Posted by: Korry | February 6, 2012

PAs, Pilot Skill, Cesar Millan and the Importance of Effective Communication

Last Thursday, I posted on my twitter feed, LifesFlightPlan, “Friend thinks she can judge a pilot’s skill by quality of PAs. What do you think?” Before long, I had the following conversation:

Flight­_Blog – It definitely is not that way

LFP – There’s more to it, yes, but can’t a PA reveal pilot’s confidence, professionalism, etc…essential qualities for a great pilot?

F_B – Absolutely, but for an overall validation of the other attributes, the judgment cannot be concluded by just PA. Agree?

LFP – I absolutely agree with you! Found it to be great example of how important good comm is for inspiring confidence in abilities.

F_B – That brings another point, effective comm is so essential between crew and with passengers

LFP – Or how about just saying that good comm is essential in life…period!

My friend is not just some random person who isn’t familiar with what makes a good pilot or a bad pilot. Actually, she has worked in the airline industry for years. Unfortunately, like it or not, perception is reality.

And you know what? To a large extent, I agree!

Quality PAs, like all effective communication, are well structured, concise, honest, informative and timely. It’s not just what the pilot says, it’s the reasoning and thought processes that go into determining how they say it and when they say it. Effective PAs require a pilot to be keenly in tune with how their passengers are feeling at a given point in the flight and then to quickly determine exactly what to say. Aren’t these same skills and thought processes necessary to making critical life-and-death decisions at a moment’s notice like pilots must do? I think so. Is that fair? Not in the least, but that’s how it is.

Look, if the world was a fair place, my twitter friend, Flight_Blog, would be right about a PA not providing a complete picture. But the world’s not fair, and people make judgments all the time without all the facts. As Malcolm Gladwell says in Blink, we thin slice. We take snippets and use them to form far-reaching opinions. There is simply no doubt that being an effective communicator is a major key to gaining credibility and the confidence of others, whether you’re a pilot, a teacher, a businessperson, a politician or a parent.

Don’t believe me? Then why do people make assessments about the intellect of President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama and even celebrities or athletes based on the way they speak and not on their grades or other more objective criteria? I’m not saying these assesments are valid or invalid. I’m just saying they are made…and they definitely affect the perception of these people’s ability.

Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer”, believes it has everything to do with energy. Dogs are master energy-sensers. They can tell when their owner is communicating confidently, calmly and assertively or when they’re communicating like a push-over.  Are you alpha or omega? A leader or a follower?

Best intentions be damned! If we want to succeed in life, we must acknowledge the fact that the way we communicate will heavily influence our ability to succeed, if only because of the opinions formed by others. We must assess our skills, and then we must work diligently to become master communicators. Because if we do not, we put ourselves in a completely unneccesary disadvantage for the rest of our lives.

I mean, why would your boss ever give you a raise or promotion if you couldn’t confidently describe precisely why it is you deserve one? Can’t a classroom of students sense the energy of a teacher and decide whether this teacher is one whose class they should behave in or not? Don’t you think it’s possible your child is the same way?

Your skills, your abilities, and your competencies will all be judged. How you communicate may not be the sole determining factor, but it will play a sizeable role in that assessment.

Don’t hide behind the words “I can’t.” Accept the challenge of becoming a master communicator! If you do, you will see the results not just in you, but also in the people and organizations around you, too!

While I hope I’ve convinced you on WHY it’s so critically important to be an effective communicator, I know that I haven’t really told you HOW to do it. On Thursday, I’ll do just that by laying out a few of my favorite communication tricks and tools. You definitely don’t want to miss it!

Until then, I want you to pay close attention to how people interact with you. What is their body language? What sort of tone do they use? Would you consider them to be effective or ineffective communicators? Leave a comment with some examples of people who come immediately to mind as effective or ineffective and let me know why.

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  1. Hi,
    Communication is the key to revealing your attributes and personality, no doubt about that. Now moving on to judging a crew on their PA’s,yes a PA will reveal a fair bit about the pilots skills and thought process in what is being put across to passengers.
    It is also key factor which makes up passengers perception of crew on PA.
    There are some airlines which have their crew come up with standard templates of announcements for perceived situations which is done to ensure that the variances in announcements are avoided and the passengers are hearing the standard laid down announcements. In such announcements, it is difficult to really differentiate other than the tone and pace of delivery in terms of perception to make up one’s mind on the PA.

    • That’s really interesting about the “canned” PAs. We don’t do that at my airline and I didn’t really know that other carriers do. Not too surprising given all the potential legal issues an airline could face in certain situations as well as the incredibly high level of standardization. So if PAs can’t be counted on to affirm a pilot’s skill level or professionalism, what do you think can do that in the eyes of the passengers they carry?

      Thanks again for your thoughts the other night, and thank you for continuing that discussion here!


  2. Hi Korry,
    From a choice of content for carrying out a PA, which would form an outline of his personality by passengers, with PA content dictated by airline, I guess one could comment and form opinion on the delivery itself which is an individual attribute.


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  6. […] amazing truth detectors. My passengers can tell when I’m holding something back in one of my PAs. My wife can definitely tell when I’m holding something back because she knows me so well. […]

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