Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Pilot

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

The Occupation Thesaurus can help you choose the perfect careers for your characters

Occupation: Pilot

Overview: There are many kinds of pilots, but only a few can be paid for their services—meaning your character would need to be an airline pilot, a commercial pilot, or a pilot in the military. As the name suggests, airline pilots fly commercial airliners. Commercial pilots may work for a private company or own their own business transporting passengers and cargo, running rescue missions, or doing aerial photography. Military pilots obviously fly within the military; they may be career pilots or could be fulfilling a tour of duty as a means of gaining flight training and experience. Pilots in the military often have no trouble  transitioning to a civilian pilot’s career once their time is up.

Airline pilots don’t tend to have the typical 9-to-5 work schedule; instead they work a series of days followed by a number of days off. A commercial pilot’s workweek may be more regulated, depending on what they’re doing. The former must be 23 years old while the latter can begin working earlier, at 18.

Necessary Training: Pilots will need a certification that consists of a combination of ground school (any training done on the ground) and flight training. Training can take place at a flight school, through a collegiate program, or with a private instructor. A medical certificate is also required (first class for aviation pilots, second class for commercial pilots).

Beyond certification, most commercial jobs require that a pilot have a certain number of flight hours under their belt. Many times, their flight training doesn’t provide the required hours; in this case, pilots will need to gain flying experience before applying with their desired company.

Military training is obviously a different animal, with varying requirements depending on the country and branch of service involved.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Exceptional memory, mechanically inclined, multitasking, predicting the weather

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Adaptable, adventurous, alert, confident, cooperative, decisive, disciplined, focused,meticulous, responsible, studious

NEGATIVE: Perfectionist

Sources of Friction: working with a difficult or lazy co-pilot, flying a plane with mechanical difficulties, flying in difficult weather, having to conduct an emergency landing, romantic entanglements with members of the flight crew, failing a drug test, a terrorist or hijacking situation, missing an important event (a child’s birthday party, a vital marital counseling session) due to a delayed flight, having to take less-desired flights due to other pilots having seniority, being stationed in a place where one doesn’t want to live, medical issues that threaten one’s career as a pilot, difficulties at home that make it difficult to be gone for long stretches (a serious medical diagnosis, a spouse’s promotion that require them to travel too, etc.)

People They Might Interact With: co-pilots, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, airport personnel, union officials, passengers, hotel personnel

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: A pilot who is unable to obtain his desired certification may be stuck doing jobs that are unsatisfying. This could also happen if the pilot’s personal circumstances required him to take a job with more flexibility and traditional hours.
  • Love and Belonging: This need could be impacted if the pilot’s work hours and time away from home become a problem.
  • Safety and Security: Despite the best training and experience, flying is still a dangerous endeavor. If a pilot encounters a life-threatening situation, it may haunt them, hindering their flying attempts in the future.

Common Work-Related Settings: Airplane, airport, hotel room, military base, military helicopter

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype:

  • Gender-wise, pilots are largely male, so making yours female can provide a seldom-seen twist.
  • Pilots are typically portrayed as either highly adventurous adrenaline junkies or straight-laced, by-the-book types. When you’re building your pilot’s personality, consider uncommon traits that aren’t usually associated with this career, such as flirtatious, sentimental, philosophical, sleazy, verbose, or morbid.

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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One Response to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Pilot

  1. I love these occupation entries! Lots to choose from.

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