Now things were starting to get real. I’d successfully completed the YOU session and only days later was invited to the screening day for pilot applicants; Pilot Specialist Testing. Thinking that I must have impressed people at the YOU session, I wore exactly the same suit, same tie, same white shirt and spit polished shoes with well hydrated spit. As I walked into the same building and handed in my paperwork, I was told to sit in the same waiting room as I was in during the YOU session. The difference this time was that I could sense these eleven other individuals here for pilot testing were of a higher calibre; they truly wanted what I wanted.
First into the officer interview was me. Flight Lieutenant A was extremely well presented, confident, and had a clear aura that she was in charge. I was asked a multitude of questions as to why I wanted to join, why I wanted to be a pilot, explain the different types of aircraft, bases, squadrons, history, current operations, leadership structure, etc. The questions went on for just under an hour, yet I matched A’s confidence level in my responses and I could see that A was responding well to my answers. This didn’t come by chance; I had studied meticulously every aspect of the job and the Australian Defence Force with the aim of not just passing this day but smashing it. Once we finished, I was ushered to a new waiting room upstairs.
The next interview was with a psychologist who grilled me on not only if I was prepared to do the job, but he grilled me on me. I’d never been interviewed this way before and was certain that if I hadn’t prepared for what he was asking me I may have stuttered on a few of the more confronting questions, especially when on one occasion after I had stopped speaking he continued to write what seemed like a paragraph on my answer behind a cupped hand. Once our conversation was complete, the psychologist sent me into a private room where I was tasked with writing an essay about myself. Trying not to over think what I wrote in the knowledge it would be pulled apart by the psychologist, I put pen to paper in a short story about who I was at the time. With that out of the way, it was time for a short lunch break. It was at lunch where I got to know a few of the other applicants a little better. They all wanted the same thing. We were a bunch of like minded people wanting a common goal and for the first time in my life I found a place where we all shared a strong drive to achieve a common outcome. Instantly, I became even more driven to be selected.
After lunch, it was time to do the WOMBAT Testing. This test is designed to measure situational awareness under stressful situations whilst using hand-eye coordination. In front of you is a computer screen with two joysticks (one for each hand) and a touch screen pen. It starts off by simply using the right hand to keep a moving dot fixed on a certain part of the screen. Then it goes up a notch with the dot moving more aggressively on multiple axes with the requirement of both your left and right hands moving either joystick up, down, left or right. As the test progresses over 90 minutes, you find yourself using your left hand to control a directionally unstable dot on a varying axis, and your right hand using the touch screen pen to hit the screen on the answer of a time-limited mathematical question, all done at the same time. And then without warning, the dot will change direction so you now move the stick left to go right and vice versa and the maths questions are still being pushed at you, faster and more difficult by the second. Then the axis will change so that right is down, left is up, and the dot may want to accelerate more to the left when you go up but then go faster right when you move the stick left. Confused? You have seconds to figure it out whilst at exactly the same time continuing to plug away at those questions. Then, silence. The screen goes blank as you finish the test. You then realise the sweat dripping in your eyes as you look to your fellow applicants and see that they have that same spent look on their faces too!
The final part of the testing day was the part that no-one had control over; the medical assessment. Involving varied medical tests including an ECG, height assessment, general health questionnaire and flexibility tests, it was the eye test I was most concerned with. Straining my eyes as hard as I could without glasses, I managed to just attain the limit required for visual correctness. With the doctor promptly giving me a tick in the recommendation box, I felt a surge of excitement but contained this as the day was not yet over. We all met up back in the upstairs waiting room to be told of our success or failure. Whilst sharing our experiences of the day, an officer walked in who I hadn’t seen before. With a ‘matter of fact’ personality about him, he announced, “Right, the following people will accompany me back down to the general waiting area”. That sounded bad as to stay up here with the ‘higher-ups’ meant success. My name and four others were called and my heart skipped a beat. We got into the lift, went down to the general waiting area and were asked to wait for further instructions. Each one of us thought the same thing. We all thought we hadn’t passed and our morale dropped slightly. “Right” said the mystery officer, “You lot have passed today. You need to sign this form and get your photo taken.” I couldn’t believe it. My dream was now in reach. We all congratulated each other and parted ways hoping that we would see each other at the next step; flight screening.
What helped me that day was preparation. I mentioned a mantra I hold for preparation in a prior blog post; the 7P’s. Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Living by this had me in good stead so far and I was raring for the next challenge. But soon I realised that this may never come…