You’ve made it through the first phases on a pilot interview and now it’s time for the final evaluation in the simulator. By the time you’ve gotten here the employer is interested in hiring you as the simulator evaluation is the last step in the pilot hiring process.
The job market will dictate whether simulator evaluations will be common in pilot hiring. During pilot shortages pilots will often bypass simulator evaluations as pilot employers are not able to be as selective. Employers may also use evaluations on a case-by-case basis, often using them if they feel an applicant is in a higher risk category for not passing training.
Remember that the simulator evaluation is still part of the interview. The evaluation can be on a different day than the other phases of the interview process. But you still need to dress and conduct yourself with professionalism and kindness. Assume any person you come in contact with can have input on the hiring decision.
The briefing isn’t just an introduction to that day’s planned torture. It is the time to set yourself up for the best shot at passing. Do not gloss over the briefing - make sure you understand what will happen, what is expected of you, and any guidance the evaluators are providing.
Simulator evaluators are not only looking for stick and rudder skills, they are looking at how well you follow instructions and if you are trainable. Being a know-it-all who is above training will hurt your grades on the evaluation. When getting the briefing take notes, ask questions, and write diagrams of profiles for yourself.
Equipment used for simulator evaluations is varied. It can either a computer desktop with rudimentary flight controls or in a full-fledged full-motion simulator used by that employer during their training. Typically the higher up the career ladder you are the more advanced the equipment will be. You might be flying by yourself or you might be flying with a partner.
You can apply Crew Resource Management (CRM) principles to your simulator session whether you have a sim partner or not. CRM is a set of skills that teaches pilots to utilize all available resources. If you are by yourself with the evaluator operating as a control do not hesitate to use them as a resource as you would with an Air Traffic Controller during a real flight.
If you are with a sim partner they are part of your team. The employer wants to hire both of you - at this point you are likely not in competition with them for a job. When you are flying call on your sim partner as you would while flying. Ask for callouts, checklists, or clarification at any point.
When you are serving as the non-flying pilot during the evaluation you are still in the hot seat. It will not look good if you do not help your partner to fly a successful sim profile. Provide your partner what they ask for and suggest concrete and succinct guidance when it is needed. Do not show off or do anything self serving that is not helping the successful completion of the simulator session. And remember, you want your partner to get the job as well!
It takes just minutes to set up your profile and begin matching with available opportunities.
The most important aspect of a simulator evaluation - the pilot employer needs to ensure you have basic stick & rudder and instrument skills. Many simulator evaluations will use advanced airplanes equipped with flight directors and autopilots. However, the evaluators will typically have you fly the profile raw data - without the aid of flight automation.
Evaluators are not looking for perfection. They want to know that you have a solid base of airmanship, that you handle mistakes well, and that you can effectively utilize available resources.
The simulator will be configured to a specific airplane type. If you do not have experience in that type the evaluators will likely not be looking for you to know the ins and outs of flying that type of airplane. They are looking more for a general base of piloting ability.
A typical profile will start with a normal takeoff followed by a departure to an area near the airport. Once there standard airwork can be expected to include instrument holds, steep turns, and low speed awareness or stall maneuvers. A minor system malfunction is common at this point. During the malfunction the evaluator will be looking for you to have basic failure management skills and that you utilize Crew Resource Management concepts appropriate for the resources you have available.
After the airwork expect at least a couple of instrument approaches. During the approaches you may encounter more difficult systems failures to potentially including an engine failure. If you become unstabilized or unsafe during an approach do not continue that approach. It is better to recognize a mistake, go-around, and try again than it is to continue with a botched approach. If at any point your partner calls for a missed approach do not ignore them.
A common test during simulator evaluations is to periodically ask the applicant where they are in relation to a point (usually the departure airport). The evaluator will want to know that you are maintaining appropriate situational awareness while flying. A typical way this is done is that they will pause the simulator, hand you an approach chart, and ask where you are on the chart.
The simulator evaluators are often line pilots as well. While they spend time with you in the simulator they will also be checking if they want to spend part of their professional life with you next to them in a flight deck. They will be judging if you will make that time pleasant or if you will be a difficult coworker.
Lacking airmanship skills necessary for the job will disqualify you for pilot employment. The evaluators are also looking at you for non-tangibles as well.
Very few people want to work with ass holes. As mentioned previously, evaluators want to know that working with you will be pleasant. Arrogance can be a common issue with pilots but is still not a desirable trait. Conduct yourself as you would during the other phases of the interview.
As mentioned before, if you are being evaluated with a partner you are being tested as much on your teamwork and crew resource management as you are on your piloting abilities. Value your partner’s success equal to your own and you will increase your chances.
Get adequate practice ahead of any simulator evaluation. This is especially important if you don’t have as much real world instrument time, if you won’t have recent practice with standard instrument maneuvers and procedures, or if you have been flying an automated airplane and have used the autopilot and flight director during a significant portion of your flying.
If an interview gouge is available for the pilot employer you are applying to it is a good idea to look up the simulator profile and likely approach charts you will work from. Let these guide your practice.
Practice in your current flying job by turning the automation systems off and hand flying as much as possible. As much as practical, fly instrument maneuvers you don’t have recent experience with.
Time spent on a desktop simulator can help. Especially if used to gain familiarity with the approaches and area the employer is using in the evaluation. If you are in one of the categories mentioned above you will also want to consider finding an FAA approved flight simulator and spending some time in it with a flight instructor. The approved flight simulator is a good idea even if you are comfortable with your flying ability.
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