Sharing experiences: How I passed my cadet pilot interview with Singapore Airlines

Who Am I ?

My name is Shaun and I am here to tell you about how I started my journey to become a pilot.

Firstly some background about me – I got interested in aviation about 3 years ago (2015). Prior to that, I had absolutely no background on aviation at all, no flying experience, no education, nothing. What sparked my interest was a rather chance encounter while I was working full time 3 years ago. Back then, I was working full time at my family’s business where we run a car workshop.

One of our customers happened to be a pilot from Singapore Airlines, and I managed to speak to him for a bit while he was waiting for his car to be serviced. He sparked my interest in aviation, and after he told me that Singapore Airlines was actively recruiting, I immediately had the thought of trying it out.

However, one thing that did come to mind for me is that there is a rather lengthy bond, 7 years from after your graduation from training. Now I know some people might think it is a small price to pay for sponsored training, but from what I gathered, most people do not realise this before applying – are you really suited for flying, and can you meet the airlines strict standards of training?

Singapore Airlines Cadet Pilot Program

I thought about if I was the interviewer and a candidate told me he is passionate about being a pilot but has never flown a plane before, it does not really sound believable or convincing does it? So I thought it wise to see if I was suited to fly first. After all, even if I did manage to get in, what if I got chopped halfway during training? It is a very real thing and it is still happening now as I have witnessed a few cadets being chopped as they are unable to handle the flight training.

Just for your info, for Singapore Airlines cadetship, you have to complete ground school in Singapore first for 6 months, and only after passing the 14 ATPL papers will you then be sent to Jandakot in Perth to start the flight training. There is a wait period before being sent to Jandakot as well and it can range from 3 weeks to 2 months. So imagine if you are not able to handle the flight training and get chopped halfway through the course, it is not only a waste of your time, but it is also a wasted opportunity to have completed the training if you had prior experience.

Prior Flying Experience Is Important

In fact, in the first week when I reached Jandakot, the assistant Chief Flight Instructor (CFI) asked all of us who has prior flying experience, and pointed out that those with experience have a huge advantage over those who do not. Why this is so is because the school has strict limitations on the number of hours you can fly under training and will not allow for multiple repeats. One major hurdle for most people is the first solo, and a number of people who were unable to clear the first solo check within the set number of hours by the school would be terminated.

My Interview Preparation

Okay, enough about the gloomy stuff. On to the preparation on how I got in.

The first thing I did was to book a simulator session at the now defunct SG Flight Simulations (Airbus A320), and also one at Flight Experience Singapore (Boeing 737). The experience I had at both these simulators was enlightening, but it was not really as beneficial as I thought as I did not really have any idea what was going on and what I was doing. I thought about what I should do next, and by coincidence I chanced upon the Learn to Fly advertisement on Facebook. I was immediately attracted to it when I read about their Future Cadet Pilot Program (FCPP).

Not only did it offer flight training at a cheaper cost, but what really attracted me was the Interview Coaching Session with one of the Senior Captains from a famous Airline in Hong Kong – Darren Mcpherson. Darren has been an interviewer for cadets at his Airline before, and he provided me with the much needed feedback I required for my preparation for the interview. He was a great help to me – I had even went through a few skype interview sessions with him before my actual SIA interview.

During my time in Melbourne, I must say that I enjoyed the flight training thoroughly. The instructors are friendly and helpful, and the planes are maintained well, despite the fact that it is cheaper than other general aviation schools. I made lots of new friends with similar goals, and we all helped each other out. There were a few hiccups here and there, but no one is perfect, and if you are considering enrolling in a flight school, I must forewarn you to adjust your expectations. Even with that said, the school manager is a very hardworking person and I am thankful that he was able to make arrangements for me to complete my training in 1.5 months as I was on a tight schedule.

Areas Of Knowledge

I only applied to SIA after I came back from Melbourne. I prepared myself by reading up on the followings:

  • Air crash investigations – Ones such as Air France 447 and Air Asia 8501 which were pretty prominent cases at the time
  • Latest news regarding SIA (destinations, new products, and so on)
  • What the MPL program was all about
  • Watching the video Inside Singapore Airlines by National Geographic
  • Reading up about crew resource management
  • Reading up about incidents involving SIA planes (avherald is a good source)
  • Reading up on SIA annual reports and shareholder reports to see how the company is doing
  • Reading up about the fleet of SIA (plane models, engine name, maximum thrust, maximum endurance, max takeoff weight)
  • Revising on what I had learn at learn to fly (aerodynamics, principles of flight, landing and crosswind procedures)
  • Preparation for the HR side of questions, such as what are my strengths and weaknesses, examples of situations when I demonstrated leadership, problem solving
  • Working on a good introduction

For the last point, it is especially important as the interview process is very fluid, and they can really ask you about anything if they want to. Why a good introduction is important is because how the interview proceeds will depend on how you do your introduction. For me personally, both my initial and final interviews were very focused on my experience in Melbourne at Learn to Fly. This made it somewhat slightly less intimidating for me as it was more of a sharing session rather than a hard grilling compared to other interviewees.

Moment Of Truth

After completing the final interview, the very next day you would know if you made it through or not. Fortunately for me, I was selected. I was happy and at the same time grateful to have been given this opportunity. When I left Melbourne to return to Singapore, I remember feeling sad as I was unable to complete my navigation training. Now that I am given another chance to do so, I will cherish this opportunity.

Anyway, for those of you who require more info on the application process to Singapore Airlines, the Hardwarezone Forum is a good resource. I read all of the pages of it. Also, some other good resources are: Ace The Technical Pilot Interview by Gary V. Bristow and Flying The Big Jets by Stanley Stewart. I read both of these as well.

Thank you for reading. I wish you all the best in your application.

Disclaimer: In no way am I representing the company, I am just sharing my personal experiences which may differ from person to person.