Is it true that commercial pilots have common personality traits?  A 2004 report out of NASA’s Langley Research center revealed that they do. The study took 93 commercial pilots and evaluated their personality type. The test was conducted using a personality assessment known as the NEO-PI-R. It stands for NEO-Personality Inventory-Revised. The test looks at five main personality traits also known as the Big Five. Let’s take a look at the findings.


The test showed that for the most part, the pilots seemed to be extroverts. They enjoy socializing, seek excitement and exhibit more aggressive behaviors than average. Other markers of extroverts include warmth, assertiveness, and positive emotions.


In general, the study revealed that pilots scored very low on the neuroticism scale. This means pilots are not anxious and are calm, even in stressful situations. Most pilots are confident in their ability to handle a difficult situation, which is a critical trait for a commercial pilot.


Individuals with high openness are curious, imaginative, and will to challenge unconventional values. Although openness is one of the big five personality traits, it wasn’t discussed in the pilot study because the data wasn’t found to be significant.


This personality trait includes areas like trust, straightforwardness, modesty, and altruism. A very agreeable person is trusting, helping, and wants to avoid conflict. Pilots in the test scored lower than average in agreeableness which is probably a good thing because sometimes pilots need to make difficult decisions. Worrying about hurting someone’s feelings is not a great trait to have when you have hundreds of lives in your hands.


People who are conscientious are organized, persistent, and goal-oriented. Conscientious individuals are usually reliable and work hard. They’re always on time. There are six aspects that make up the conscientious category. Competence, order, dutifulness, achievement-striving, discipline, and deliberation. 

It’s no surprise that the commercial pilots scored very high in conscientiousness. Pilots are competent, organized, and work hard to achieve their goals. They have high levels of self-discipline and are cautious and deliberate with their decisions.

Overall Personality of Pilots

The study concluded with a general personality profile of a pilot as someone who is “low in anxiety, vulnerability, anger, impulsiveness, and depression. They tend to be very conscientious, straightforward, and assertive.” 

Do You Have a Pilot Personality?

If the results of this study or the results of your own Big Five personality test match up you may have the perfect personality type to be a commercial pilot and get your pilot’s license. Everyone is different, so if your personality doesn’t match perfectly to the tests results it doesn’t mean you can’t be a pilot. Call today and find out more about what it takes to become a professional pilot.

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