REMOVED FROM THE COCKPIT: THE PILOT IDENTITY CRISIS AND THE RISE OF UNCREWED AIRCRAFT IN NAVAL AVIATION
Clark, Sarah R.
Halladay, Carolyn C.
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In the transition from crewed to uncrewed aircraft, naval aviation has focused on the technical instead of the human aspects of the change. The transition challenges the traditional pilot identity, based on sitting in a cockpit and physically operating an aircraft, because pilots of uncrewed aircraft control them remotely or manage the battlefield rather than the cockpit. This thesis uses identity theory and social identity theory to analyze similar cultural factors in the Navy’s transition from sail-to-steam power in the 1800s to identify how and why some line officers resisted and rejected steam technology, inhibiting the transition. In this case study, naval leadership encouraged resistance through orders mandating sail over steam power and failed to direct the needed change in line officer identity when engineers took away propulsion control and replaced the symbols associated with the line officer identity. To avoid repeating this failure, the Navy must oversee the pilot identity transition in order to leverage the full potential of both technology and humans. Instead of creating division, naval leaders should emphasize unity by creating an inclusive pilot identity, using terms that do not focus on human occupants when referring to aircraft categories, and creating viable career paths for all.
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