As a commercial pilot, you need a specific knowledge base and set of skills. Aside from what you learn through your pilot training, there are a few other skills that are helpful for a commercial pilot. Even though they may sound like character traits that you are either born with or without, it’s important to remember that anyone can improve in them. They are just as much skills as being able to read or draw—some people have more of a natural ability, but with time and practice, anyone can excel.
Keeping Calm Under Pressure
This skill is hugely important for pilots. While you hope that you never encounter emergency situations while in the air, you cannot guarantee it. So, being able to keep a cool head and work through the procedures you know or come up with a new course of action is crucial. If you are able to stay calm, you have a much easier time thinking though the best plan to keep your passengers, staff, and yourself safe.
A few ways you can improve in this area include knowing the emergency plans inside and out and practicing in lower stakes situations. If you are familiar with the emergency procedures, you will be better able to stay calm and do what you know is the best thing in that situation. However, even the best laid plans might not work in every situation, so you can practice remaining calm by putting yourself in stressful, but risk-free, circumstances. This could be timed puzzles or problems to solve.
Like keeping calm under pressure, being able to make snap decisions at a moment’s notice is incredibly valuable for commercial pilots. Again, while you ideally are never in this situation, it is still important to be prepared if something ever happens. Being able to make quick decisions, especially under pressure and with limited time, makes you a better equipped pilot. These skills are important if you have to go off-book in a situation where you don’t have a protocol, or the protocol is not working.
There are easy ways to work on improving this too. You can practice with things that may seem silly, like timing yourself to make quick decisions about what to eat or wear. Like with staying calm, it’s a good idea to become very familiar with the emergency procedures, so in the moment you can decide which parts are helpful and which need to be adapted for the circumstances.
Leadership is a skill that will serve anyone in any workplace but is especially helpful for commercial pilots. If you hope to become a captain at some point in your career, this is a skill you need to be deliberately develop. You need to be able to lead your whole crew smoothly and effectively. The most effective way to be a leader is to cultivate respect among your peers—if they like you and view you as competent, they are more likely to follow where you lead. This is important if you become a captain, as you will oversee the plane.
Though this may seem like a harder to obtain skill, anyone can become good at it. It is important to remember that an effective leader shouldn’t be commanding or controlling but should work with his or her staff to come together for the right result. Also, a good leader knows when someone else has more authority or experience than him or herself and will step out of the way when needed—don’t try to run the plane if you haven’t been given that responsibility.
Teamwork is another good life skill that is especially useful in the cockpit. As a commercial pilot, you work with your co-pilot, the in-flight crew, and the ground crew. It is vital for the success of each flight you take that everyone can work together. As the pilot, you are a key part of this. You work with the ground crew prior to take off to make sure the plane is all set for your flight and making sure you land in the right spot at the right time. You work with your in-flight crew to ensure that passengers have the best experience possible.
Becoming a great team player is not something you can do alone. Ask your family and friends—or better yet, your coworkers—to do teambuilding exercises with you. Games like human knot, where your group works together to untangle yourselves, or a scavenger hunt are great options for this.
Of all the skills listed here to help commercial pilots succeed, this is the one that is invaluable for everyone. Communication can make or break your success in the workplace—if you have fantastic credentials and stay cool in a crisis but struggle to communicate effectively with coworkers and employers, you are less likely to succeed your career. Being able to communicate with everyone on your team, from your copilot to your in-flight staff to your ground crew is essential to each flight running smoothly and landing safely.
To practice this skill, you need to bring in other people once again. Work to make sure that what you say to the people you interact with makes sense and conveys what you mean. If you don’t do it right the first time, talk with them to figure out what went wrong and how to do it better next time.
J.A. Air Center
To succeed as a commercial pilot, you need not only a pilot’s license and extensive flight training, but a variety of personal skills that will help you in the field. From being levelheaded no matter the circumstances to effectively working and communicating with your team, your skill set should expand beyond what you learn in the classroom. At J. A. Air Center, we want to help you become the best pilot you can. Don’t hesitate to contact us about our training programs.