Nov 30, 2015

Get advice from our trainee's experience of real airline pilot screening for Ryanair

This article is written as a simple guideline of what to do and what to expect when faced with the moment that you have been waiting for, the job interview, sometimes known as an assessment day. It is written by a former student of Flying Academy Vlad from Romania. He did all his way from a zero level of knowledge about aviation to the airbus cockpit with Flying Academy. He got accepted into Ryanair Cadet Program. Continue reading for some great advice to follow during the job interview. "From here on it’s only up to you," he says.

Let's talk about what most companies are looking for, especially from you as a low hour pilot. The only time a company will want to hire a pilot with low hours is because of one reason: they want to see your abilities and determine if you can successfully conduct further training with them.

As our assessor told us during the initial briefing: "If for some reason you are not successful after today, please take this as a benefit because if I have doubts about you today you will struggle during the Type Rating."

So, let’s start from the beginning. How’s the assessment day structured?

Structure of the day

  • Simulator Session: one flight in which the crew is assessed both as Pilot Flying and Pilot Monitoring and the second flight in which you switch roles.
  • Interview: comprised from Personal and Technical Questions.

Here are some key points on how to manage it:

1. Be professional. Show that you deserve it

Show professionalism throughout the day, good airmanship both in the simulator and with your colleagues during the day is paramount. Wear your best suit and tie. It doesn`t need to be expensive or new, just to fit you properly. First impression does count and remember they have limited amount of time to get to know you and everything counts. Whether during the assessment or coffee break, someone is always watching you.

2. Demonstrate good MCC and CRM skills

Nowadays almost all the companies require you to have an MCC prior to the assessment day and most likely you will do it as soon as you’re a commercial pilot with ME/IR rating. The course is all about how to behave in a multi-crew environment and the proper use of all the available resources within a crew, basically the non-technical part of flying and handling normal and non-normal situations. Keep in mind that flying skills are half the story. You will be assessed as Pilot Flying and Pilot Monitoring, both roles carrying the same importance. Don`t relax after a successful PF flight, you are not alone in the flight deck and the other crewmember needs your input under heavy workload.

3. Pay attention to every single detail during the briefings!

"For those of you who didn`t complete the MCC on our type of aircraft don`t worry, we will explain the characteristics of this particular simulator and the values you need. For example after altitude acquire, for straight and level flight if you maintain 2,5 degrees pitch and 60% N1 after trimming you should be fine with altitude hold and 220 kts." This is not just an example; you SHOULD pay attention, note everything down, learn all the speeds and limitations and brief them properly with your sim colleague well before commencing the session so you can go informed. Treat everything as it would be real life scenario; you wouldn`t normally go towards your hangar without knowing your plane, route, weather, notams, airspaces and so on.


4. Go back to the IFR basics

As discussed on the previous point, you will be given everything you need to know about the handling characteristics, pitch & power settings, speeds and any other relevant information you might need to know. Usually you should receive a briefing back prior to the assessment day, make sure you read it carefully and discuss on the day with the assessor and your colleague anything that`s unclear or you might require further clarification.

If some time has passed since your last IFR flight or you don`t feel confident enough I would strongly recommend revising and staying current. Flying IFR, taking some FNPTII sim session (there you can practice precision and non-precision approaches, interception of radials, fly an NDB holding in heavy crosswind), studying Jeppesen plates, rehearsing with a colleague on a mock-up simulator or even flying IFR procedures on your own computer sim could be one of many ways of staying current and boosting your confidence level a bit. During IFR training you were also taught how to do the briefings, and here is no exception. Always perform a briefing as you would normally do, make sure you and your partner are on the same page, that all the relevant NAVAIDS have been tuned and it`s clear how you`re planning to fly the specific departure/arrival. And once you're done, ask if they have any questions.

5. Technical knowledge

This is something you started working on even before your flying school if you`re passionate about aviation. The good thing about your ATPL exams is that you had the opportunity to choose when to take each exam and how to structure them. Well, now comes the time when you have to remember most of it again and this is done on an open conversation with an airline training captain which most definitely has more flying hours on Boeing/Airbus than you have breathing.

This is good, you`re in good hands, they`ve been through interviews as well, they remember the stress and pressure and they can be helpful in making you more comfortable to remember all that knowledge but also comes with a down side: If you did the ATPL exams just to get rid of them and you think all the "tricks" you used to "pass" them are going to be helpful without rehearsing you cannot be more wrong, they will spot everything and you might spend the money for nothing.

That being said, there are numbers of books and online sources to go through but I'll give you the most common ones; Ace the technical pilot interview 2nd edition (ISBN 0071793860) is a book you have probably seen before and is a good way to see which questions that you can expect during an interview. A word of warning though, this book contains a few factual errors and should always be backed up by other sources such as the books you used to read for your ATPL exams. EU-OPS and PANS- OPS (doc 8168) are good for brushing up on e.g. holding procedures or what are the required fuel policies for an IFR flight between point A and B. Not to mention the ICAO annexes.For example, Annex 2 Rules of the Air contains the IFR lost communications procedure, a frequently asked question.

Basically, the question you will be asked won’t be the most complex ones, and your answers are expected to be brief, but you have to demonstrate that you know them. The technical questions might also include questions about the airplane you are applying for, so make sure you have some knowledge in that area like engine types, dimensions, range etc.

During this interview you will also be asked a lot of personal questions like “why would you like to fly for us?” or "what was the most difficult decision of your life?" and “if it comes down to you and another person, why should we hire you?". This is just something you have to expect and be ready to give an answer for. Word of advice: just be honest. I wish you the best of luck!

Vlad started his career only three months after getting his CPL licence, already on 1st of September. That proves that only your professionalism and excellent flight skills can help you to get your first job in aviation.

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