Becoming a pilot isn’t easy. Study and dedication are only two of the factors needed to become a pilot. However, becoming a pilot is one thing, but becoming a successful captain pilot is another thing entirely.
Many pilots ask themselves, “When I will become a Captain?” and “What can I do to become a successful captain”? While there is no specific formula for advancement, in this article we’ll discuss things you should know about command upgrades and what steps to take to reach your goals.
When you start your journey as a pilot, you probably get a job as a first officer. The progression from right to being promoted to the left seat can take from 6 to 15 years, depending on the airline and the pilot’s skills and qualifications. Perhaps the airline you’re working with is expanding or their captains are retiring, or maybe a new airline is hiring captains. In those cases, the opportunity to become a captain is even greater.
It’s important for First Officers to use their time in the right seat to prepare for their Command upgrade. Pilots usually need at least 1500-3000 flight hours as a commercial pilot, a full ATPL and other skills such as flight management skills and decision-making need to be considered as well. However, it takes more than experience alone to be qualified to be a captain. Pilots should also demonstrate the right attitude and personality for the position. To make sure you’re on the right path, try to think of two captains you really love flying with, think about why and try to emulate their behavior as much as possible. Then, think of two captains you really don’t like flying with and why and don’t be them!
Command course training can take months and can be very demanding. In fact, many pilots get stuck at this step because the training can be difficult. Captain upgrade trainings is different nowadays and covers much more than engine failures and mechanical problems, but also about how to deal with difficult situations.
So, before beginning training, prepare for success by making a summary booklet of all the important information that you can bring onboard on each flight, such as complex failures including engine failure procedures, engine failure profiles, emergency electrical configuration as well as information concerning dangerous goods regulations, flight time limitations, cold weather operations (de-icing procedures), abnormal decision-making tools and all the things you feel you need to keep at hand. This will be useful in any situation and also a good study/revision tool.
Before you bid or enroll in a command course, make sure you are ready. Don’t rush into it! Know your books (OMA, OMB, Flight Crew Operating Manuals, Dangerous Goods, etc.) and take your last year as a First Officer as a training year – take as much onboard as possible from your colleagues! Knowing your stuff will lower the pressure tremendously!
And remember, if you happen to fail a command course it’s not the end of the world. Failing a command course is more common than you would think. It’s ok to own your mistake and to say “I got that wrong” as long as you learn from it and show up for your second command course better prepared!
You’ve done the hard work and reached your goal of being a captain pilot. What’s next? There are certain qualifications and skills that successful captains possess, beginning with taking responsibility. As a commander, you are responsible for the safe operation and the safety of all crewmembers, passengers and cargo on board as soon you arrive on board until you leave the aircraft at the end of the flight. Remember, in addition to all the technical skills you need to have the right attitude and personality to be a good captain. Bon Voyage!
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