Tag Archives: airline pilot assessment

Are you fit as a pilot? Some points of view concerning the psychological aspects.

It is up to the Air Medical Examiner to investigate and assess if a pilot or a pilot candidate is really fit for flying. Many AME:s co-operate with experienced aviation psychologists in this matter in Sweden.
The text below is from an informative site from the UK CAA Medical Department about the requirements for the medical certification of aircrew.
Applicants shall have no established psychological deficiencies, which are likely to interfere with the safe exercise of the privileges of the applicable licence(s).
Class 1
(a) Where there is suspicion or established evidence that an applicant has a psychological disorder, the applicant should be referred for psychological opinion and advice.
(b) Established evidence should be verifiable information from an identifiable source which evokes doubts concerning the mental fitness or personality of a particular individual.  Sources for this information can be accidents or incidents, problems in training or proficiency checks, delinquency or knowledge relevant to the safe exercise of the privileges of the applicable licence.
(c) The psychological evaluation may include a collection of biographical data, the administration of aptitude as well as personality tests and psychological interview.
(d) The psychologist should submit a written report to the AME, AeMC or licensing authority as appropriate, detailing his/her opinion and recommendation

Class 2
Applicants with a psychological disorder may need to be referred for psychological or neuropsychiatric opinion and advice.

Examples of special psycho-neurological problems:

Dyslexia is a disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010 because it is a long term impairment which can have an adverse effect on an individual’s ability to perform normal day to day activities.  Someone with dyslexia should, therefore, be entitled to reasonable adjustments to enable them to obtain and remain in employment.  However, it can never be considered reasonable to make adjustments that will compromise safety.
Although it is considered reasonable for students of most disciplines to have help from a scribe when writing essays, sitting exams etc. it cannot be considered reasonable for a pilot to have to rely on someone else when reading checklists, weather reports, instrument displays, charts etc. in flight.  Scribes or other aids to word recognition should not be permitted in pilot training for this reason.
Provided a pilot has been able to successfully complete the written work involved in training, he or she will have demonstrated a level of reading and writing ability sufficient to safely pilot an aircraft.  If an applicant for pilot licensing is unable to complete training without assistance with reading and writing there are no reasonable adjustments, with current technology, that can be made to enable him or her to safely fly solo or pursue a career in aviation.

Asperger syndrome
Asperger syndrome is an autistic spectrum disorder characterised by impaired social interaction and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour.  The DSM IV diagnostic criteria also include significant impairment in social or occupational functioning.  Nevertheless, language skills and cognitive development are not impaired and someone diagnosed with Asperger syndrome may be able to acquire the skills necessary to function safely as a pilot or air traffic controller.  Interpersonal difficulties may arise or emerge in the Crew Resource Management environment of the modern professional airline cockpit.  It is, of course, essential that an applicant with Asperger syndrome undergoes assessment by a psychologist with expertise in the condition before embarking on a career in aviation.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity (ADHD) Disorder
This condition is diagnosed (according to DSM-IV) when an individual demonstrates inattention, hyperactivity or impulsiveness sufficient to cause significant impairment in social, school or work functioning.  The impairment should have appeared before the age of seven years for the diagnosis to be made and may improve with age.
Therefore, anyone applying for pilot licensing who has been diagnosed with this condition must undergo neuropsychological assessment to assess the likelihood of them being able to perform safely as a pilot.  An individual with ongoing ADHD will not (by definition) be able to complete pilot training.  Medication used for this disorder is normally disqualifying.

Each one of us has our breaking point

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.”


Common question: Do we perform Airline Pilot Suitability Assessments?

The answer is yes, we are able to perform such assessments.
But, and this is important, we have abstained from the so called “adjusted psychological test” programs used for candidates applying for a seat at the Pilot trainings arranged by SAA, SPU and TFHS within the frame of the Vocational Higher Education in Sweden. That kind of test is aimed to find out the ability to undergo an educational and training program only, not to investigate your suitability acting as an airline pilot for an airline company.
So, we are not any longer at that kind of service for the Flying Training Organizations. (Please see the blog notes below from October 09, 2016)
But if you are interested in undergoing a more complete personality and resource assessment program, looking not only at your educational career you are welcome to get in touch. We name that kind of assessment an “Advisory Psychological Assessment Program”, aiming to provide you with as much information as possible about your both stronger and weaker sides. After that you will be able to make a decision if the airline pilot career is a good enough investment for you. And please note that we are only able to perform such assessments in Stockholm, Sweden.
If you are interested in such an extended suitability assessment program we advise you to send us an e-mail as we are not always at our phone.