Aptitude Testing of Military Pilot Candidates

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Forgues, Susan
cognitive constructs , aptitude testing
Flying a military aircraft is a cognitively complex activity. Military pilots must not only be able to fly the aircraft but they also must be able to seamlessly integrate the aircraft into a wide range of operational situations, working to complete complex missions in hostile terrain and under difficult circumstances. The overall goal of this thesis is to examine the specific cognitive abilities and/or demographic characteristics of Canadian Forces pilot candidates in aircrew selection using three aptitude test batteries. There were three purposes of this study: to investigate relationships amongst the three aptitude test batteries completed by the pilot candidates, to determine if there were specific indicators that defined successful pilot candidates, and to examine the patterns of performance in flight simulator testing. Analysis of the relationships identified three factors, which were significant in a number of analyses and confirmed that candidates who were successful at aircrew selection possessed a number of common abilities. Specific groups of candidates were also identified based on their performance in the simulator. Candidates who scored well on Psychomotor Ability and Spatial Reasoning subtests were successful at pilot selection and Gender was consistently a significant factor in aptitude testing, with female candidates experiencing greater difficulty passing selection. The development of systemically complex aircraft may have reduced the need for strong psychomotor abilities and instead generated an increased requirement for improved problem solving abilities and situational awareness. The current study demonstrated some movement towards this new dynamic by showing the importance of a Reasoning factor based on problem solving and critical thinking abilities, and an ability to work quickly and accurately under time constraints. Successful completion of pilot selection required candidates to be competent in a number of ability domains. More diverse abilities testing may select military pilot candidates whose performance during flight training is of a higher calibre as a result of their expanded skill set and who are better equipped to meet the challenges of today’s complex and ever-changing air environment.
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