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How do I Become a First Officer?

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  • Written By: Patrick Roland
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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First officers are an essential part of flight because they function as the copilots. If you want to become a first officer, you need to dedicate many years to learning the physics of flying and the controls that airplanes utilize. You also will need to be in top physical condition. By working your way up the ladder of experience and from small planes to regional carriers and up to international flights, you one day will be the person who sits next to the captain.

Learning about flight is essential to become a first officer, and there are two ways most people accomplish this feat. Attending college and getting an aeronautical sciences degree will teach you the physics of flight and help you get a pilot's license as part of the curriculum. If college is not in your future, you might consider getting a start in the military, which is where many pilots begin their careers. Every branch of the military needs airplane pilots and provides the necessary training and experience.

Another consideration before embarking on your quest to become a first officer is to ensure that you meet all of the medical requirements of the job. Every airline has its own set of restrictions, but most follow a similar pattern. Most have standards for vision, hearing, equilibrium and general health. Some also will take mental health history into account. Research the demands of each airline before you apply for a job.

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After you have achieved the basic education and health requirements, you usually will need to work your way up in career levels in order to become a first officer. This might mean starting your career as a pilot of small planes for delivery companies and regional carriers, often never carrying passengers. This gives you an opportunity to get comfortable in many different planes, learning the controls, handling weather conditions and familiarizing yourself with protocols.

This learning period also will be a chance to learn the responsibilities of the copilot, either as a first officer on a small plane or just by studying. To become a first officer, you need to understand that the first officer is there to assist the pilot in any way he or she sees fit. Many times, this requires you to handle all radio communications, monitor instruments, watch for other airplane traffic or take the controls when asked by the captain. You also will need to assist in pre-flight and post-flight activities such as inspecting the plane and finalizing flight plans.

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