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An air crew officer is a highly trained and highly experienced professional aviator who is responsible for safely and efficiently operating an aircraft. Essentially, air crew officers fall into two broad categories: civilian-level officers, and military flight officers. More commonly, air crew officers are known to the general public as pilots and co-pilots, and they perform a wide array of pre-flight, mid-flight, and post-flight duties.
The day-to-day job duties of air crew officers are numerous. From an aviation perspective, the most complex and dangerous portion of any flight is the take-off and landing. To minimize the risks of flying, air crew officers must fill out an extensive pre-flight checklist in order to monitor the integrity of flight systems. Specifically, these flight systems consist of hydraulic, engine, or instrument checks.
Other pre-flight job duties of air crew officers include monitoring the latest weather advisories and arranging flight schedules with air traffic controllers. Modern day airports require very meticulous coordination between pilots and air controllers in order to safely take off and land.
Mid-flight job duties of air crew officers range from operating an aircraft's controls, monitoring its flight instruments closely, and successfully navigating a pre-approved flight plan. Air crew officers monitor fuel levels as well as the status of engine systems, for instance.
An air crew consists of a captain and a first officer, also known as a co-pilot. The captain oversees the entire flight while the first officer assists the captain in flying the plane or checking the status of the flight. Both members of the typical flight crew actually take turns flying the aircraft.
Post-flight job responsibilities of air crew officers may encompass properly filing the documentation required by the federal aviation authorities in the United States and Canada. Checking the final maintenance status of an aircraft post-flight is yet another crucial responsibility of an air crew officer.
Air crew officers must be able to travel long distances and work in a vast number of settings. A career as an air crew officer is a very demanding career path physically, mentally, and psychologically.
The actual work schedule of an air crew officer depends upon the amount of non-flight job duties involved. For instance, senior airline captains perform fewer pre-flight checks than the first officer. Commercial cargo pilots in particular perform many more non-flight duties than airline pilots.
The pre-requisites for an entry-level job as an air crew officer are extensive. Modern airplanes contain very complex systems that require a high degree of technical knowledge to operate properly. As such, serving in the Armed Forces is a very common career path thousands of civilian pilots follow.
A military background in aviation is actually preferable for employment in certain positions such as a cargo pilot. The large amount of practical flight experience provided by military service allows applicants to accumulate many hours of flight time, one of the primary requirements for an aviator's license. Also, the military gives pilots the most advanced training in flight systems imaginable.
The health of a pilot is paramount to the safety of the flight and gives air crew officers the endurance to fly for long hours. From a mental perspective, air crew officers must be able to perform many analytical tasks simultaneously. Psychologically, all of these responsibilities create a large amount of on-the-job stress. A successful career as a flight officer requires mastery of all facets of the job.
As previously touched upon, the alternative to military training in modern aviation is the degree path. Many of the best civilian flight schools in North America offer technical education alongside practical flight experience. Indeed, one of the license requirements mandated by law is the accumulation of at least 250 flight hours. The top flight schools and aeronautics degree programs in the United States and Canada include the Moncton Flight College, the California Institute of Technology, and the United States Air Force Academy.
After completion of a degree program or flight school, prospective air crew officers must complete a long list of requirements in order to receive a pilot's license. Many of the best flight programs offer licenses in conjunction with education, and pilots must update their licenses periodically. Receiving a pilot's license requires the completion of training programs in instrument rating and the completion of an extensive test, covering the applicable law and safety procedures of operating an aircraft.