO insular, that I get quite frustrated, he is such a control freak! AND I have known him to set more than one alarm clock!
“Pilots tend to be intelligent but are typically not intellectually oriented. They like “toys”– boats, cars, motorcycles, big watches, etc.” – CHECK CHECK CHECK!!! – Hello?! Radio controlled planes and helicopters, classic car that he tinkers with, and yes, the obligatory Breitling Watch!
“Pilots are concrete, practical, linear thinkers rather than abstract, philosophical, or theoretical.” – CHECK!
“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.” – CHECK! – Another one that frustrates me at times, because I am (obviously) a talker!
“Pilots are inclined to modify their environment rather than their own behavior.” – CHECK! – I think most pilot wives and girlfriends could vouch for this one with enthusiasm! Haha!
“Pilots need excitement; a 9-to-5 job would drive most pilots to distraction.” – CHECK! – Bf’s old 9-5 job did drive him to distraction, even though it was a great job by most accounts!
“Pilots are competitive, being driven by a need to achieve, and don’t handle failure particularly well.” – CHECK! – He is HIGHLY comprtetive, and will always take the assumption that if someone else can do something-then, he’ll be able to do it better, with the right practice… I don’t think failure even exists in his mindset-to him it’s something that only other people do!
“Pilots have a low tolerance for personal imperfection, and long memories of perceived injustices.” – CHECK! – I don’t even think I need to elaborate on that one after some of my recent posts! 😉
“Pilots avoid introspection and have difficulty revealing, expressing, or even recognizing their feelings.” – CHECK! – Again, no clarification needed!
I guess I shouldn’t take his inability to communicate or be as emotional as such an insult-I think it just takes a lot more to uncork his emotional side than most; but if he were any other way-it seems he might not be as great at what he does for a living?!
It doesn’t go a long way to talking about the things that make them/him great, but I guess those are more personal to the individual, and therefore less generic. I am not the only one who has recognised the similarities though; I found this thread on Airline Pilot Forums that shows that pretty much all the pilots who responded, thought that the profile was spot on too!