SPOTLIGHT: Pilot screening and pre-selection

Symbiotics conducts screening, selection and assessment for all pilot levels

For many potential pilots, a career with the airlines has been a dream since childhood. However, before you spend hours researching which FTOs to apply to or whether to go for a modular or integrated course (and especially before applying for loans or remortgaging a property to afford your pilot training), it’s important to ask yourself this question: How suitable am I for the profession?

That’s where pilot screening comes in. There are an increasing number of pilot screening options which will assess your potential trainability and aptitude to become a pilot and can give an honest and realistic impression of whether or not it makes sense to enter into a full ab initio selection process or whether you may require further training in certain areas.

Selection and assessment is also becoming a more and more pertinent issue in the aviation industry. Academies and airlines are under pressure to use more effective selection methods; this ensures they get the best candidates coming through their academies and can also significantly reduce training costs for airlines.

There is not yet a standardised assessment process, but in 2010, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released Guidance Material and Best Practice for Pilot Aptitude Testing, acknowledging the importance of pilot assessment due to ‘the increasing demands of the role such as sophistication of equipment, resourcing issues of the operators and human performance accounting for the majority of incidents and accidents’, which suggests that pilot selection and pre-screening is an increasingly important tool within the industry.



Firstly, a pilot screening process can help you decide whether you should embark on pilot selection, testing your suitability. There are several online screening tools which can help you judge your initial skill set through a short personality questionnaire and a multi-tasking test. For example, Symbiotics Ltd offers FAST, an online ten minute pilot screening system which allows a candidate to test their skills directly through the website. www.symbioticsltd.comAfterwards, the candidates are sent an automated report, detailing their skill level and learning potential, giving individuals an insight into their suitability for the pilot training pipeline.

Once you have decided that you are suitable for the pilot selection process, it is best to enter into the system as prepared as possible.

Nikki Heath, CEO of Symbiotics Ltd, explained the benefits of screening. “It is certainly advisable for candidates to go into selection processes adequately prepared and aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Pre-screening or pre-selection is the best way to gain this preparation and can be hugely influential when applying to an academy.”

These pre-screening or pre-selection processes will often offer a report of your skill set and areas upon which to improve. Do some research on organisations and make sure to check that the process is industry recognised and that it adheres to the guidance material released by IATA.

One such pilot selection system is Symbiotics Ltd’s ADAPT process, which produces a comprehensive, bespoke report that is tailored to organisational requirements. The report provides in depth information on each candidate’s personality, skills and motivation, giving an indication of overall trainability.

Often candidates will need to undergo further selection for the specific academy or airline that they wish to apply to; however their results of pre-selection will give the organisation an in depth insight into the type of candidate they are selecting and may also give an indication of candidates’ motivation.



Aptitude tests are used to measure a person’s ability to perform certain tasks and to evaluate their response to different events. In particular, these assessments will test your spatial awareness, numerical abilities, logical thinking and verbal reasoning. Many of these tests measure aptitude rather than preparedness. However, some preparation may help improve your performance. Take the time to practise, perhaps familiarise yourself with some online examples and time yourself so you can respond to the pressure of a time limit. Work on your concentration and and always read the instructions, as you don’t want to miss anything. You can also practise estimation, as this may be helpful in numerical tests.

To use the ADAPT system from Symbiotics as an example, the selection process consists of a number of elements including an interview, physical assessment, debrief, personality questionnaires and any other tests required by a flight training organisation, such as psychometrics, maths, physics, English and Aviation Knowledge. Symbiotics also runs ADAPT assessment days, which will provide a candidate with an analysis of their results and also a period of mentoring. This mentoring is designed to assist the candidates in interview technique, help them maximise their strengths and improve on their weaknesses.



Many FTOs will have their own pilot assessment processes, usually undertaken on a residential day when you will be invited to a base and undertake various exercises designed to assess your interpersonal team skills and capabilities through group discussion and aptitude. Numerical abilities will also be tested.

Some assessments will include a sim check. Remember, the sim check does not require any previous flying experience and is designed to show whether candidates have the capacity to absorb guidance and improve on their performance. During the sim flight candidates might be asked simple mental arithmetic questions to determine the ability to cope with more than just the flying task. Other tests may be used to gauge hand-eye coordination, short term memory and navigation capabilities. One tip is to read slowly – and then re-read – all instructions and make sure you full understand the assignment before answering.

Some FTOs will combine this assessment day with the interview stage of application, so make sure to read through the schedule for the day – find out what exactly will be expected of you during your visit and prepare accordingly.



While screening is by no means essential, it is important to go into selection for flight training academies already aware of your own character, your strengths and areas for improvement and assessments can greatly help your application process. There are lots of ways that you can improve on your performances in assessment and interview by yourself, which you can find here in this helpful article from Senior First Officer Adam Howey, 10 things to do before Pilot Selection. Do some research on the pilot screening opportunities available and carefully consider if a test or an assessment day will offer you extra awareness when applying for pilot training places.