The skills required by today’s professional pilots are quite different from earlier times.
Professional Pilots today must have and display a variety of skills that include, concerning themselves with regulations, security, crew harmony, customer service and on-time performance. A good pilot must think about how these all relate to each other.
So what makes a good professional pilot?
As a start, a good professional pilot must possess a strong working knowledge of operating standards and regulations. Pilots must know their duties and the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) thoroughly if they hope to make it past their probation period. A newly hired pilot needs to adapt to new SOPs well and make a seamless transition into flying the line, otherwise he/she runs the risk of management receiving complaints from captains about lack of performance. As aircraft and their systems become more advanced, pilots must have a much better working knowledge of computers and advanced systems.
Three or four decades ago the term ‘company culture’ barely existed, but now most airlines need to consider how individual pilots fit into their culture and how they will represent the company. Will they treat their customers with the level of service that is required not only by the company but by a more demanding and smarter customer?
Most training captains will tell you that they can teach just about anybody to fly but it is much harder to teach someone to think. It is these intangibles that companies need to ensure that their flight crews possess. Will the crew be thinking far enough ahead to keep their aircraft and their customers out of potential problems? This is achieved by knowing the aircraft thoroughly, following and knowing company SOPs, the Aviation Regulations and always thinking ahead of an already fast-moving aircraft. For example, an ordinary flight suddenly experiences an emergency or problem, how will this pilot cope? Does this person know the aircraft and its systems? Does this person know the emergency procedures thoroughly enough to be able to deal with the situation? Will the pilots work smartly as a crew or work against each other?
SOPs and emergency procedures are designed to take a lot of the required “extra thinking” out of the process but often there are areas which are not covered or are missed. A good pilot today must be able to think and also show good performance at the same time, to see the big picture and also think outside of the box if required.
A good pilot should continue to strive for excellence and know and continue to learn about the aircraft, its systems and anything that may affect operations so that they are as ready as they can be for any eventuality.