Pilots, Personality, and Performance: Human Behavior and Stress in the Skies

Pilots, Personality, and Performance: Human Behavior and Stress in the Skies

Pilots, Personality, and Performance: Human Behavior and Stress in the Skies

Pilots, Personality, and Performance: Human Behavior and Stress in the Skies

Synopsis

This collection of essays offers a detailed look at stress factors affecting airline professionals, and the human factors that are becoming increasingly recognized as major causes of airplane mishaps. Among the topics discussed are the physiological stresses of flight, deregulation in the U.S. and Canada and its effect on pilots, mandatory retirement and age discrimination, legal and psychological issues concerning impaired pilots, and factors in qualifying for medical certificates. The contributors provide a representative overview of an industry that has gone from complete regulation to being a cutthroat competitive environment.

Excerpt

Aviation and psychology have pedigrees of similar length. The professions of aviator and psychologist emerged at roughly the same time in history. While William James was formulating his theories, glider experimentation, culminating in the Wright brothers' flight at Kitty Hawk, was under way. Sigmund Freud's influence was at its peak when great German zeppelins were establishing reliable trans-Atlantic air transportation. Carl Jung completed his work just as the jet airliner came into common use. The day of the behaviorists coincided with the emergence of space flight. The writings of the historical giants of psychology are filled with dreams and mythological aspects of flying, while aviation writers speak of qualities of cool- headedness, leadership, quick judgment, and reaction time--all of which, in Tom Wolfe's words, add up to "the right stuff."

In compiling a book on aviation psychology, the focus naturally moves to the pilot. Telling the story of humankind aloft naturally features the operator of the flying machine; without him or her, it is like trying to produce Hamlet with no one playing the prince of Denmark. But what is said of pilots can also hold true for other airline professionals--flight attendants, reservation personnel, machinists and mechanics, air traffic controllers, and executives of the deregulated air transport companies. However comfortable and natural it may feel to fly through the skies, the stress of which we write is there--in working conditions, perception, risk assessment, and the necessity of making choices in an unforgiving environment.

This book, then, is more than a catalogue of what can go wrong in the cockpit or the control tower. Rather, it is a collection of the thoughts of professionals who have devoted a great deal of time to the study of men . . .

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