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Pilot is a pilot is a pilot? Exploration of effects of professional culture in helicopter pilots.

Kaminska, Anna; Irwin, Amy; Ray, Devin; Flin, Rhona


Anna Kaminska

Amy Irwin

Devin Ray


Nancy L. Black

W. Patrick Neumann

Ian Noy


Culture has been identified as a factor influencing the way people communicate and behave. Though often imperceptible by its members, cross-cultural interactions can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. Despite ex-military and civilian trained pilots frequently flying together, there has been a lack of research describing each professional sub-culture. The current study aims to bridge that gap by exploring how professional culture interacts in the cockpit and how it affects pilots’ safety behaviours. The study used in-depth semi-structured interviews with 15 participants (14 helicopter pilots) to collect data on effects of professional culture. The data were analysed using conventional content analysis. Content analysis indicated five separate categories relevant to perceptions of professional culture. The findings indicate that pilots acknowledge the cultural differences present between themselves and others, and that culture can have an effect on their and other’s safety behaviours. The participants suggested that various sub-culture types can have impact on flight safety through their effects on communication and the way people interact, but not through technical skills of flying the aircraft. The differences between military and civilian training and flying were discussed in depth. This research highlights the various ways in which culture affects pilots’ safety behaviours and interactions with one another. It also provides an in-depth look at the way pilots perceive and experience cross-cultural interactions in the cockpit.


KAMINSKA, A., IRWIN, A., RAY, D. and FLIN, R. 2021. Pilot is a pilot is a pilot? Exploration of effects of professional culture in helicopter pilots. In Black, N.L., Neumann, W.P. and Noy, I. (eds.) Proceedings of the 21st congress of the International ergonomics association (IEA 2021), 13-18 June 2021, Vancouver, Canada. Lecture notes in networks and systems, 221. Cham: Springer [online], volume 3: sector based ergonomics, pages 682-690. Available from:

Conference Name 21st International ergonomics association congress 2021 (IEA 2021)
Conference Location Vancouver, Canada
Start Date Jun 13, 2021
End Date Jun 18, 2021
Acceptance Date May 18, 2021
Online Publication Date May 18, 2021
Publication Date Dec 31, 2021
Deposit Date Aug 12, 2021
Publicly Available Date May 19, 2022
Publisher Springer Publishing Company
Volume III: sector based ergonomics
Pages 682-690
Series Title Lecture notes in networks and systems (LNNS)
Series Number 221
Series ISSN 2367-3370; 2367-3389
Book Title Proceedings of the 21st congress of the international ergonomics association (IEA 2021): volume 3: sector based ergonomics
Chapter Number Part VII: transportation ergonomics and human factors
ISBN 9783030746070
Keywords Helicopters: Culture; Safety: Cross-culture interactions; Military
Public URL


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