5 Hazardous Attitudes All Pilots Should Avoid

Pilots · 6 min read · Jul 22, 2022
5 hazardous attitudes

Hazardous attitudes can be found in different kinds of work and aspects of daily life. However, we will highlight in this guide the 5 hazardous attitudes that must be avoided in aviation.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) is critical for aviation safety. As they describe it, this is “a systematic approach to the mental process used by pilots to consistently determine the best course of action in response to a given set of circumstances. It is what a pilot intends to do based on the latest information they have.”

In short, it is not just a pilot’s lack of experience or skills the reason why accidents happen nor it is only aircraft systems or components failing. It is also hazardous attitudes that have a significant impact on their judgment and the decision-making process that can cause accidents.

So, if you want to learn more about the 5 hazardous attitudes that must be avoided, we invite you to keep reading as we describe them below.

5 hazardous attitudes

As we mentioned above, accidents happen for several reasons. However, pilots taking on hazardous attitudes can be critical. The idea is for the pilots to know what those attitudes are, learn how to identify them, and learn how to avoid falling into the situations that bring such attitudes up. More often than not, avoiding exposure to physical and physiological stressors, and staying on top of crew resource management training will do the trick.

Keeping all these in mind, let’s see the five hazardous attitudes in aviation as presented by the FAA: anti-authority, macho attitude, impulsive attitude, invulnerability attitude, and resignation attitude.

Two pilots approaching a runway and checking guidelines on a handbook.

Anti-authority attitude

The anti-authority attitude is an extremely hazardous attitude because an anti-authority pilot believes he or she knows best. In other words, these pilots fail to follow Federal Aviation Regulations and safety procedures as they believe they are mistaken. As the FAA describes, these are “no one can tell me what to do” people.

Pilots with an anti-authority attitude tend to end up taking unnecessary risks such as omitting pre-flight checklists, and even student pilots not taking advice from instructors.

According to the FAA, the best course of action to avoid this hazardous attitude is to “follow the rules. They are usually right.”

Macho attitude

The macho attitude describes the “I can do it” kind of people. Pilots with a macho attitude are constantly taking unnecessary risks to prove themselves and show fellow pilots what they are capable of achieving trying to impress them because they believe they have the superior ability.

It is believed that the hazardous macho attitude is related to male pilots only. However, as the anti-authority does, this one affects female pilots equally.

To combat the macho attitude the FAA encourages the use of built-in sense, and recommends keeping in mind that “taking chances is foolish”.

Impulsive attitude

It is not just pilots who experience impulsivity. We all have experienced it, at least once. Some people could even argue that it is part of human nature. Fortunately, for most of us, impulsive actions end up in buying unnecessary items and not causing aviation accidents.

Impulsive pilots tend to feel the need to take action immediately when something comes up. Of course, this could be the result of training, but pilots will generally have enough time to consider the information they have available instead of rushing their decision-making process which could severely affect the outcome.

In this case, the recommendation made by the FAA as the antidote to this dangerous behavior is to think first instead of acting too fast.

Invulnerability attitude

Pilots with this attitude enter the danger zone of believing accidents only happen to other pilots. This is definitely a safety concern because these pilots will not feel or believe they are actually taking risks, so those risks are usually magnified and more foolish chances are taken.

This attitude is closely related to the macho attitude because they believe those accidents happen when a fellow pilot is not up to the task.

Some pilots with this attitude feel justified because it works as a survival mechanism every time they have to get into the cockpit. However, the FAA reminds the importance of situational awareness and remembering that it could happen to them.

Resignation attitude

The resignation attitude is related to people, pilots in this case, who believe there is nothing they can do to change what is happening because they believe it is all bad luck. They attribute everything to luck, so even when things go well, they think they are being lucky.

Therefore, whenever a decision needs to be made they delegate it to others, even if they have limited decision-making abilities or they end up making irrational decisions.

The FAA recommends pilots to think “I’m not helpless. I can make a difference” when the situations induce feelings of resignation.

A female pilot preparing for a flight in the cockpit of an aircraft.

Self-assessment with the I’M SAFE checklist

Under normal circumstances, a trained pilot must avoid danger and take proper decisions. Of course, this is possible when stress is not present. So, the pilot must be careful in their approach when handling psychological stressors. The checklist is intended to help pilots identify if the ability to make a decision has been compromised. This list some considerations that should be taken when going through an IMSAFE checklist.


Fatigue is difficult to estimate as tolerances for fatigue are often different for everyone. Again, the pilot has to determine whether he or she is able to perform well with the amount of rest he or she has before flying. Pilots must also watch out for aggravating situations like jet delays or abrupt shifts from day to night schedules.


Feeling under the weather can seriously affect the way pilots use and control aircraft. Generally speaking, pilots must assess whether or not they are physically fit before flying an aircraft. Should pilots feel unsure about the ability to fly, it is always better to select the safer option rather than flying altogether.


Stress has multiple causes and often causes lower performance and calmness. The pilot is responsible for recognizing that they have experienced extreme stress and looking for ways to alleviate it. Even the pressures of the person’s daily life will cause the pilot to fail in the cockpit.


In some instances pilots can choose medications for their health and can fly unless they get sick. Obviously, the medication must not affect the pilot’s ability to operate an aircraft. A doctor or examiner can determine if there are any health risks to patients who have been taking a certain kind of medication.


Under federal aviation law, it will not be allowed for a pilot to operate an aircraft if at least eight hours have not passed after consuming alcohol. It’s a basic fact everyone should know. Even after eight hours, a pilot cannot travel if they are still feeling under the effect of alcohol or the blood alcohol levels have not dropped to a sufficient number.

Two pilots in a cockpit of a small airplane discussing flight details.

How to fix a hazardous attitude?

As humans, we all develop dangerous behaviors that can cause events to take a turn for the worse, especially for pilots in their cockpits. Once we see this behavior within ourselves, we may take steps for countering it.

These are general recommendations to prevent and correct the five hazardous attitudes.

Respect authority

Has there ever been an anti-authority tendency on your side? Make sure you know that several guidelines and procedures have been created based on the knowledge obtained from real-life accidents which ruined the lives of other pilots and caused injuries. You may question authority, but you should also trust them in an emergency situation.

Acknowledge your humanity

Read and listen to interviews with pilots on accidents and near-misses to understand and learn from their reactions. Keep in mind they are like you, and that you could find yourself in the same situation. You are not better than them, learn from their mistakes and make a good judgment.

Drop the macho mindset

Let go of having the need to impress by making wrong decisions or committing reckless actions to make it seem as if you are the best. The whole idea of continually proving yourself is just not worth it.

Think before acting

Are we guilty of impulsiveness? Immediately acknowledge your own intuition and decide on the right decision-making. Of course, you do not need to make lightning-quick responses all the time. Assessing the situation and using the time and information available is always the best alternative to make the right decision.

Final conclusions

It is true that we are all humans, and we can all make mistakes that will put us in such bad attitudes like impulsivity, invulnerability, macho, and resignation attitudes. However, we also know those attitudes do not bring good results, and it is also true that we can identify them and avoid them.

Finally, pilots are well trained to manage many emergencies, and they can rely on the rules and procedures that are given to them for such situations. Of course, using common sense will also help pilots avoid difficult situations happening during a flight and prevent any of the 5 hazardous attitudes described above.

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Jet pilot @NASA

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