Are You the BEST Pilot You Can Be?


A book by Jean Denis Marcellin


“A cockpit needs a Manager. An airplane needs a Leader.”The Pilot Factor

We pilots tend to think of ourselves as Type A problem solvers, and have an innate disdain for all that “touchy-feely charm school stuff.” Emotional sensitivity is for sissies—I’m Captain Kirk, dammit!

 Enter Jean Denis Marcellin’s new book, The Pilot Factor.

3d cover

Are we really flying this airplane in the safest possible manner—by taking the human condition into account?

A commercial pilot, CRM (Crew Resource Management) and Human Factors safety expert, Mr. Marcellin is constantly dragging us back down to earth. He greys up our black and white world by throwing our “Safe operation of an aircraft” mandate against the the Human Factor filter. He challenges us to dig deep, go all introspective, and ask ourselves, Are we really flying this airplane in the safest possible manner—by taking the human condition into account?

Before you yawn, let me say that this book is chock full of fun, poignant, even whacky examples of said Human Condition that include such pop culture icons as Captain Kirk, John Krasinski of The Office, Men in Black, and Superheroes like The Avengers. In short, he’s my kinda pilot-writer!

Me JD Miami Vice!

Arizona Vice! JD wings in on his Lear 45, and I pick him up for a spin in the Auxmobile!

But the bottom line is the very serious subject of flight safety, and Marcellin dovetails the fun with hard lessons from real airline accidents caused by that most chilling of all aviation terms, “Pilot Error.” For example, how could three veteran airline pilots crash a perfectly good L1011 over a simple, burned out light bulb (Eastern 401)? And how could a veteran 747 captain, flying with a brand new first officer, instigate the most deadly accident in aviation history (Tenerife, KLM 4805)?


TENERIFE: As pilots, what lessons can we learn from the worst airline disaster in history? Marcellin gives us some telling insights.

What’s more, Marcellin sprinkles the book with anecdotes from his own extensive flying past. His stories are at once entertaining and enlightening. From an engine manifold fire inches from his cockpit seat to a desperate takeoff in a blizzard, Marcellin candidly shares what he did right—and wrong—as seen through the lens of the human condition.

“Imagine manager John Krazinski (The Office) replacing Star Trek‘s James T. Kirk on his sick day. His inability to make split second decisions during crises would have spelled the doom of the Enterprise. His ability to inspire the crew to go boldly where nobody went before would have been . . . limited. Now imagine Kirk in The Office. Dealing with deadlines and micro managing the employees’ relations would have driven him to madness, looking for the first opportunity to release a proton torpedo on the first target of opportunity!”The Pilot Factor

And that term, The Human Condition—what does that even mean? Well, it takes a whole book to explain, and kudos to Marcellin for doing it, oh so well. Not since John Gray’s, Men are From Mars Women are From Venus have I had my eyes opened to that which was always right before them: the reality of what makes people tick. Mars/Venus could be described as, “Relationships 101.” And The Pilot Factor? “CRM 201.”

4370a0177ed0fThis book is the cutting edge of CRM, and the forerunner of very important safety changes to come in the cockpit. The Pilot Factor delves far deeper than any rudimentary human factor training I’ve ever encountered in the airline industry. Picking up where the “Swiss Cheese” and “ABC” models—the mainstay of airline CRM—end, he takes us deeper down the rabbit hole of human factor. Using such cutting edge theories as the SHELL model, the four communication styles and even the “OODA Loop” used by the Air Force and Special Forces, Marcellin picks apart who we are, why we are and how we react, and compares it to those strange aliens around us called, “other people.” And when we throw these two disparate entities together in a cockpit and toss in a crisis for good measure—say, an engine fire—our true selves are revealed.


The author and I do lunch. He’s such a peacock! No, wait an Eagle. Um…dove?

Fortunately,  Marcellin takes us by the hand and, using baby steps, leads us deeper into who we are. For example, he breaks down the “four different types of people” into simple, understandable categories—based on bird types, no less (Eagle, owl, peacock, dove)—and enlightens us on how each type sees, communicates, and reacts to the world. We see not only who we are but who others around us are in a new, profound light.

All of a sudden, when we deal with that engine fire with this newfound wisdom, we find ourselves acting and reacting in a much more efficient—and safer—manner.

“Capt. Al Haynes was at the command of the United Airlines Flight 232 on that ill-fated day when his DC-10 sustained a total loss of controls and crashed near Sioux-City, Iowa. Despite overwhelming odds, his exemplary use of CRM saved many lives.”The Pilot Factor

Thanks to modern technological progress, aviation safety has evolved by many orders of magnitude—so much so, that the weakest links in the safety chain are now the human pilots themselves.

Me JD book

Captain, I implore you. Do yourself, your crew and your passengers a favor: increase the safety level on your ship manyfold by reading Jean Denis Marcellin’s, The Pilot Factor.


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