Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Ethiopian Airlines selection procedure, from the horses mouth!



From the horse’s mouth, a veteran of many an interview/selection process, from Europe to Asia to Africa and many points in between. Thirty years in aviation and 17,000 hours as an airline pilot, allows me to speak with some authority on my analysis of the Ethiopian Airlines selection procedures.

Once a mutually beneficial date has been arranged by your agency through the Ethiopian Airlines Director of Recruitment and Placement Mr Mesay Shiferaw, your point of contact in Addis Ababa; then an E-ticket will be issued for your travel in business class on an Ethiopian Airlines flight from your nearest airport which they serve. Business class lounge access is provided where available.

On arrival at Addis Ababa in the immigration hall can be found a bank where you can change foreign currency for the local currency, the Ethiopian Birr. I changed £40 and probably only spent £5 worth of local currency. Following the most cursory of immigration procedures, collection of checked in luggage is hassle free, and on exiting the arrivals hall, you’ll be met by a member of the Riviera Hotel’s staff, who speaks excellent English and liaises between the hotel, Ethiopian Airlines and yourself.

The drive in the hotel’s shuttle bus, of which you have sole use it seems, takes about 15 minutes along a highway festooned with donkeys, goats and the everyday African folk who live along the kerb. On arrival at the hotel, a tip of $1 was gratefully received by my driver, and check in procedures took just a couple of minutes. Your driver will advise you of your itinerary for the next day.

The hotel room is reached by a serviceable lift, though I am not sure of its backup power source during the many frequent power outages. Each floor has its own Wi-Fi routers, and I had no problem receiving a wireless signal, though compared to western speeds it was very slow, however it was adequate enough for Skype to function. The rooms are of a decent size with a comfortable double bed, television with several western news and movie channels, fridge and separate sitting area. The bathroom fittings are tired but clean and a large bath with plenty of hot water available.

On the hotel’s ground floor is a bar selling bottled water, western and local beers, approximately £1 for a decent sized bottle of their local beer. Widescreen TV seemed to be constantly showing live Premier League football and International cricket matches. Although you can smoke in the bar, almost none of the local patrons did. The smallish but clean restaurant serves a buffet lunch of salads, rice and several meat dishes. In the evening the dinner buffet is complemented by an a-la-carte menu with several choices of western food, including pastas and pizzas. If you choose to have bottled water or soft drinks then there is nothing to pay. Ethiopian Airlines pays for all meals and soft drinks, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hence why I spent almost nothing, however, it is suggested to go easy at dinner and to skip the following breakfast as your first challenge the next day is a comprehensive medical.


The shuttle bus was waiting for me at 0745 to take me to the Ethiopian Airlines Headquarters for the 15 minute drive to where the medical centre, simulator complex and administrative offices are all located each within walking distance of each other.

You are directed to a small nurses/secretarial station in the reception area, where several forms are to be filled in on basic medical history and you are told to take these when completed to the lab, which is a small room located just off of the reception area. Here you give a urine sample and two phials of blood are taken from syringes which come straight out of sealed packaging.

Next port of call was a chest x-ray followed by an ECG which seems to be temperature sensitive, as the nurse covered me in a blanket as she said the readings are better if you’re warmer, a new concept to me. Now came the hearing test in a ‘not quite’ sound proof room which I suspect was not functioning correctly as I am high tone deaf, yet apparently I didn’t miss a note. The eyesight check was as you would expect and I wear bi-focal glasses which was perfectly fine for them.

The scales are not very accurate which weigh you, if you’re not happy, repeat; I lost three kilos on my second weighing! Your blood pressure is measured in the conventional manner and now you are finished, almost.

On cue my driver was there to take me into Addis Ababa where I was escorted to the company tailor’s where I was measured for my uniform back to the hotel for two hours where I could relax and have lunch, before meeting the doctor for a chat about the medical results.

With lunch completed you return to the airline’s medical centre, the interview with the doctor is very straight forward and light hearted. You are given an Ethiopian Class 1 medical certificate and sent back to the reception area.

Here you are met by a very charming lady, Meseret Yesera who is Mesay Shiferaw’s deputy in the recruitment section. I was advised that I would now have my simulator assessment and my interview tomorrow morning. She led me through the simulator centre’s minimal security and introduced me to an elderly gentleman who was my check pilot. He led me into a standard type briefing office and here I met my stand in co-pilot. After a brief, yet extremely friendly and laid back chit chat about my flying history my briefing started. We would start in Djibouti, though sometimes Addis Ababa is used, and performance was calculated by the co-pilot by using the Boeing laptop, one of which is issued to all pilots.

On arrival at the aircraft I found it was unpowered, all pre-flight scans and switch settings were to be completed by the co-pilot. The ATIS was giving weather below CAT 1 minimums and my declaring a take-off alternate appeared to confuse proceedings, so I decided to keep it simple.

Using my S.O.Ps we completed all normal checklists and briefings and started the engines where there were no faults programmed. After a short taxi out we were repositioned at the end of R/W27 for a simple departure to the south west. LNAV and VNAV are available as is the flight director, autopilot and auto-throttle. A normal take-off with a climb to 8,000 feet and then a series of stalls in the clean and landing configuration, though I found that I wasn’t really sure what was wanted of me by my check pilot, but this didn’t prove to be much of an issue. Next came two 45’ steep turns and radar vectors for a normal ILS approach and landing, with a cloud base just above minimums on R/W27 at Djibouti again.

With no change to the weather we took off again and an engine failed at V1, having identified that it was just an engine run down we climbed out and told to maintain runway heading. I had terrain selected on my ND and could see that high ground was directly on our flight path and requested a left turn away from this threat, which was duly granted. With the relevant checklists completed we were radar vectored back for an ILS approach onto R/W 27, the weather was broadcast as being on our CAT 1 limits. On base leg the autopilot ‘failed’ and a manual approach and missed approach following the standard missed approach profile was completed. We were now repositioned to a ten mile final in CAVOK conditions and a 10 knot crosswind for a one engine inoperative ILS approach (flight director still available) and landing, taxiing off the runway the detail was finished.

No debrief, just an exchange of pleasantries. I suppose we were in the simulator for almost an hour, and it was a very gentle and friendly session with two really nice people.

I was met back at the security desk by Meseret Yesera who had already called the hotel shuttle bus to take me back to the hotel, my day was finished and I was told that my interview would be at 1000 the following morning.



On arrival at the administration office I met Mesay Shiferaw who just wanted to know when I could start. They ideally like you to stay on after screening to complete their training process; however this did not fit into my schedule.

Meseret took me to the Chief Pilot’s office and after introductions the interview started. My licence was thoroughly examined as were my log books, this took almost ten minutes and was conducted in silence. Next came a detailed cross examination of my career to date; I have to say it was a rather unpleasant affair, mainly due to the Chief Pilot’s interview technique though this could also be partly due to the language problem. I found that after giving an answer to all the standard interview questions I would be asked to expand on my answer and then expand again, often to the point where I had nothing further to add, which I found rather exasperating. Several of the questions would be asked two or three times which I found quite odd and these were taken off of a sheet of paper on the Chief Pilot’s desk.

However, after an hour and a quarter, the interview was brought to a close and I was again asked when I could start. I personally think that it was a combination of poor interview technique and language difficulties which made the interview an unpleasant affair, because the Chief Pilot afterwards came across as a reasonably amenable gentleman.


Having spent the remainder of the day back at the hotel, it was time to leave for the seven hour return flight to London. I allowed myself a 15 minute transit to the airport and an arrival there of two hours prior to departure which turned out to be sufficient. Very easy check in was followed by immigration, make sure you complete the simple departure form (a plentiful supply can be found easily in the departure hall) prior to reaching the immigration desk. Travelling in business class meant that you can use the Fast Track line. From entering the terminal to walking into the duty free hall took a maximum of twenty minutes. The business class lounge can be easily found in the departure hall, is comfortable with a good selection of drinks and a few snacks, plus free Wi-Fi.


All in all the three days ran like clockwork. Everybody I met was friendly, courteous and helpful. I spent about £5 on bottled beer and water, and £1 on having a shirt laundered and ironed. Everything else was paid for by Ethiopian Airlines.

So Ethiopia and Addis Ababa might sound like the back of beyond or the end of the earth. But if you want a contract which allows you to commute in business class on an excellent route network; a country where the cost of living means that you can comfortably live within your accommodation package and not touch your tax free salary or per diems. Fly modern well equipped aircraft with naturally friendly colleagues, then you could do far worse, in my opinion.