Written by Iain Holmes   
In Europe, Asia and some Middle Eastern countries some airlines pay for the training of a few young men and women. Unfortunately there are no programs like this in the United States, and you do need the rights to live and work in these countries to apply for these opportunities. If you interview successfully you will go for 18-24 months of high intensity training. Once you completed all your training (and passed numerous tests), you will find yourself either a first officer on a short haul aircraft or a second officer on long haul aircraft (different airlines do different things).

I am in the process of applying for British Airways sponsorship, unfortunately British Airways had to freeze all recruitment (cost saving) so I am still waiting for my aptitude test. All my research has been in the direction of British Airways, so this page will mainly focus on what they do, however from the little amount of knowledge I have on other airlines sponsorship schemes they all seem very similar. 

I am sure it comes as no surprise that the competition for these schemes is fierce. Although BA do not release the information, it is rumored that 30,000 people apply per year, 1500-2000 make it to the aptitude test, and about 150 get the job. Of those 150 about 15 get through when they are 18, with just A levels. Most successful applicants are 23-25 and have a University degree. From what I have heard most have a little flying experience (10-20 hours), but there are some who have no flying experience, and some have over 100 hours.

The best way to find out which airlines offer programs like this would be to do a search on the Internet. Depending on how successful you where with that I would suggest buying some aviation related magazine most notably 'Flight International' (August-September are when most advertisements for these schemes are placed), or giving airlines in your area a call.

Applying for a Sponsorship Program
The first thing you have to do is make sure you meet all the airlines eligibility requirements. I get a lot of email asking about taking Maths and Physics for A Levels. British Airways say they prefer it; but if you can get a better grade in another class I would take that instead. Good grades look better then bad ones (no matter what they are in), and if it does not work out, you have some good grades to get into University with.

The application was one of the longest I have seen. I used the online version at http://www.BritishAirwaysjobs.com, if you do not go this route you will have to call up the number given in the advertisement and they will send you a copy. The first thing you should do when you receive it, is make lots of photocopies, in case you make a mistake or still coffee on it!

It starts of asking you the usual stuff: name, work history, education, etc. It also asks you a serious of questions on your flying experience: how many hours do you have, what type of aircraft have you flow, dual received, or command, what flying organizations do you belong too (If the airline has a flying club it might be worth while joining it, or doing a trial flight from there, just so you can mention it on the application), etc. There where some odd questions too, like can you swim, is there any reason you would not be able to travel to the US, and some others. The real shocker can at the end of the British Airways one (I am not sure if they all require this) but you have to write 5 essays which have to be under 500 words. The topics are: To show evidence you are capable of taking on responsibility and can be relied on. To give an example of you using your communication skills to the full. To give an example of you working successfully in a team. To show you can persevere to achieve a high standard. To indicate your motivation to become BA flight crew. To show why you feel BA is a successful commercial organization. I highly suggest keeping a copy of these essays, you will see why later. The hardest question for me was the expected pay question, I had no clue what to put. If you have read some more of this site, you will notice Doug often says 'network, network, network'. I emailed a friend of mine from who was successful about 10 years, requesting some help. Not only did he give me a realistic figure to use. He also put me in contact with a friend of his who was successful with BA just a few months prior, who also has also answered many of my questions about the scheme. See how important and helpful networking can be!

There was a slight problem with my application; the gentleman in the British Airways recruitment office was unsure how my US qualifications translated into British ones. This was shortly settled, and I got the letter asking me to call them to invite me to an aptitude test. Waiting for letter like this is the worst, you do begin to strongly dislike the mailman.

Applicant Testing
The aptitude test consists of 4 different tests: Numeric Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Personality Questionnaire, and Computerized Pilot Aptitude.

The Verbal Reason test is designed to measure you ability to deal logically with written information and evaluate the logic of various kinds of written arguments.

Sample question
State whether the comment is True, False, or Cannot Say:
The big economic difference between nuclear and fossil fueled power stations is that nuclear reactors are more expensive to build and decommission, but cheaper to run. So disputes over the relative efficiency of the two systems revolve not just around the price of coal and uranium, today and tomorrow, but also around the way in which future income should be compared with current income.
1) The main difference between nuclear and fossil fueled power stations is an economic one.
2) The price of coal is not relevant to discussion about the relative efficiency of nuclear reactors.
3) If nuclear reactors where cheaper to build and decommission than fossil fueled power stations, they would definitely have an economic advantage.

As you can probably tell at this point the testing is very ambiguous! I found a website about aptitude test taking strategies, what they suggested to do was ask:

Does it say the main difference between nuclear and fossil fueled power stations is an economic one? If you answer yes, then the answer is true, if not you have to ask:

Does is say the main difference between nuclear and fossil fueled power stations is not an economic one (please note the not, which I added)?
If you answer 'yes' to this question then it is false, if your answer is no then you 'cannot say', the answer to ours is cannot say.

The Numeric Reasoning test to measure you numeric skills.

Sample question:
If 1000 ball bearings cost $42.50, how much would 2,300 cost?
A $85
B $97.75
C $105.50
D $110,25
E $125.50

These types of questions are relatively simple but are incredibly easy to make silly mistakes on.

Here are a couple books I would recommend getting to help you prepare for the numeric and verbal reasoning tests:
"How to Pass Selection Tests" by Mike Brown & Sanjay Modha ISBN 0-7494-2697-7
"How to Pass Numeracy Tests" by Harry Tolley & Ken Thomas ISBN 0-7494-3437-6
"How to pass Verbal Reasoning Tests" by Harry Tolley & Ken Thomas ISBN 0-7494-3436-8

If you are unable to find these book in your local bookstore you can go to the publishers website http://www.Kogan-page.co.uk

The Personality Questionnaire provides them with additional information about you. It is a lot like the ones we had to take during school when they determined what career path suited us (I was told I should be a plumber)! On this test there are no right or wrong answers. When filling it out be honest, do not try and answer what you think they want to hear. All the questions are repetitive but asked slightly differently, so it will show if you are not being honest.

There are a few different Computerized Pilot Aptitude Tests you have to do. One is a flight simulator; they set you up on final and you have to land the aircraft. You do get one practice, and then you have 3 real goes.

There is also a test where you have to keep the X in the box. The computer tries to move the X out of the box and you have to keep it in (the box doesn't move) by using pedals (L/R) and a joystick (U/D), if you move the joystick left and right nothing happens. This just takes a bit of getting used to, but from what I heard it is very easy to forget and move the joystick left and right.

How is your subtraction? There is a fast fire subtraction game, they give you an equation and an answer, and you have to say if it is true of false. They ask you 20 questions.

On another test, you have to determine if the plane is a friendly aircraft or an enemy aircraft. If it is an enemy aircraft you have to shoot it down. The only difference between them is their wingspan, as the testing goes on the difference in their wingspan decreases.

On this test there is a crude drawing of a man, who has a briefcase in his hand. You job is to determine which hand the briefcase is in. They show pictures from all sides (left, right, front, back) and at many different angles (90, 190, 270, 360).

This test you have to keep a square between 2 horizontal lines (about 1 inch long), which move left and right (not up and down). You control the square with a joystick. You can advance to a higher level (by pressing the green key), or if it gets too hard you can always make it easier (by pressing the red key). It is harder then it sounds, but a tip that is floating around is to press the green key (to advance the level) 10 times, and then concentrate on keeping the square between the lines.

I highly suggest staying a local hotel the night before for the testing and later for the final board, there is nothing worse then rushing to get there on time, or being late. Also at British Airways most people attend this test in suites (at least shirt and ties) so it would not be a bad idea to make sure everything fits, and is clean as soon as you get invited for the test.

British Airways is generally very good at backing back quickly at this stage, you should hear back within 5 days, but normally it is 2-3. But you will start to dislike the mailman again!! If you get passed this stage you have to take a trip to your doctor to fill out a health form, which basically is your first medical screening.

The Interview
If all goes well with that you will be invited for the final board. I highly recommend reading Jetcareers Interview Page. There are 3 sections involved with this are: Interview, Timed Essay, and a Group Exercise.

At British Airways you will have an interview with a pilot and a HR person, which generally lasts about an hour. The pilot will interview you for 30 minutes while the HR person takes notes, and then visa versa. It would be a good idea to do some research on the company. I know for British Airways there is a book all about its history, it is a good idea to know things like the aircraft in its fleet, company size, route network, name of the CEO, the price there shares where at the day before, etc. You will be asked about your person experiences; remember I told you to keep a copy of your Essays? They will question you on that, so it would be a good idea to review it the day before. It is said they like you reflecting back, and using your pass experience to answer questions.

You will be assembled in a group (4-5 people) and be set a task like building a Lego tower (sounds like fun to me!). There will be people watching and evaluating to see how you work in a team, so take it quite seriously. Good eye contact, being flexible and compromising but defending your own views where appropriate, supporting others ideas and determination in doing absolutely everything you can to achieve the goal of the exercise, are all things they are looking for. I have heard that is a good idea to designate a time keeping (with a big watch; every pilot or wannabe pilot should have one!), because it is really easy to loose track of the time (time flies; excuse the pun!) when playing with Lego

It is time to sharpen your pencil! You will have to write an essay on a set topic they use different examples: what a pilot can do to save money, increase safety, customer service, etc. etc. A lot of current essay questions have revolved around the requirement that BA pilots are also managers. You will have to write the essay as if your where a pilot.

Well it is time to check your phone has a dialing tone! If you get pass this stage with British Airways you will receive a phone call (one guy I meet got called at 08:30 on Saturday morning!). All there is to do now is go down to Gatwick, for a medical. If that all goes well you will be off to either Oxford, Jerez, or Western Michigan University for 18 months of flight training.

If you do not get in it does not mean you would not make a good pilot. I know that there are quite a few guys, and gals who are not successful there first time round but make the their second try (at BA you do have to wait a year between attempts), or go the self sponsor route and become pilots.