Motivation: Necessary Personal Trait for Every Single Pilot


Enthusiasm, wanting, desire, interest, determination. All these are the synonyms to motivation – the fundamental reason why a person decides something or behaves in a particular way.

And all these are the primary reasons behind someone’s choice to become a pilot. Almost every experienced aviator could confirm that behind happy flying hides a long story of dreams and motivation.

Commercial pilot training is a rather challenging and very intense path. Almost two years of studying, studying and one more time studying. With some rest, of course. But who can come out of this period satisfied and happy if not a motivated person?

The training period is also an opportunity for a student to check one’s motivation. It is not a secret that sometimes we lose enthusiasm, feel lost and doubt whether the result is worth our struggles. But it is essential to know how to restore it and enjoy the process further.

Motivation for a pilot is a critical aspect throughout the entire career. But the exceptional, even decisive, role it plays at the beginning – at the stage of a choice and during the pilot training period. Let’s discover why.

Pilot’s Motivation Is Born Long Before Training

Prestige, salary or freedom are the aspects making the pilot’s job desirable and attractive, indeed. However, the blind haunt only for these benefits without the inner drive to fly would not work.

A good pilot’s career starts, first of all, with a motivation to become the one. Usually, this inner dream is born at a very young age and is developing together with a person. Motivation to take a seat in the cockpit could be hardly trained, it is grown through the years. Until it matures to a decision.

Michael Ryan, the Head of Training at BAA Training, supports this view. The experienced captain considers motivation to play a pivotal role, particularly during training. Motivation in pilot training starts long before the trainee commences their ground school or flight school.

“Motivation of the trainee starts with the drive and ambition of the primary or secondary level student who has a desire or an aspiration to become a pilot. This can be grown in many ways, such as a relation or neighbour who is a pilot, or a local flight school or local air force base that spurns the fascination of the student from an early age. This interest and enthusiasm grows from within and spurns the first shoots of motivation in the true pilot,” explains Ryan.

Although sometimes it also happens that after acquiring a degree in, for example, baking, and working at the office for several years a person decides to switch the professions and begin pilot training at a relatively old age.

When a person is already an adult one feels mature motivation to make a decision and swap office seats, from one the on the ground to the one 11,000 meters above the ground. But still, motivation is the critical aspect driving to act and strive to reach the finish line.

Without Motivation a Student Should not Even Begin

Before beginning training, each candidate for a pilot profession is obliged to go through the assessment procedure. This selection process is necessary not only to check basic knowledge and skills, but also to see, whether a candidate is psychologically suitable for the pilot’s job and is motivated to work towards the goal.

In the opinion of Agne Novikiene, a Competence Centre Director responsible for the assessment of candidates applying to BAA Training Aviation Academy, if a person has no internal motivation to become a pilot, one should not even begin training.

According to Novikiene, motivation is not a competence that could be developed. Motivation is a driving force – like an internal engine that makes us running in a specific direction, towards a particular goal and brings us a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment when we reach it.

“I do not believe that motivation for a certain activity or result can be trained. Even though certain performance management schemes can improve motivation, but it cannot build a long-lasting and robust motivation for something,” the Competence Centre Director highlights.

Competence, Motivation, Performance, Skills: What is the Relation?

Actually, performance is the outcome of the mix of motivation and skills. This is the simplistic, mathematical way or relating performance and motivation.

“For performance to be maintained at its maximum level, it is necessary for the motivation to be high and the skills level to peak. If the motivation is lacking in a trainee pilot, then the performance levels will drop, even though the trainee can be a very skilful pilot. The lack of motivation will reflect in the trainee’s performance,” Ryan adds.

Training for pilots will demonstrate to them where their motivation level stands. Training will act as a barometer to measure their skill and performance, and therefore quantify their motivation.

Both Ryan and Novikiene agree that motivation is not competence, although it has a close relation to it. According to Ryan, pilot competence can also be measured mathematically. Competence is the result of motivation (training + experience).

“As the pilot starts out in their career, they can be highly motivated and enthusiastic due to landing their chosen profession. They lack experience, but if they receive proper, quality training, this can make a very competent pilot in their early stages of training.

As the pilot progresses through their career, the experience builds but the quality of training received, or the standard of recurrent training is also essential. When these two factors are of a high quality and combined with high motivation, they lead to a very competent pilot,” Ryan points out.

Can a Student Lose Motivation?

It is absolutely natural that motivation may rise and fall slightly for pilots depending on their professional and personal circumstances.

When the student pilot begins their training, the motivation is then driven by a constant desire to be better than yesterday’s performance, or be better at the next examination or check.

The trainee is motivated constantly to learn the knowledge and skills and to improve their attitude to meet the flying school or airline company standard.

The trainee’s motivation can be dented throughout the training program by many factors. These include:

  • poor performance by a student in examinations or on a check flight,
  • lack of standardization of the instructors,
  • lack of training continuity,
  • poor job prospects after training,
  • financial concerns or difficulties during training,
  • lack of job security.

The trainee can lose the motivation if one takes a short-term view of the industry and thinks that he or she is the only individual that has ever experienced the above factors.

“Any elder or retired pilot will verify that their career has never been short on adventure, excitement or uncertainty. However, these elders will admit that these and many other factors may have dented their motivation and enthusiasm for a short period. Still, it never wavered them from the initial drive and determination to carve out a career as a pilot. Pilots are professionals who are self-motivated and have a professional pride in how they do their job,” Ryan shares his thoughts.

Motivation is a necessary trait for a pilot as they will be required to stay motivated and enthused for long flights, over long days, and for their entire career, and to inspire and motivate their crew and fellow pilots that operate with them on the flight deck.

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