Turn Right on Yankee,
Hold Short on Whiskey 10
Text by Lisa Cristofich, PhD
Commercial pilots share their insights
First Officer Melanie explained that every taxiway is labeled, like A (for Alpha), and you might get this readback that says turn right on Yankee and hold short on Whiskey 10, and it goes on and on, and you must write it down and follow the instructions.

In this article, commercial airline pilots share their insights and experiences related to aviation and training. Comments and quotes have been compiled from the interviews with these women. Pseudonyms are used to protect their privacy.

Captain Betty agreed, “This job is unusual because you have to be able to do the same things over and over, but in different conditions every time. So you run the same checklist, you run the same procedures, but every single airport is different, every single day. Even if it’s the same airport, it might be a different time, so the weather may be totally different. You need to be able to be both structured and adaptable to be able deal with both of those things at the same time. You have to be organized, decisive, assertive and independent, because when you end up spending time on the road, you end up spending quite a bit of time alone, so you have to be okay with that; calm under pressure, be able to handle stressful situations well, and exercise good judgment.”

Captain Nina advised that the best pilots are “multi-tasking, being able to see and do many things at the same time, make appropriate decisions, and have some attention to detail. It’s good for studying and being able to learn about all the different airplanes we fly. There is an intelligence factor, that people have to be kind of committed to the scholastic side of it, but there’s certainly a natural hand-eye coordination part too. Most people who are in the job, know what it takes to stay committed to it: it’s just a matter of fortitude; it’s a matter of hanging on through the highs and lows of the career. It’s very cyclical. There’s still an expectation level for all of us pilots, that we take care of ourselves, mentally, physically, spiritually; that we’re fit to fly, that includes health physical, we have to pass every year, training, or tests every year. We have to stay with it mentally as life presents its ups and downs.”

First Officer Melanie explained that an ideal pilot possesses “patience, a lot of self-confidence, especially if you get enough training that you really know, ‘I’m going to know what to do. In an emergency I will know what to do’ - that sort of self-confidence. If we have some kind of a problem, basically working through checklists and making sure you’re covering everything is important.”
As noted by these women, a self-inventory checklist, just like following the runway instructions, is one way to decide if commercial aviation is a career for you.