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Pilot Characteristics, Fitness and Performance

Pilot Characteristics, Fitness and Performance

Personal Characteristics

Commercial pilots must pass a rigorous physical and have vision correctable to 20/20. Health issues of any kind can prevent you from becoming a commercial pilot. Pilots must think and act quickly in emergencies, be able to memorize volumes of FAA and airline regulations, have good manual dexterity, understand meteorology and the mechanics of flight, and be capable of high-level attention to detail.

Professionalism and knowledge are now prerequisites for entrance into the worldwide airline industry. Fast paced, “fast track” programs, or self-study courses will not meet the new airline industry standards.

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Important Qualities

Communication skills. Pilots must speak clearly when conveying information to air traffic controllers. They must also listen carefully for instructions.
Depth perception. Pilots must be able to see clearly and judge the distance between objects.
Detail oriented. Pilots must watch many systems at the same time. Even small changes can have significant effects, so they must constantly pay close attention to many details.
Monitoring skills. Pilots must regularly watch over gauges and dials to make sure that all systems are in working order.
Problem-solving skills. Pilots must be able to identify complex problems and figure out appropriate solutions. When a plane encounters turbulence, for example, pilots assess the weather conditions, select a calmer airspace, and request a route change from air traffic control.
Quick reaction time. Because warning signals can appear with no notice, pilots must be able to respond quickly to any impending danger.
Teamwork. Pilots work closely with air traffic controllers and flight dispatchers. As a result, they need to be able to coordinate actions on the basis of the feedback they receive.

Pilot Performance

Written by EAI.

Pilot performance is about a couple of factors: airmanship, personality, crew management. They relate to the pilot as a person, his or her ability to make good judgments and decisions and to be able to communicate effectively with others. Remaining cool and rational at all times and instill confidence in the crew and passengers.


The ability to show common sense, have the highest standards and good aviation skills. Meaning to fly the aircraft well, think clearly and make good and sound decisions so that the safe outcome of a flight is never in doubt. Clear communication skills and getting along with other pilots, maybe new to the operation, is very important as is to keep his/her cool in more difficult situations and being very professional as a pilot as to become a good example to others in the profession.


Defining the persons character properties. It is in part genetic and part learned through experience, education and the way we were brought up by our parents. For a part this can be modified, relearned if you wish. As we get older we (should) become more mature in our ways of thinking and our behavior in human relations and our job. This will not be for everyone though, sadly.

Crew management

A pilot in command needs to get on with other people, crew people for example. He or she is ultimately responsible for the aircraft, its safe operation and all onboard. The crew (the PIC is also a crew member) should co-operate as a well oiled machine, essential for safe flight and they should regularly follow line operations flight and crew resource management training to keep current.

Characteristics of a good pilot in command are amongst others, to be a good and competent pilot with firm technical knowledge about the aircraft and good flying skills, a good leader able to inspire others and getting the best out of his crew and consult them in the decision making process, always thinking ahead of the situation and making sound decisions.


Pilots should try to attain perfection in their flying, this applies to private and commercial pilots alike. Just aim to do it right always. Try to perfect your flying skills all the time and learn from your mistakes.
A nearly perfect pilot (is there such a thing as a perfect pilot?) is consistent, flexible, safe, accurate and dependable. He or she is also confident (not too much though) in their decisions. This pilot never stops learning from his own experience and from others too and tries to fly to the highest standards, improving along the way and be and sets examples for others and will always helps others in their career.

Part 1. Fitness to Fly

Pilots who become incapacitated during flight are a real danger to passengers and the aircraft. The risk is much less with a multi-crew flight but if this happens during a bad weather night approach in a busy environment it could develop in an real emergency real fast. And for private pilots flying with passengers during low visibility conditions the danger is the same.

Medical examinations

Before an aspiring pilot may fly solo (and to keep exercising the privileges of the license) he/she must pass the required regular medical examinations for the license. There are several so called classes, with different requirements depending on the license. Commercial pilots usually must be able to pass the highest requirements and standards.

These examinations are designed to exclude those medical conditions not compatible with flying.

Heart diseases

Humans with a possible change on a heart condition as coronary artery disease, which is likely to cause chest pain and a heart attack or infarct, must be detected in a early stage to make sure that this condition does not develop during flight, with possible fatal results.
The risk factors for a coronary artery disease are: family history, smoking, elevated blood pressure or cholesterol level, lack of exercise, high blood sugar level, overweight and stress. All but family history can be dealed with by living a healthy life, diet and exercise.

Blood sugar

The human body needs glucose for energy and this gets into the system through food. The level of glucose is regulated by the pancreas, which secretes insulin into the blood stream to keep the level of glucose at the right level. Problems can arise if the pancreas delivers too much (low blood sugar, hypoglycemia) or not enough insulin (diabetes).
Low blood sugar can also occur by not eating enough (think of missing meals or not drinking enough) and this can cause fainting, shakiness, nervousness and or cold sweating. High blood sugar can cause kidney failure, blindness and heart attacks if not treated properly. Pilots who develop diabetes are likely to loose their license.
For pilots it is important to eat and drink regularly to keep their blood sugar at normal levels. A good breakfast, lunch and dinner and a small sandwich with a mixed filling in between and drinking at enough fluids should prevent low blood sugar levels and the pilot fit to fly.


On this we can be short: if there is any doubt about the pilots ability to fly the aircraft safely due to any illness – its a clear decision: do not fly! Minor illnesses as: sore throat, hay fever, head ache, diarrhea can be cured by mild medications or even be overcome by drinking clear fluids. Over the counter medicines should be avoided because of possible unknown side effects on the body or brain. Think of anti-histamines which are known to cause sleepiness or inattention.
Mental illness or a psychiatric problem could render a pilot incapable of flying an aircraft safely and a medical examination is required with follow ups to assess if the pilot safe again to fly after treatment or therapy.

Part II. Fitness to Fly

Any nervous system depressant could be fatal when flying as a pilot. We all should be very aware that this is a combination that is bound to cause accidents, it does that in normal road traffic and aviation is no different there.


This substance gets into the brain very easily, mainly because alcohol is fat-soluble and the brain contains a large amount of it. It can be detected even after 14 hours of consuming a normal standard drink (which has about 10 – 15 mg of alcohol).

The effects of alcohol on a human ability to make decisions, good judgments and balance are well known. And these effects have proven disastrous in daily road traffic and aviation. Every year, people die because someone thought that one more drink was not a problem.
Obviously, as with driving: alcohol and flying do not go together.

Time between bottle and throttle

Rule makers have decided that at least 10 hours (some say even 12) should pass after the last drink and starting to fly. Needless to say that if the person is flat out drunk, he or she will not be able to fly safely 10 hours later. Wait at least 24 hours before even thinking of getting back into the cockpit.
There is no place in aviation for the alcoholic pilot. It is as simple as that. If the pilot is diagnosed as such the pilot may not fly again until it is clear that drinking will never be a problem again. Counseling may be part of the process of recovery from a drinking problem.


Mood and mind influencing drugs as LSD, speed, marijuana, cocaine, heroine or others have radical effects on the brain possibly damaging it. Its use is therefore prohibited for pilots. No exception there, really, if you are on these drugs: get out of the cockpit a.s.a.p!


The drugs mentioned above can not be classified as safe. However, mild drugs as pain killers, paracetamol or aspirin can be used as long as there is no side effect for the pilot. Nasal sprays (hay fever) can be used safely as these normally do not enter the blood stream. Take care though with antihistamines which are used orally, these are known to have sleepiness as a side effect.

Some types of sleeping pills can be used by pilots, these are usually the short acting variant and should have little side effects. They are mainly used by pilots crossing multiple time zones. Do consult an AME if you think you might need them.

Drugs not suitable for pilots are stimuli for the nervous system as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety (Valium) and or strong pain killers.
Antibiotics are used to fight a bacterial infection in the body. These could have side effects possibly worse than the illness itself, consult an AME before taking any of these drugs. Which is also advisable to do if you think you have a condition that would need drugs to counter it. It is far better to be safe than sorry.


While not directly related to a danger in aviation, smoking can cause problems later on in life by increasing the chance on a possible life threatening disease. Lung cancer, asthma, strokes or heart problems are all related to smoking in one way or another.
Not smoking contributes to a healthy and long life.


Regular exercising has proven to increase your health and stamina. Daily walking of at least 30 minutes, using the stairs, weekly running (meaning not training for a marathon) and bicycling will keep you healthy and in good shape as well!

The I’m safe checklist.

For complete list and details, please visit the source.

Distributed by Viestly

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