All over the world?

Hi All

Once the students graduate from ATP, we are “first officers” correct? We are “second in command” and fly when the captain is not flying. When do we become a captain? Also, can first officers, working for their respective airline get international flights? Or do First officers only fly local/domestic flights until they are promoted to captain? I am asking this because I want to see the world, not just my state of NY or my country of USA. Is it possible for me to be a first officer flying across the Atlantic and pacific? I thank you all for your daily hard work in these forums.


Great questions so let’s clear some things up.

First and foremost when you graduate from ATP you will not be a First Officer (FO). You’ll have your Commercial pilots license, instructor ratings and around 250hrs. In order to fly as an FO for an airline in the US you need to be able to get your ATP license (not to be confused with the fight school) and that means you need 1500hrs of fly time. You’ll need to find a flying job to build the time and that most often means instructing. Once you build the required time you then can be hired as an FO for a Regional airline.

Next, EVERY airline flight flying around the planet today has at least one Captain and one FO in the cockpit (sometimes more for longer flights). Regardless if it’s a Regional airline flying to Buffalo or a Major flying to Beijing, both are fully licensed and qualified pilots and most often they take turns flying. So yes FOs can and do fly internationally.

Finally how long it takes to go from FO to Capt can vary greatly depending on many factors. You’ll start your career as a Regional FO and upgrade to Capt will take anywhere from 2 to 6yrs (or longer) depending on movement within the industry. While some Regionals fly internationally that means Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. After that you can apply and hopefully get hired at a Major. It’s there where you’ll have the opportunity to fly to exotic locations around the world. While you may get to fly internationally as an FO pretty quickly, being a Major airline Capt flying worldwide can take up to 20yrs.




Good questions, let’s get to them. When students graduate from ATP they are qualified to work as “commercial pilots”, not as airline pilots. This basically means that you can’t be paid to fly an airplane, but are lacking the necessary 1,500 hours to fly for an airline. Most entry level pilots work as flight instructors to build their flight time, but some fly parachute jumpers, tow banners, fly traffic watch, etc to build flight time.

Once a pilot has 1,500 hours of flight time, they are eligible to apply to the airlines. Of course pilots generally work for regional airlines for several years before moving to the majors. Pilots begin as First Officers on a particular airplane. Each fleet (737, 757, 787, etc) has its own set of Captains and First Officers. I was a First Officer on the 757/767 for four years before I became an Airbus 320 Captain, I saw a huge amount of Europe and much of Central and South America. So yes, if your airline has a fleet that flies International, there will be First Officers on it working those flights.


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