Airline Pilot Selection

“Will you be ready”

The Airline Pilot Selection Process

A new approach to pilot selection

Major airlines employment strategies are rapidly evolving, from traditional self sponsored pilot selection routes, to a new approach of direct entry First Officers from their sponsored “Cadet Pilot Programs”.

The driving force changing pilot selection paths in developing and expanding arenas of aviation, is indigenization of pilot groups.  But also the airlines ability through these programs to “control” the training quality to ensure that crew are trained and delivered to Line operations as per the airlines specific operational requirements.

Both Airbus and Boeing continue to warn of a global new entry pilot shortage in the short and medium term.  Traditional pilot training routes and structures will not be able to easily satisfy the shortage. The ICAO and IATA driven MPL program is an effort by industry to address this inevitable shortage.

MPL programs are rapidly gaining traction with many established airlines and whilst addressing some of the crewing needs, the demand for qualified self sponsored aircrew, remains encouraging.
Although daunting, if the correct career developmental paths are followed, successful employment for self sponsored candidates remains very positive.

In the airline industry there is a sobering adage regarding pilot selection with an airline

“You only get one chance”

Therefore, with the stakes being so high, what do you need to do to ensure you make the best impression on the selection panel the day you get your one chance?

What position are you applying for?

Airlines have varied pilot career paths, dependent on their route structures and aircraft flown. Domestic / regional carriers employ “direct entry” crew for First Officer positions and with time and experience, crew are upgraded to Captain positions.

Airlines with international route structures traditionally employ experienced Type Rated “Direct Entry” First Officers and Captains.  Low time Cadet pilot program crew are initially selected to operate as 2nd Officers (inflight relief pilots) on the airlines network before being upgraded to a First Officer positions after experience is achieved.

For successful selection, it is vital that you clearly understand the qualification requirements for the position you are applying for to give yourself the best chance of being successful. Selection and direct entry as a First Officer into legacy carriers is difficult without extensive type experience.

Your chances of direct entry into a “Low Cost” domestic or regional operator greatly increase based on your training, and exposure to the type of aircraft they operate

Low time pilots = Low Cost carriers
Experienced pilots = Legacy carriers

There are many aspects of the various selection process that you have direct control over and these are discussed in subsequent articles in this series.

Most reputable airlines follow similar pilot selection processes. These processes are very rigid and transparent, ensuring that the best candidate is employed.
To ensure success, being truthful and honest throughout all the selection phases and processes, is critical.

Typical selection phases

  • Phase 1 – Pre selection screening
  • Phase 2 – Simulator check flight
  • Phase 3 – Psychometric testing
  • Phase 4 – Selection panel interview

During each phase you are awarded a score and the total points scored will be used to determine your suitability for employment. So how do you score the highest in each phase? You will be competing against many other aspiring First Officers for limited employment positions.

The selection scoring system

Successful employment is based on a myriad of criteria. During each selection aspect you will be scored and to be successful in that phase and to progress to the next selection phase you need to score higher than your competitors.
Generally certain selection aspects are loaded and carry a higher points allocation than others. These aspects are are:

  • Flying performance – Jet handling
  • Interpersonal skills – Multi Crew
  • Aviation system knowledge – Transport Jet
  • Your adaptability and suitability the culture of the particular airline

At the end of the selection process, points are tallied and candidates scoring the highest points are employed first.
It is therefore vital that in each phase you score the highest points possible. A high score in one aspect where you are strong and confident will make up for other areas where you are possibly weaker.

So how do you score the highest points? The good news is that we will be sharing our thoughts and suggestions in our forthcoming articles over the next few weeks. So look out for more detailed information on each phase.


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Imaginative. Innovative. Everything but the ordinary. Our PTC Aviation blog provides a glimpse into the aviation industry. We explore the possible, probable and remotely plausible. We seek to push aviation boundaries and share ideas and information across a broad spectrum of aviation training and industry business theories and ideologies, technological innovations and processes.