The Honourable Company of Air Pilots incorporating Air Navigators

Aptitude Tests

Aptitude testing for potential commercial pilots

In 1995 an eminent Past Chairman of the Education and Training Committee of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots (then the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators) became seriously concerned at the very variable standards of those pilots who were paying for their own conversion course to the B757. Indeed, a very few of these trainees were patently not suited to be professional airline pilots.

During the following 18 months he thoroughly investigated the problem and then negotiated with the Royal Air Force Directorate of Recruiting and Selection, to use their computer based battery of aptitude tests employed at the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre at RAF Cranwell. These tests, developed over a period of several years, are used as part of Tri-service military aircrew selection.

The Air Pilots believes that there are some aspiring pilots whose potential ability is greatly exceeded by their ambition - this concern was matched by a wish to avoid individuals entering into expensive financial commitments with limited chances of success in training. It had also been noted that students of limited potential would nevertheless through dint of hard work and considerable financial outlay, eventually obtain licenses, but would be in danger of struggling throughout their professional lives to achieve the required standards. Extra training would be required for such individuals and the risk of finding themselves out of their depth would be ever present as they proceeded through their professional life.

Would-be pilots may apply to the Air Pilots to undertake the tests and are then counseled on their results by members of the Company, all of whom have a strong airline training background and who give freely of their services. During the interview, candidates have the opportunity to ask questions about careers in civil aviation. The scheme is both voluntary and advisory; there is no requirement for self-sponsored candidates to undergo aptitude testing nor is there any obligation to refrain from entering flying training with less than promising scores. It should be emphasised that the tests are designed for those with little or no flying experience. The validity of the tests declines rapidly for those who have in excess of 150 hours of pilot flying. There are also indications that the results are not wholly reliable at a very young age, and it is strongly suggested that potential candidates should be 17 or over before embarking on the tests.

To date well over 1000 candidates have seen the wisdom of having their aptitude tested before embarking on the huge expense of a commercial flying training course.  Various flying schools and their client airlines have been very satisfied with the progress of students who gained excellent scores and high recommendations following testing at RAF Cranwell and the Company has used it as part of commercial flying scholarship selection procedure to good effect.

With only minor modification from time to time, the battery of six aptitude tests used by the Air Pilots has remained the same for 12 years.  More computerisation and high precision avionics has further reduced the amount of physical handling on modern commercial aircraft and the Company has taken advantage of the availability of some new aptitude tests developed by the Royal Air Force, which are now well validated, to introduce two new tests and drop one old one from the battery, in order to be even more relevant in the pre assessment of today’s potential commercial pilot. The basic requirement for coordination of hand eye foot remains a priority, but now there is also more emphasis on spatial reasoning and capacity or multi tasking.

Does familiarity with personal computers and computer games give an advantage to some candidates by enhancing their aptitude test performances? In short, the answer appears to be, no.

There are some things worth mentioning that aptitude testing alone cannot do. It cannot assess personal qualities, such as leadership or team compatibility. Neither can it assess motivation. As every flying instructor knows, a run-of-the-mill student who is keen and highly motivated will often do as well as, if not better than, one who is a 'natural' but not a 'tryer'. That said, assessment of motivation and personal qualities is best left to a future employer, who will weigh them in the balance with aptitude scores, - nurturing them is the Training Organisation's job.

Returning to the Cranwell experience, selection days are run approximately every two months, but more frequently when demand is high. You should plan to arrive at RAF Cranwell, Nr Sleaford in Lincolnshire no later than 10.30am in order to book-in at the Guardroom. The tests commence at 11.30 and take around 2 hours followed by the 'one on one' debriefing session of about 45 minutes. We aim to have you on your way home again by 4pm at the latest. COST - £155.00, it should be stressed that this service as non-profit making and members of the Company give of their time and expertise for free.

In conclusion, the Company would recommend to all aspiring commercial pilots, firstly make sure you are likely to be able to pass a full Class 1 medical (you don't need to have passed the medical to do aptitude testing but you should be reasonably conviced that you would be able to) and secondly, take the Cranwell tests. Without the former you cannot start and the latter may well save a lot of heartache together with the very considerable financial investment that you are now contemplating.


Future Dates in 2015

19 Mar, 9 Apr, 25 Jun, 20 Aug, 24 Sept, 10 Dec.

Registration forms for the aptitude tests may be downloaded in pdf format, printed and forwarded to the Company together with a cheque for £155 (made payable to Air Pilots).

Applications for Aptitude testing must be received no later than two weeks before a proposed testing session. We are unable to confirm a session will go ahead until we have received at least 6 applications at this fixed point two weeks before the planned session. You can apply for any testing session but joining instructions for a particular date will only be issued in the two weeks before the test date.  When you are apply for a testing session your application will be acknowledged by email which will clearly explain when you will next hear from us and you are, of course, welcome to contact the office on 020 7404 4032 to ensure your application has been received and discuss any concerns you may have.

Click here to download the Pilot Aptitude Registration Form