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Home > Interviewing Process > Cathay Cadet Pilot Program : An engineer pilot-wannabe with no passion for flying…
Cathay Cadet Pilot Program : An engineer pilot-wannabe with no passion for flying…
Pilot Career - Interviewing Process
Friday, 23 January 2009 18:56

Hello Capt Lim,

I will be having my 1st interview for the CXCPP (Cathay Pacific Cadet Pilot Program) soon.

I was just wondering during the interview if I say I'm not an aviation/plane/flying enthusiast - but I have a interest in public transportation. And the reason I want to change my job from being an engineer to a pilot is because:

- I prefer to work outside an office
- be more hands on rather than constantly writing reports,
- saying engineers are not as highly regarded as a pilot,
- moving back to HK to be closer to families,
- reasonable stable job security,
- good remuneration package,
- and chance to see the world.

Would that offend the interviewer because I haven't the 'passion' for flying? I want to tell them the truth but at the same time I don't want to hinder my chances.

Please advice.


Dear Jambe,

The selection process for Cathay Pacific is a rather rigorous one. As their website says, you need not have previous flying experience but you should be ambitious and enthusiastic. In addition, they are also looking for very high quality candidates with the following real attributes to become future airline captains:

o Motivation and aspiration in the field
o Assertiveness
o Judgment and problem-solving skills
o Leadership and team work skill
o Communication (written and oral) skills
o Technical aptitude
o Readiness for challenge
o Compassion for flying
o An open-mind
o Genuine interest to pursue a career in this field as a life long career.

So the moment you say that you have ‘no passion for flying’, you might just as well say goodbye to this job as there are thousand of others who are very passionate about the job for the airline to choose from. This would definitely negate whatever good reasons you have put forward to the interviewers in the beginning.

I would suggest that you read through the past experiences of those who have gone through the selection process in my site and gauge what is in store for you in order to enhance your chances of being selected. Below are two experiences from my Forum.

Stage I of the Interview

Dear Captain Lim,

How are you doing? I hope all is well. I send you an e-mail earlier about information regarding the Cathay Pacific Cadet Pilot Program.

Anyway, I would like to let you know what happen during my initial test yesterday. I am also supposed to get back from them within 3 weeks, but this morning, I received a call from Cathay asking me to go back for another interview. So I guess I passed my initial test.

Now, I don't know what to expect from this interview. I guess I will just have to wait and see.

Here's the run down of what happened during Stage 1 initial test yesterday:

1. English Listening Test

This is a 100 questions test with everyone in the same room. You listen to a tape and try to pick out the key words said and then underline the correct answer. Watch out though, as the speaker on the tape has a very strong English accent. You might want to brush that up if you are from North America or elsewhere.

2. English Grammar Test.

This is another 100 questions test with everyone in the same room again. You have 40 minutes to complete this test. Again, you are supposed to underline one of the three correct answers.

3. Aptitude Test

There are a few parts in the Aptitude Test.

a. First part of the test - there are two short parallel lines with a dot in between. The two parallel lines will move left and right at varying speed and distance and you are suppose to use the joy-stick to move to dot and keep the dot as close to the lines as possible. This test will gets more difficult when your scores get higher and if you are not keeping up, your score will drop. You get 3 tries to get an average score.

b. In the second test - it is pretty much the same thing but with a twist. Instead of having the computer increasing you score and difficulty, you are supposed to press the green button to increase your score and thus increase your difficulty. And if things get too hard and it is out of control, you are supposed to press the red button to reduce your score and difficulty. If you did not press the red button, you will automatically lose score once things get out of control. So it is quite hard as you try to get maximum points while keeping things under control. Again, you get 3 tries to get an average score.

c. In the third test, you are supposed to bring the aircraft to a point in the glide path. You are suppose to align the plane with the runway and bring it down to 50 feet from touch down and at the same time, reduce the speed to 100 km/h. In this test, you use your joy-stick and the red and green button for throttle control. You will get points according to the speed of your approach (you are suppose to keep your speed as fast as possible before you reach 50 feet as you get higher points for a faster average approach speed) and your angle of alignment. You will get 1 test try and 5 real tries.

d. Quick Subtraction - you will need to do 50 quick subtraction questions. All you need to do is to confirm the answer is right or wrong. You will get points for your speed and accuracy.

e. In this coordination test, you are going to use the rudder pedal and your joy-stick to try to keep this cross within this box. The computer will try to move the cross away from the box to simulate wind. It is an interesting test. You will get points for the horizontal and vertical errors. You get 3 tries.

f. Shoot the bandit - This test uses the red and green button. You will be shown two aircraft with two different wing spans, the one with the longer wing span is the bad guy, and the one with the shorter span is the good guy. Then the computer will randomly pop up planes with different wing span on the screen and you get 1.5 seconds to decide to press the green to shoot or red to stop. If you did not decide within 1.5 seconds, the computer will automatically shoot it down. You will do this for a total of 3 times and each time there will be 50 planes to decide which to shoot or not, the difference in the wing span size get smaller each time. In the last try, you can barely tell the difference. You will be graded for your reaction time and accuracy.

4. Reasoning Test:

There are two sections to this test but basically you are being test on the same type of questions. You are supposed to decide which one of the 8 symbols belongs to the missing one. You have 5 minutes for the first test; you should have enough time to do it as it only has 10 questions. Then you have 40 minutes for 36 questions. These questions are more difficult but you should have more than enough time to do this.

5. Presentation:

Finally, you are supposed to do your presentation in front of one of the recruitment lady. She is very nice and I think the actual substance of the presentation does not really matter that much but it is more of an oral test. They want to know that you can actually speak proper English. The lady really only paid attention to me for the first 30 seconds and then she begin to do her own thing and write something down on your application. But you need to do at least some research on your assigned topics before you go into your presentation.

So that's it for Stage 1 and you will be doing this with 8 other candidates. It is a fun experience. I felt a little bit overwhelmed by the other candidates as most of them have either their PPL or some flying lessons but I have never flown before. But I guess it didn't really matter as long as you know you want to do this, you will get through.

Anyway, thanks for your help Captain Lim. I will let you know how everything goes for my interview next week.

Yours truly, Peter

Hi Peter,

Thank you for your account of the stage one initial test with Cathay Pacific Cadet Pilot Program.

I look forward to how you would fare in the second stage of the interview. Having a PPL or some flying experience is an advantage but that does not mean is would guarantee you a place in the program. If you are well prepared, have good leadership qualities, possess the right attitude and aptitude, your chances of getting into the airline is just as good!

I wish you all the best!

Stage II of the Interview

I finally did my stage 2 exam today at the Cathay city. got up at 6.20am in the morning; out the door at 6.45am just to realized it's drizzling outside and had to take a minibus to subway station; reached the TST subway at 7.20am and arrived at Tung Chung station at 8.05am; had an espresso shot at Delifrance before catching a cab to get to Cathay city at 8.23am. Oops that was a bit close...

There were 4 candidates - Me, Derek from England, Justin from Australia and Martin from Sweden. I’m the only one living in HK (though technically speaking I’m more an American) whereas the other guys are all flying in for the interview from their home base. Anyway, here goes today's rundown:

Morning session:

Math test (30min)

A total of 33 questions on math and reasoning. None of us finished it!! I got 4 unanswered and someone got only half way through. Basically you can't prepare for this test and you just have to work as fast as possible, quickly skipping the ones which you don't know. Think I did alright on this.

Personality test (45min)

187 questions on personality, although there're about 5 or 6 reasoning questions in between. Again you can’t prepare for this and just try to be honest and answer on your first instinct.

Job knowledge test (45min): Roughly 60 questions on this test. About 80% is on the aviation booklet that Peggy sent me 2 wks ago, 15% on some other technical questions which may require further research, and 5% on Cathay pacific. Luckily I did read my "flying the big jets" book!

Group exercise (45min):

The four of us worked together on this exercise. It is actually quite fun! No sweat, just enjoy and try not to be a control freak even if you're one. An air force pilot told me this is the hardest exercise for himself and other direct-entries from air force.

Lunch time

Derek had his panel interview 30min after the group exercise, so only 3 of us went down to the Cathay cafeteria on the 2/f. typical HK style cafeteria serving maxim's food. I haven’t bused my own tray ever since college, so this is a fun experience indeed! Justin had done management trainee program in oz and martin actually got his PPL and CPL already, so it’s only Derek and I who have absolutely no experience in aviation. But Derek at least studied in computer engineering which is somewhat more related...

Afternoon session:

Panel interview (60min)

I was interviewed by Belinda and a pilot named Theo. Belinda spent the first 15min asking me hr-related questions such as why I want to become a pilot, what are the alternatives to the CPP many of which were what Peggy asked last time. Theo then took over and asked me how I found the aviation handbook. So I told him I found the handbook very interesting and helped me tremendously in understanding the "big jets" book. He looked quite happy to hear that I have read it and started asking me technical questions. We kicked off with some simple ones such as what is North Pole, what are the moving parts of a jet, and Theo would elaborate further until I couldn't answer, which he didn't seem to mind. He also asked if a propeller can be used in a jet engine, so I said yes as in some modern jet engines, where 85 to 90% of the air would pass through air shaft to produce propulsive force... but then I forgot the name of that type of engine. what equipment to use when you pass through a CB cloud... Theo is an extremely nice HK guy and would guide you through to arrive at the answers. So, the interview was very fun in itself and I would highly recommend doing your own research!

Flight planning (90min)

Derek and I worked together for this exercise and it was moderated by an F/O named Jacky while two other people, Sean and Terrence, sat by to observe. Derek and I played the role of glider pilot trainee mgrs, and we needed to decide on a flight path for our trainee that could cover as much distance as possible and reach the destination by sunset. We were given about 15min to read over some materials, and then we started crossing out airfields (checkpoints) which were unsuitable for our purposes, for reasons such as weather condition, low visibility, and insufficient runway. After eliminating certain routes, Jacky started adding more details which further narrowed down our choices. Sometimes Derek and I worked together and other times independently on calculations. Again, don't play the role of a control freak or shout for attention! Listen, and respond to your partner. I don't think I did v well in this exercise b/c I had no clue on what's a tow aircraft or glider or cloud base restriction. But Derek and I worked well together, which is good.

By the time Derek and I hit the street it’s already 5pm. I am expecting to hear back from Cathay by early next week and the mgmt interview should be next Thurs or Fri. I didn't do perfect today, but I believe I will pass it. martin told me only 1 out of 6 would pass stage 2 and only 1 out of 5 would pass the mgmt interview, but I believe as long as we're all good, we can all go to Adelaide together the CPP starts in August, which means (1) I won't miss the world cup; and (2) I have to do the annual results in march and April. Hm, I might as well just quit early and backpack Europe for another three months alt !


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'Passion' discussion.
Capt Lim,

Thank you for your reply to my unusual question. Despite what you said, I was fortunate enough to go through to Stage 2 interview.

I understand what you said about passion for flying and I mostly agree with you. However I would like to discuss the following and see what other people's view is.

Passion for a particular profession can be good for both the employee and employer. However, from my short working life, I found that passionate people may not be good at their job and ‘unpassionate’ people can be very efficient! Also, I found that the aspiring engineers have a false impression of what the industry is like and when they found out what the reality is, they leave and change career (this is what I’m doing). So my conclusion is that someone who does not have ‘passion’ about their job does not affect their ability to perform their job and less likely to be disillusioned of what their portrayed career would be.

I love to see what other people think of this!


Jambe , 03 Mar, 2009
Passion is mostly discovered during the job.. before anything comes out of it, one might call it an interest..
Charles JR , 16 Mar, 2009
The passionate will increase our ability and strength with discipline to fullfill our ambitious...
Segaran , 29 Apr, 2009
I have been invited to attend the Cathay interview and i have very little flight experience and an very nervous and so not know what to expect. Any information would be greatly appreciated
Dear Capt , 18 Nov, 2009
Passion is a strong enthusiasm.People are becoming passionate when they know about the benefits of being pilot.They're thinking about money they'll get, travelling and et cetera. But there are also risk such as flying can risk your life and most of your time are spend on the flying schedule. We'll never know whether we love that certain job untill we've been through it. I'm talking based on my experience. Before this, I was very passionate to be in Royal Millitary College(RMC). I was encouraged by the allowance, free meals and clothes, and good looking of military officer's appearance. During the interview process, I worked very hard for my fitness. After I have been through it and subsequently graduate from RMC, I have the opprtunity to enroll in National University of Defence(UPNM) but I didn't apply it because I have experienced the lifestyle. Then, I realised that I didn't love the lifestlye. It's same in every occupation, there are pro and cons. You'll only realised whether you love that particular job after you've experienced it. Only then you'll know it..
Anyone can have passion but loving the career is more important. That would most probably comes later. Therefore, I agreed that passion doesn't affect one's true abilities. Until then..
Faiz , 30 Mar, 2010
a lot of pepole are not joining Cathay now, because the legend has well and truly died. Go to pprune (fragrant harbour wannabe section) to see why..
romeo mike , 31 Dec, 2010
Second Stage Math Session
Hello Jambe, thanks for the comprehensive write-up of the 1st and 2nd Stage interview, it helped a lot! Could you elaborate on the math section of the second stage interview? Is it only algebraic or does it involve trigonometry or calculus?

Thanks again!
pmet , 07 Aug, 2011
Cadet program for an european
Dear Captain Lim,
Do you know if there is any european citizen that passed the program selection?
Are there any european pilots that work for CX?
Thank you very much!!
Please advice
Luke , 20 Nov, 2012
Dear Captain Lim,

I am a HK based flight attendant for CX, I love this company tremendously and I had previously considered on working the ISD dept or simple office jobs with CX. However, recently, a Senior Captain suggested that I should apply for a Cadet Pilot programme with CX and that's when it hit me. I have known since I was young that travelling is a big passion of mine, being a cabin crew is rewarding but over the time, a part of me is looking for ways to find a new life challenge.

I had attained a degree under Bachelor of Business, with a major in Travel and Tourism, from the University of Queensland. I have read a fair number of sites, containing the interview stages and experiences on the cadet interview stages. A few questions came accross my mind and I certainly hope you would be kind enough to help me to better understand them:

1) Honestly, I am pretty terrible at Math. I avoided it like a plague! A few sites mentiones that CX would look into your Physics and Math grades, they are both numbers. Which worries me because I didn't do well back in school for those subjects and in the application section, you had to list down the subjects and grades. This might just send my application straight to the bin before I even get a chance to go for the interview, would you think so? I only started to do well academically when I entered umivesity. Because a big portion of the subjects only requires me to memorize long paragraphs, which I am good at.

2) How hard is the substraction test? Do they expect us to crunch big numbers like 573-90 = 483, right or wrong? And another computerized math test, what do they mostly consists of? I read somewhere that they might include algebra, trigonometry and long substractions. Then on another site, the person mentioned, it is a basic math test. He might jut be a math genius and does trigonometry questions for leisure, haha.

3) Having no flying experiences, what would you recommend me to do to set my application appart from other candidates, despite what might be a pretty bad report card from my secondary school. A senior purser suggested that I take theory classes amd possibly 40 flying hours, just as an extra 'umph' for my application. However, this might be pretty hard with my flying schedule. I would love to hear your oppinion and suggestion.
Emmalee , 29 Jul, 2013
Dear captain Lim,
I would like to know How many candidates are taken every years to aplly this cadet program. Do you know also if there will be new selections durings theses next years? To finish, do we have to pay the program or is it free?

Thank you for your help.

Thomas Moschenros ( a french resident)
Moschenros Thomas , 26 Feb, 2017

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