Pilot Competencies

The aim of this article is to offer some more insight into the emphasis placed on pilot competencies during an airline pilot assessment.

Excellent core pilot competencies are a becoming an industry recognised standard to ensure that each flight is safe, efficient and comfortable. But you may not realise that these competencies are used by airline recruitment teams to determine whether an applicant is suitable for the role of First Officer or Captain with their airline. In other words, you can’t assume that flying experience and hours are an indication of your ability or suitability for the job!

If you’ve not heard of pilot competencies, then broadly speaking the operation of a modern multi crew aircraft is:

  • 25% flying the aircraft (flight path management both manual and automatic)
  • 25% operational, application of procedures and technical knowledge
  • 50% pilot competencies

In terms of flight path management and operational knowledge, the lessons typically come first and the skills tests and line checks assess your ability to actually fly the aircraft. However, with pilot competencies the exams often come first and the lessons afterwards and that’s because pilot competencies are a measure of your non-technical skills that you acquire through experience.

It is imperative that flying the aircraft is always the priority, because if the aircraft is under control in a safe place then you will have spare capacity to demonstrate your non technical skills.
Each of these competencies then have a sub set of behavioural markers that pilots should demonstrate to ensure that the operation is safe. For example behavioural markers associated with the communication competency are:

  • Knows what, how, where, when, how much and with whom he or she needs to communicate
  • Ensures the recipient is ready and able to receive the information
  • Conveys messages and information clearly, accurately, timely and adequately
  • Confirms that the recipient correctly understands important information
  • Listens actively, patiently and demonstrates understanding when receiving information
  • Asks relevant and effective questions, and offers suggestions
  • Uses appropriate body language, eye contact and tone, and correctly interprets non-verbal communication of others
  • Is receptive to other people’s views and is willing to compromise 

You can see the other behavioural markers associated with each competency in the images and you should be able to demonstrate these behaviours at your airline pilot assessment.

If airlines use these competencies to assess their pilots during simulator, line and command checks then it is safe to assume that recruitment teams are using these behavioural markers as a way to assess whether a candidate is suitable to be employed by a particular airline.

The Group Exercise

Group exercises are an excellent measure of a candidate’s ability to demonstrate core pilot competencies. Many applicants think that as long as they are nice in a group exercise that they’ll pass the assessment. However in a group exercise a task has been allocated with a time limit, problems need identifying and solving and workload needs managing. That means you’ll need to demonstrate all of the main competencies to demonstrate that you are suitable for the job.

The Interview

Interviews are more frequently driven by the HR department and so you can expect to give answers to evidence based questions such as:
  • Give an example when you have enhanced the mood of a team
  • Give an example when you have had to adapt your behaviour
  • Give an example when you have had to explain something complex
  • What would you do if a Captain was not following procedures?
These questions are measuring your competencies and so you need to understand which competency the question is testing and what behaviours you need to exhibit.

The Simulator Assessment

During the simulator assessment the first priority is demonstrating your ability to  mange the flight path manually and with use of the automatics. The airline want to ensure you can actually fly! If you are doing that successfully then you can use an excess capacity to demonstrate your non technical competencies.
Understanding pilot competencies and demonstrating them during your assessment is key to success.

If you would like to know more about how we can support and help you with your Airline or Cadet Pilot interview, then please feel free to contact us.