The training of fighter plane pilots is expensive, yet instruments are rarely used to screen potential pilots prior to flight training. Hence, a measure that can differentiate fighter pilots from other military personnel is needed.
This study was an investigation of personality traits that are contributing factors for becoming a pilot in the Air Force, which could serve as screening tools. One hundred and twelve males were recruited from the Air Force university in Taiwan. Follow-up was conducted 2 years later with 73 students who became pilots and 39 who became ground personnel. A further 53 male military personnel of the same age served as controls.
Structural equation modeling was used to show that pilots were more extraverted and less neurotic than the ground personnel, and more extraverted than the controls. Paternal overprotection had an indirect association with becoming a pilot through the mediation of the personality traits of extraversion and neuroticism. Mental health was not associated with becoming a pilot.
The optimal cut-off point of 4/5 on a scale of extraversion resulted in a high sensitivity (96%) for differentiating between fighter pilots and controls. Independent of psychosocial stressors (mental health), extraversion is associated with the biological mechanisms of an individual, and plays a unique role in the process of becoming a pilot.
Therefore, an extraversion index can be used for screening potential military pilots prior to flight training, as a means of reducing costs and managing human resources.