Why You Should Hire the (Slightly) Nervous Pilot

by Clint White

The flying profession has always had a certain stereotype attached to it. The image of the ever confident pilot, leather jacket, scarf around the neck with a glint in his or her perfect teeth launching into the sky without hesitation or fear. There is a perception that we sit in the cockpit and laugh in the “face of danger”.

The reality, as almost every pilot knows, is vastly different. We don't live the same age of one pilot, test flying an airplane. Almost every pilot with a paid flying job has not only their responsibility to themselves but also to their passengers which can number in the hundreds. The fact is that we sweat ALL the little details. At least the good ones do.

While I have yet hire an additional pilot for my company there are things that I look for in a good candidate. One of those qualities is what I call that “nervousness” inherit in good, careful aviators. This is completely apart from fear of flying. To be a “fearful” pilot invites paralysis and is can be dangerous, but the “nervous” pilot is one who like to double check the little stuff. They understand the difference between cocky and confident and they know and understand not only the airplanes limits but their own.

Personally I have been flying for nearly 30 years, about 20 professionally. I still have that little bit of concern when I know things like the weather is going to be bad or the the winds high. I double check charts, fuel loads, forecasts. I use my “nervousness” not to paralyze me, but to make me do that extra work to mitigate the risk as much as possible, especially since I am flying single pilot.  This is what I look for in other pilots as potential hires.

My advice when you sit down with the potential candidate is to ask, not only real world questions but also ones like “Have you every really scared yourself flying” The answer should be YES because we ALL have given ourselves a good scare (at least) once. That should be followed up with “What did you learn from that scare” Hopefully your candidate will talk about how that experience helped them become a safer pilot. Perhaps they took additional training or other courses to enhance their safety. I also think it is good when you give a “scenario” type question to construct it so that it is right on the border line of go or no go. I want to SEE how they make that decision. Do they take into account that little bit of “nervousness” that extra bit of time and effort to conduct or NOT conduct the flight.

In conclusion then, give me the (slightly) nervous pilot any day or some overconfident aviator. THAT is the person I want flying my aircraft and my clients!

Remember…there are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots!

Do you still have the same nervousness when you fly? How do you deal with it or use it to your advantage? Please let us know.