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Psychological Test Profiles of USAF Pilots Before Training vs. Type Aircraft Flown

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Abstract:

Boyd JE, Patterson JC, Thompson BT. Psychological test profiles of USAF pilots before training vs. type aircraft flown. Aviat Space Environ Med 2005; 76:463–468.

Background: Student pilots in the USAF are selected for fighter, bomber, or airlift/tanker tracks after basic flight training. This selection needs to be accurate in order to save time and training costs. The objective of this study was to determine whether significant psychological differences exist between pilots flying different types of aircraft and whether these differences could predict who will become a fighter pilot (FP) vs. a bomber pilot (BP) or airlift/tanker pilot (AP). Methods: Pilots who took the Multidimensional Aptitude Battery (MAB) and NEO Personality Inventory Revised (NEO-PI-R) were linked to their aircraft type using primary USAF specialty codes. The data for 2105 pilots was analyzed using MANOVA and Bonferroni post hoc analysis to evaluate for relationships between test results and airframe assignment. Results: A statistically significant difference was found between FP and AP pilot means on all segments of the MAB and portions of the NEO-PI-R. The mean scores of the FP group were higher on all IQ facets of the MAB. On the NEO-PI-R, the FP group scored lower on agreeableness and higher on conscientiousness. Discussion: The homogeneity of the pilot population gives the statistical difference in scores limited practical value for predicting which aircraft a pilot is best suited to fly. However, scores on these tests clearly could be a useful adjunct, along with flight training grades and personal desires, in determining a student pilot’s potential for success in the multi-tasking environment of the fighter pilot.

Keywords: MAB; NEO PI-R; medical flight screening; multidimensional aptitude battery

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2005

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