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Youngsters fail the personality test

Posted 13 August 2012 · Add Comment

Fascinating but worrying insights into the attitudes of young people entering the piloting profession were presented to the conference by Nikki Heath, CEO of UK human factors, training and assessment company Symbiotics.

For generations, youngsters entering the airline industry have been driven by the simple desire to fly and to use their professional skills. No longer. She revealed that a survey of future aircraft commanders ranked the top four attractions in becoming a pilot as ‘respect and status’; ‘stability and career progression’; ‘glamour and lifestyle’; and ‘money’. ‘Using flying skills’ came fifth.

Equally worrying was the sense of entitlement that young people were displaying when they came to Symbiotics for assessment on behalf of airlines.

“Kids don’t like being tested,” she said. As fewer airlines sponsored or otherwise paid for the training of cadets, young pilots were increasingly having to fund their own way through training. This, the conference had earlier heard, could cost €100,000-150,000 ($135,000-200,000) and the result, said Heath, was that they felt that they were the clients and did not want to be tested.

She also said that – somewhat bizarrely, given the nature of the job – young pilots increasingly did not want to travel if that meant any personal disruption: “They want to have it all, they don’t want it to impact on their lives.

“As the job becomes more cerebral and intense, personalities become more important,” added Heath, whose company was lead sponsor of the conference. A further emerging factor was that young entrants’ attention spans were very poor. This made it essential to have a clear career path, with clearly identifiable goals. Increasingly automated cockpits meant that boredom was becoming a problem.

She contrasted airline jobs with the role of military UAV pilots, whose sorties were strongly goal-oriented and who were thus more focused on their mission.

The conference had earlier heard from Anthony Petteford, managing director of Oxford Aviation Academy (OAA), a major flight training organisation.

He lamented the fact that security considerations meant cockpit visits that could inspire a youngster and ignite their passion to fly were now ruled out.

The result, he said, was that there was “a much smaller pool of people with command potential because many people don’t know about flying”. The huge costs of putting themselves through training further reduced that pool.

Like Heath, he commented on the attention and focus skills of trainee pilots: “You would be amazed at the number of people who fail to read the instructions before answering assessment questions.”

And many of the youngsters seen by OAA seemed simply less aware of the world around them than their predecessors: “You’d also be amazed how many people don’t have opinions on current affairs.”

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