By Jennifer Cairns 19 Dec 2022 5 min read

What skills are needed to become a Pilot?

The role of an airline pilot is challenging yet a rewarding career – full of responsibility and lots of travelling all over the world. Airline pilots fly cargo planes and passenger planes, both on short-haul and long-haul flights, either for business, commercial or leisure purposes. 

Like any other occupation, commercial pilots come from varied backgrounds with different strengths and personalities. Being the best aviator requires a balanced combination of both hard and soft skills. Not only are they responsible for in-flight activities, but they also work as teammates alongside the cabin crew of an airline. There’s no hard and fast rule of being an excellent pilot but there are certain qualities that help some stand out among the rest. Here are some of the most essential skills to make you stand out when searching for pilot jobs. 


Clear communication

Communication skills play a pivotal role in a pilot’s job progression. It’s not just being able to talk and communicate with the Air Traffic Control. They also need to listen to directions carefully and respond to them in a timely manner. Effective, two-way communication is essential. Even a slight communication error – unclear pronunciation or misunderstanding can lead to aviation accidents. It is important that ATC instructions such as traffic information or radar vectors are properly communicated for safe flight or landing. 


Situational awareness

Situational awareness involves constantly assessing a situation and everything that’s in your surroundings. A pilot must be receptive – absorb everything they see and sense around them. Pilot skills like assessing the changes in weather or observing the aircraft configuration are crucial as pilots need to be mindful of the circumstances they face.

Some important aspects of situational awareness include:

  • Spatial orientation
  • System awareness
  • Mode awareness
  • Time horizon


Quick decision making 

Being a pilot, you must be able to comprehend a situation and based on your knowledge and experience, make informed decisions. The biggest decision-making challenge for pilots is time and resource constraint.

There are also other pressure-adding factors such as turbulence that calls for immediate decision-making by the pilot. 
Mostly, pilots fly by-the-book which contains the checklist of procedures to overcome a certain situation but if something out of the ordinary happens, they need to make sound judgements to avoid any fatal outcome. 

Ability to comprehend technical information

A pilot is responsible for all the pre-flight inspections and understands the aircraft and its systems. They use multiple checklists before and after the flight to carry out smooth flight operations and ensure safety. Some technical procedures and tasks carried out by pilots are; Monitor the fuel supply and weather conditions before providing the flight plan to ATC Operate an aircraft as per the planned routes along with take-off and landing Use cockpit instruments as well as visual references for aircraft navigation Inspect aircraft engines and other in-flight systems


Teamwork and leadership skills

To become an outstanding pilot, you need to have the ability to lead. You must be able to adapt, learn and grow. Being a commercial pilot, you’ll be working with a team. You’ll be frequently in contact with other pilots, cabin crew, and the passengers. Therefore, you need to up your social skills and maintain successful relationships with your peers and colleagues to ensure career progression.  

With every pilot, there’s a whole team who’s counting on them for their leadership skills. Being the captain or the person in command, you’ll be giving instructions to not only the First Officer sitting beside you but also the crew members. 



One skill highly emphasised by airlines is for pilots to remain calm under pressure. This ability isn’t inborn – it takes years for pilots to learn to maintain their composure and not panic. In case of catastrophes, a pilot must be composed to keep their cool and make correct, informed decisions. Whether something in the plane malfunctions or you lose communication with the traffic control, you need to keep yourself focused and not let your emotions take a toll on you. 


The right attitude – Self-confidence and self-responsibility

One quality of an outstanding pilot is that they give their fullest to the job. Besides work, there are recurrent training sessions. Only those with a committed attitude can become successful. The best pilots always manage to strike a balance between self-confidence and self-responsibility. 

Self-confidence demonstrates the pilots are assuring of their skills and stand on their decisions, yet they always seek guidance when necessary. Self-responsibility inculcates integrity in the pilots. There’s a lot entrusted to them, be it technical information or passenger safety, as thousands of people count on the pilots to deliver on their promises. 


Time management 

Time management is an essential part of a pilot’s job. Airlines always schedule the departure and arrival of flights at specific times to ensure smooth flow of air traffic. Pilots have to manage with strict times so that the flight schedule runs efficiently. Since pilots always have to manage things in advance, it is better to hone their time management skills. 


Got what it takes and the right licensing? Apply for pilot jobs today! 



Frequently asked questions 

What hard skills do you need to be a pilot?
Hard skills are usually considered technical abilities. Some hard skills required by pilots are:

  • Complete command over the aircraft and avionics system
  • A great understanding of physics and maths 
  • Have situational awareness – being aware of the surroundings and knowing the system and procedures to utilise in different situations 

What makes you a good pilot?
Since pilots often have to work multiple days a week, they need to have good decision making skills in case of emergency or difficult situations. They must also deal with attention to deal, as a single slip of mind can turn into disaster for many. Pilots must also demonstrate their ability to remain calm, especially during difficult situations. 


Do you need maths skills to be a pilot?
Strong maths skills are not necessary for pilots. However, they must have average maths skills to perform some basic calculations or mental maths. Pilots usually perform calculations on a flight planning software or a calculator. Yet, basic maths, trigonometry, and geometry are a must for pilots. 


What are 3 things pilots do?
Pilots can fly helicopters as well as commercial aircrafts. Here are three things that pilots do before flying;

  • Confirm the flight plans and check weather conditions before the departure
  • Check the flight logs and carry out pre-flight inspections
  • Keep the airport and flight authorities informed of safety issues or any changes in the flight plan


What problems do pilots have?
Pilots can be interrupted because of disruptive passengers. These passengers get difficult to handle by the cabin crew which they have to report to the pilots who can then choose to divert the plane based on the seriousness of the case. Also, during pre-flight inspections, pilots are interrupted by airport personnel such as ground personnel or gate agents.