Home > Article > 10 things to do before Pilot Selection

In this article, Senior First Officer, Technical Instructor and Cadet Mentor Adam Howey shares his experience, putting forward ten important things to consider before you begin the process of pilot selection.

There are no real academic qualifications required to be a pilot. FTOs (Flight Training Organisations) set some academic entry requirements; beyond those however, they focus on their own selection process. Over multiple stages, pilot selection typically involves online application, aptitude and maths testing, interview and group exercises and simulator assessment. Although pilot selection may be unfamiliar, like any job interview, preparation is the key – do not leave any of it to chance. Here are a ten tips that will give you a good start.

1) Why do you want to be a pilot?

It is the one question you will certainly be asked. Why do you want to be a pilot? Why do you want to work for us? Every time you practise your interview, answer this question. Make it your best.

2) Know the job

Many people dream of becoming an airline pilot, but you must be able to give substance to that dream. Think about how you would answer questions such as, “Tell me about a typical day as a pilot?” or “What do you know about the job that makes you want to be pilot?”

Ask yourself what you know about the scheme you are applying to. What do you know about the syllabus or which phase of training are you looking forward to?

3) Get close to aeroplanes

There are other jobs available at airports, either part-time, full-time or as a volunteer for work experience. Airlines require thousands of staff to support their aircraft. Handling Agents such as Servisair employ teams of staff who take responsibility for aircraft on the ground. There can be no better job for a wannabe airline pilot than a dispatcher. Even your local airfield needs its grass cutting. What can you do to demonstrate your motivation to be a pilot?

4) Call a pilot

Everyone knows someone who knows someone who is a pilot. If they haven’t already offered, ask if they would mind you talking with them to discuss your application. Every single pilot I know would help you. Write down everything they say, and if you get a word in, ask them what they like about the job. At interview you might mention you spoke to this person about your application which will further show your interest in the profession and preparation.

5) Research

Accurate preparation is the key to success at selection. Investigate every stage of selection. Use the ATO, internet resources and speak to people who have been through the process before you. Find out every last detail and decide what the ATO is looking for at each stage.

Next, research everything else. The ATO company, their history, the syllabus, the aircraft, their locations. The partner airlines, their history, their routes, their aircraft, their engines, their bases. Everything.

6) Practise

Aptitude and numerical testing can sound daunting, but they are simply hurdles to overcome. Use your research to replicate each stage and practise, practise, practise. It is said that you cannot practise for aptitude tests, but that does not mean leave it to chance. You can still prepare by familiarising yourself with the testing process and sharpening your skills.

7) Proof read

Find someone who reads applications for a living, or even just your friend who got an A in English. Ask them to read your application. You would be surprised at how many applications have spelling mistakes, missing words or don’t make sense.

8) Film yourself

Practise your interview, but do not use a pen. You must practise answering questions out loud. This is the Socratic method. Answering in your head or on paper will not work, so practise – in the shower, in your car and every spare minute. Give a friend a list of questions, ask for a mock interview and then ask for a debrief. Also, in this modern age you could use your smart phone to film your mock interview. Once you have finished cringing at yourself, you are able to scrutinise, improve and repeat.

9) Buy a suit

If anyone attends selection without a shirt and tie as a minimum, they are an idiot. Why wouldn’t you wear a dark suit, white shirt and tie? In a competency based interview, appearance is likely to be a marking criteria.

10) Watch the news

Nobody expects a candidate to have the answer to the Euro crisis, but a very basic understanding of current affairs and its influence on the aviation industry is required. So get reading and pay attention to the world around you.

Adam Howey is a Senior First Officer with British Airways, with additional roles as an Instructor and Cadet Pilot Mentor, and a university lecturer and mentor at the University of Leeds. To read more from SFO Adam Howey, visit http://getstripes.co.uk


Main picture © CTC Wings

  • Avtar Sura

    Dear Mr.Howey,
    Many Thanks for your article. It is one of the best I have read. I am 17 year old and in my second year of the A-level. There is nothing more I would like to do then to train as Commercial airline pilot.
    I am trying to get hold of some assessment material for aptitude and numerical test prior to my full assessment. I would be greatful if you could let me know-where and how I can get hold of this material for practice.
    Kindest Regards—Avtar Sura

  • Joe Simpson

    Dear Mr Howey
    I am also 17 years old and in my second year of A-levels and would love to become a commercial pilot. I am trying to find out where I can get hold of material with regard to assessment and aptitude testing. I would be grateful for any information you can give me.

  • Arnoldus Veeger

    Great article! I have been through some (non-pilot related) applications the last few years, so I’ve had the opportunity to read a lot of articles giving interview advice. Despite that, I still learned quite a bit from this article. Thank you Mr. Howey!

  • tom berry

    Hi um i was wondering before you train as a pilot an airline pilot they give yu tests to see if your right fot he job in this case a maths test can you pls tell what i need to revise or study to pass the maths test thank you.

  • kingsley Esom

    dear mr howey. am kingsley Esom 26 years and i would love to be a pilot it has always been my dream and your article really enlightend me .and i would love to meet you at facebook thank you very much.

  • Suraj

    hello sir ..
    This is suraj from india , im in 11 th standrd n want to know that it will b much bettr to gain cpl from foregn aviation schools and can i also get trouble for job ..

    sir my dream is to become a pilot so please its heartiest req. can u contact me through my id /fb

  • Ashiiyana Singh

    Respected Sir,
    I would like to thank you for your great article and for your advices. They have been immensly helpful since I was quite unsure for the choice of my career and now I just found the confidence and determination to achieve higher. I would be much more greatful to you, Sir, if you could just please advise me on the studies that I should be pursuing for my tertiary educations after i completed my second year of A-Level next year.
    My sincere salutations

  • moses

    Good day Sir,
    I am so excited after reading your article. Am done with my Bsc degree and decided to dive into airline. I applied for a post and have been invited for a test. Please I will be greatful if you enlighten me on the possible questions I could come across because this is one big dream i have always wanted and maybe a site to download such questions. Its a cadet pilot test. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks a bunch

  • priya

    hai pilot job is a very beautiful 4r me it is a very genius work in the world if i was born in next born i would become a pilot i love so much this jb

  • priya

    hi, friends my name is priya im in chennai i like the pilot profession very much it is a very tough work and mould the life as a good person in this profession u must worh hard means u should become a good pilot in the world

  • Farid Hossain

    Dear Mr. Howey,
    Thank you very much for your informative article. This article was very helpful.

    I am 17 years old and becoming an airline pilot was always everything that I wanted to do. I have great influence from my family as my uncles are pilots.

    Thank you very much.
    Farid Hossain.

  • ganapathyraman

    sir,i want to become a war craft pilot,what are the thinge i have to do and how to achieve it please suggest me

  • prince

    what happens to those who do not get selected after pilot training.

  • Emmanuel

    Dear Sir. I’ve just been invited for cadet pilot tests and interviews in the SAA and I would really appreciate it if you could enlighten me on what to expect and what to prepare. This is my dream career and your advice will be well appreciated. Thank you.

  • Deekshith

    Mr.Adam Howey, Thanks for helping aspiring pilots . I’m so glad that I’m one of them . .



  • Abhishek kumar

    How I be a pilot



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  • anshuman mishra

    what stream should i take to be a pilot.