First Officer Pilot

First Officer Pilot

On a first officer pilot apprenticeship course, you’ll help support the aircraft captain and commander during flights.

The first officer, often known as the co-pilot, operates on various aircraft, including commercial, military, passenger, and freight planes. The first officer’s role is to help the aircraft commander conduct a flight safely and efficiently. If the captain becomes incapacitated, the first officer assumes command and responsibility for the aircraft, crew, passengers, and cargo.

The commander and first officer will alternate between ‘pilot handling’ and ‘pilot monitoring during a normal mission.’ In these situations, the ‘pilot monitoring’ will conduct radio talks and supervise the ‘pilot handling’ activities.

They must constantly ensure the passengers’ and crew’s safety and security. As an apprentice, you will need to get either a ‘frozen’ air transport pilot licence (aeroplane) or a multi-crew pilot licence, followed by aircraft type conversion and supervised line training.

What you’ll learn

On a first officer pilot apprenticeship course, you’ll learn to:

  • Maintain professional and organisational norms and standards for personal preparation and presentation.
  • Prepare and double-check/validate a flight plan.
  • Determine the aircraft’s airworthiness and flying readiness.
  • Investigate and use flying instruments and systems
  • Investigate and take advantage of radar and radio help.
  • Inspect and operate the aircraft propulsion systems.
  • Investigate and use navigation and communication devices
  • Accurately report damaged equipment.
  • Collect data to aid in decision-making.
  • Communicate with ATC and airport ground personnel openly and professionally.
  • Handle the aircraft on the ground following the relevant SOPs.
  • Secure and seal the aircraft following business standards and procedures.
  • Shut down aircraft engines, systems, and equipment following regulations and guidelines.
  • Communicate effectively with colleagues, cabin crew, ground operations teams, and customers at the appropriate times to ensure service efficiency, safety, and security.
  • Execute the agreed-upon flight plan, making the necessary choices to adjust to en-route and terminal conditions.
  • Follow airline SOPs to maintain control, stability, and safety throughout the flight.
  • Keep an eye on the weather and control the aircraft properly throughout the journey.
  • Handle and operate the aircraft smoothly and safely while responding to abnormal situations.
  • Release the aircraft following SOPs.
  • Keep an accurate record of malfunctions, issues, and maintenance requirements.
  • Supervise the refuelling of the aeroplane.
  • Consult with the commander and correctly convey to crew members what action is required in the event of an emergency.
  • Determine risks and noncompliance, then take corrective action or escalate incidents following the organisation’s procedures.
  • Maintain vigilance over aviation security in your area of responsibility.
  • As necessary, identify and address/report actual or potential hazards before, during, and after the flight.
  • Record and report any incidents regarding safety and security, including self-reporting as needed.
  • Drive the team to maintain brand/organisational standards at all times and detect and address any potential dangers in compliance with corporate regulations.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • Security clearance and a class 1 medical certificate.
  • Apprentices must be at least 18 years old to apply for a multi-crew pilot licence and at least 21 years old to apply for an air transport pilot licence.
  • Apprentices without level 2 English and maths will need to achieve this level before taking the end-point assessment.

Assessment methods

The End Point Assessment consists of two distinct assessment methods: 

  • Practical demonstration
  • Professional discussion

Duration and level

  • Duration: 24 months
  • Level: 6 – Degree Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship standard

More information about the Level 6 First Officer Pilot Apprenticeship standard can be found here.

Apprenticeship end point assessment

For more information about the End Point Assessment Process, please read the Institute of Apprenticeships’ information page.

Updated on October 2, 2022

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