The path to becoming an airline captain — how pilots climb the ranks

Every time you get on an aircraft, you entrust your life to the captain and their crew. Airline safety has become so good that you now take it for granted. You board a flight and you expect to walk off the aircraft again a few hours later — and so you should.

However, who is this person responsible for your safety, hidden away behind the locked flight deck door? How did they get to that position and how much of the work do they do themselves and how much is shared by their flight deck colleague?

What’s the difference between a captain and a co-pilot?

One of my biggest bugbears about how the aviation industry is portrayed by the general media is the use of the terms “pilot” and “co-pilot”. Whilst both are valid terms when used in the correct context, more often than not they are used incorrectly. Let’s clear this up.

Too often I hear on the news that “the pilot” successfully landed the aircraft after an inflight emergency. Unless the aircraft is a small propellor aircraft, it’s most likely that there are two pilots onboard the aircraft. On longer flights, there will be three pilots and on some of the ultra-long-range flights, four pilots. The safe outcome of a flight is down to all of the pilots who are present in the flight deck, not just one single pilot.

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