As I said, time was flying, I was flying, my flight time was growing. But of course, my goal has always been flying big commercial jets for airlines: more respect, more money, more everything. There is nothing like flying with a proper crew: Captain, flight attendants, overnights in Paris, Brussels, New York, Rio, Bombay… This was the life I wanted and this was the life I was going to achieve my betting into leading airlines.
Back home I applied for Air Zimbabwe and some other local operators, but I never really wonted to work here. Just like me, Jeff was nearing 2000 hours and was determined to get a job flying jets. So, we were both sending out our applications and pilot resumes like crazy – every day we would send one or two applications to every single company in the world. Hey, it does not hurt to try, hey?… I knew, that some companies out there were hiring pilots like me. They didn’t care if we were not citizens of their country, they didn’t care if we didn’t have experience flying jets. People have to start somewhere, right?.. Aerocadet put me in touch with their consulting company, Raich Aerospace, which, in turn, started sending me emails with the information about the airlines that were hiring guys with my flight time. One of the main company profiles they sent me were: Cathay Pacific, Air Hong Kong (that’s a cargo operator owned by Cathay), Air Macau (they hired anyone who had type rating, even with no actual time on type). Obviously, I applied for all of them. Jeff got an email first. It was from AHK. They invited him to screening in HK. Lucky bastard! His interview was a two-day process, consisting on a technical interview with the board of recruitment captains, followed by B747-200 simulator check-ride. I could not really understand, how the heck they expected him to fly a 747 simulator, if he never actually flew one in the past and had zero experience on ay jet of any type. Never the less, Jeff got an email from Raich with information how to prepare: here, read this book “Handling Heavy Jets” and “How to Ace Technical Interview” and they explained him what would be on the check ride. They also recommended that Jeff gets 2-4 hours in a B747-200 or 300 sim to get acquainted with the cockpit and handling. Jeff had about a month to prepare and, on advise of guys from Raich Aerospace, flew out to Miami to get the required B747 experience. They set him up with the sim center, called “PanAM” (a remnant of the Great Pan American Airlines, I suppose) and he flew 4 hours with an instructor in a sim. That was pricey – cost him $3000. But, Jeff was happy.
While Jeff was playing a “fifteen million dollar computer game” in Miami, I, myself, got an email from Cathay’s recruitment department, stating that they would like to invite me for their initial interview in Hong Kong. Not AHK, their cargo alter-ego, but the actual CATHAY! Could not believe my luck! Cathay was one of my dream jobs, the ultimate airline to work for, the “creme-de-la-creme” of commercial aviation. Yes, I was excited and could not sleep for a couple of days. That aside, I also knew that their candidate selection process was brutal: they wanted applicants to go through several interview stages, and selected only the best. I had one shot at this, and I was freaked out. So, I immediately emailed my Aerocadet support team and got a reply with the intel on the upcoming tests. Somehow they knew what was going to happen. Stage one: initial technical interview, IQ Raven tests; then stage two: secondary technical interview, math tests, CRM (crew resource management, for hose of you who do not know all the stupid and endless aviation terminology) tests; stage three: board interview and more tests. “Study this, look through that, go through Cathay’s history and corporate portfolio, memorize their fleet statistics, look through Chek Lap Kok’s airport diagram. Ah, read the same books as Jeff did, train for the Raven tests – you will be fine!” Thanks God for that – they saved me ass. I had no idea that the interview was so involved.
The first interview and test was in Singapore, to some reason. I guess they just invite you to the nearest available location. I bought a ticket and flew to get interviewed there at a local Cathay office, in some sky-scraper downtown. They gave me three different Raven tests right away, they are sort technical IQ tests that check your reasoning quality and speed. Then I waited for 30 mins. Then one of their captains and HR lady interviewed me in a small room. Since i read the book Raich Aerospace recommended me, I knew pretty much everything they asked me. It’s almost like they used these books to create their questions. I swear, I would have failed the interview and the IQ tests if i was not preparing for a month and a half before attending it. So, that was it. They would let me know. I went back to Zimbabwe.
A week later, I get an email “Pleased to confirm that you have passed stage one and invited to stage two”. This time the email was a lot more involved: airline reservation details, hotel and Cathay City (they actually have a full-sizes city in there) orientation and further interview instructions. This time thy got me confirmed biz class tickets to Hong Kong, and I was flying like a celebrity: my own bed 10 kilometers up in the air!
While this was going on with me, Jeff was already in HK (his interview was less involved: one stage, consisting of technical interview, some sort of CRM role-play and B747sim, which they left for last). Also, he had to pay for his own ticket. Never the less, thanks to the help from his support advisors, Jeff aced the interviews and CRM test, then, thanks to 4 hours spent in the 747 sim – he aced the sim check. Of course they didn’t tell him this right away – airlines like to keep people in the dark. Jeff had to come back to Zimbabwe and wait in agony for 10 sleepless nights, before he got an email that he was going to start his training in a month. By the way, he called me and told me about the B747 check ride: just like Raich Aerospace guys told him, it was a 30 minute affair consisting of normal takeoff, departure on a heading some some basic air work (steep turns, close flight, that kind of thing) then he had to do an ILS approach (all raw data – no autopilot of flight director), then go-around, then complete a go-around procedure, then he had an outboard engine fire, then he had to do the whole thing again – shoot an ILS with three engines and a full left rudder. Later, Jeff told me that he would have never done it right, unless he followed Raich’s advise and practiced in a sim. His sim instructor was also well-informed of the AHK sim check and practiced the maneuvers with him for 4 hours. How did they expect people to do this without any practice – I have no idea! I guess, it’s a test to commitment more then pilot’s skill: if you are committed enough, you will travel abroad and spend 3k on preparation. If not – you don’t belong here.
So, now back to me. I aced day one of stage two: a technical interview, a psychometric test (it’s an annoying computer program that asks you the same question an a hundred different ways and sees how you answer it. Even more annoying was that it took like two hours). Day three was math test (no, it was not integrals or differential equations, it was just simply mental math: 185/14=….. 34/95=… they time you and want you to answer as close to the actual number as possible). Then we did a CRM team work exercise, which was actually kind of fun. They gave us a flight planning problem and we had so solve it as a team: discussion, proposals, solution. We aced it too. The guys is my group were from different backgrounds, but most had less then 200o0 hours and no experience on jets. That was comforting.
They told me that they would notify me of results a week later. In a meantime, i went back home. Great! more sleepless nights. Perhaps I could commiserate with Jeff on our career choices!..