Gulf Air, flagship carrier of Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar, has become the first airline in the Middle East to implement the evaluation of non-technical abilities as an essential part of their pilot selection procedures.
As well as being expected to reach the highest standards of technical ability, all Gulf Air First Officers, pilot recruits and cadets will now be subject to an assessment by qualified aviation psychologists, in order to confirm that they possess the personality characteristics and operational attitudes appropriate for an airline pilot. These checks are intended to ensure good progress in flight training, and are linked to a broader programme within the company to promote Crew Resource Management (CRM) principles as a further means to improve safety and proficiency.
Gulf Air's new pilot evaluation procedures are the result of nearly 12 months development. The procedures have been specially designed in conjunction with the Aviation and Space Psychology Department of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), one of the world's leading independent organisations involved in the selection of operational aviation personnel.
Captain Peter Weiss, Gulf Air's Vice-President Operations, who masterminded the development of the new procedure, commented:
"In close collaboration with the DLR, Gulf Air has designed and implemented a system of pilot evaluation and selection for flight training that is comparable to those adopted by any of the most forward thinking international airlines.
"As well as helping to reduce failure rates during initial training, resulting in significant cost savings, this is one of the single most effective methods of developing top quality pilots."
Some major Western carriers, as well as other leading airlines, have already adopted similar systematic pilot selection procedures and have benefited from lower rates of failure during flight training.
Gulf Air's working agreement with DLR, which has 50 years experience in aviation and space psychology and is responsible for the selection of all German airline pilots, as well as astronauts for the European Space Agency, will eventually have far reaching implications for Gulf Air, Captain Weiss added:
"All pilots, cabin crew, ground staff and air traffic control personnel work in a challenging environment. As part of the new CRM programme, the principles of assessment and training currently being adopted for pilots will be expanded to apply to other personnel. The aim is to help all our staff to be better equipped to operate in high pressure and often critical situations," he said.
In the first 12 months of the new selection programme, approximately 180 pilots will be assessed. The procedures employed will depend upon their entry level or current position in the company, and last between one and three days:
'Ab initio' applicants (with no previous aviation experience) undergo the full selection process, involving interviews, questionnaires, and psychomotor apparatus tests, while direct-entry pilots undergo concise versions of the aptitude and personality assessment, before interview, in addition to a simulator assessment.