What Games Do Commercial Pilots Play To Keep Mentally Sharp?

Pilot and co pilot in the cockpit during a flight with commercial airplane.
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“Vintage Aviation News staff did not write this article; the content comes via our partners who wish to help support our website.”

Becoming a pilot takes a lot of time, money, and man-hours. Although pilots are some of the most highly skilled and competent vehicle operators on the planet, for those on long-haul flights or relaxing between shifts. It takes a lot of focus and determination to become a pilot, and although modern-day aircraft heavily rely on sophisticated computers and pre-determined flight patterns, pilots need to stay sharp at all times, and playing games is an excellent way to do so.

We appreciate there are many different types of pilot and aviation specialists, and some have a lot more on their hands than others when they’re up in the sky, so today, our focus focuses mainly on commercial pilots.

Poker Games

Poker has been the card game of choice for millions throughout the last two or three centuries. It is unique from other casino games as it is a game where you can develop your skillset and strategy through experience and rubbing shoulders with other competent players. Playing poker covers a range of platforms, and the whole dynamic of the game has changed boundlessly since the birth and subsequent growth of the internet.

Online poker, land-based poker, video, and virtual poker are essentially four different games. They all require different skills, and not only has the internet allowed them all to flourish and bring millions of people together in poker-playing communities worldwide, but it has also become an incredible learning source. No longer do people have to buy books or seek out lessons. You can learn all the information you need to play poker online by exploring poker hands or pot odds.

If you’re a beginner, here is your pot odds guide and general information, which can run you through the basics. Once you have a solid base understanding of how poker works, including all of this information and real-game experience, you can test yourself in physical games with friends or online. However, the elements of strategy, reading body language, and assessing your opponent’s next move make poker such an engaging game and keep people observant. These are all skills that can become top attributes for pilots.

Flight Simulators

Although pilots have to fly for thousands of hours on flight simulators before they can command a jet on their own, there’s now a massive wave of flight simulator games available for video gaming consoles and PCs. Some of the best flying games on PCs are free to download, but they often depict realistic routes and flight situations. For pilots who want to stay sharp but not have the stress of commanding a passenger jet with 200+ people on board, flight simulators are a popular game that many of them enjoy playing during their downtime.

While they may not have the intensity or sophistication of the simulators they train on to become a fully qualified pilot, there are dozens of high-quality and highly respected titles in this genre. Pilots often go into aviation because of a passion for aircraft, so playing games that accurately display flight routes and classic planes is something many enjoy.


Following the emergence of the internet, chess has been easier to play than ever before. You can download free apps on your phone, and you can also play them on a plane mid-flight, so it is something that pilots will often do to unwind if they’re cruising at altitude or another pilot is in the driving seat. In-flight entertainment has often been at the cutting edge, with many cinema films available during long-haul flights.

As the experience becomes more personalized and more games become available, pilots can often take a look at the same entertainment as passengers and explore new games to keep themselves occupied. Pilots can play chess on their tablets, too, and there’s a host of other games you can download on your mobile device. Popular games include PubG, League Of Legends, and wordplay games like crosswords, word searches, and Wordle.


The scope of games now available to the pilots who keep us safe as we jet off on our vacation is vast, and they must stay alert and active. Although the chances of issues arising mid-flight are incredibly unlikely, it’s still vital that they can commandeer the aircraft during rough turbulence or when they’re coming in to land.

Pilots may venture to console gaming when spending time away from the aircraft, and while there’s no definitive study to show which games are the most popular, pilots cover a broad range of nationalities and cultures. This depends on the type of pilot, too. If you’re a pilot in the Air Force, you might not have time to sit back and have a game of chess on your iPad and save the gaming for when you’re safely on the ground and off-duty.

“Vintage Aviation News staff did not write this article; the content comes via our partners who wish to help support our website.”


1 Comment

  1. I went out on disability after a car accident. I used games to aid in recovery from major surgery. (Mahjongg for memory, Angry Birds Space for trajectory, and flight simulators) I still use Blackjack to stay sharp on math. Often, we use games to relax in the bunk (787 to Europe) in order to be able to sleep.

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