IMPORTANT AND CRITICAL
OF USAF MQ-1 PREDATOR AND
MQ-9 REAPER PILOTS
ACCORDING TO SUBJECT
Wayne Chappelle, Psy.D.
Kent McDonald, Lt Col, USAF
Katharine McMillan, Ph.D.
for September 2009 to April 2011
Air Force Research Laboratory
711th Human Performance Wing
School of Aerospace Medicine
Aerospace Medicine Consultation
2510 Fifth St.
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433-7913
Distribution Statement A: Approved for
public release; distribution is unlimited.
Case Number: 88ABW-2011-2980,
13 Jun 2011
NOTICE AND SIGNATURE PAGE
Using Government drawings, specifications, or other data included in this document for any
purpose other than Government procurement does not in any way obligate the U.S. Government.
The fact that the Government formulated or supplied the drawings, specifications, or other data
does not license the holder or any other person or corporation or convey any rights or permission
to manufacture, use, or sell any patented invention that may relate to them.
Qualified requestors may obtain copies of this report from the Defense Technical Information
Center (DTIC) (http://www.dtic.mil).
AFRL-SA-WP- HAS BEEN REVIEWED AND IS APPROVED FOR
PUBLICATION IN ACCORDANCE WITH ASSIGNED DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT.
This report is published in the interest of scientific and technical information exchange, and its
publication does not constitute the Government’s approval or disapproval of its ideas or findings.
ROBERT E. CARROLL, COL, USAF, MC
Digitally signed by CARROLL.ROBERT.E.1129516565
DN: c=US, o=U.S. Government, ou=DoD, ou=PKI,
Date: 2011.06.20 14:54:09 -04'00'
Digitally signed by VANSYOC.DANIEL.L.1139815064
DN: c=US, o=U.S. Government, ou=DoD, ou=PKI,
Date: 2011.06.13 11:58:59 -04'00'
DANIEL L. VAN SYOC
REPORT DOCUMENTATION PAGE
OMB No. 0704-0188
Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 1 hour per response, including the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and
maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing this collection of information. Send comments regarding this burden estimate or any other aspect of this collection of information, including
suggestions for reducing this burden to Department of Defense, Washington Headquarters Services, Directorate for Information Operations and Reports (0704-0188), 1215 Jefferson Davis Highway, Suite
1204, Arlington, VA 22202-4302. Respondents should be aware that notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person shall be subject to any penalty for failing to comply with a collection of
information if it does not display a currently valid OMB control number. PLEASE DO NOT RETURN YOUR FORM TO THE ABOVE ADDRESS.
1. REPORT DATE (DD-MM-YYYY)
2. REPORT TYPE
Final Technical Report
3. DATES COVERED (From – To)
Sep 2009 – Apr 2011
4. TITLE AND SUBTITLE
Important and Critical Psychological Attributes of USAF MQ-1 Predator and
MQ-9 Reaper Pilots According to Subject Matter Experts
5a. CONTRACT NUMBER
5b. GRANT NUMBER
5c. PROGRAM ELEMENT NUMBER
Wayne Chappelle, Kent McDonald, Katharine McMillan 5d. PROJECT NUMBER
5e. TASK NUMBER
5f. WORK UNIT NUMBER
7. PERFORMING ORGANIZATION NAME(S) AND ADDRESS(ES)
USAF School of Aerospace Medicine
Aerospace Medicine Consultation
2947 Fifth St.
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433-7913
8. PERFORMING ORGANIZATION REPORT
9. SPONSORING / MONITORING AGENCY NAME(S) AND ADDRESS(ES)
10. SPONSORING/MONITOR’S ACRONYM(S)
11. SPONSOR/MONITOR’S REPORT
12. DISTRIBUTION / AVAILABILITY STATEMENT
Distribution Statement A: Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited. Case Number: 88ABW-2011-2980, 13 Jun 2011
13. SUPPLEMENTARY NOTES
Among U.S. Air Force remotely piloted aircraft, the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper have emerged as critical assets to intelligence,
surveillance, reconnaissance, and close air support operations. The effective selection of Predator/Reaper pilot training candidates for
such aircraft is essential to successful training and operational performance. However, a profile of “the right stuff” (i.e., cognitive
aptitudes, personality traits, and motivation) guiding aeromedical flight screening and selection processes for such pilots does not
exist. This study addresses the gap in the literature by formulating such a profile based upon the input of line commanders and subject
matter experts (SMEs). A total of 82 SMEs provided input on the psychological attributes perceived as critical to acquisition of
Predator/Reaper pilot skills, as well as adaptation to the operational environment. The researchers analyzed, organized, and integrated
the results of SME interviews in to a theoretical, multidimensional profile, which serves as a communication tool between aeromedical
leadership and line commanders regarding psychological attributes that should be considered prior to a Predator/Reaper pilot training
applicant entering the career field. The profile may also guide aeromedical and personnel assessment and selection procedures, as
well as waiver evaluations to reduce attrition, and improve retention in such a high-demand, high-operational aviation career field.
15. SUBJECT TERMS
Remotely piloted aircraft, pilot selection, cognitive aptitude, critical psychological attributes
16. SECURITY CLASSIFICATION OF:
19a. NAME OF RESPONSIBLE PERSON
c. THIS PAGE
19b. TELEPHONE NUMBER (include area
Standard Form 298 (Rev. 8-98)
Prescribed by ANSI Std. Z39.18
This page intentionally left blank.
Distribution Statement A: Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited. Case Number: 88ABW-2011-2980, 13 Jun 2011
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.0 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ....................................................................................... 1
2.0 INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................................... 1
2.1 Description of MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper ............................................... 2
2.2 Aerial Combat Demands for MQ-1 Predator and
MQ-9 Reaper Operations ..................................................................................... 3
2.3 General MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper Pilot Duties ...................................... 4
2.4 Accession Sources for MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper Pilot Trainees ........... 5
2.4.1 Experienced (Cross-Trained) Pilots ......................................................... 5
2.4.2 Inexperienced Pilots (Recently Graduated UPT Students) ...................... 7
2.4.3 Nonpilot Officers ..................................................................................... 7
2.5 Training Pipeline for MQ-1 Predator Pilots......................................................... 7
2.6 Research on Psychological Attributes of USAF Pilots ........................................ 9
2.6.1 Cognitive Aptitudes ................................................................................. 9
2.6.2 Personality Traits ..................................................................................... 10
2.6.3 Motivation ................................................................................................ 11
2.7 Purpose of the Study ............................................................................................ 11
3.0 METHODS ................................................................................................................ 12
3.1 Participants ........................................................................................................... 12
3.2 Procedure ............................................................................................................. 12
3.2.1 Phase I: Subject Matter Expert Interviews............................................... 12
3.2.2 Phase II: Critical Attribute Analysis and Consolitation ........................... 14
3.2.3 Phase III: SME Review and Subjective Validation of
Critical Attributes..................................................................................... 15
4.0 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION ................................................................................ 15
4.1 Cognitive Domain: Facets and Attributes ........................................................... 15
4.2 Intrapersonal Domain: Facets and Attributes ..................................................... 19
4.3 Interpersonal Domain: Facets and Attributes ..................................................... 22
4.4 Motivation Domain: Facets and Attributes ......................................................... 25
5.0 ASSESSMENT/SELECTION OF TRAINING CANDIDATES .............................. 26
5.1 Aeromedical Screening ........................................................................................ 26
5.2 Computer-Based Psychological Testing .............................................................. 27
5.3 Structured Aeromedical Clinical-Occupational Interview ................................... 28
Distribution Statement A: Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited. Case Number: 88ABW-2011-2980, 13 Jun 2011
TABLE OF CONTENTS (concluded)
6.0 STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY ........................................... 28
7.0 CONCLUSION .......................................................................................................... 29
8.0 REFERENCES .......................................................................................................... 29
APPENDIX – Standardized Interview Questions.................................................................. 34
LIST OF ACRONYMS ......................................................................................................... 35
LIST OF FIGURES
1 Combat Air Patrols and Mission Hours Flown by MQ-1 Predator ........................... 4
2 MQ-1 Predator Pilot Workflow (adapted from Nagy et al., p. 1) .............................. 6
3 General Training Pipeline Training Program Flow for MQ-1 Predator
Pilot Training Candidates .................................................................................... 8
4 Workflow Regarding Qualitative Analysis of SME Interviews and
Organization of Identified Attributes ................................................................... 13
5 Cognitive Facets Considered Critical or Important for Pilot Duties .......................... 16
6 Intrapersonal Facets Considered Critical or Important for Pilot Duties .................... 19
7 Interpersonal Facets Considered Critical or Important for Pilot Duties .................... 22
8 Motivational Facets Considered Critical or Important for Pilot Duties ..................... 25
LIST OF TABLES
1 Cognitive Domain ...................................................................................................... 16
2 Intrapersonal Domain................................................................................................. 20
3 Interpersonal Domain................................................................................................. 23
4 Motivational Domain ................................................................................................. 25
This page intentionally left blank.
1.0 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Among the variety of U.S. Air Force remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), the MQ-1 Predator
and MQ-9 Reaper have emerged as critical assets to intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance,
and close air support operations. The effective selection of Predator/Reaper pilot training
candidates for such aircraft is essential to successful training and operational performance.
However, a profile of “the right stuff” (i.e., cognitive aptitudes, personality traits, and
motivation) guiding aeromedical flight screening and selection processes for such pilots does not
exist. This study addresses the gap in the literature by formulating such a profile based upon the
input of line commanders and subject matter experts (SMEs).
A total of 82 SMEs (e.g., RPA Predator/Reaper commanders, rated pilots, sensor
operators, and mission intelligence coordinators, as well as training instructors) provided input
on the psychological attributes perceived as critical to acquisition of Predator/Reaper pilot skills,
as well as adaptation to the operational environment. The researchers analyzed, organized, and
integrated the results of SME interviews in to a theoretical, multidimensional profile.
The profile of critical psychological attributes consists of: (a) Cognitive ability (e.g.,
speed of information processing and accuracy; visual-perceptual recognition, tracking, and
analysis; sustained and divided attention to visual/auditory information; spatial processing;
working, immediate, and long-term visual/auditory memory; real time deductive reasoning; and
psychomotor reaction time; (b) Intrapersonal personality traits (e.g., emotional composure,
resilience, self-certainty, conscientiousness, perseverance, success-orientation, decisiveness, and
adaptability: (c) Interpersonal personality traits (e.g., humility, comfort and confidence in
working in groups, social cautiousness and prudence, and team orientation; and (d) Motivation
(e.g., moral and occupational interest in saving lives and sense of duty as a military officer).
The multidimensional profile based upon SME input serves as a communication tool
between aeromedical leadership and line commanders regarding psychological attributes that
should be considered prior to a Predator/Reaper pilot training applicant entering the career field.
The profile may also guide aeromedical and personnel assessment and selection procedures, as
well as waiver evaluations to reduce attrition, and improve retention in such a high-demand,
high-operational aviation career field.
Recognizing the capabilities of U.S. Air Force (USAF) remotely piloted aircraft (RPA),
the USAF is fully committed to increasing and expanding such operations across theaters of
conflict (i.e., Iraq and Afghanistan) and areas of national interest (i.e., Africa). Among the
variety of USAF RPAs, the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper airframes have emerged as the
most dominant weapon-bearing platforms in support of aerial intelligence, surveillance,
reconnaissance (ISR) and close air support (CAS) operations. As a result, USAF MQ-1 Predator
and MQ-9 Reaper pilots represent a critical asset to operations in theaters of conflict and in a
uniquely challenging, high-demand, high-precision profession. To illuminate the significant
tasks associated with MQ-1 Predator pilot duties, a comprehensive pilot job analyses has been
conducted (Nagy JE, Kalita SW, Eaton G, U.S. Air Force Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Performance Analyses, Predator Pilot Front End Analysis (FEA) Report, SURVIAC-TR-06-203,
Feb 2006; available through the Defense Technical Information Center to U.S. Government
agencies and their contractors only). However, there is no clearly established list of inherit
psychological attributes identified as critical to pilot training, skill acquisition, and adaptation to
such a unique combat-oriented RPA platform. The identification of a core set of psychological
attributes is essential to identifying USAF commissioned officers who are aeromedically
suitable for RPA operations and who are likely to thrive in such a unique and critical role.
As reported earlier by Chappelle, Novy, Sowin, and Thompson (Ref 1), military flying in
support of combat and/or humanitarian missions is an extraordinary profession requiring a
special set of traits and talents. It is perceived by many that those who desire to become military
pilots possess high levels of courage, self-discipline, aggressiveness, self-confidence, and a
strong interest in high-risk activities. These traits are believed to accompany a superior level of
intelligence, dexterity, coordination, and reflexes that are combined with a strong motivation to
fly. This particular picture of a pilot has been portrayed in novels (e.g., Ref 2) as well as films
(e.g., “The Right Stuff” and “Top Gun”) and is a common perception among military leadership
and civilians. Having an accurate assessment of the cognitive aptitudes and personality traits of
USAF pilots is important to aeromedical providers tasked with evaluating rated pilots and
training applicants and making decisions about whether such persons are aeromedically suitable
to pursue such a challenging and high-risk occupation. However, our current understanding of
the psychological attributes (i.e., cognitive aptitudes and personality traits) considered critical to
performance is based upon pilots in manned airframes (e.g., fighter/bomber, tanker/transporter,
and surveillance/reconnaissance). At the present time, our understanding of such traits and
attributes among pilots of unmanned airframes is very limited.
A psychological profile that explicates cognitive abilities, personality traits, and
motivation that distinguish MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper pilots from pilots of manned
aircraft would serve as a powerful tool for identifying training candidates and incumbents likely
to thrive in such a unique and challenging occupation. The purpose of this study is to: (a) elicit
the input of USAF subject matter experts (SMEs) (e.g., line commanders, pilots) from active
duty training and operational squadrons and (b) systematically organize their input into a
comprehensive, multidimensional list of psychological attributes considered important or critical
to MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper pilot performance.
2.1 Description of MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper
The MQ-1 Predator is a medium-altitude, long-endurance RPA originally developed to
meet demands from the USAF and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for a quiet, versatile,
unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. The original unarmed version was labeled the RQ-1 and has
been in use for over a decade. However, the aircraft was renamed MQ-1 in 2005 when it was
equipped with weapons (e.g., laser-guided missiles) capabilities. The addition of weapons
expanded the aircraft’s ISR role to precision-strike operations, such as CAS. Although MQ-1
Predator missions are conducted by the USAF and CIA in support of operations in theaters of
conflict, other government agencies such as the U.S. Border Patrol utilize unarmed versions of
The MQ-1 Predator RPA crew consists of a pilot who controls the movement of the
vehicle and an enlisted sensor operator (SO) in charge of reconnaissance and targeting, as well as
a mission intelligence coordinator for communicating and relaying key sources of information.
The MQ-1 Predator is remotely piloted from a ground control station (GCS). It is equipped with
multiple full-motion video cameras for day and night use and variable weather. It is also fitted
with an advanced targeting system that includes electrooptical, infrared, laser designation, and
laser illumination capabilities. The MQ-1 Predator is roughly the length of a Cessna 172 civilian
aircraft. It is 27 ft long and 6.9 ft tall and has a wingspan of slightly longer than an F-15E Strike
Eagle. The aircraft is disassembled for transport, as needed. The MQ-1 Predator travels at high
speeds, which may vary depending upon weather and wind conditions, and loiters over a target
for up to 24 hr. The aircraft has an operational ceiling of 25,000 ft and can be configured to
carry two laser-guided AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles (Ref 3).
The strategic role of the MQ-1 Predator in both ISR and precision-strike missions
fostered demand for the MQ-9 Reaper. The MQ-9 Reaper is a high-altitude, long-endurance
airframe designed as a “hunter-killer” aircraft with enhanced capabilities for identifying,
targeting, and destroying enemy combatants and assets considered time-sensitive targets. The
MQ-9 Reaper flies higher and faster and is more heavily armed and versatile than the MQ-1
Predator. The MQ-9 Reaper is roughly the size of an F-16 fighter with a length of 40 ft and a
height of 16 ft. The MQ-9 Reaper features the same types of cameras as the MQ-1 Predator
along with synthetic aperture radar that allows observation and targeting of points of interest on
the ground, even when poor weather conditions obscure the target. The aircraft can travel at high
rates of speed and at an altitude as high as 50,000 ft (Ref 4)
The MQ-9 Reaper weapons payload may be configured in any number of ways with up to
eight AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, four 500-lb GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs, or two
GBU-38/B Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs. It can also be configured to carry other
weapons, such as AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles, AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air
missiles, and AIM-120 Advanced air-to-air missiles. The versatility in weapons configurations
provides flexibility to air combatant commanders and ground units requesting assistance. It may
also be equipped with a variety of sensors and cameras, dependent upon the needs of the mission.
2.2 Aerial Combat Demands for MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper Operations
Since the onset of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9
Reaper have served multiple roles in the gathering of imagery and streaming video to support
ISR, CAS, and various precision-strike operations. Such aircraft provide real time information to
commanders for identifying fixed and moving targets, tracking enemy movements and assets,
tracking and/or eliminating enemy combatants, catching insurgents planting roadside bombs,
locating and destroying weapons caches, directing and protecting ground forces, safeguarding
convoys, augmenting manned-strike missions, and surveying post-strike battle damage (Ref 5).
USAF leadership lauds the role of RPA airframes as complex force multipliers with dynamic air
combat capabilities while shielding crewmembers from the traditional aviation-related threats to
personal safety (Ref 6).
Within the last 5 yr, the number of MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper missions and
combat air patrols (CAPs) sustained 24 hr a day, 365 days a year has increased dramatically, as
shown in Figure 1. The increase is reflective of USAF military operations becoming more
reliant upon the decisive advantages of such airframes (Ref 4). The success of the MQ-1 Predator
and MQ-9 Reaper as well as other RPA airframes (e.g., Global Hawk) has influenced
Department of Defense (DoD) budget allocations beyond amounts requested by the USAF
(Ref 7). The increased acquisitions budget and devotion to further development reflect the DoD
and Department of the Air Force vision that RPA operations will dominate aerial battle space in
the 21st century (Ref 8-10).
Figure 1. Combat Air Patrols and Mission Hours Flown by MQ-1 Predator
2.3 General MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper Pilot Duties
As can be surmised from above, USAF MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper pilots are
central to effective identification, surveillance, targeting, weapons deployment, and battle
damage assessment of enemy combatants and assets. Such pilots perform a wide range of
manual and computer-based tasks to actively and/or passively control, maneuver, and fly the
aircraft (see Nagy et al., p. 1). Specific duties include, but are not limited to, the following:
• Performing preflight and in-flight mission planning activities in accordance
with unified combatant command and theater rules of engagement
• Understanding tactics, techniques, and procedures for friendly and enemy air
order of battle (AOB) assets
• Receiving, interpreting, extracting, and disseminating relevant air tasking
orders, airspace control orders, and spins information
• Ensuring airframe and supporting GCS systems for controlling the aircraft are
operating efficiently and effectively
• Performing checklists and monitoring systems controls during aircraft launch
and recovery operations
• Flying the aircraft en route to airspace of national interest while coordinating
with air traffic control, as well as other aircraft and aircrew
• Maneuvering the aircraft to gather surveillance and reconnaissance data over
targets and areas of interest
• Maneuvering the aircraft into strategic positions for the deployment of
weapons (e.g., close air support of ground troops)
04 05 06 07 08 09
Number of CAPs
MQ-1 Predator CAPS
03 04 05 06 07 08 09
MQ-1 Predator Hours Flown
• Assisting in air navigation, AOB integration, fire control planning, and
determining effective weapons control and delivery tactics to achieve mission
• Receiving target briefs for weapons delivery and conducting battle damage
• Maintaining situational awareness to target imagery, friendly and enemy
orders of battle, and offensive and defensive capabilities from various sources
• Assembling target information, locating forces, and determining hostile
intentions and possible tactics
See Figure 2 for a simplified breakdown of major workflow tasks for MQ-1 Predator pilots.
This position requires the pilot to visually discriminate and synthesize various images and
complex data on several electronic screens while maintaining heightened vigilance to numerous
sources of visual and auditory information necessary for sustaining situational and spatial
awareness. The pilot must attend to visual-spatial two-dimensional input while performing
numerical calculations for maneuvering the aircraft in addition to sustaining vigilance to multiple
sources of visual and auditory input. The pilot must be attentive to several procedural checklists
and processes with advanced computer systems while simultaneously translating two-
dimensional information from video screens into spatial imagery. Despite the automated nature
of many of the operations, the pilot in many situations must manually maneuver the aircraft (e.g.,
strategic deployment of weapons, BDA, positioning of surveillance, avoidance of bad weather,
controlling the aircraft during equipment or systems failures, etc). In short, pilots must rely upon
a wide range of cognitive aptitudes when carrying out their duties in a confined environment
with specific rules of engagement, tactics, and techniques. For a more in-depth analysis of the
major job tasks and duties of a pilot, please see Nagy et al., p. 1.
2.4 Accession Sources for MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper Pilot Trainees
MQ-1 Predator pilots are drawn from three sources: (1) pilots who cross train from a
manned airframe (e.g., F-16, F-15, B-2, C-130, C-117, KC-135), (2) recent pilot graduates from
Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT), and (3) nonpilot commissioned officers. The last source
draws from navigators from manned airframes (e.g., C-130, KC-135) and officers in nonflying
career fields (e.g., acquisitions, logistics, security forces, and engineering).
2.4.1 Experienced (Cross-Trained) Pilots. Currently, the primary accession source is rated
pilots from manned airframes who have been selected to “cross train” into the Predator/Reaper
career field. Operational commanders and leadership have relied upon rated pilots because of
their flying knowledge and skills. Pilots from this selection pool come from various airframes
(e.g., fighter, bomber, tanker, transport, and surveillance), are generally of the rank of captain or
higher, and tend to be in their late 20s to mid 30s in age. In general, they have a significant
amount of experience in military flying and operating as a USAF pilot and officer. Leadership
initially reported that cross-trained pilots would only serve a temporary RPA assignment of 3 to
4 yr. However, due to the continual surge and reliance upon RPA operations in theaters of
conflict, only a limited number of RPA pilots who cross-trained have returned to flying manned
Figure 2. MQ-1 Predator Pilot Workflow (adapted from Nagy et al., p. 1)
to OPAREA Navigation
no no Aircraft
A. Aircraft airborne
B. Change Over
F. Strike (Weapon on
(EEI to Customer)
E. Aircraft on
C. Aircraft enroute
2.4.2 Inexperienced Pilots (Recently Graduated UPT Students). The second source
includes newly graduated UPT students. UPT graduates have 52 wk of pilot training in a
manned aircraft and have passed rated pilot requirements. They are officially recognized as
USAF rated pilots at the end of UPT training. Normally, a UPT graduate would be selected for a
manned airframe and continue on to advanced training in a manned aircraft. Pilots from this
selection pool are, in general, the rank of lieutenant and tend to be in their middle to late 20s in
age with minimal experience operating as a USAF pilot and officer. USAF leadership has
decided to assign a number of UPT graduates each year to the RPA platform. Similar to
experienced cross-trained pilots, their RPA assignments are considered temporary and expected
not to exceed 3 to 4 yr. They are eligible for assignment to a manned airframe once they
complete their tour in RPA operations. However, similar to experienced pilots who cross-trained
from manned airframes, the demand for experienced RPA pilots to meet the continual growth in
RPA operations reduces the likelihood they will be able to return to flying a manned aircraft.
2.4.3 Nonpilot Officers. The third accession source was developed toward the end of 2008
and draws from USAF nonpilot commissioned officers from (a) experienced and rated USAF
navigators (e.g., panel navigator, electronic warfare officer, weapons system officer, or air battle
manager) and (b) nonflying career fields (e.g., acquisitions, logistics, security forces,
engineering, services, space, and missile duty). The third accession source was developed to
alleviate the demand of taking highly qualified pilots (experienced and inexperienced) and
having to retrain them to fly an RPA aircraft. The third accession source was also developed to
meet the critical shortage of RPA pilots due to the increasing demand for RPA operations in
theaters of conflict. The goal of training nonpilot officers is to alleviate the burden of rated pilots
from manned airframes from having to fill the current shortage in qualified RPA pilots. Non-
RPA pilot officers are generally newly commissioned lieutenants straight out of college (e.g.,
USAF Academy) or experienced USAF captains looking for a career change and an opportunity
to participate in “tip of the spear” RPA ISR and combat-related operations.
2.5 Training Pipeline for MQ-1 Predator Pilots
The Air Education and Training Command (AETC) developed a formal training pipeline
for RPA pilot training candidates. Training consists of several phases, as displayed in Figure 3.
Nonpilot officer trainees enter the RPA pilot training program earlier than rated pilot trainees
(i.e., experienced pilots cross training from a manned airframe and inexperienced pilots from
UPT). Nonpilot RPA pilot trainees attend Initial Flight Training (IFT) for 2 mo where they
acquire fundamental pilot skills. The goal is for the nonpilot trainees to learn the fundamentals
of flying and aerodynamic principles, become familiar with aircraft instruments, complete a solo
flight as a pilot in a manned airframe, gain knowledge and confidence as a pilot in general, as
well as obtain a standard private pilot’s license recognized by the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA). The nonpilot trainees complete several hours of training during this
phase, to include dual flying, cross-country flying, night flying, simulated instrument flying, and
solo flying time.
Once the nonpilot RPA pilot trainees complete this phase of training, they join RPA pilot
applicants who have just completed UPT or who are cross training from a manned airframe. All
RPA pilot applicant trainees enter into a 2-mo RPA Instrument Qualification Course (IQC). The
focus of IQC is to learn how to operate the MQ-1 Predator in simulator training. The academic
portion of IQC covers weather, aerodynamics, crew resource management (CRM), RPA flying
fundamentals, RPA instruments, and navigation. RPA pilot trainees and SO trainees train
together during this phase to accelerate the acquisition of CRM skills. Operational units
requested this change to help SOs overcome “guardedness” when working with officers
(Wiseman, personal communication, 2010). Currently, this coursework utilizes T-6 simulators
with a planned transition to commercial, off-the-shelf FAA-certified instrument simulators.
Figure 3. General Training Pipeline Training Program Flow for
MQ-1 Predator Pilot Training Candidates
After completion of IQC, all RPA pilot trainees undertake 135 hr of academics and seven
labs/missions in the RPA Fundamentals Course (RFC). Academic instruction includes training
on tactical and theater operations, rules of engagement, operating in battle space, weapons,
radars, sensors, as well as CRM. In general, the goal of RFC is to provide foundational aviation
skills to meet Formal Training Unit (FTU) requirements.
Pilot Fundamental Skills
Simulator only with instrument check rides
Tactical and Theater Operations:
Crew Resource Management, Weapons,
Radars, Sensors, and Threats
135 academic hours, 7 labs/missions
Joint Fire Power Course
Combat Mission Readiness
Nonpilot training candidates
(e.g., nonpilot USAF
commissioned officers such as
navigators, air battle managers,
logistics, security forces,
acquisitions, and engineers)
from a manned
Air Force Personnel
Center identifies and
selects USAF pilot and
nonpilot officers for RPA
MQ-1 Predator training
Upon completion of RFC, RPA pilot trainees enter the Joint Firepower Course (JFC).
The course provides instruction on concepts, doctrine, control systems, tactics, techniques, and
procedures by which air and surface combat forces plan, request, coordinate, and control joint
firepower among military branches on the ground, air, and sea. The course teaches pilot trainees
how to coordinate the mission, pass on information, and receive orders in a joint operations
environment (Wiseman, personal communication, 2010). The goal is to teach pilot trainees how
to integrate RPAs into joint combat operations that involve identifying, targeting, and destroying
enemy combatants and assets.
After completion of JFC, pilot trainees join their FTU. The FTU is the RPA operational
Air Combat Command (ACC), Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), Air National
Guard, or USAF Reserve unit to which the pilot trainee is assigned to support. This training is
composed of three phases and can vary according to the specific training instruction
requirements of the unit. FTU training focuses on combat mission readiness and weapon-system
employment. A trainee is considered combat ready when he or she is perceived as being
professionally and technically proficient in supporting combat-oriented missions.
Pilots for the MQ-9 Reaper are drawn from a pool of highly experienced and qualified
pilots within MQ-1 Predator squadrons. Instructors utilize a series of individually tailored tasks,
instruction, and supervision specific to the squadron-training regimen for the MQ-9 Reaper.
Although there is considerable overlap in the job tasks and requirements between this airframe
and the MQ-1 Predator, SMEs report that piloting the MQ-9 Reaper draws more upon tactical
and strategic maneuvering and flying skills (Bruzzini, personal communication, 2010). The
aircraft’s involvement in close air support and other precision-strike operations, particularly in
urban environments, demands superior capabilities. The MQ-9 Reaper airframe flies faster,
higher, and longer and has greater weapon-deployment capabilities and operations compared to
that of the MQ-1 Predator. As a result, operational commanders prefer to place experienced
MQ-1 Predator pilots in this role (Bruzzini, personal communication, 2010).
2.6 Research on Psychological Attributes of USAF Pilots
It is important to note, in this study, a psychological attribute is distinguished from
knowledge and skill. The term “attribute” refers to the inherent aptitudes, traits, and motivation
that must be present to acquire the level of knowledge and skills needed to successfully operate
as a pilot and adapt to the unique demands of the RPA platform. The terms “knowledge” and
“skill” refer to those aspects of functioning gained through various forms of experience and
2.6.1 Cognitive Aptitudes. Several studies have assessed the intelligence and cognitive
aptitudes of USAF pilots of manned airframes (Ref 11-13). USAF pilots tend to score on the
high average to superior range of intellectual functioning on verbal and visual performance based
aptitudes. A meta-analysis of military pilot selection literature over the past 20 yr concluded that
inherent cognitive aptitudes relevant to pilot performance include general intelligence, general
verbal and quantitative abilities, dexterity, perceptual speed and information processing, reaction
time, and visual-spatial abilities (Ref 14). The finding that USAF pilots have a high level of
cognitive aptitude is not surprising given such aptitude is one of the strongest predictors of job
performance in general (Ref 15,16), as well as pilot training (Ref 17,18). Based upon the body
of empirical findings, it stands to reason that high levels of intelligence and inherent cognitive
aptitudes are critical to training and adapting to the operational demands of military flying.
However, the literature on cognitive aptitudes specific to the performance of RPA pilots
is limited. A comprehensive review of the basic knowledge, skills, and abilities of RPA pilots in
general (civilian and military) by Pavlas et al. (Ref 19) alluded to several cognitive attributes as
key to performance, including situational awareness, vigilance, spatial analyses (i.e., ability to
mentally manipulate two-dimensional objects into a three-dimensional mental image), reasoning,
speed of information processing, as well as visual tracking, searching, and scanning.
The results of the review by Pavlas et al. (Ref 19) were similar to other studies that
assessed the job tasks and skills required for military-specific RPAs such as the Pioneer (e.g.,
Ref 20,21) and Global Hawk (Nagy JE, Muse K, Eaton G, Phillips A, U.S. Air Force Unmanned
Aircraft Systems Performance Analyses: Global Hawk Pilot and Sensor Operator Front End
Analysis (FEA) Report, SURVIAC-TR-10-041, Survivability/Vulnerability Information Analysis
Center, Jan 2007; available through the Defense Technical Information Center to U.S.
Government agencies and their contractors only). The Pioneer is a small RPA designed
primarily for short-range, low-altitude missions to provide commanders with real time ISR data
on the battlefield. The Global Hawk is a long-range, high-altitude aircraft that gathers ISR data
within a wide range of global areas of interest. The cognitive aptitudes stated or implied in the
studies above are similar to the aptitudes that were stated directly or implied in the task analysis
of MQ-1 Predator pilots by Nagy, Kalita, and Eaton (see Nagy et al., p. 1). Cognitive aptitudes
that appear common to most major Predator job accomplishments included, but were not limited
to, situational awareness, vigilance, spatial analyses and reasoning, speed of information
processing, visual tracking, searching, and scanning, as well as complex and divided attention.
At the present time, the most comprehensive task analyses focusing on cognitive
aptitudes critical to performance of MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper pilots were completed by
Bailey (Bailey M, Predator Pilot and Sensor Operator Selection Test Batteries, Royal Air Force
Technical Report, Cranwell Royal Air Force Base, England, 2009; available by request only).
The study identified several specific cognitive aptitudes as critical to performance, including
perceptual reasoning and processing, short-term memory, spatial reasoning, symbolic reasoning,
central information processing, psychomotor dexterity, and reaction time. Bailey reasoned that
cognitive aptitudes contribute to about two-thirds of the factors associated with MQ-1 Predator
pilot job training and success.
2.6.2 Personality Traits. It is important to note that cognitive aptitudes do not account for all
of the factors associated with training and operational success. This gap leaves open the
possibility that other factors such as personality traits and motivation are additional contributors
to the performance of USAF Predator/Reaper pilots.
Several studies suggest personality traits among military pilots in manned airframes have
an important role in training and job performance (Ref 22-29), aeromedical assessment (Ref 1),
as well as retention (Ref 30). An extensive meta-analysis of the literature over the past 20 yr
regarding military aviator selection conducted by Paullin et al. (Ref 14) reported personality
traits relevant to pilot performance include conscientiousness, integrity, achievement orientation,
emotional stability, resilience, openness, self-confidence, self-esteem, and risk tolerance. Such
traits have been found among pilots from the USAF (Ref 31), Army (Ref 32), Navy (Ref 33),
and National Aeronautics Space Association astronauts (Ref 34). Furthermore, a meta-analysis
of personality data from assessment and selection programs of high-risk, high-operational
military professions that included USAF pilots reported additional personality traits relevant to
performance include initiative, motivation, drive, self-discipline, dependability, and cooperation
(Ref 35). Such traits are considered important to adapting to the rigors of highly demanding and
dangerous conditions and job tasks.
However, the research literature regarding the personality traits of successful USAF
Predator/Reaper pilots is very limited. Personality traits related to risk taking, stress tolerance,
comfort working in a confined space with others, and positive social exchanges related to crew
resource management regarding the performance of RPA pilots in general were alluded to by
Pavlas et al. (Ref 19). The reviews of selection recommendations for Navy RPA pilots discussed
the importance of hardiness (i.e., resilience to stress and adaptability) as well as positive social
interpersonal exchanges and style (i.e, group warmth) as being critical to performance
The identification of personality traits composing the “right stuff” is a controversial area.
It is likely the validity of how well personality traits influence performance is, to some degree,
dependent upon the type of job of a pilot. Regardless of one’s view regarding personality traits
that constitute the “right stuff” and are critical to job performance (Ref 26,36), personality is
considered to have a key role in succeeding as a USAF pilot in highly demanding conditions
(Ref 37-39), as well as considerations for occupational suitability (Ref 40,41).
2.6.3 Motivation. One particular attribute considered critical to performance, but that receives
less attention, is motivation. Motivation is the inherent drive, desire, and sense of reward a pilot
experiences from pursuing such a profession. Although the empirical literature on pilot
motivation is limited, a recent study by Campbell, Castenada, and Pulos (Ref 38) found that
motivation is a significant predictor of military training success. It is important to note the
assessment of motivation is a core piece of the aviation adaptability rating and medical flight
screening for all USAF pilot training candidates for manned or unmanned airframes. According
to USAF aeromedical policy, pilot candidates whose motivational interest appears flawed (e.g.,
pursuing such a challenging occupation to win the approval of a parent) are selected out from
continuing into the training pipeline (Ref 42). It is likely that specific cognitive aptitudes and
personality traits essential for performing and adapting to the rigors of RPA pilot duties may
reveal who has the capability, but motivational attributes may reveal who will apply, succeed,
and stay in the position.
2.7 Purpose of the Study
As mentioned previously, the overarching research objective is to formulate a
theoretically oriented, multidimensional profile of psychological attributes deemed critical to
training and operational performance based upon the input of line operators and SMEs. SMEs
such as pilots, training instructors, sensor operators, commanders, and flight surgeons are in the
unique position to provide rich information about characteristics that define pilots who perform
and adapt to the RPA platform. The list of attributes can then serve as a foundation of empirical
investigation. Identifying attributes perceived as critical to performance can guide assessment
and selection procedures for identifying commissioned officers aeromedically suitable for such a
position as well as serve as an effective tool of communication between line commanders and
medical personnel leadership.
A total of 82 SMEs from two separate ACC and AFSOC active duty RPA installations
participated in this study. Participants included 1 wing commander (CC), 1 vice wing CC, 8
RPA pilot squadron CCs, 6 RPA pilot squadron directors of operation (DOs), 5 RPA pilot flight
CCs, 26 RPA pilots, 17 RPA SOs, 7 mission intelligence coordinators (MICs), 2
standards/evaluations RPA pilots, 6 RPA pilot training instructors, and 7 flight surgeons. All
RPA operators were from MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper squadrons. Participants had each
been on station for at least 12 mo, had completed all the training requirements of their assigned
role, and were considered fully qualified RPA operators. All noncommand RPA operators were
randomly chosen to participate in individual and group research interviews. Due to the
importance of obtaining and maximizing genuine responses, personally identifiable data were not
The purpose and methodology of the study were reviewed and granted exemption from
the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Institutional Review Board and assigned protocol number
F-WR-2009-0027-E. The voluntary and fully informed consent of participates was obtained.
The study was divided into three phases, which are described below and diagrammed in
3.2.1 Phase I: Subject Matter Expert Interviews. Individual, group, and multidisciplinary
group interviews were conducted to gather information on perceived attributes considered
critical to performance. As mentioned previously, the term “attribute” refers to the inherent
cognitive aptitudes and personality traits that must be present to acquire the level of knowledge
and skills needed to successfully operate as a pilot and adapt to the unique demands of the RPA
platform. The interviews included a review of the unique platform of RPA operations, the
stressors and job requirements associated with pilot duties, and how they were distinguished
from various USAF manned aircraft operations. Discussion also entailed a review of cognitive
aptitude and personality traits perceived as critical to adapting and thriving in the RPA platform.
In addition to a general discussion, the SMEs were asked a series of standardized questions (see
22.214.171.124 Command Interviews. The wing CC and vice wing CC at an ACC installation
provided separate 1-hr interviews with research team members. The vice wing CC also reviewed
flight procedures and demonstrated RPA duties in a simulator to include targeting of enemy
assets and combatants, employment of weapons, battle damage assessment, and crew resource
Phase I. Data Collection
Phase II: Critical Attribute Analyses & Identification
Phase III: SME Validation of Critical Attribute Profile
Figure 4. Workflow Regarding Qualitative Analysis of SME Interviews
and Organization of Identified Attributes
The ACC squadron DOs from two MQ-1 Predator and two MQ-9 Reaper squadrons were
interviewed individually. The AFSOC squadron CCs from an MQ-1 Predator squadron and an
MQ-9 Reaper squadron were also interviewed individually. The ACC squadron CCs from three
MQ-1 Predator squadrons and one MQ-9 Reaper squadron were also interviewed. Interviews
were conducted individually and lasted between 60 and 90 min within each CC’s office at the
unit he or she was assigned.
Data collection of attributes
from SME interviews &
(At least 3 out of 4 SMEs
rated attribute as
Attributes Placed into
(Coded & organized into
similar concepts linked;
appropriate label selected)
Preliminary List of 130
(Integration of SME
(Only those attributes where there was
90% agreement regarding the critical
nature of the attribute remained on the list)
Attributes Placed into SME Survey
(Attributes organized by domains and
facets and operationally defined)
126.96.36.199 Individual and Group Operator Interviews. Five ACC RPA pilots (from two
MQ-1 Predator squadrons and MQ-9 Reaper squadrons) and three AFSOC RPA pilots (from an
MQ-1 Predator squadron and an MQ-9 Reaper squadron) were interviewed individually. Three
ACC pilots (from two MQ-1 Predator squadrons and an MQ-9 Reaper squadron) were
interviewed as a group. Five ACC RPA SOs (from two MQ-1 Predator squadrons) were
interviewed individually. Three RPA SOs (from an MQ-1 Predator squadron and two MQ-9
Reaper squadrons) were interviewed in a group.
188.8.131.52 Pilot Training Instructor Interviews. Researchers also received 4 hr of
instruction from four ACC civilian and active duty RPA pilot instructors. Researchers observed
training scenarios and discussed psychological attributes necessary for successfully responding
to various training scenarios.
184.108.40.206 Multidisciplinary Group Operator Interviews. An ACC multidisciplinary
group composed of four RPA squadron CCs, eight RPA pilots, five SOs, and four MICs met
with research team members for a 2-hr group discussion with research team members. A total of
two separate ACC multidisciplinary RPA aircrew groups composed of an MIC, three RPA SOs,
and an RPA pilot met with research team members for 90-min group discussions. Finally, one
AFSOC multidisciplinary RPA aircrew group composed of an MIC, an RPA SO, and an RPA
pilot met with research team members for a 2-hr group discussion with research team members.
220.127.116.11 RPA Flight Surgeon Interviews. Researchers met with four flight surgeons as a
group to discuss the aeromedical requirements for flying RPA aircraft and the unique impact of
MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper operations on the health of operators. The operational tempo,
ergonomic design of the GCS, shift work, geographical location, as well as health status and
trends resulting in readiness concerns regarding Predator/Reaper crewmembers seeking
healthcare were also discussed. The group interview lasted approximately 2 hr. Researchers
also met individually with three flight surgeons at each of their offices within the flight medicine
clinic they were assigned. Individual interviews lasted approximately 60-90 min.
3.2.2 Phase II: Critical Attribute Analysis and Consolidation. Three behavioral science
researchers performed a qualitative analysis on the content of interviews. The transcripts and
memos (notes made by researchers during the interview process) from each research team
member were consolidated into a list of attributes described by SMEs as important or critical to
performance. The consolidated list was composed of 130 attributes (cognitive aptitudes,
personality traits, and motivational components). Attributes that appeared to label the same or
similar attribute were consolidated into a single attribute. For example, terms such as “smart”
and “bright” might be conceptualized as “general cognitive ability.” The list was then revised
again to remove redundancies and attributes with significant semantic overlap. Researchers
removed those attributes that appeared to be the direct result of knowledge and skills developed
from (or a product of) training (e.g., knowledge of RPA instrument controls and decision-
The list of attributes was theoretically organized by research team members into four
domains: (a) cognitive aptitudes, (b) intrapersonal traits, (c) interpersonal traits, and (d)
motivational traits (factors related to goal-achievement and areas of functioning). It is important
to note that each first-level domain is composed of second-level facets, which contain distinct
attributes. For example, the cognitive domain is further organized into major neuropsychological
facets (e.g., memory), which, in turn, contain operationally defined attributes (e.g., spatial
memory of objects). The attributes were organized in a format that would enable comparison
with tables from other studies listing critical attributes of special duty military personnel (e.g.,
3.2.3 Phase III: SME Review and Subjective Validation of Critical Attributes. The SME
validation phase consisted of two parts: an interview and questionnaire. Two researchers
interviewed five RPA flight CCs, five RPA pilots, two RPA instructor pilots, two
standards/evaluation RPA pilots, and a mission intelligence coordinator. The participants in
Phase III were also given a questionnaire with a definition of each psychological domain,
corresponding facets within each domain, and behavioral definition of attributes within each
facet. Participants indicated on a 5-point Likert scale their levels of agreement from 0 (strongly
disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) regarding how critical they perceived the attribute to be in
training and/or operational performance.
Participants were from active duty ACC and AFSOC RPA MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9
Reaper squadrons from phase I of the study. However, it is important to note that none of the
participants in phase III had participated in phase I. Interview sessions were conducted
individually and lasted about 1 hr, with a 45-min interview and 15 min for completion of the
questionnaire. For the purposes of protecting confidentiality, researchers did not gather specific
identifying information of respondents on the questionnaire to enhance disclosure and encourage
free expression of their thoughts and opinions.
Each attribute that had an average (strongly agree) rating of 4.5 to 5.0 was rated as
“critical.” Ratings that fell within the (agree) range of 4.0 to 4.4 were considered “important.”
Ratings of below 4 were considered by researchers as neither critical nor important.
4.0 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The research objective was to identify critical psychological attributes specific to MQ-1
Predator and MQ-9 Reaper pilots based upon the input of a large cross section of line operator
SMEs as well as attributes cited in the RPA literature.
This section addresses the attributes identified by SMEs as critical or important in
training and performance outcomes. It is important to note that critical attributes are defined as
essential for training and adaptation to the platform across all major job tasks, whereas,
important attributes play a role in long-term pilot retention and job satisfaction.
4.1 Cognitive Domain: Facets and Attributes
As mentioned previously, the cognitive domain refers to intellectual mental functions
and information processing aptitudes essential to the acquisition and application of knowledge.
Cognitive aptitudes implicitly stated or found in earlier studies of RPA pilot operators (see
Bailey citation p. 10; Ref 19,20) and analysis of MQ-1 Predator pilot duties (see Nagy et al.,
p. 1) were consolidated with input from SMEs. Figure 5 displays the domain’s facets, and
Table 1 defines the attributes in detail.
Figure 5. Cognitive Facets Considered Critical or Important for Pilot Duties
Table 1. Cognitive Domaina
General cognitive capability
Speed and accuracy of information processing
Visual acuity, scanning, and discrimination
Visual recognition, tracking, and analysis
Vigilance to multiple sources of visual and
auditory information (situational
Sustained and divided attention to visual and
Spatial analysis and orientation
Ability to create 4-D mental representations
from 2-D images (spatial reasoning and
Visual and auditory memory (working,
immediate, and delayed)
Spatial and psychomotor memory (working,
short-term, and delayed)
“Real time” general and deductive reasoning
Carefully and quickly assesses risk, likely
outcomes, and potential repercussions
Cognitive flexibility (thinking outside the
Fine motor dexterity and reaction time
Psychomotor-spatial coordination and accuracy
aThe cognitive domain refers to intellectual mental functions and information
processing aptitudes essential to the acquisition and application of
knowledge. Common aspects of cognition include perception, attention,
memory, comprehension, reasoning, learning, and problem-solving.
b“Critical” attributes are indicated by (strongly agree). “Important”
attributes are indicated by (agree).
Memory Reasoning Psychomotor
The facet of cognitive proficiency reflects the attributes of (a) general intelligence (verbal
and performance) as well as (b) quick and accurate information processing. In general, nearly
every job accomplishment of MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper pilot duties (see Nagy et al., p. 1)
requires a high level of cognitive proficiency. The finding of general cognitive proficiency as
being a key attribute to performance is not surprising given that general intelligence has been
identified as “central” for pilot selection (Ref 14) and performance (Ref 12,17,43) and, in
general, is one of the strongest predictors of job performance (Ref 15,16). It is also consistent
with the findings of the study of MQ-1 Predator pilot duties reported by Bailey (see Bailey
citation p. 10).
The facet of visual perception represents the attributes of (a) visual acuity, scanning, and
discrimination as well as (b) recognition, tracking, and analysis. SMEs highlighted these two
attributes because of the numerous sources of visual data streaming from multiple video screens
within the GCS and the complexity of information captured from real time video feeds.
The facet of attention and vigilance subsumes the attributes of (a) vigilance to multiple
sources of visual and auditory information (situational awareness) as well as (b) sustained and
divided attention. These two critical attributes are cited in previous RPA studies (see Bailey
citation p. 10; Ref 20) and can be easily inferred from an in-depth front-end task analysis of pilot
duties (see Nagy et al., p. 1). In terms of attention, Predator/Reaper pilots must also be able to
sustain and divide their attention over long periods of monotony, as well as unpredictable
moments of urgency to effectively respond to task requirements. SMEs repeatedly emphasized
throughout interviews that “vigilance” to constantly updated data from multiple sources within a
complex human-machine computer-based interface system places extraordinary cognitive
demands upon the Predator/Reaper pilot.
The facet of spatial processing reflects the attributes of (a) spatial analysis and
orientation as well as (b) the ability to construct three-dimensional mental representations from
two-dimensional imagery. Spatial processing was repeatedly emphasized as critical for
maneuvering the aircraft and performing most ISR and weapon-deployment job tasks by SMEs.
This finding is consistent with a previous study on Predator/Reaper pilot duties and task
requirements (see Bailey citation p. 10). For example, the ability to anticipate the position of
other aircraft, ground forces, and specific targets of interest in spatial relationship to each other is
essential to pilot duties (see Nagy et al., p. 1).
The facet of memory reflects the attributes of visual and auditory memory (working,
immediate, and delayed). It was reported that such abilities are critical to performance given the
large amount of information from multiple sources that needs to be continuously processed and
managed. Although RPA pilots use memory aids (e.g., a dry erase board, notebooks), SMEs
reported such aids were inadequate for anyone who had difficulties encoding, storing, or
retrieving information from visual or auditory memory. The perception among SMEs that a high
level of memory aptitudes is critical to performance is consistent with the results of a previous
study by Bailey (see Bailey citation p. 10) and could be easily inferred from the in-depth job task
analysis by Nagy Kalita, and Eaton (see Nagy et al., p. 1).
The facet of reasoning reflects the attributes of inductive and deductive reasoning and
processing speed. Such attributes were reported to be critical to prioritizing tasks, “real time”
problem solving, and forward thinking for mission planning and managing urgent situations.
Reasoning abilities are reported to play an important function in a significant percentage of
strategic Predator/Reaper job tasks (see Bailey citation p. 10) and in a wide range of functions
associated with RPA pilot duties in general (see Nagy et al., p. 1; Ref 19,20). Quick and accurate
inductive and deductive reasoning abilities are also considered critical to USAF special duty
personnel in high-risk, high-demand positions (Ref 35).
The facet of psychomotor processing reflects the attributes of psychomotor coordination
and speed. Due to the automated process of most RPA functions, especially during routine and
uneventful ISR missions, the cognitive aptitude of psychomotor processing (namely, dexterity
and coordination) was not considered critical, but important. However, the role of psychomotor
skills was considered critical to manual flying that occurred during various events (e.g., diverting
an aircraft due to inclement weather or higher priority tasks, maneuvering the aircraft into a
tactical position for weapon deployment, or adjusting the flight path of an aircraft to optimize
data gathering for surveillance and reconnaissance). Generally, the evolving automation of the
platform suggests a greater emphasis on higher level information processing aptitudes versus
psychomotor abilities (Ref 9,10,21). Nonetheless, psychomotor processing skills were
considered an important attribute to performance among SMEs and consistent with the results of
an earlier study of Predator/Reaper pilot performance (see Bailey citation p. 10).
Overall, SMEs inferred from the nature of pilot duties that a high level of general
cognitive ability and effective intelligence have a considerable role in successful performance.
According to SMEs, it is essential that RPA pilot trainees (and incumbents) do not have a history
of (or currently struggle with) problems with visual perception, attention, spatial processing,
reasoning, memory, psychomotor processing, as well as general speed and accuracy of
information processing (i.e., cognitive proficiency). SMEs reported subtle deficits in these areas
elevate the risk of performance-related problems, especially in time-sensitive and high-precision
job tasks. SMEs also reported pilots who had difficulties processing the complex amount of
information within a time-sensitive period appeared to struggle with channelized attention, task
prioritization, situational awareness, and task saturation. The importance of such cognitive
attributes identified by SMEs was also key to discussions on selection in earlier studies of RPA
pilots (Ref 21; see Bailey citation p. 10). The importance of cognitive functioning is also easily
inferred from the results of a comprehensive front end task analysis of RPA Predator pilot duties
(see Nagy et al., p. 1) and recently published taxonomy of knowledge, skills, and attitudes of
RPA operators in general (Ref 19).
The results of this study regarding cognitive functioning indicate that screening for a
history of illnesses (e.g., bacterial meningitis), physical injuries (e.g., closed head trauma), and
developmental problems (e.g., learning disorder, attention deficit disorder) affecting a person’s
cognitive disposition is critical and should occur prior to any pilot training applicant being
assigned to RPA pilot duties (Ref 42,44). If a history of cognitive difficulties is discovered, it is
essential a pilot training candidate (or rated incumbent) obtain an aeromedical waiver from
AETC before entering the training pipeline. The importance of cognitive functioning is
increasingly important as efforts to move to more advanced RPA airframes and multiple aircraft
control systems become apparent. The increased responsibility of managing multiple RPAs
simultaneously heightens the cognitive workload and demands of this position. Furthermore, the
condensed period of training necessitates pilot training candidates are free from any cognitive
deficits or difficulties that interfere with the timely acquisition of skills.
It is also important to note many MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper squadrons are
engaged in demanding shift work that can lead to mental fatigue (Ref 45-47), affecting cognitive
performance. As a result, it is particularly important for a pilot training candidate or incumbent
to have cognitive stamina, that is, the ability to sustain a heightened level of cognitive
performance over lengthy periods of time (e.g., 8 to 12 hr) and over different periods of shift
work. The issue of shift work and operational tempo may be corrected in the near future when
the manning shortage in trained RPA pilots is reduced and the demands for RPA operations
4.2 Intrapersonal Domain: Facets and Attributes
The intrapersonal domain of functioning refers to personality traits that are internal to the
person (intra or “within” versus inter or “between” people). Such traits represent an array of
noncognitive attributes (i.e., personality traits) that affect performance and adaptation to various
environmental demands. The facets of the intrapersonal domain are shown in Figure 6, with
further detail provided in Table 2.
Figure 6. Intrapersonal Facets Considered Critical or Important
for Pilot Duties
The facet of emotional composure reflects the attribute of remaining calm and composed
under pressure. Self-control was perceived by SMEs as essential for maintaining focus on the
mission across all major job tasks and accomplishments and especially important to crew
resource management. SMEs also noted the ability to control emotions during urgent situations
(e.g., aerial strikes or reconnaissance of enemy combatants, interaction with ground forces,
targeting of high-value assets) as especially critical. The attribute of emotional composure is
also considered critical to the selection of successful military pilots (Ref 14) and high-demand,
high-operational military personnel (Ref 35).
The facet of resilience reflects the attribute of hardiness in response to widely disparate
situations—high stress versus tiresome monotony. Resilience is the ability to reliably sustain
emotional composure combined with an optimistic attitude. Several SMEs described personal
experiences in reconnaissance and precision-strike operations they considered difficult and
highly stressful, where having a high level of resilience was critical to performance. Resilience
(e.g., low level of neuroticism) is also considered critical when selecting high-demand, high-
operational military personnel (Ref 35) and successful military pilots (Ref 14,38).
INTRAPERSONAL PERSONALITY TRAITS
Conscientiousness Perseverance Success-
Table 2. Intrapersonal Domaina
Remains calm, composed, and in control of
behavior and emotions under stress (e.g., does
not readily show or experience fear, sadness,
Emotional stamina and hardiness in response to
monotony, unpredictable moments of high
stress, and high pressure situations
Clear sense of self and self-confidence across
routine and high pressure tasks and situations
Clear sense of identity and role as an officer
and war fighter
Deliberate, methodical, and highly organized
Highly dependable, reliable, and self-disciplined
Completes tasks despite boredom, hardship, and
Sustains a high level of effort over long periods
of time despite hardships
Self-motivated and driven to succeed and achieve
Seeks new and innovative ways to improve
Strong interest in mastering challenging tasks
and in emerging computer-based technology
Makes decisions in real time, under pressure, and
within operational deadlines
Operationally patient in making the right
decision and committing to a course of action
Effectively sizes up and deals with problematic
situations and environmental demands
Generally flexible, realistic, and effectively
understands problematic stressors in
occupational and personal settings
Finds good ways of managing and resolving
stressors and conflicts
Effective compartmentalization of personal stress
from occupational duties
aThe intrapersonal domain refers to an array of noncognitive capabilities
and traits that affect performance. Common elements related to performance
include general ability to identify and regulate emotions, positive self-
regard, self-confidence, self-discipline, self-esteem, hardiness, impulse
control, self-direction, general emotional disposition, and ability to
realize and act upon one’s potentials.
b“Critical” attributes are indicated by (strongly agree). “Important”
attributes are indicated by (agree).
The facet of self-certainty reflects the attributes of having a clear sense of self and self-
confidence across job tasks in both routine and high-pressure situations. In particular, RPA pilot
instructors reported that training candidates who demonstrated high levels of self-certainty and
self-confidence appeared to acquire skills in a more timely fashion and perform at higher levels.
It is likely that a strong sense of self-certainty among successful RPA pilots is a combination of
an existing trait fostered by training and an interpersonally supportive environment.
The facet of conscientiousness reflects the attributes of being (a) deliberate, methodical,
and highly organized as well as (b) highly dependable, reliable, and self-disciplined.
Conscientiousness is critical given the high attention to detail and overall nature of the
responsibilities of RPA pilots. SMEs viewed dependability, reliability, and being self-
disciplined as critical but considered being deliberate, methodical, and highly organized as
important. It is possible that the propensity to demonstrate a methodical, deliberate, and highly
organized approach to tasks was not seen as “critical” given the automated nature of many RPA
pilot functions. However, in general, conscientiousness (particular facets, especially) tends to be
significantly higher in military pilots than the normal population (Ref 1) and is a key predictor of
job performance (Ref 15) and selection of military pilots (Ref 14), as well as high-demand, high-
risk military personnel (Ref 35).
The facet of perseverance reflects the attributes of (a) completing tasks despite boredom,
hardship, and potential distractions as well as (b) having the capacity to sustain high levels of
effort over long periods. This notable attribute was reported as critical by SMEs, especially
during long-endurance, high-risk missions. This attribute was also perceived by SMEs as
directly connected to sustaining vigilance and situational awareness to the continual input of
visual and auditory data, even during routine, highly automated reconnaissance missions.
The facet of being success-oriented reflects the attributes of being (a) self-motivated and
driven to succeed, (b) inclined to seek new and innovative ways to improve performance, and (c)
able to master challenging tasks and emerging computer-based technology. These attributes
were seen as important but not critical. Strong interest in mastering new technology was rated
more strongly than its companion attributes. The attributes of being self-motivated and driven to
succeed as well as seeking innovative ways to improve performance were seen as critical to
retention and career progression, and not necessarily overall performance across job tasks and
duties. The facet of decisiveness reflects the attributes of (a) making decisions in real time, under
pressure, within operational deadlines, and (b) remaining operationally patient in making the
right decision and committing to a course of action. The facet of decisiveness is likely
influenced by both training and experience along with aspects of self-certainty and confidence.
Regardless, decisiveness was reported as a key attribute of performance across most major job
accomplishments associated with high-stress aerial strikes, as well as mundane ISR tasks.
The facet of adaptability was reflected by attributes that were difficult to define and
included (a) sizing up and dealing effectively with problematic situations and environmental
demands; (b) being flexible, realistic, and effective with understanding stressors in occupational
and personal settings; (c) managing and resolving stressors and conflicts; and (d) effectively
compartmentalizing personal stress from occupational duties. SMEs repeatedly reported
compartmentalization as a highly desirable ability that allow pilots to be able to “deploy” at work
and return to their domestic lives at home on a daily basis without the emotional rigors of work
creating relationship difficulties in their domestic life.
In general, the input of operational SMEs indicates that intrapersonal traits play an
important role in job performance, as well as health and well-being; therefore, this domain is
critical. The intense pressures of job performance and the psychological impact of ISR and aerial
strike missions create chronic stressors that affect performance, health, and well-being and
potentially impact personal relationships. The impact of personality traits on the performance of
USAF pilots in manned (Ref 37,40) as well as unmanned (Ref 21) airframes was brought to
attention in the professional literature over a decade ago. The interest in personality on
performance has continued with recent studies demonstrating a link to pilot training success
(e.g., Ref 38) as well as general suitability for pilot duties (Ref 41). Many of the personality
traits listed above (e.g., conscientiousness, emotional composure, adaptability) are considered
key to the selection of military personnel in high-demand, high-operational positions (Ref 35).
SME input has helped to shed light on intrapersonal personality traits that are adapative,
as well as likely incompatible with RPA pilot duties. A person who is overly self-conscious,
lacking in self-confidence, and/or has a significant history of emotional difficulties is likely not
well-suited for the occupational demands of RPA operations (Ref 44). Areas of concern include
(a) behavioral impulsivity and problems controlling anxiety, depression, anger, and other
negative emotional states; (b) a repeated pattern of failure under pressure and difficulty; as well
as (c) lack of perseverance and overly negative attitude toward adversity. It was repeatedly
emphasized by SMEs that an individual with any of the aforementioned difficulties will likely
have adjustment-related problems with adapting to the rigors of the position. It is also noted that
any person with a history of emotional or behavioral difficulties (e.g., depression, anxiety, and
adjustment disorder) as outlined in AFI 48-123 section 6H (Unmanned Aircraft System Medical
Requirements) (Ref 42) must have an aeromedical waiver prior to being considered for RPA
4.3 Interpersonal Domain: Facets and Attributes
The interpersonal domain, shown in Figure 7, refers to those traits and qualities affecting
performance in a variety of social exchanges and conditions. Interpersonal qualities help a person
to navigate and respond to a wide range of social situations and demands. Common aspects of
interpersonal functioning affecting performance include the ability to understand others and
interact with them, ability to communicate effectively under varied conditions and modalities,
and ability to relate to others in a way that cultivates positive relations (see Table 3).
Figure 7. Interpersonal Facets Considered Critical or Important
to Pilot Duties
INTERPERSONAL PERSONALITY TTRAITS
Communication Humility Extraversion Judgment Team Oriented
Table 3. Interpersonal Domaina
Ability to recognize the need and willingness to
seek help from leadership and others
Open and accepting of critical feedback from
peers, subordinates, leadership
Shares credit for success, accepts responsibility
Receptive and approachable
Socially engaging and outgoing; fosters positive
Understands and effectively responds to emotional
states of others
Comfortable with different personality styles and
working under constrained and varied conditions
Situationally aware; responsive; effectively
resolves/diffuses interpersonal conflict
Social behavior at work and off-base settings
demonstrates prudence for national security and
the integrity of military operations
Comfortable leading, working with enlisted
personnel as a team
Competitive disposition but does not jeopardize
group and mission goals for individual goals
Interest in teaching others and promoting morale
Trusting of other aircrew and military personnel
aThe interpersonal domain refers to those traits and qualities affecting
performance in various social exchanges and conditions. Common aspects of
interpersonal functioning affecting performance include ability to
understand others and interact with others, ability to communicate
effectively under varied conditions and modalities, ability to relate to
others in a way that cultivates positive relations.
b“Critical” attributes are indicated by (strongly agree). “Important”
attributes are indicated by (agree).
The facet of humility reflects the attributes regarding (a) willingness to seek help from
leadership, (b) ability to share credit for success/mistakes, and (c) acceptance of feedback from
superiors and subordinates. The aspect of being receptive and approachable is perceived as an
important interpersonal trait. It was reported by most SMEs that although there are times an
RPA pilot engaged in close air support must demonstrate decisiveness and assertiveness, it is key
that such attributes are balanced in a way that allows the pilot to be receptive and approachable
by others, especially the SO.
The facet of extraversion reflects the attributes of (a) an outgoing disposition that fosters
positive relations, (b) attentiveness and effective responsiveness to the emotional states of others,
(c) situational awareness and effective resolution of interpersonal conflict, as well as (d) ability
to be comfortable working with different personality styles under constrained conditions. SMEs
reported that being comfortable working with different personalities was critical to performance.
It was repeatedly reported by SMEs that a pilot training applicant who has a high level of
interpersonal discomfort working in a confined space with rotating crewmembers will likely
have performance difficulties. Although they did not report the interpersonal qualities of an
outgoing disposition, emotional empathy, and situationally suave disposition during
interpersonal conflict to be critical to performance, they reported such qualities as factors that
defined those who were high performers with high levels of job satisfaction. The trait of
extraversion has been found to influence military pilot training success (Ref 37,38) and general
aeromedical suitability (Ref 41).
The facet of judgment reflects the attribute of social behavior (at work and off-base
settings) that demonstrates prudence for national security and the integrity of military operations.
This facet is clearly reflective of a level of prudence that would be expected of all USAF
officers. However, the classified nature of operations that are engaged in on a daily basis is
perceived by SMEs to accentuate the importance of demonstrating prudence above and beyond
the current level of expectations, in general, when compared with noncombatant USAF officers.
The facet of being team oriented reflects the attributes of (a) a high level of comfort
leading and working with enlisted personnel in a small team, (b) a competitive disposition that
does not jeopardize group and mission goals for individual goals, and (c) trusting of other
aircrew and military personnel. These attributes and behavioral interactions were described as
critical to the “team” nature of RPA crew resource management and critical to effective
interactions with the SO and MIC. Although having a strong interest in teaching others and
promoting morale was described as important, it was not critical to performance. Such character
traits were associated more with those considered to be “high performers” and well-liked by
Overall, the interpersonal traits described above refer to those general aspects of social
behavior and interactions perceived by SMEs as highly related to performance. It makes sense
that although there may be a wide range of different personality styles, there is a core set of
interpersonal traits considered key to performance. The work tasks and environment are such that
RPA pilots need to have a mix of social complements, for example, being competitive yet
cooperative and being able to take a leadership role while maintaining a sense of humility.
The finding of interpersonal traits as being critical to Predator/Reaper pilot performance
has important aeromedical implications (Ref 44). Although a person may appear to possess the
cognitive aptitude, if he or she has significant interpersonal deficits or social interactions that
interfere with crew resource management, he or she could reasonably be disqualified from RPA
duties in accordance with AFI 48-123 (Ref 42). The RPA environment is highly interpersonal,
and having a level of interpersonal effectiveness is necessary for successful training and
operational performance. A person who is highly introverted, and/or has a significant history of
interpersonal difficulties, is likely not well-suited for the occupational demands of RPA
operations. Areas of concern include (a) schizoid or schizotypal traits and other odd traits that
lead to adaptation difficulties, (b) repeated pattern of social isolation and withdrawal or social
impulsivity and aggressiveness, as well as (c) chronic behavioral habits or traits that interfere
with effective social exchanges. It was repeatedly emphasized by SMEs that an individual with
any of the aforementioned difficulties will likely have performance and adjustment-related
difficulties. According to aeromedical standards, any person with a history of perceived traits
that are considered maladaptive to performance as outlined in AFI 48-123 section 6H
(Unmanned Aircraft Systems Medical Requirements) (Ref 42) must have an aeromedical waiver
prior to being considered for RPA pilot duties.
4.4 Motivation Domain: Facets and Attributes
The motivation domain, shown in Figure 8, refers to personal beliefs, intrinsic factors,
and internal values and interests that activate goal achievement and ultimately affect
performance. Motivation is a key aspect of performance as it relates to self-directed actions and
efforts and is key to a high level of performance. Attributes that were coded into the moral
domain were separated according to moral and occupational facets (see Table 4).
Figure 8. Motivational Facets Considered Critical or Important Pilot Duties
Table 4. Motivational Domaina
Motivated to save lives and protect U.S. and coalition
Personal beliefs (spiritual, religious) support combat
Possesses a sense of duty as an officer and warfighter
Realistically understands and appreciates RPA platform
Strong interest in advanced and emerging avionic RPA
Enjoys duties of the position and contribution to daily
operations in theater
Strong interest in advancing national interests and
aThe motivation domain refers to personal beliefs and intrinsic (internal
rewards) factors that affect performance. Common elements of motivation
include interest in the RPA mission and duties and advanced computer
b“Critical” attributes are indicated by (strongly agree). “Important”
attributes are indicated by (agree).
The facet of moral motivation refers to the desire to save lives and protect U.S. and
coalition forces. The desire to save lives is distinguished from the interest in killing enemy
combatants and destroying targets. SMEs reported the desire to save lives was associated with
performers who exercised judgment and restraint to ensure identified targets were, in fact,
effectively identified without a rush to judgment and deploying weapons. This attribute was also
associated with those who reported to have high levels of job satisfaction. It is notable, though,
that SMEs brought up the importance of a personal belief system, as it distinguished high
performers as well as those who had difficulty with deploying weapons. SMEs reported those
whose belief system appeared incompatible with deploying weapons often struggled with their
role in precision-strike operations. It is apparent, from SME input, that an incompatible belief
system associated with the deployment of weapons negatively affects performance.
The facet of occupational motivation refers to the attributes of (a) possessing a sense of
duty as an officer and warfighter, (b) understanding and appreciating the Predator/Reaper
platform, (c) having an interest in advanced and emerging avionic RPA technology, (c) having
an inherent interest in the duties of the position, and (d) having a strong interest in advancing
national interests and mission objectives. The sense of duty as an officer and warfighter was
considered critical, not only in terms of effective crew resource management but as it relates to
the level of leadership required of officers, in general. However, the attributes related to enjoying
the duties of the position and advancing national interests were not seen as critical, but
important. That is, it was not necessary for performing job tasks but was essential to job
satisfaction and long-term retention, which are a key part of sustaining an experienced work
force. The attributes of motivation are perceived by SMEs to serve as enhancements that not
only promote performance but job satisfaction and longevity as well. The finding that an
incompatible belief system and interest in Predator/Reaper duties have a key role in performance
has implications in the assessment of aeromedical adaptability for RPA pilots by USAF flight
surgeons. If there are significant concerns regarding motivational issues that are perceived to
affect performance, an RPA pilot candidate or incumbent may be disqualified from his or her
pilots duties in accordance with AFI 48-123 (Ref 42). Although reasons for pursuing RPA pilot
training can vary, it stands to reason that motivation is critical to performance. For instance, an
empirical study assessing the relationship of performance among pilot trainees revealed intrinsic
and extrinsic aspects of motivation to be a significant predictor of performance (Ref 48).
5.0 ASSESSMENT/SELECTION OF TRAINING CANDIDATES
Given the USAF’s request to expand MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper operations, over
100 individuals each year will need to complete the RPA pilot training pipeline. Consequently,
there is strong interest in selecting USAF commissioned officers from nonpilot duty positions at
large (e.g., navigators, air battle managers, acquisitions, logistics, security forces, engineering)
for RPA pilot duties. The potentially large pool of commissioned officers requires an assessment
and selection program based on a multimodal approach that identifies officers most likely to
adapt to the rigorous demands of the Predator/Reaper platforms. An effective and efficient
selection program is less costly than managing the disruption to operational capabilities from
USAF officers who fail to adapt and thrive in the RPA community. SMEs indicated that a
selection program needs a “whole person approach” that incorporates the myriad of attributes
needed for training and operational performance.
5.1 Aeromedical Screening
The ability to accurately predict the success individuals will have in a training program or
to determine the level of attainment they will reach can be extremely difficult. Nonetheless, in
regards to RPA pilot duties, the ability to use instruments to “screen out” candidates is especially
favorable. The first step in any selection process is to select out applicants who do not meet the
aeromedical standards or waiver criteria as outlined in AFI 48-123 section 6H (Unmanned Aerial
Systems Standards) (Ref 42). A prescreening questionnaire that identifies candidates with
aeromedically disqualifying conditions can serve as a first step in an efficient and cost-effective
program to select out applicants.
Evidence of cognitive, emotional, behavioral, or interpersonal difficulties disqualifies a
candidate until the candidate receives an aeromedical evaluation and waiver. The screening
process may include a review of medical records, completion of background questionnaires, and
psychological testing. The process may coincide with the medical flight screening of pilot
training candidates selected for manned airframes. The screening process will help to ensure
applicants meet RPA Flying Class IIU aeromedical standards as outlined in AFI 48-123 (Ref 42)
and are free of cognitive, emotional, or behavioral difficulties that are likely to negatively affect
performance and/or adaptation to RPA operations.
5.2 Computer-Based Psychological Testing
To assist in the identification of those individuals at risk of problems, the administration
of objective psychological testing can be very beneficial. The recognition of applicants with
significant psychological problems, deficits, or incompatible character traits (e.g., schizoid,
avoidant, schizotypal traits) allows removal from the selection pool without having to conduct a
more time-intensive and costly interview.
However, the selection of tests depends to some extent on the resources available for
assessing personnel, the amount of time an evaluator has to assess each applicant, as well as the
format of the evaluation setting (group vs. individual).
As mentioned previously, general cognitive ability must be assessed when evaluating
prospective applicants for Predator/Reaper pilot training. Effective intelligence and general
cognitive ability are excellent predictors of job performance because of their direct impact on the
acquisition of job knowledge. Scores from the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT) may
be obtained to identify those who are in the upper echelon (e.g., upper 10%) of cognitive
functioning of USAF commissioned officers. The AFOQT is currently used to determine
whether individuals have a certain level of intellectual ability of sufficient strength to pursue
aviation and aircrew platforms. However, the AFOQT may not measure visual-performance and
spatial-based aptitudes as well as desired. If intellectual testing is used, visual-spatial and
performance-based measures are likely key to the selection of high-performing pilot training
candidates. Because the RPA pilot career field is in its infancy, there are minimal data to support
or indicate which assessment instruments are the most appropriate. Regardless of the instrument
chosen, it is essential the evaluating clinician use measures that are empirically validated,
culturally unbiased, and supported by research.
It would also be helpful to acquire objective psychological testing that assesses both the
presence of pathology as well as the normal dimensions of personality. The use of objective
testing instruments in the assessment of pilot training candidates is crucial for identifying aspects
of a candidate’s psychological disposition that are diagnostic of emotional or behavioral
difficulties and that may impair a candidate’s ability to adapt to training and operational demands
of Predator/Reaper pilot duties. Regardless of the measures used above, assessing the attributes
of conscientiousness, neuroticism, extraversion, and concsientousness has been demonstrated to
correlate with pilot training success (Ref 37,38) as well as general job performance (Ref 36) and
may improve the incremental validity of selection decisions when combined with measures of
general intellectual functioning and cognitive ability (Ref 16).
5.3 Structured Aeromedical Clinical-Occupational Interview
Psychological interviews for the Predator/Reaper pilot occupation can be either structured
or unstructured. Unstructured interviews have no specific questions, information gathering
procedures, or objective scoring. The evaluator’s subjective impressions and conclusions
regarding the fitness of the candidate may be informative but may also be less reliable than a
structured interview (e.g., another evaluator may reach a different conclusion). Structured
clinical interviews, in contrast, present standardized questions based on a job analysis and,
therefore, have direct bearing on job function. Although structured interviews are more costly to
construct and use than unstructured interviews, they are also significantly more valid than
unstructured counterparts (Ref 16). A structured interview, at minimum, should address the
domains and corresponding attributes that SMEs have identified as critical and important in this
study. Interviews, in addition to standardized psychological testing, are commonplace for USAF
commissioned officers entering into sensitive positions or training (e.g., survival school, sniper
training, or basic military instructor training).
As noted previously, even resilient personnel are likely to face a series of life stressors or
a clustering of problems at some point during their careers that lead to a moderate to severe
impact on their occupational functioning. What appears to be most important according to SMEs
is the pilot’s ability to respond to or effectively manage these events. To identify aeromedically
qualified candidates it is important to look at the presence of life stressors and events that may
distract an individual from completing training or adequately adapting to the unique aspects of
the RPA platform. It is important to bear in mind the timing and number of significant life
stressors or other transient problems may be a cause of concern due to the impact on a person’s
psychological disposition. A thorough interview should address the potential impact the
frequency and chronicity of such stressors will have on the candidate’s ability to effectively
complete training and afterwards.
6.0 STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
Researchers gathered the input of the greatest breadth and depth of operational SMEs of
any MQ-1 Predator/MQ-9 Reaper RPA study to date. The researchers also employed a hybrid of
structured/unstructured interview techniques in different interactional settings to develop a list of
the critical attributes of Predator/Reaper pilots. Focus group and multidisciplinary sessions
allowed researchers to gain insights in the organizational culture and climate, and individual
interviews strengthened the climate for permitting participants to speak openly. Researchers
validated the perception of attributes considered critical by SMEs within the multidimensional
theoretical profile by employing a sample of SMEs who differed from the first set and by
utilizing a hybrid of structured and unstructured techniques and a survey. The strength of the
survey was its presentation of operationally defined attributes in the language of SME operators
(i.e., behavioral descriptions observable and understood by others). For example, the survey
presented “spatial reasoning” as “ability to create three-dimensional mental representations from
two-dimensional images (spatial reasoning and construction).” Perceived lack of anonymity was
considered an issue, particularly in focus groups. SME participants may not have felt free to be
candid or mention certain topics. However, to mitigate possible “chilling” effects on disclosure,
commanders were not present during individual interviews. Participants were encouraged to
speak freely at interviews and in group sessions, and their rights to confidentiality were
Although larger numbers and types of SMEs participated in this study relative to many
other studies, several types of research activities could improve the validity and reliability of our
findings. For example, the reliability of the validation survey results might also benefit from
administering it to those previously interviewed and additional SMEs from other service
branches or government organizations (e.g., National Guard, Homeland Security) and allied
nations (e.g., Royal Air Force) that also operate the MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper.
Furthermore, researchers could empirically substantiate the results with objective measures,
assessing the critical attributes (e.g., subscales of verbal and performance intelligence quotients)
prior to entering the training pipeline. Aeromedical researchers may use these measurements to
compare with prediction models and regression analyses to determine the weighting
contributions of each attribute to confirm their “critical” contribution to performance as
perceived by SMEs. These findings would then be applied by aeromedical experts to guide
assessment and selection processing of training candidates. It is important to note such a
validation study is currently being implemented at the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine.
MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper pilot duties are considered to be in a high-risk, high-
demand, aviation-related position and pivotal to successful force protection, reconnaissance, and
precision-strike operations. Based upon the results of interviews with SMEs, there are multiple
cognitive aptitudes, personality traits, and motivational issues that influence performance. No
one single domain (e.g., cognitive functioning) is considered sufficient for the acquisition of
knowledge, skills, and adaption to operational demands. It is also important to note there appears
to be an overlap in the psychological attributes perceived by SMES as critical to performance in
other sensitive, high-risk military positions. An assessment and selection program selecting out
RPA pilot applicants who are not suitable for the position may be centered on the critical
attributes reported by SMEs and theoretically organized in this study. Such a template provides
a frame of reference for the selection of tests, measures, and structured interviews for
aeromedical evaluations and the development of a Predator/Reaper pilot assessment and
selection program. Equally as important, the findings of this study may serve as a valuable tool
for medical personnel communicating with SMEs and operational CCs regarding the demands
and requirements for successful completion of training and working in an operational RPA
1. Chappelle WL, Novy PL, Sowin TW, Thompson WT, “NEO PI-R Normative Personality
Data That Distinguish U.S. Air Force Female Pilots,” Military Psychology, 22(2), 2010,
2. Wolfe T, The Right Stuff. Bantam Books, New York, NY, 1980.
3. Drew JG, Shaver R, Lynch KF, Amouzegar MA, Snyder D, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle,
End-to-End Support Considerations, Rand Publishing, Santa Monica, CA, Aug 2005.
4. U.S. Air Force, MQ-9 Reaper, Fact Sheet, 2010, URL: http://www.af.mil/information/
factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=6405&page=3. Accessed 4 Feb 2010.
5. Drew C, “Military Is Awash in Data from Drones,” New York Times, 10 Jan 2010, URL:
www.nytimes.com/2010/01/11/business/11drone.html. Accessed 11 Jan 2010.
6. Stulberg AN, “Manning the Unmanned Revolution in the U.S. Air Force,” Orbis, 51(2),
Spring 2007, pp. 251-65.
7. U.S. Government Accountability Office, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, New DOD Programs
Can Learn from Past Efforts to Craft Better and Less Risky Acquisition Strategies, GAO-06-
447, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Washington, DC, Mar 2006, p. 4.
8. Department of the Air Force, The U.S. Air Force Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Unmanned
Aerial Vehicle Strategic Vision, Department of the Air Force, Washington, DC, 2005, URL:
www.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-060322-009.pdf. Accessed 6 Jan 2010.
9. Deptula D, Air Force Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Flight Plan 2009-2047, Headquarters
U.S. Air Force, Washington, DC, 2009, URL: www.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-
090723-034.pdf. Accessed 6 Jan 2010.
10. Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense Unmanned Systems Integrated
Roadmap (2009-2034), Department of Defense, Washington, DC, 2009, URL:
Accessed 6 Jan 2010.
11. Callister JD, King RE, Retzlaff PD, “Cognitive Assessment of USAF Pilot Training
Candidates,” Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 67(12), Dec 1996, pp. 1124-9.
12. Carretta TR, Ree MJ, “Central Role of g in Military Pilot Selection,” International Journal of
Aviation Psychology, 6(2), 1996, pp. 111-23.
13. Thompson WT, Orme DR, Zazeckis TM, Neuropsychological Evaluation of Aviators: Need
for Aviation-Specific Norms? Technical Report SAM-FE-BR-TR-2004-0001, USAF School
of Aerospace Medicine, Brooks City-Base, TX, Nov 2004.
14. Paullin C, Katz L, Bruskiewicz KT, Houston J, Damos D, Review of Aviator Selection,
Technical Report 1183, U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences,
Arlington, VA, Jul 2006.
15. Schmidt FL, Hunter, JE, “The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel
Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 Years of Research Findings,”
Psychological Bulletin, 124(2), 1998, pp. 262-74.
16. Schmidt FL, Hunter J, “General Mental Ability in the World of Work: Occupational
Attainment and Job Performance,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(1),
Jan 2004, pp. 162-73.
17. Carretta TR, Ree MJ, “U.S. Air Force Pilot Selection Tests: What Is Measured and What Is
Predictive?” Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 67(3), Mar 1996, pp. 279-83.
18. Martinussen M, “Psychological Measures as Predictors of Pilot Performance: A Meta-
Analysis,” International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 6(1), 1996, pp. 1-20.
19. Pavlas D, Burke CS, Fiore SM, Salas E, Jensen R, Fu D, “Enhancing Unmanned Aerial
System Training: A Taxonomy of Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes, and Methods,” in Human
Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting Proceedings, 53(26), 2009, pp. 1903-7.
20. Biggerstaff S, Blower DJ, Portman CA, Chapman AD, The Development and Initial
Validation of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) External Pilot Selection System,
NAMRL-1398, Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory, Pensacola, FL, Mar 1998.
21. Kay G, Dolgin D, Wasel B, Langelier M, Hoffman C, Identification of the Cognitive,
Psychomotor, and Psychosocial Skill Demands of Uninhabited Combat Aerial Vehicle
(UCAV) Operators, Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, MD,
21 Jun 1999.
22. Christy RL, “Personality Factors in Selection and Flight Proficiency,” Aviation, Space and
Environmental Medicine, 46(3), Mar 1975, pp. 309-11.
23. Day DV, Silverman SB, “Personality and Job Performance: Evidence of Incremental
Validity,” Personnel Psychology, 42(1), Mar 1989, pp. 25-36.
24. Davis W, Koonce J, Herold D, Fedor D, Parsons C, “Personality Variables and Simulator
Performance in the Prediction of Flight Training Performance,” Proceedings of the Ninth
International Symposium of Aviation Psychology, Columbus, OH, 1997, pp. 1105-9.
25. Harss C, Kastner M, Beerman L, “The Impact of Personality and Task Characteristics on
Stress and Strain During Helicopter Flight,” International Journal of Aviation Psychology,
1(4), 1991, pp. 301-18.
26. Gregorich S, Helmreich RL, Wilhelm JA, Chidester TR, “Personality Based Clusters as
Predictors of Aviator Attitudes and Performance,” in Jensen, RS, ed., Proceedings of the
Fifth International Symposium on Aviation Psychology, Columbus, OH, 1989, pp. 686-91.
27. Pettitt MA, Dunlap JH, “Psychological Factors that Predict Successful Performance in a
Professional Pilot Program,” paper presented at the 8th International Symposium on Aviation
Psychology, Columbus, OH, 1995.
28. Siem FM, Murray MW, “Personality Factors Affecting Pilot Combat Performance: A
Preliminary Investigation,” Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 65(5 Suppl.),
May 1994, pp. A45-8.
29. Street DR Jr., Helton KT, Dolgin DL, The Unique Contribution of Selected Personality Tests
to the Prediction of Success in Naval Pilot Training, NAMRL-1374, Naval Aerospace
Medical Research Laboratory, Pensacola, FL, Aug 1992.
30. Retzlaff PD, King RE, Callister JD, USAF Pilot Training Completion and Retention: A Ten
Year Follow-Up on Psychological Testing, Technical Report AL/AO-TR-1995-0124,
Armstrong Laboratory, Brooks AFB, TX, Aug 1995.
31. Boyd JE, Patterson JC, Thompson BT, “Psychological Test Profiles of USAF Pilots Before
Training vs. Type Aircraft Flown,” Aviation, Space, & Environmental Medicine, 76(5),
May 2005, pp. 463-8.
32. Grice RL, Katz LC, Personality Profiles of U.S. Army Initial Entry Rotary Wing Students
Versus Career Aviators, Technical Report 1208, U.S. Army Research Institute for the
Behavioral and Social Sciences, Arlington, VA, Sep 2007.
33. Helton KT, Street DR Jr., The Five-Factor Personality Model and Naval Aviation
Candidates, NAMRL-1379, Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory, Pensacola, FL,
34. Fitzgibbons A, Davis D, Schutte PC, Pilot Personality Profile Using the NEO-PI-R,
NASA/TM-2004-213237, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Langley
Research Center, Hampton, VA, 2004.
35. Picano JJ, Williams TJ, Roland RR, “Assessment and Selection of High-Risk Operational
Personnel,” in Kennedy CH, Zillmer EA, eds., Military Psychology: Clinical and
Operational Applications, Guildford Press, New York, Aug 2006, ch. 17, pp. 353-70.
36. Barrick MR, Mount MK, “The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Job Performance: A
Meta-Analysis,” Personnel Psychology, 44(1), Mar 1991, pp. 1-26.
37. Anesgart MN, Callister JD, Predicting Training Success with the NEO PI-R: The Use of
Logistic Regression to Determine the Odds of Completing a Pilot Screening Program,
AFRL-HE-WP-TR-2001-0074, Air Force Research Laboratory, Human Effectiveness
Directorate, Crew System Interface Division, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, Feb 2001.
38. Campbell JS, Castaneda M, Pulos S, “Meta-Analysis of Personality Assessments as
Predictors of Military Aviation Training Success,” International Journal of Aviation
Psychology, 20(1), 2010, pp. 92-109.
39. Hunter JE, Burke EF, “Predicting Aircraft Pilot Training Success: A Meta-Analysis of
Published Research,” International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 4(4), 1994, pp. 297-313.
40. Bates MJ, Colwell CD, King RE, Siem FM, Zelenski WE, Pilot Performance Variables,
Technical Report AL/CF-TR-1997-0059, U.S. Air Force Armstrong Laboratory, Brooks
AFB, TX, Mar 1997.
41. Campbell JS, Moore JL, Poythress NG, Kennedy CH, “Personality Traits in Clinically
Referred Aviators: Two Clusters Related to Occupational Suitability,” Aviation, Space, and
Environmental Medicine, 80(12), Dec 2009, pp. 1049-54.
42. U.S. Air Force, Medical Examinations and Standards, Air Force Instruction 48-123,
Department of the Air Force, Washington, DC, 24 Sep 2009, URL: http://www.e-
publishing.af.mil/shared/ media/epubs/AFI48-123.pdf. Accessed 30 Mar 2010.
43. Kratz K, Poppen B, Burroughs L, “The Estimated Full-Scale Intellectual Abilities of U.S.
Army Aviators,” Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 78(Suppl. 1), May 2007,
44. Tvaryanas AP, The Development of Empirically-Based Medical Standards for Large and
Weaponized Unmanned Aircraft System Pilots, Technical Report HSW-PE-BR-TR-2006-
0004, 311th Human Systems Wing, Brooks City-Base, TX, Oct 2006.
45. Walters BA, Huber S, French J, Barnes MJ, Using Simulation Models to Analyze the Effects
of Crew Size and Crew Fatigue on the Control of Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
(TUAVs), ARL-CR-0483, Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD,
46. Thompson WT, Lopez N, Hickey P, DaLuz C, Caldwell JL, Tvaryanas AP, Effects of Shift
Work and Sustained Operations: Operator Performance in Remotely Piloted Aircraft (OP-
REPAIR), Technical Report HSW-PE-BR-TR-2006-0001, 311th Human Systems Wing,
Brooks City-Base, TX, Jan 2006.
47. Thompson WT, Tvaryanas AP, A Survey of Fatigue in Selected United States Air Force Shift
Worker Populations, Technical Report HSW-PE-BR-TR-2006-0003, 311th Human Systems
Wing, Brooks City-Base, TX, Mar 2006.
48. Frederick-Recascino CM, Hall S, “Pilot Motivation and Performance: Theoretical and
Empirical Relationships,” International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 13(4), 2003,
Standardized Interview Questions
What distinguishes weapon-deploying and ISR RPA pilot duties from the pilot duties and
demands of manned airframes that also have ISR and/or weapon-deploying missions and
What sort of cognitive aptitudes and abilities have you observed that distinguish a person
who succeeds in obtaining ISR weapon-bearing RPA pilot skills and adapting to the operational
What sort of personality traits do you observe that distinguish a person who succeeds in
obtaining ISR weapon-bearing RPA pilot skills and adapting to the operational demands?
What sort of interpersonal qualities do you observe in those who succeed in obtaining
pilot skills and adapting to the operational crew resource management demands of ISR weapon-
What sort of cognitive difficulties or problems do you observe in someone who fails pilot
training or struggles with adapting to operational demands of the ISR weapon-bearing RPA
What sort of personality traits do you perceive would likely lead a person to fail pilot
training or have chronic performance problems as an ISR weapon-deploying RPA pilot (to
include deployment of weapons)?
What sort of motivational qualities or traits do you observe in those who succeed and are
highly satisfied with RPA pilot duties for the Predator or Reaper platforms?
What sort of motivational qualities or traits have you observed that distinguish RPA
pilots who have performance problems or difficulties?
LIST OF ACRONYMS
ACC Air Combat Command
AETC Air Education and Training Command
AFOQT Air Force Officer Qualifying Test
AFSOC Air Force Special Operations Command
AOB air order of battle
CAP combat air patrol
CAS close air support
CIA Central Intelligence Agency
CRM crew resource management
DO director of operations
DoD Department of Defense
FAA Federal Aviation Administration
FEA front end analysis
FTU Formal Training Unit
GCS ground control station
IFT Initial Flight Training
IQC Instrument Qualification Course
ISR intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance
JFC Joint Firepower Course
MIC mission intelligence coordinator
NEO PI-R NEO Personality Inventory-Revised
RFC RPA Fundamentals Course
RPA remotely piloted aircraft
SME subject matter expert
SO sensor operator
UAS unmanned (uninhabited) aerial system
UAV unmanned (uninhabited) aerial vehicle
UPT Undergraduate Pilot Training
USAF U.S. Air Force