The Elements of Pilot Selection

A good pilot selection process is not only designed to assure safe operators but also to select pilots who are expected to behave logically and with a good portion of common sense in their daily work.

OSM Aviation’s Flight Crew Recruitment staff has a very solid background. More than ten thousand pilots worldwide have been assessed by key team members. Experience is very high and our pilots in the recruitment staff have a varied and very extensive aviation experience in addition to multiple degrees and accreditations in Human Resources, Psychology and Psychometrics – all in order to select the very best pilots.


Pilot Selection has been many things over the years flying has existed. From the rigorous selections by the military to the acceptance by some operators that, a license should be sufficient to accept a pilot.

Much can be said about the importance of performing solid and relevant validation of selection tools. For one, it gives a selection a seal of quality, but more importantly, it is an important part of the safety culture of an operator.

It is also important to look at the current literature in the topic of selection to evaluate all tools and change or adapt these as needed to assure a high quality of pilots for the future.


“A person undertaking training to fly an aircraft must be sufficiently mature educationally, physically and mentally to acquire and demonstrate the relevant theoretical knowledge and practical skill.”

(EASA Annex III 1.a.1 to Regulation (EC) No. 216/2008)


“The hiring decision should be made by a designated selection team. In the interest of safety and fairness, and assuming that the aptitude testing system has been professionally developed, implemented and validated, the hiring decision shall be based solely on the testing result.”

(IATA (2012) Guidance Material and Best Practices for Pilot Aptitude Testing)


“Often operations or training managers drive the selections in certain directions according to own perceptions but it is mostly a general perception of what makes a good pilot or what embodies good airmanship and this lacks the explicit selection standards required to reach an objective decision.”

(IATA (2012) Guidance Material and Best Practices for Pilot Aptitude Testing)



The Pilot Selection Process

A pilot selection process may include (but is not limited to) some or all of the following elements.


Screening & Shortlisting

All applications are normally screened by experienced Pilot Recruiters.
Based on knowledge of aviation, airlines, aircraft, regulations, language requirements, company requirements and worldwide rules and regulations, the Pilot Recruiter can add applicants to a hierarchy and, when necessary, obtain further information such as medical questions, missing information and English language assessments of non-native English speakers.



Inviting pilots for an interview is based on those shortlisted and meeting the current requirement hierarchy. If some cases type-rated pilots may be preferred by the company in question.



Pilot Recruiters normally communicate regularly with pilots not meeting requirements to assure that they are aware of their prospects and remain dedicated. Pilots who have other queries are helped and previously unsuccessful pilots are given an opportunity to re-apply after a specified time when an evaluation will be made as to the feasibility of a new interview process.


Document Check

All documents required and pilot logbooks are normally collected/checked for authenticity and adequacy. Parts or all of this process is slowly going online in most of the aviation world.


Simulator test

A flight simulator test is often conducted checking the candidates level and adaptability. Both handling, management, threat and error mitigation, communication, problem solving, CRM and many more needed skills are usually checked,  evidence gathered is also compared to that of the remaining process to assure that observations are confirmed.


Reasoning Tests

This psychometric ability test measures lateral thinking skills (fluid intelligence), speed of processing data in a logical manner and integrating these in order to solve a problem. It helps selectors predict how quickly a person can learn new complex material and use it logically (i.e. trainability). Numerical reasoning tests will give a good indication of the candidates numeracy level. How well the candidates understands and applies numbers, data, math etc. Verbal Reasoning tests highlights how well a candidate reason, think and solves problems in various ways.


General Aptitude Testing

The tests may include a number of psychometric and aviation related ability tests. Tests can be given measuring crosscheck, hand/foot/eye coordination, theoretical knowledge, mental math skills, short-term memory, spatial orientation and multi-tasking etc.


Assessment Centre

The assessment centre looks at the candidates’ competencies in a group setting. Tests are designed to evaluate how well each candidate utilises available resources, builds on the input of others, works in a team situation, plans for contingencies, and communicates while solving problems.


Personality tests

A personality profile test may be given. Depending on the test, a profile is generated which will be compared to other parts of the assessment. The result may also be used to decide on certain question sets in the behavioural interview.



Competencies and personality probes are used to form the questions for the interview. Observations from all tests are used to form questions to assure that the individual is fully competent, willing and able to fulfil the role of a safe and competent pilot. For first officer applicants a preliminary evaluation of the candidate’s command potential may also be integral part of the process.

The Interview may include a technical interview containing question on both general aviation topics as well as specific type questions.


The Result

Apart from avoiding the ‘wrong’ hiring decision, all aptitude tests, including the simulator evaluation, should show positive correlation with training results. An airlines training success rate should give evidence of a solid selection process when combined with high quality training. IATA described a good solid assessment process as;

‘Benefits of sound aptitude testing include enhanced safety, lower overall training costs, higher training and operational performance success rates, a more positive working environment, reductions in labour turnover, enhancement of the reputation of the flight operations department and positive development of the airline’s brand.’ (IATA 2010).



The combination of knowledge, aptitude and common sense is essential to assure safe and competent operation in an environment of technically advanced equipment and high density operations. A good pilot selection process is not only designed to assure safe operators but also to select pilots who are expected to behave logically and with a good portion of common sense in their daily work. This will ensure a smoother and more efficient operation to the overall benefit of the company and its customers.

Furthermore, a lack of solid handling skills has shown to detract from the overall situational awareness picture. Perhaps because this detract from the overall picture of why the aircraft behaves as it does and understanding about the corners of the flight envelope.

The introduction of upset recovery training is a part of restoring the skills and understanding necessary to complete the Situational Awareness picture so important when the Aircraft systems suddenly misbehave, or to avoid using (system-)illogical inputs.