The Importance of Coping with Stress that Pilots are Exposed to on a Daily Basis

A career of a pilot is often considered to be prestigious and exciting. However, most youngsters are misled by a way too idealistic image in their minds discounting the hard psychological conditions of the occupation. Great responsibility for the safety of many passengers, operating an aircraft overnight, flying in bad weather or in a high density traffic area, temporarily getting off course, equipment malfunction, conflicts with other crew members or air traffic control – these are amongst the most common reasons why pilots have to cope with exceptionally high stress levels in their workplace.

Stress is the sum of biological reactions to any adverse stimulus – be it physical, mental, emotional, internal or external – that tends to disturb the body’s natural balance. Stress can be caused by alcohol consumption, self medication, drug, tobacco use, inadequate diet and nutrition as well as various psychological factors. Fatigue, poor physical fitness and dehydration are also commonly blamed for accelerating increased levels of stress. Although it is difficult to determine or measure the exact impact of stress on pilots, they simply must master the skill of self-control which can prove vital in critical situations.

Despite the fact that pilots are tested psychologically before attending flight training organizations and have to be well prepared to work under high pressure, the most commonly determined cause of crashes remains to be the human factor. For instance, on the 31st of August, 1987, Boeing 737-200 airplane, operated by Thai Airways, crashed in Phuket, Thailand. While descending, during an approaching daylight and in good weather, the crew lost control of the aircraft and crashed into the sea. After the investigation, experts attributed the crash to a combination of errors made by the flight crew and air traffic control. All of the nine crew members and 74 passengers were killed.

In 2011 Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio, the USA, carried out a study on whether specialized stress-control training sessions, introduced during the acquisition of simulator-based flight skills, enhances a pilot’s performance during subsequent stressful flight operations in an actual aircraft. It was ascertained that the research participants that had been specifically trained in various stress control techniques, operated the aircraft more smoothly, as recorded by aircraft telemetry data, and generally better, as recorded by flight instructor evaluations, than did participants with no such training. Therefore, teaching pilots about proper stress coping mechanisms led to improvement and successful performance of stressful flying tasks.

Although there are a lot of techniques helping to deactivate stress, specialists claim that the most effective ways for individuals can be mastered by the persons themselves. Observing one’s conduct leads to better solutions in the future. ‘When I find myself in a stressful situation, I try to focus on all theoretical and practical knowledge gained during training and find the best solution for the problem. Though personality type plays an important role, I believe that good training is essential in order to gain obligatory knowledge and the necessary skills to become a professional pilot, ‘states Andrej, Airbus A320 type rating student at Baltic Aviation Academy.

In conclusion, it can be claimed that emotional preparation, qualified training and willingness to take high responsibility are mandatory in order to find the best ways to cope with stress that pilots face every day. After estimating all the benefits and drawbacks of a pilot’s career path, an appropriate flying school must be chosen in order to get the best preparation for dealing with stressful situations. What is more, the need for additional stress training for all pilots must be considered.

About Baltic Aviation Academy

More than 15,000 aviation professionals have been trained at the Baltic Aviation Academy to date. Baltic Aviation Academy provides 45 training courses, including type rating training for Boeing 737 CL, Boeing 737 NG, Boeing 747-400, Boeing 757, Boeing 767, Boeing 777, Saab 340/2000, Airbus A320, Airbus A330/340, ATR 42-72, Embraer 135/145, Embraer 170/190, Bombardier CRJ 100/200, Bombardier CRJ 700/900 types of aircrafts. Baltic Aviation Academy is a part of the Lithuanian aviation company group Avia Solutions Group. Since March 2011, Avia Solutions Group has been listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange (ASG index).

Baltic Aviation Academy

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