What is FO in Aviation? (First Officer)

A First Officer, commonly known as FO, is an important role in the field of aviation. It is a position held by a pilot who works alongside the Captain or the Pilot in Command (PIC) in operating an aircraft. The First Officer is considered the second-in-command and assists the Captain in various flight-related tasks, ensuring the safety and efficiency of the flight.

In order to become a First Officer, a pilot must undergo extensive training and acquire the necessary certifications. They must possess a commercial pilot license (CPL) along with an instrument rating (IR) and a multi-engine rating (ME). Additionally, pilots are required to accumulate a certain number of flight hours as per the regulatory requirements of their country.

The Roles and Responsibilities of a First Officer

The First Officer holds a crucial role within the flight crew. Their responsibilities include:

1. Assisting the Captain: The primary role of the First Officer is to assist the Captain in all aspects of the flight. This includes conducting pre-flight inspections, ensuring the aircraft is properly fueled and loaded, and performing the necessary checks and procedures before takeoff. During the flight, the First Officer works alongside the Captain in monitoring the aircraft systems, communicating with air traffic control, and making critical decisions if any emergencies or unexpected events occur.

2. Flight Deck Management: The First Officer is responsible for managing the flight deck, which includes operating the aircraft’s systems, such as navigation, communication, and autopilot. They must possess a thorough understanding of the aircraft’s technical capabilities and be proficient in using the available equipment. The First Officer also assists in managing the flight plan, calculating fuel consumption, and ensuring that the aircraft remains on schedule.

3. Safety and Emergency Procedures: Safety is always the top priority in aviation. The First Officer plays a vital role in ensuring the safety of the passengers and crew. They are responsible for conducting safety briefings, ensuring all emergency equipment is functional and readily available, and assisting the Captain in executing emergency procedures in case of an incident or abnormal situation.

Becoming a First Officer: Training and Qualifications

The journey to becoming a First Officer entails a rigorous training process and obtaining the necessary qualifications. Here are the key steps:

1. Private Pilot License (PPL): To begin their aviation career, aspiring pilots must acquire a PPL. This license allows them to fly privately and is the foundation for further training. During the PPL training, pilots gain fundamental knowledge and skills in operating an aircraft.

2. Instrument Rating (IR): After obtaining a PPL, pilots proceed to earn an IR. This rating enables them to operate an aircraft using instruments alone, without relying solely on visual cues. Pilots must demonstrate proficiency in navigating through various weather conditions and flying solely based on the indications of the aircraft’s instruments.

3. Commercial Pilot License (CPL): Once the IR is obtained, pilots pursue a CPL, which allows them to fly for commercial purposes. The CPL training expands on the skills of a private pilot and covers more advanced topics such as flight planning, navigation, and emergency procedures. Pilots also gain experience in operating complex aircraft and flying in various types of airspace.

4. Multi-Engine Rating (ME): In order to operate aircraft with multiple engines, pilots must earn an ME rating. This rating involves additional training to master the complexities of multi-engine aircraft, including engine management, performance calculations, and handling emergencies specific to such aircraft.

5. Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL): Finally, to qualify for the position of a First Officer, pilots must obtain an ATPL. This is the highest level of pilot certification, enabling them to act as a First Officer or even a Captain in an airline. The ATPL requires a significant number of flight hours and often includes written exams and simulator assessments to evaluate a pilot’s knowledge and skills.

The Path to Becoming a Captain

For many pilots, the role of a First Officer is a stepping stone towards becoming a Captain. To progress to the position of a Captain, pilots must meet certain experience requirements and acquire additional qualifications:

1. Flight Experience: Pilots must accumulate a specific number of flight hours to be eligible for Captaincy. The exact requirements vary depending on the country and the airline. Typically, pilots need to have a minimum of 1,500 flight hours, including a certain number of hours as a First Officer.

2. Upgrade Training: Once pilots meet the experience requirements, they must undergo upgrade training to transition from a First Officer to a Captain. This training focuses on developing leadership, decision-making, and command skills. Pilots also gain a deeper understanding of aircraft operations and systems, as well as enhanced knowledge of aviation regulations and procedures.

3. Airline Specific Training: Each airline has its own set of requirements and procedures. Pilots must undergo specific training programs provided by their respective airline to become familiar with the company’s policies, operating procedures, and aircraft fleet. This ensures consistency and standardization within the airline’s operations.


The First Officer plays a crucial role in aviation, working closely with the Captain in operating an aircraft efficiently and safely. Their responsibilities range from assisting the Captain in pre-flight preparations to managing the flight deck and ensuring the implementation of safety procedures. Through extensive training and acquiring the necessary qualifications, pilots can progress from a First Officer to a Captain, taking on the ultimate command of an aircraft. Becoming a First Officer is not only a career milestone but also a stepping stone towards greater opportunities in the aviation industry.

For more information on the role of a First Officer, you can visit https://www.faa.gov/pilots/become/qualified/.

For More: What is EHSI in Aviation? (Electronic Horizontal Situation Indicator)