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This is the second article of a series named "The Complete Guide To Becoming A Pilot" if you haven't read the previous article, then please click here. If you want to find all the articles in this guide, then please click here.
Despite what "Instagram Reels Motivators" tell you to "Just do it!", the fact is that when you are considering a step that is supposed to impact your life quite heavily, the first question that you should ask yourself is: Do I really want to do it? What are the consequences? And analyse the Ifs. Develop this way of thinking when it comes to making decisions until you become fast and efficient as you will need it later on because there is no such thing as "Just do it" in aviation!
We will mainly talk here in this part 1 about your personality; in part 2, we will talk about your technical side and the paperwork needed to apply to become a pilot and start your flight training.
A Realistic Question: DO YOU REALLY WANT TO BECOME A PILOT?
Open your note keeper app or grab a pen and paper and answer these questions honestly:
- Can you trace how and when you developed this emotion, i.e. Wanting to become a pilot?
If Yes, then what was it? And for how long it's been around?
- Do you think there are cons to becoming a pilot?
If Yes, what are they?
- If you find out that you are missing an essential skill needed to be a pilot, how much effort are you willing to put in to acquire it? Can it be more than 8 hours per week?
- If you joined flight school, and you find out that the schedule is to study Monday to Friday, nearly 10 hours per day, would you mind it? Or that's expected in your mind?
- If you have a job now, are you willing to sacrifice your life stability for instability for up to 3 years or more?
- Do you find yourself recently admiring plenty of jobs?
If Yes, do the jobs fall in the same category? (For Example: Airline Pilot, Dispatcher, Astronaut, Flight attendant all fall nearly in the same category that's Aviation/Aerospace)
- Do you want to achieve a lot of things that are unrelated in a short span? (For example: wanting to become a pilot, starting a business, Doing a bachelor in Physics, Travelling across Asia, all in a span of the next seven years?)
- Do you have kids and a job?
- Do you know how to tie a tie? - A joke 😀 , but really .. you should learn how do it .. It's better!
I'm not here to score your answers so I can determine your future through a screen, but all I wanted to do is to spark your brain and emotions to question your enthusiasm.
It's clear from the questions that they are meant for you to see to which extent you are willing to sacrifice for your dream? How much effort are you ready to put forward? Or is it that you are having a challenging period and considering a career change? Has this intense feeling of becoming an airline pilot been around consistently for quite some time now!
Also, it's worth asking yourself these questions as well:
- What If it didn't work out?
- Imagine If I couldn't study?
- What If I found flying hard?
- What If I couldn't find a job?
What's your backup plan for each of these scenarios?
This way, you can plan your future correctly and don't fall into the unknown.
What Skills/Traits do you need to launch your journey into becoming a pilot?
Like any other job in the world, there are skills and traits needed to get it done properly! And the same applies to a pilot job. In the following paragraphs, we will try to answer one of the famous questions:
- How should a pilot be?
- What does it take to become a pilot?
- What skills & traits you need to become a pilot?
Before we start listing the Skills & Traits, there is a crucial point to address. Because we are talking here about YOU before even starting flight school, that means that you don't need to have all of the skills and qualities that we list here to the highest degree; it's enough to have the foundations – Yes! It's desirable if you are a "Natural"! But if you are willing to become a pilot, you will definitely manage to learn all of the skills and traits along your journey towards getting your pilot license.
1. Being Cooperative:
Remember that the cockpit is for two! so Crew Cooperation, Team Work… Words you will hear A LOT throughout your aviation career.
These words only mean being a friendly person who is comfortable engaging with others and is not too assertive; you actively listen and communicate your ideas clearly and efficiently.
Don't be Anti-Social, Arrogant or individualistic.
2. Quick Self-Learner:
As a pilot, you always have to be self-learning, and it's the norm that operation will give you a bunch of manuals, each 600 pages long or more, and expect you to absorb it in a short time!
Even in flight school, especially if you are an integrated student who has to study and pass 14 heavy subjects in less than six months, you need to do plenty of self-studying on your own!
During simulators in your flight training, type rating or the "practical training" phase in general; you need to know this critical fact:
Apart from the formal instruction that you will receive (from your instructor/captain), you MUST always be learning independently.
Learn from your flight manuals, mistakes, observe and learn from the mistakes of your simulator partner, and then very quickly replace the wrong procedure or info that's already in your mind with the correct one!
Trust me; this trait is VERY IMPORTANT!
3. Time Management:
Having a sense of time is essential, organising it is crucial. As a pilot, you need to plan efficiently the amount of time given to you, whether it's a 4 hours flight or a 45mn one! There are tasks to be done. You should know when to do them and which ones take priority over the other without overwhelming yourself; you don't want to corner yourself into doing too many tasks in very little time because you will mess up every single one!
For Example (You are talking to yourself): "Okay, I have a 45mn flight; I have paperwork to fill in in the air usually, so on the ground, I will grab the necessary documents and write all that I can write now (Flight number, captain and first officer names, departure and arrival airports …) and leave the rest to when I do my checks. I'm flying this leg; I don't have too much time in my hand; the airport I'm flying to usually give us Directs so our flight time can probably shorten more. We take-off, after 10000ft I will give control, do my checks as per my company's procedures, once we hit our cruising level, get the ATIS as early as possible, prepare the arrival on the FMC" … and so on! You get the idea.
4. Stress Management:
I'm pretty sure that no passenger would like to be informed that their pilot, who is responsible for their lives, is stressed!
Sure! We don't live in a utopia, stress is unavoidable in life, but as a pilot, it's not that you shouldn't stress at all; but you need to know how to deal with it and don't let it overwhelm you. You should learn how to corner that stress, so it doesn't affect your job. Keep the stress confined and away from the cockpit.
If you woke up and had an argument with your wife, you have to keep it confined within the house. Once you leave; you activate a different mode, your mind is in "Flying Mode".
You might be thinking: "You shouldn't fly all in that case if you are stressed". And to that, I would answer: "Outstanding airmanship!".
But if a standard argument with your wife made you so stressed to the point that you couldn't function, then how you are supposed to deal with the stress of an engine failure on take-off? That would paralyse you, I guess!
I mean, I agree that if you had a massive argument or lost a loved one, then the safest and most appropriate thing to do is not fly, of course!
I mean here by stress management is that your bar of getting overwhelmed by being stressed should be higher than a standard person.
Because even if we say that you should call in your company's crew rostering department and cancel your flight, you are creating another stress. After all, you know that you can't keep calling 'stressed' and cancelling every time you argue with someone, as the company will ask for justification. If they observe that your stress handling is low, you will lose your job very soon, and then you will end up VERY STRESSED!
5. The desire to learn more:
As a pilot, sometimes you are given a profound explanation of a particular phenomenon or a specific system, but sometimes you are just given a superficial explanation, so you should always be hungry to know more!
As Aviation touches on many fields from engineering to law, be ready to dive deep into things you never studied so you can learn about how a specific plug on some nearly 'negligible' system functions and why it works the way it does.
And I'm not referring to not being arrogant; I'm also referring to the fact that you should be honest with yourself. Don't ever sit at any point in your career saying: "I'm done! I'm just too good!" even if you become a world-renowned examiner.
You need to always sit with yourself and assess it, know your weaknesses and work on them, accept feedback, and learn from everyone, whether they are "Above you" or "Below you". And remember there is NO SHOWING OFF in the cockpit, safety over pride, don't ever hesitate for one second to give control to the other pilot if you feel like the approach or a particular operation is too challenging to you!
Now that we've discussed what your character has to be an airline pilot. In the next part, we will talk about the subject requirements to start studying, what is the needed paperwork, and so on.
By the way, if you actually read this far, it shows how passionate you are about wanting to fulfil your dream of becoming a pilot! Very well done!
 Krogerus, M. and Tschäppeler, R., 2017. The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking. Profile Books, pp.78-81.
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