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pilot interview


Sterling Pacific Review – A day in the life of a cargo pilot

Flying with the Sterling Pacific 35L Carry On Travel Case: A Cargo Pilot’s Perspective

Eva with the Sterling Pacific 35L Aluminium Travel Case

My name is Eva, and I have been flying the Boeing 747 freighter (-400 and -8 versions) for 5 years. The Boeing 747 freighter is the variant with the iconic nose cargo door. From my home base Hong Kong I fly all around the world as a senior First Officer. The first fact about flying as a cargo pilot: no two days are the same! There is no typical day or typical week. It is a lot of fun. 

Join me on my trip

Today you are joining me on a day in my life as a cargo pilot. It’s Friday afternoon. I have just completed a simulator session at my airline’s training centre in Hong Kong. I am in the simulator every three months, for proficiency and training sessions, where all kind of scenarios get trained and checked; from multiple engine failures to cargo fires to landing in low visibility conditions. After completing my simulator session I check with ‘crew control’ for any changes in my schedule. There are no changes, so tomorrow I have an early morning report time at 05:30 AM. It is not a very typical duty in my not so typical schedule: I get to operate to Mumbai, then stay in the crew hotel for a couple of hours, to return back to Hong Kong as ‘positioning crew’. It is not a turnaround flight, as is often the case. In a turnaround flight we return directly back to Hong Kong after cargo has been offloaded and loaded in usually under two hours.

How I pack my Aluminium Travel Case

At home I pack my bag for tomorrow; I bring the Sterling Pacific 35L Carry On Travel Case. The case is absolutely perfect for shorter trips and for those cargo turnaround flights, where I would normally bring some items along with me for an ‘unexpected overnight’. It easily stores toiletries, sleepwear, gym clothes, a clean uniform shirt, and my laptop. I prepare for an early night. 

Let’s fly to Mumbai!

It’s Saturday morning. In order to make my early report, with the Hong Kong Express Train not running yet, I have booked a taxi to pick me up at 04:45. I get ready and put on my uniform. Then I have my first cup of coffee of the day, while downloading the flight plan and the weather information on my company iPad for my flight. In the taxi to Dispatch I review the flight. Today I am scheduled to operate a Boeing 747-8F. I slightly prefer the -8, as it is a bit more advanced, with for example electronic checklists instead of paper checklists. The flight time is 6 hours, and the weather in Mumbai is very hazy, so the visibility for landing is quite reduced today. 

Cargo on board

Boeing 747 nose cargo door

At Dispatch I meet with the Captain. He offers me the sector, which means that I get to be pilot flying, including take-off and landing. We discuss the flight, the weather, aircraft status and required fuel. We have a lot of freight on board today, and will land at Mumbai at almost our maximum landing weight of 346,090 kgs. Our scheduled departure time is 06:55 AM. As pilot flying I set up the flight deck, and the Captain completes the external inspection of the plane. The loading has already been completed when we arrive at our airplane; lots of high stacked pallets. The nose door stays closed today; it is only used for very big and bulky freight, which would not work for the side cargo doors. As we are ready early, we are able to depart a few minutes ahead of schedule. With freight there is less pressure when it comes to keeping the exact schedule: when you are ready to fly, you can often go if it works with Air Traffic Control. Also, there are no passengers to complain in case of some delay. 

6 hour flight

The Captain and I have flown together before, but it has been about a year since we last operated a flight together. We catch up and have a very pleasant flight to Mumbai. There is no turbulence, so we enjoy a smooth cruise phase. As we fly to Mumbai, we enjoy our breakfast (which we prepare ourselves in the galley) at Flight Level 360 in Vietnamese airspace. We discuss more interesting cargo each of us has transported: from priceless racing cars, to dozens of horses. 

It is late morning when I get to land in Mumbai; this is my favourite phase of flight! Then follows taxiing, parking and shutting down the engines. Our plane is scheduled to continue to Germany, and a different crew is ready to operate the flight to Frankfurt. The Captain and I disembark the plane, making sure we have our belongings with us. I grab my Sterling Pacific Case from the Upper Deck, and then we need to pass the security in Mumbai, and take our transport to the crew hotel. 

More about the Sterling Pacific 35L Travel Case

At the hotel it is time to unpack. I already got several compliments on my shiny Sterling Pacific Travel Case today; from my colleague, and from a couple of random passengers at the airport. It is beautiful and elegant indeed, and it does not go unnoticed. The two wheel design proved robust going over bumps; the wheels roll smoothly. ‘Click click!’, as I open the spring loaded latch locks. A fun avgeek fact: the aluminium used for the case (5052 and A380), are two alloys used in the construction of aircraft and in aerospace engineering. This luggage is built to last.

Sterling Pacific Travel Case: elegant design and built to last!

Returning home

Sterling Pacific 35L: compact size and durable.

We only stay at the hotel in Mumbai for a couple of hours; in the evening we return to Hong Kong on a Boeing 777 passenger flight. We are traveling as ‘positioning crew, which means that we don’t get to operate, but travel in the cabin, because we need to return to Hong Kong for other duties.

So that same evening, after a nap, a gym session and freshening up, we meet with the B777 crew in the hotel lobby. We travel back with them to Mumbai airport. On board, I stow the Sterling Pacific Travel Case safely in the overhead bin. The 35L case complies with the allowable major airlines carry-on size limits. I change from my uniform into my pyjamas and sleep the whole way to Hong Kong. We land on Sunday morning at 10AM. I make my way home, and the rest of the day I am off. 

The next evening, Monday night, I need to operate the Boeing 747 to Alaska. This is a 9,5 hour flight, crossing the Pacific Ocean, and it is a route I operate very frequently. I am scheduled to fly in the USA for 6 days, and operate between Anchorage, New York, and Toronto. I am hoping I get to see the Northern Lights on one of these flights! (Spoiler alert: I did get to see the Northern Lights 🙂 As I said, this job is a lot of fun!

In conclusion: Sterling Pacific Luggage Review

Thank you Sterling Pacific, for letting me try out the 35L Cabin Travel Case. I look forward to take this stylish and high-quality aluminium case on many more trips. I am also excited to try out the 80L Check-In travel Case in the future, for all my longer cargo trips. With its sleek design and robust construction, it’s the perfect choice for pilots who require reliable luggage on their many trips around the world. If you’re a pilot looking for the perfect luggage, consider Sterling Pacific for your next journey! 



Pass your Cadet Pilot Assessment

I reviewed the ‘Cadet Ultimate Bundle’ in collaboration with ADAPT/Symbiotics. You can find the original article here. 

As a pilot, you are assessed throughout your whole career. Several times a year, pilots are required to demonstrate proficiency in simulator exams. Training, testing and checking: it is part of the job, but did you know that the assessments start right from the beginning, when applying to a Flight Academy? How can you pass a cadet pilot selection process and what about that first job interview? Preparation is key! Let’s talk about what you can expect, and how you can prepare to pass a pilot assessment.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Eva, and I have been working as an airline pilot for eight years. I passed two First Officer job assessments; one for the Boeing 737 as a low hour cadet, and one for my current position, which is Boeing 747 First Officer. When I decided to try and become a pilot, I applied at two different Flight Schools. I did assessments for both. My first assessment, I failed miserably, however I was accepted as a cadet for the second Flight School, after I passed their assessment successfully. The difference was preparation. The first time I showed up completely unprepared, and not knowing what to expect. For the second assessment, I prepared thoroughly. I did my research on the different stages of the selection I could expect, and I found ways to prepare and to improve. I learned my lesson, and later I applied the same strategy for both my airline pilot interviews.

Reviewing the Cadet Ultimate Bundle

The road to an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL), and to a pilot job, can seem challenging – and it is! All flight academies have their own selection process, and they are normally very thorough. An interview and a flight simulator assessment are a certainty and, in most cases, you can also expect to take several psychometric tests.

Recently I have been given the opportunity to review Symbiotics’ most extensive online preparation package: the Cadet Ultimate Bundle. It is created for Ab-Initio/Cadet pilots, designed to cover everything you may come across during the flight academy recruitment process. Let’s have a look at what the Cadet Ultimate Bundle contains:

The bundle gives you a set number of attempts at each of the online tests over a three months period. After purchasing, you can log into the online portal, which shows you when your access ends, how many test attempts you still have left, as well as which tests you have completed and which ones you still have to do. It is all very clear.

As I think back to the days of my own Flight School assessments, I start with the first test.

Personality Questionnaire with feedback

The Adapt Personality Questionnaire (APQ) is an in-depth test, concerning my interests, preferences, opinions, values and motivation. There is no right or wrong: all I need to do is stay true to myself in my answers, as to reflect my natural behaviours. There is no time limit to complete the test, but the aim is to finish under one hour.

Some example questions. – Choose the answer resonating the most with you.

  • At work I believe: Rules are there to follow / Rules can be changed if necessary.
  • If the pay were the same I’d prefer to be: A counsellor / An engineer.
  • When working on a project, it’s more important: For everything to be just right / For things to be completed on time.

And some example statements. – To what extent do you agree?

  • I get excited by new or unusual ideas.
  • I know that even if I make mistakes in what I do, nothing is likely to seriously go wrong.
  • Sometimes I don’t deal with situations well.

These are just a few examples, so you get an idea. Many questions get repeated in a slightly different wording over the course of the questionnaire. The questionnaire is very similar to the personality test I had to do during the assessment days for my current job. Once completed, Symbiotics reached out to me to schedule an online video feedback call. On the feedback call, Emma Akhurst, an Aviation Psychologist at Symbiotics, debriefs me on my test report. She explains how my results are presented as a ‘sten score’, where my scores get compared to a large comparison group of individuals who took the test in the past. Many airlines and flight schools use similar tests, in addition to an interview and other assessments, normally to confirm their impression of a candidate. She explains the scores, and how a selection committee can interpret them. There is time to discuss questions and concerns and Emma encourages me to reach out if I have any additional questions later.

One of the graphs of the ADAPT personality Questionnaire Report.

After the debriefing I find the complete report in my e-mail inbox. In small radar graphs my scores are explained in detail, giving a profile of my character, work environment preferences and personal style. It also contains a ‘silhouette’, reflecting my preference to certain styles of information processing, work ethic and motivation. Completing the APQ gives me great insight into how seemingly random questions can lead to an extensive report on my personality.

Mock Interview with a Psychologist

The mock interview takes place via an online video call. As soon as Symbiotics Principal Occupational Psychologist Karen Moore appears on the screen, I can tell she is an excellent and supportive coach: someone who can really put ab-initio pilots at ease for their first interview, and help them to present themselves at their best.

Though I do get to experience a mock interview, I also get the opportunity to ask her questions to learn how she approaches it. Karen informed me that “I will explore the candidates self-awareness, motivation, industry awareness, and will ask questions to see if they have an understanding of the role of a cadet and what they know of the training organisation they apply to.” She continues: “Most candidates are sensible, and I can offer them feedback and give suggestions. Also a major part of a mock interview is helping to remove what we call ‘test environment fear’, the not knowing what the process is going to be.”

She finally puts me on the spot with a couple of unexpected questions. “When it comes to leadership, when did you have to defend an unpopular decision you made?” “When was the last time you made a decision which required careful analysis?” As I keep rambling on, she reminds me of the STAR technique in answering interview questions: Situation, Task, Actions, Result.

Personally, I think the mock interview is the most helpful tool to prepare for your cadet assessments, and especially for the first one! It can be very useful to get some constructive feedback from a ‘stranger’, on your first impression, and on how you answer the practice interview questions. It is, in all honesty, my favourite tool in the practice bundle. Having completed the APQ and the Mock interview, I move onto the pilot aptitude tests within the bundle, which look to measure a candidates knowledge and skills.

Maths, Physics, FAST, Coordination and Cognitive Reasoning Practice Tests

It’s been almost two decades since I worked my way through Maths and Physics classes, so I am curious what to expect. The Maths and Physics practice tests are similar in structure: 20 multiple choice questions, getting more advanced as the test progresses. They are timed and to be answered in 30 minutes – you are not allowed to use a calculator.

After completing the test an instant report is generated, telling me how I scored and providing me with personal revision guidance. The Maths test includes fairly basic distance calculations and a Pythagorean theorem exercise and I am pleased to have scored 100% for it. But I definitely found the Physics test more challenging! For Physics the report tells me that ‘the formulae for electrical resistors, both in series and parallel may be tested.’ It would also be time to review the formulae for springs, both in series and parallel. ‘Revise both the effect on extension length and resistance.’ OK, I will! These tests are an excellent tool to find weaker areas of knowledge.

The Cognitive Reasoning practice test brings me back to my first assessment at a flight school, which as mentioned earlier, I failed. I wish I had invested some time in practicing numerical and verbal reasoning tests, along with working memory, spatial and relationship reasoning exercises. These are all covered in this test and I highly recommend having a go at them to practice in order to get familiar with them.

Finally, to complete the Ultimate Bundle, the FAST and the Coordination practice tests are aimed at your dexterity, which is very important in any kind of simulator assessment. The FAST (Future Aptitude Selection Tool) is quite a challenging multi-tasking dynamic exercise requiring me to deal with multiple information sources simultaneously. Such demanding exercises are part of many assessments; in fact this one is very similar to a test I had to take at my second (successful) flight school assessment. So again, this test makes for great practice. Many flight school selections will subject candidates to a similar test, in which the demanding work environment in the flight deck is replicated.


With the Cadet Ultimate Bundle, Symbiotics have created the most thorough preparation package, with many useful tests and features, to cover everything you may come across in the recruitment process for a cadet role. The great thing is that all tests can be individually purchased as well, so if you feel you don’t need such an extensive preparation, you can have a look at the separate tests available and just purchase what you think suits you.

“Proper preparation prevents poor performance – good luck!”

Find the Symbiotics Practice Tests here: Symbiotics Practice Tests

About the author: Eva is a Hong Kong based Boeing 747 pilot and through her Instagram page @Flywitheva she shares her life as a pilot, aiming to inspire, inform and advise the next generation of future airline pilots.