Ask The Expert
Flight School Finesse
''I’m passionate about aviation and always felt a genuine responsibility to play my part in making the skies safer."
An Interview with Margie Burns
Managing Director, Aviation Selection Consultants
We interviewed Margie Burns Managing Director at Aviation Selection Consultants, and founder of a pilot-specific personality assessment utilised by airlines, military, and Civil Aviation Authorities worldwide, on the elements required to make the skies safer for all. We Ask The Expert what is needed to maintain standards of excellence in the recruitment and selection of high-flying personnel.
Executive Global: What fundamental factors do you think individuals should consider before investing in becoming a pilot?
Margie Burns: It depends on their ambition. If their ambition is to become an airline pilot as opposed to a recreational pilot (1) get a Class 1 Medical (2) complete an independent assessment, to make sure they are suitable. Getting your licence does not mean an airline will find you suitable. My book ‘Everything you need to know about becoming an airline pilot’ has all the answers.
EG: As an international authority in pilot selection, what have you learned about the importance of quality coaching?
MB: The aviation industry is quite a ‘macho’ industry so it is not easy for pilots to admit they need help. You have to treat each pilot uniquely and have a broad range of expertise & solutions available. We use our pilot specific personality assessment as a basic tool to open discussion and get evidence as to why the pilot has described themselves in a particular way. It is usually a combination of tools and techniques that best supports each individual.
EG: Being a pilot can be a stressful job. What strategies are deployed to improve standards and wellbeing in flight selection?
MB: Unfortunately, standards in pilot selection vary significantly between flight training organisations and airlines and even amongst airlines. The best strategy is adopting a competency-based approach and using a pilot specific personality assessment as part of the process. In terms of wellbeing, we are at the forefront in providing wellbeing programmes for pilots. Ours has been scientifically proven to improve cognitive function and well-being. When you consider that 80% of all air accidents are caused by human error, essentially poor decision-making impacted by stress and fatigue, a wellbeing programme such as ours is a great Strategy.
EG: You became an aviation director at an early age. Why do you think you have achieved so much success in this field?
MB: I’m passionate about aviation and always felt a genuine responsibility to play my part in making the skies safer. I am also an opportunist too so when career opportunities presented I gladly accepted. I'm comfortable in a male dominated environment having grown up amongst four brothers.
EG: Your pilot-specific personality assessment is used worldwide by airlines, military and civil aviation authorities. How did you come about developing this?
MB: I got the idea to develop this test when I was living in Vietnam doing charity work. I was contacted when living there to see if I would carry out some pilot assessments in Middle East & Ireland so I took the opportunity to go back home for a few weeks and be paid while I was there doing something I loved. However, when I returned to Saigon, I was faced with having to spend the next week or more having to write up reports based on the psychological interviews I had carried out. The idea struck me that if only we had an expert system which could generate reports and do the work that a psychologist normally does and one that was pilot specific and described how certain behaviours would typically manifest in the cockpit environment, as opposed to an office environment. Most personality assessments on the market are outdated and do not take modern day work stressors into account so I wanted one that does and takes ‘burnout’ and other stressors into account. I spoke with the Psychologist who had trained me several years previously and who has a particular skillset in developing tests of this nature and ‘Aviator’ was born.
EG: What can aviation clients expect when having their personnel trained by your firm?
MB: 100% Professionalism & flexibility.
EG: What was it like to run both a type rating training organisation and a flight training organisation?
MB: I had great teams in both organisations. Pilot Training is a very competitive business, but I enjoyed it.
EG: How would you say your masters degree in human resources strategies has deepened your insight into the implementation of a competency based selection system within the sector?
MB: I found the MBS Degree Programme useful. However, most benefit was gained from knowledge sharing amongst our classmates,
who tended to be experienced HR Managers/Directors. EG