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Home > Aptitude Tests > Why pilot aptitude tests are required for international airlines and not in the US airlines?
Why pilot aptitude tests are required for international airlines and not in the US airlines?
Pilot Career - Aptitude Tests
Written by Capt Lim   
Tuesday, 26 May 2009 06:30

Greetings Captain Lim,

Over the years, I've really learned so much from your site. Thank you for all you do to help us "wanna be" pilots learn things in an entertaining way.

I was going through your website the other night and read about the hiring requirements at airliners like Qantas, Cathay Pacific, and Malaysia Airlines (so-called "international airlines"). I noticed that each required a candidate to take an "aptitude test" of sorts. On the other hand, I noticed that airliners that are based here in the United States don’t have any such requirement -- even at 'legacy' airlines like American Airlines or Delta. I was wondering: Why?

In your estimate, what is the reason that international airliners have aptitude pilot testing, whereas US airliners don't?

I'd be grateful for your insights.

Best regards,

Rishi Bhatt
San Diego, CA

Hi Rishi,

Where airline pilots needs are concerned, the US is a very saturated market for a long time now as compared to other international or emerging airlines elsewhere. Hence the strategy for recruiting pilots is also different. Yes, the legacy airlines in the US are also recruiting less and less pilots today as the airline industry is doing badly there.

Even if they need new airline pilots in the US, they have so many experienced pilots with thousand of hours to choose from. This choice is generally not available outside the US and hence aptitude tests (eg. in Etihad, Emirates, Cathay, Singapore Airlines, Air Asia, etc) are one way to sift out the good ones at the very beginning when their wannabes have no experience or very few hours to their name.

That strategy in the US does not mean they are any less stringent where pilot recruitment is concerned. They do follow a general profile akin to something like this:-

The Psychology Exams
The Personal Interview
Simulator Evaluation

The emphasis is on flying the simulator as they think that this is a very important part of the selection process. Yes, you can still make a mistake in the simulator evaluation and still pass as long as you know how to recover from the error. However, if that error leads to more mistakes, then you know you are unlikely to make it.

P.S. Many have also asked me whether the FAA ATP Licenses from the USA are recognized elsewhere. Sad to say, there is no direct conversion (I have covered this in my site before) as you have to sit for extra exam papers to convert it to the ICAO ATPL or JAR ATPL in order to be hired outside the USA. That means additional time and cost alt !


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Hi Captain Lim,

Reading your article, and regarding very low experience pilot hiring processes, I think that for cognitive capacity, sicological testing can give us good forecast for his/her performance during the career. I agree that simulator checking for a 200 hour pilot can be too much. How do you think that this kind of of pilots should be tested to have a real predictor model?

Kind regards
Eric Greenhill , 09 Oct, 2009

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