Throughout your career as a pilot, you will be asked to do performance checks. Failures do occur. So pilots need to keep their skills up to scratch at all times to pass with confidence. At Cathay Pacific pilots must complete a flight simulator test every six months and a route check once a year to make sure they’re meeting standards. What’s involved in airline pilot performance checks?

Flight simulator tests

You will be accompanied by a partner captain and a check captain when you do your flight simulator tests. It is normal to be asked to do more than one simulation so to appraise your ability to follow different procedures adequately.

The checks are conducted just as if you’re flying in a real airplane. To meet the standards, the captains will throw problems at you all the time, and you’ll need to respond swiftly and accurately. The questions they ask will often be phrased like, “What would you do if x, y, or z happens?”

Checks improve safety

Apart from appraising performance, airline performance checks help pilots sharpen their instincts and prepare to manage during a crisis. Take an outstanding pilot like Captain Richard de Crespigny, who safely landed Qantas flight QF32 following an explosion in one of the Airbus A380’s engines.

He had spent plenty of time studying the aircraft before the flight, giving him extra confidence in his ability to fly the plane safely. Qantas gets their pilots to do four simulator tests a year. Checks keep knowledge of emergency procedures fresh in your mind.

Emergency scenarios

Three major emergencies in their checks will be part of questioning:

  • Fire
  • Engine Failure
  • Cabin Depressurisation

As you cross the ocean, you could be asked: “what would you do now if you had an engine fire?” Or “what would you do if one of the engines failed?” There are procedures to follow, which you will be expected to recall right away.

These procedures are detailed. They are not only dependent on the cause of the crisis, but things like:

  • how much fuel is on board
  • how far away you are from the nearest airport
  • what your destination is

Preparing for the unexpected

The answer always needs to be in the back of the pilot’s mind, because emergencies don’t occur when people expect them to. They can often happen at the worst possible time, and for that reason, simulator tests are conducted regularly. Then you can practise and see for yourself how you are affected on different occasions depending on how well you’ve prepared and other performance variables.


One of the best ways to prepare for the checks conducted by the airlines is to self-assess. Testing your knowledge of what to do in an emergency is an excellent place to start. It’s not something that you get to develop in your regular flying routine – thankfully!

A big part of being able to self-assess is putting lots of reading hours in so that when you test your knowledge (of an aircraft for example), you’re confirming that the information has sunk in.

Investing your time in these small extra steps when you’re a student sets you up for an easier time upholding high-performance and safety standards.

Stay tuned for more blogs and of course help and advice for future pilots! If you’re interested in flight simulation, you can learn all about how it works at Learn to Fly here.

Alsim AL42 flight simulator