Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation Sciences



First Advisor

Michael A. Gallo

Second Advisor

John Deaton

Third Advisor

Deborah Carstens


The purpose of this study was to identify factors that contributed to general aviation (GA) pilots’ level of risk perception, which could then be manifested as an increase in risk tolerance. The study used an explanatory correlational design to determine what factors were related to risk perception. Research factors included gender, age, marital status, race/ethnicity, education level, flight hours, single- and multi-engine hours, hours as PIC, type of flight training, number of FAA licenses/ratings, number of hazardous events pilots were involved in, self-efficacy, aviation safety attitudes, level of psychological distress, and locus of control. The dependent variable was risk perception. Predictors were partitioned into three sets, A = Demographics, B = Flight Experience, and C = Affective Domain, and the sample consisted of 93 GA pilots. Participants were solicited from member institutions of the University Aviation Association. A hierarchical regression analysis with set entry order A-B-C found no significant factors at the first two stages, including corresponding increments. When the Affective Domain entered the analysis, age, number of hazardous events, and locus of control had a significant relationship with risk perception. Age had a direct relationship, hazardous events had an indirect relationship, and locus of control had a positive relationship. The increment of the Affective Domain also was significant, and an independent follow-up analysis revealed psychological distress had a significant and direct relationship with risk perception. An independent mediation analysis also found the number of hazardous events was partially mediated by psychological distress, and this mediation reduced the effect of hazardous events on risk perception. The findings of the study did not provide sufficient evidence to support or refute Bandura’s (1977) self-efficacy theory, partially supported Ajzen’s (1992) theory of planned behavior with respect to locus of control, and supported habituated action theory. The study’s findings provided compelling evidence that the affective domain, particularly aviation safety attitudes, psychological distress, and locus of control, is important to understanding GA pilots’ level of risk perception.


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