The following text is an excerpt from an interview with Hans Gordon about airline pilot aptitude assessments and tests .
“There are no mandatory requirements for psychological aptitude tests when recruiting pilots in large parts of the world that is left to the airlines themselves. This means that some airlines conduct psychological tests in an attempt to assess whether a person is functioning reasonably well, socially and professionally. Then there are airlines that can’t afford it. They cut corners and cross their fingers that anyone trained at an aviation school has the right qualities. The aviation school, most often private, has approved the student. Some budget airlines conduct some form of aptitude test, usually very simplified, that are not always compiled or evaluated by psychologists.
“I usually differentiate between what is known as a psychologist’s assessment and a test. When I receive anybody who is taking a test I tell them they’re not only there to be tested but to be assessed, and the assessment begins the minute they walk through the door. The assessment includes everything about them that I perceive. Their life experiences, what they’ve gone through, what they’ve learned from their experiences, how they’ve grown as a person, how they’ve reached various stages of maturity, etc. These are vital aspects.
“Testing usually looks at the purely cognitive skills, which are also significant because we people differ very much in that respect. This could involve logical analyses, spatial ability, working memory and multitasking capacity. We also look at their social life, the relationships they’ve had, how close and how long they’ve lasted, their family life and where their experiences have come in handy. In education they use the term test wiseness, which means I can do a test several times, prepare myself and learn what’s expected of me.
“With regard to the actual testing tools, even they differ from one psychologist to the next and between different psychology institutes. Some develop their own while others buy them. The means you could get vastly different results from different psychologists. If you want to achieve even better results by taking a test twice then you should either go to the same psychologist or two with similar tests. But if you come to me, I not only assess how you manage the tests, I also carry out a more extensive personality assessment.
“Personality is a complex thing. We people are creatures bursting at the seams with impulses and urges. We train during our early life in our trouble-free social environments to keep a balance between different types of internal urges and power games. This doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared, we just have them under reasonable control. That which we call the maturity process is actually gaining reasonable control over our own powers in our social interplay with others. The problem is, we can’t have reasonable control on any given occasion, but when the pressure dramatically increases from the outside world is when we may lose control. Each one of us has our breaking point.
“I look at it this way: a pilot candidate could come and showcase a repertoire of fully approved behavioural patterns and ways to collaborate, and so forth. If they later encounter circumstances that are extremely stressful and demanding and they begin to falter and not be bothered to keep up any longer, then that person is approaching their breaking point.”