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Aviation Psychology

Pilot Selection

Recommended literature

Traineeships & Internships

Aviation Psychology

What is the goal of Aviation Psychology?

The goal of aviation psychology is to understand and predict the behavior of individuals engaged in aviation in order to improve the productivity, safety and well-being of all involved. This includes passengers and pilots, air traffic controllers, crew members, and professionals working on the ground and for the aviation authorities. (C) 2016 Monica Martinussen

What are topics in Aviation Psychology?

There are many topics and areas in aviation where psychological knowledge has been used to understand, predict and influence behavior ever since the very beginning of aviation. The list below includes some of these areas or topics in alphabetical order:

  • Accidents and incident investigations
  • Crew/ Team Resource Management
  • Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)
  • Education and Training
  • Fatigue Risk Management
  • Fear of flying
  • Gender issues
  • Mental Health
  • Unruly passengers (air rage)
  • Recruitment and Selection
  • Safety culture
  • Stress
  • System and cockpit design

Last Update: 03.09.2016

How to get practical experience in Aviation?

- Visit your local airport / airfield
Many airports/ airfields have visitor's platforms, where you can watch airplanes take off and land. Check out your airport's arrival/ departure lists to find out when is a good time to enjoy a visit.

-Take an airport/ airfield tour

Most airports/ airfields will offer private tours for interested parties to learn about how an airport works. Tours usually include check-in security, ramp/ baggage handling, maintenance, emergency services/ fire brigade, catering, taxi/ apron area etc.)

-Visit the Air Traffic Control Tower
Most Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) will offer visits to their operations room in the air traffic control tower, where you can see licensed air traffic controllers at work. Note that for safety reasons visiting hours may be restricted to certain times of the day.

-Learn the Aviation Language
Pilots, air traffic controllers and other Aviation personnel speak radiotelephony language using the ICAO alphabet.

-Visit an aircraft maintenance hangar
Contact your local airline and ask for a visit to their aircraft maintenance hangars. In the hangar you will be able to meet line aircraft maintenance technicians at work performing aircraft inspections.

Contact the Civil Aviation Authorities
Contact your Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and ask for a private tour. You will learn about oversighting/auditing activities and maybe also experience operational inspections in the field.

-Experience an aircraft cockpit
Many Airlines still allow visitors in the cockpit before or after landing. Just asked the cabin crew upon boarding and you will be surprised about their response.

-Get Flying Training
Contact your local flight school and enroll in flying classes. Many flying school will take passengers in the cockpit and offer tours through their flying simulators.

-Get a Private Pilot License
If you love flying, get a private pilot license. You will learn all about the aerodynamics of an aircraft, human performance, air navigation, aviation law, meteorology etc. and gain experience in the cockpit.

-Talk to Aviation Personnel
While being travelling or taking Aviation-related tours, be sure to talk to Aviation personnel (e.g. pilots, cabin crew, ground crew, air traffic controllers, ramp agents, engineers etc.) about their work.

-Do an internship in an Aviation company
Most Aviation companies (airlines, air navigation service providers, airports, aircraft manufacturers, maintenance organisations etc.) offer internships, where you can get a good overview of the work they do.

Last update: 05.08.2018

Related Links:

Pilot Selection

What does a modern selection system look like?

A modern selection system for ab initio pilot selection (without any prior training) usually involves several steps and normally takes 1-3 days. In many cases, only the 5-10% top candidates are admitted to basic flying training.

The first step usually involves some formal qualifications in terms of prior education, good health and a security clearance. The next step involves testing with different cognitive ability and skills tests (either paper- and –pencil and/or computerized tests). The more comprehensive and time-consuming tests are usually administered later in the process. Some organizations may use tests or procedures for assessing personality traits and other personal skills assumed important for completing training and performing well on the job.

Finally, the candidates are interviewed by a psychologist to assess aspects such as motivation, interpersonal skills, leadership ability and stress tolerance. Not all candidates go through the whole process, but may if they fail some of the early tests, be excluded from the later steps in the selection process.

After the interview, all the information is combined and a final decision is made regarding whether or not the candidate is accepted. In addition, there will be further medical examinations before the candidate is finally accepted. Most military Air Forces select and train their own candidates whereas many airline companies prefer to hire pilots who already have a lot of flying experience.

The selection process may then be somewhat different than ab-initio pilot selection. It may involve psychological testing, simulator performance, and interviews, but not always.

In order to examine how well the methods and tests work in predicting future pilot performance, validation studies are conducted. They usually involve that test results and other types of information is compared to training or work performance for a group of pilots. The findings are usually summarized in terms of correlation coefficients which express the strength of the association between test results and later performance. A large number of studies have been conducted over the years and have been summarized in meta-analyses.

More information may be found:

DLR (German Aerospace center):

Aviation Psychology and Applied Human Factors:


Carretta, T. R., & Ree, M. J. (2003). Pilot selection methods. I P. S. Tsang, & M. A. Vidulich (Red.), Principles and practice of aviation psychology (ss. 357-396). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Hunter, D. R., & Burke, E. F. (1994). Predicting aircraft pilot training: A meta-analysis of published research. The International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 4, 297-313.

Martinussen, M. (1996). Psychological measures as predictors of pilot performance: A meta-analysis. The International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 6, 1-20.

Martinussen, M., & Hunter D. R. (2010). Aviation Psychology and Human Factors. New York: Taylor and Francis.

Last Update: EAAP 05.09.2016

Recommended literature

What to read?

• Bonner, K. (2007). Nie mehr Flugangst: Ein Selbsthilfeprogramm in Sechs Schritten
• Bor, R., Eriksen, C., Oakes, M., & Scragg, P. (2016). Pilot Mental Health Assessment and Support: A practitioner´s guide
• Bor, R., & Hubbard, T. (2006). Aviation Mental Health: Psychological Implications for Air Transportation
• Bor, R., & Van Gerwen, L. (2003). Psychological Perspectives on Fear of Flying
• Brown, D. (2009). Flying Without Fear: Effective Strategies to Get You Where You Need to Go
• Carbonell, D. (2017). Fear of Flying Workbook: Overcome Your Anticipatory Anxiety and Develop Skills for Flying with Confidence
• Carr, A. (2014). No More Fear of Flying
• Cassie, A. (1964). Aviation psychology: studies on accident liability, proficiency criteria and personnel selection
• Conrad, T. (2008). Ich flieg dann mal!
• De Voogt, A., & D'Oliveira, T. C. (2011). Mechanisms in the Chain of Safety: Research and Operational Experiences in Aviation Psychology
• Dismukes, R. K. & Berman, B. A. (2007). The Limits of Expertise: Rethinking Pilot Error and the Causes of Airline Accidents
• Dismukes, R. K. (2009). Human Error in Aviation
• Dismukes, R. K., & Smith, G. M. (2000). Facilitation and Debriefing in Aviation Training and Operations
• Foreman, E. I., & Van Gerwen, L. (2008). Fly Away Fear: Overcoming Your Fear of Flying
• Gnida, M. (2012). Flugangst überwinden
• Goeters, K. M. (1998). Aviation Psychology: A Science and a Profession
• Goeters, K. M. (2004). Aviation Psychology: Practice and Research
• Green, R. G., Muir, H., James, M., Gradwell, D., & Green, R. L. (1991). Human Factors for Pilots
• Harris, D. (2011). Human Performance on the Flight Deck
• Harris, D., & Li, W. C. (2015). Decision Making in Aviation
• Hartman, C., & Huffaker, J. S. (1995). The Fearless Flyer: How to Fly in Comfort and Without Trepidation
• Hawkins, F. H. (1987). Human Factors in Flight
• Henley, I. M. A. (2003). Aviation Education and Training: Adult Learning Principles and Teaching Strategies
• Jensen, R. S. (1989). Aviation Psychology
• Jensen, R. S. (1995). Pilot Judgment and Crew Resource Management
• Johnston, N., & McDonald, N. (1994). Aviation Psychology in Practice
• Kallus, K. W. (2018). Aviation Psychology in Austria 3: Operational Debriefing, Automation Principles and Mental Training in Aviation
• Kallus, K. W. (2009). Aviation Psychology in Austria: Human Factors and Resources
• Kallus, K. W. et al (2011). Aviation Psychology in Austria 2: Human Performance and Limitations
• Kanki, B. G., Helmreich, R., & Anca, J. (2010). Crew Resource Management
• Kohnz, C. (2014). Basis und Eiflussfaktoren der Entscheidungsfindung: Problemlosestrategien und Aviation-Decision-Making
• Leonhardt, J., & Vogt, J. (2006). Critical Incident Stress Management in Aviation
• Martinussen, M., & Hunter, D. R. (2009). Aviation Psychology and Human Factors
• Maurino, D. E. (1995). Beyond Aviation Human Factors: Safety in High Technology Systems
• Moriarty, D. (2014). Practical Human Factors for Pilots
• Mühlberger, A., & Herrmann, M. J. (2011). Strategien für entspanntes Fliegen
• O' Hare, D., & and Roscoe, S. (1990). Flight Deck Performance: The Human Factor
• Patankar, M. S., & Taylor, J. C. (2004). Applied Human Factors in Aviation Maintenance
• Ridley, L. (1987). White Knuckles: Getting over the Fear of Flying
• Roscoe, S. N. (1980). Aviation Psychology
• Salas, E., Edens, E., & Wilson, K. A. (2009). Crew Resource Management: Critical Essays
• Salas, E., & Maurino, D. (2008). Human Factors in Aviation
• Smith, P. (2013). Cockpit Confidential: Everything you Need to Know About Air Travel: Questions, Answers, and Reflections
• Stokes, A. F., & Kite, K. (1994). Flight Stress: Stress, Fatigue and Performance in Aviation
• Strauch, B. (2002). Investigating Human Error: Incidents, Accidents, and Complex Systems
• Telfer, R., & Biggs, J. (1991). The Psychology of Flight Training
• Travis, R. L. (2016). Addicted Pilots: Flight Plan for Recovery
• Tsang, P. S., & Vidulich, M. A. (2002). Principles and Practice of Aviation Psychology
• USA International Business (2009). Publications European Association for Aviation Psychology Handbook
• Varney, A., & Block, T. (1950). The Psychology of Flight
• Vidulich, M. A., Tsang, P. S., & Flach, J. (2017). Advances in Aviation Psychology, Volume 2: Using Scientific Methods to Address Practical Human Factors Needs
• Wiggins, M. W., & Stevens, C. (1999). Aviation Social Science: Research Methods in Practice

Last update: EAAP 06.08.2018

Traineeships & Internships

Which aviation organisations offer traineeships/ internships?

Check out your local Aviation industry partners for traineeship/internship opportunities such as:

- Aeromedical Centres (AeMCs)
- Air Accidents/ Incident Investigation Boards (AAIBs)
- Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs)
- Airports/ local airfields
- Aircraft Maintenance Organisations (AMOs)
- Aircraft Manufacturer (e.g. Airbus, Boeing, Diamond etc.)
- Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs)
- Commercial Airlines
- Flying Schools/ Flight Academies
- Ministries of Transport
- Schools of Aviation / Research Institutions
- Supporting organisations (EUROCONTROL, CANSO, etc.)

If you have any questions related to the items above please send an email to .