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Monday, October 22, 2012

The cockpit career (My sky-high life)


There are a good few misconceptions about the first officer’s job. So let’s clear some of these up…

First Officer Mathias Iwersen


When we talk to family or friends, we first officers often have a particularly difficult task: explaining that many of the widespread assumptions about our work are just not true. Some of my favourite questions here: “Oh, you’re a co-pilot. So when do you actually get to fly?” or “So as a first officer, you just sit there and watch the captain work, right?”

As my colleague Thierry explained last month, the truth is that first officers fly the aircraft just as much as captains do. They’ve both been fully trained to do so, and are equally capable of safely conducting a flight. On a normal day with, let’s say, four flight legs, the cockpit crew will generally divide these up so that the captain and the first officer are “pilot flying”, as we call it, on two legs each. The pilot flying is responsible for steering the aircraft and programming the autopilot, while the “pilot not flying” will handle the radio communications and will monitor the pilot flying and assist them as needed.

The career path of a pilot is more or less predetermined when you start to work for an airline. The first step is to become a first officer on short-haul aircraft, such as the Airbus A320. After gaining some years of experience, the first officer will then be “upgraded” to the long-haul fleet: the Airbus A330 and A340, in SWISS’s case. And after another couple of years in the first officer’s right-hand seat, the next important step will be taken: becoming a captain, for which the pilot will return to the short-haul fleet.

On several of my recent rotations I’ve been rostered to fly with “new” short-haul captains, with both of us supervised by a training captain occupying the cockpit jumpseat. These rotations really gave me some interesting flights. Besides being a change from the normal working routine, they also offered me a good opportunity to pass on my short-haul knowledge (especially of airports and their special procedures) to the new captains, who appreciated this a lot.

Another advantage of rotations like this is that many of our training captains are also qualified to fly in the right-hand seat as a first officer (yes, they do need special training for this!). So on some flight legs I was able to give my job to the training captain and just be a jumpseat passenger on my own flight: something that doesn’t happen very often!

My own upgrade to captain (and even to long-haul first officer) still has to wait a bit. But I’m looking forward to my next rotations with other new captains…

15 comments:

  1. Thank you,

    Makes things even clearer :)

    I'll keep this handy to show it to family and friends, who ask the same questions of "So, when do you get to fly the plane?"

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  2. Nice post about the co-pilot role works and where each of the pilots stand during a flight. Not a flight specialist, but for a passenger and flight affictionate this is quite good! =)

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  3. Thank you for your wonderful insight into your professional life, in fact I also learnt more details about your scope of work which is interesting!!!

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  4. Does the Airbus have dual controls for the nose landing gear? Or is steering the aircraft on the ground in the hands of the F/O only?

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  5. Dear Anonymous
    The Airbus has two so-called tiller-wheels for steering the aircraft on ground. Usually this task lies with the Commander. Except when the Commander is making the passenger announcement, the First Officer is steering the aircraft.
    Best regards,
    Mathias

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  6. Hi my dream is also to become a pilot at Swiss (wohna au ir schwiiz) but my eyesight is too bad 3.20 dioptrines... I'm now 15 and I'm going to do the PPL instead of the ATPL. Ok happy landings :)

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  7. What about the flights from Tessaloniki to Europe?

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  8. Dear Swiss.. Stop the irrelevant posts, and tell us why you stopped the 32-year-old-always-full flight from Thessaloniki to Zurich.

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  9. I would like also from my side to support the previous 2 comments.Since you open a communication channel, please provide us a reasoned response for the suspension of LX1850/LX1851 flights. Thanks for your response in advance,

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  10. I AGREE WITH THE ABOVE STATMENT
    SWISS HAS TO SHOW THAT ITS NOT MOTIVATED ONLY BUY PROFITS.
    ETHICS DO REALLY COUNT MORE THAN MONEY EVEN IN THIS MATERIAL WORLD.

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  11. Totally agree with all the above Statements for the LX1850/LX1851 flights. You have to reevaluate this specific situation as soon as it's possible. When we are talking about values and ethics that characterise this Company, It's a pity of taking actions like these.

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  12. Bring back the link ...it,s ruthless to quit a city like that moreover the planes were always full....

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  13. It was my first time flight with Swiss.From Barcelona to Geneva.I really like this company! The aircraft was tidy,the stewardess was with the smile on her face.Food is tasty,they also asked us if we would like more of croissants or tea.The first time in my life I got such a wounderful chocolate!) I was flight alone,so I was touched when one of the flight attendants join me with conversation.Thank you Sacha.Especially thank you pilot for a good flight,and all the crew for the hospitality!

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  14. Full flights don't necessarily mean that a route is performing well concerning overall profitability. Thesalonikki being a destination which is very strong on the leisure side, means that it's a destination that will usually not earn the airline money despite having high passenger loads. In the end, Swiss like any other privately owned company, needs to operate profitable routes in order to survive. The suspension of LX1850/1851 flights therefore has nothing to do with ethics and values, but with the way any privately owned company does business.

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  15. This is the best misconceptions about the first officer’s job. yeast infection no more

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