Pilot Selection Testing

Pilot Selection Testing

Of all the jobs available within an airline or the airforce, the position of pilot is the most popular. Applications for pilot positions in many cases equal the amount of applications for all other jobs within the organisation. (Jasinski, 2002[1])
A pilot will face many sets of testing through out their career. This testing is designed to help select the person best fitted to the job.
Testing can involve:

  • Aptitude testing
  • Personality testing
  • Simulator testing
  • Role Playing/ team building exercises
  • Physical testing
  • Interview panel

While the results from one stand alone test can be inconclusive, tests are usually used in conjunction with one another and a candidate can face days, sometimes weeks of testing. The reliability and validity of each test is increased when they are used in conjunction with one another.

Reliability and Validity

Tests need to be both reliable and valid.
Reliability: Does the test reliably predict who will be best suited for the job over mulitple test groups.
Validity: Is the test suitable to test the criteria it is designed for.
Using a combination of tests increases both these factors.

Aptitude Testing

Aptitude tests involve testing the individuals competency at performing the type of operations the job will require. Candidates are tested on their knowledge, and there is usually a time component involved, designed to put pressure on the candidate. For example, there may be 50 questions to answer in 20 minutes. The criteria for marking involve both speed and accuracy of the answers given. These tests could involve a practical component that demonstrate your aptitude (or potential aptitude) for the physical aspect of piloting.

Personality Testing

Personality testing usually focuses on behavioural aspects of the job. Questions such as "Which response would you more likely have in this situation?" are asked. Candidates can be asked to chose between a range of answers, and there is usually no "correct" answer. These are usually used in conjunction with the interview stage to gain a better understanding of how the candidate's mind works and whether they have the desirable traits for a pilot.

Simulator Testing

Simulator tests are carried out to test specific skills that will be required to perform the job. Some focus on actual flying skills, while others focus on your ability to work within a team, and your ability to learn quickly.

This video shows a pilot practicing in a simulator prior to his test day.

Video Embedded from YouTube 27 September 2009

Role playing/ Team building

These exercises are carried out to test specific behavioural traits. For example, how well you work within a team, and testing leadership skills.

Physical Testing

In some situations, fitness is also tested, for example as part of airforce testing. There will be a minimum performance the candidate is required to meet to proceed to the next stage.

G-force testing

Some tests specifically involve how you handle high G-Forces (Gravitational Forces). A small training session will usually take place before candidates are tested in this way. This type of testing is more specific to organisations such as the airforce where the aircraft the pilot will be flying will be pulling high 'g' manoeuvres.

Video Embedded from YouTube 27 September 2009

Interview panel

The interview panel is often the last phase of testing. The interviewers will have a standard set of questions they will ask candidates. These can be both knowledge based, and behavioural. An example would be "What are 3 of your strengths and 3 of your weaknesses?". Interview panels can also include one on one interviews with psychologists, other personnel in the pilot trade, as well as group interviews with other candidates. These are more common in military pilot selection.

1. Jasinski, I. (2002). Airline Pilot Interviews - How you can succeed in getting hired. California, US: Career Advancement Publications, 2002.

Want to know more?

Wikipedia - Psychometrics
A more indepth look at the theory behind the testing.
G-Loc (Gravity Induced Loss of Consciousness) theory as seen in the above testing video.

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