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The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (20092) defines airmanship as the "skill in piloting or navigating aircraft". The concept is, however, used to convey other attributes than mere skill, a usage that creates confusion regarding what the concept really means. For example, knowledge, awareness, decision making, and, even, ethical and moral conduct while on duty may be used to decide the degree of airmanship of a pilot at a given time.

Spencer and Ebbage (20031) defined airmanship as the following: “A personal state that enables aircrew to exercise sound judgement, display uncompromising flight discipline and demonstrate skilful control of an aircraft and a situation. It is maintained by continuous self-improvement and a desire to perform optimally at all times.”
Airmanship not only applies to pilots, it is also relevant to the ground and navigation aspects required in aviation, such as air traffic controllers and ground crew (Spencer & Ebbage, 20031).

Tony Kern’s description:

The CAA New Zealand (2002) defines airmanship as: Airmanship is all about making good decisions, which requires a high degree of:
• Situational Awareness to detect what is going on,
combined with the
• Knowledge to determine the significance of what you
observe, the
• Skills to do the things you have to do, and the
• Discipline to do the right thing.

To bring these three definitions together, airmanship seems to be based upon the idea of competence of the aviation personal to make sound judgement and use skills and knowledge and the situational awareness, both personally and in the broad sense of the term, to handle situations that are unexpected and unique.

1. EBBAGE L & P SPENCER (2003). Airmanship training for modern aircrew. Retrieved from
2. MERRIAM-WEBSTER ONLINE DICTIONARY (2009). Airmanship. Retrieved from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary on 22 December 2009.

CAA (2002).Airmanship Measuring Up., December 2002.

Youtube (2009).The Essence of Airmanship, 2007.

Green, R.G., Muir, H., James, M., Gradwell, D., & Green, R. L. (2005). // Human Factors for Pilots// Ashgate Publishing, England.

Want to know more?

AviationKnowledge - Airmanship model
An introduction to Kern's airmanship model.

Wikipedia : For other definitions of airmanship.
Ebbage and Spencer's full document.: Provides information about the three types of airmanship defined by Ebbage and Spencer. More in-depth airmanship.
Pilot airmanship: A pilots veiw of airmanship.
CAA Document.: This document gives detail from the CAA about airmanship.

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