Some airlines have a Senior First Officer rank. Apart from the title and (presumably) the pay, what makes them different from a regular First Officer?

Do they have any differing duties or responsibilities? And do they need to pass some kind of test, or is the rank just given to them after a certain amount of years service?

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    $\begingroup$ From Wikipedia: "Often the senior first officer position is used within airlines to mean someone who has passed all the requirements for captain, but there are no empty captain's positions within the company as yet" (a captain may become a senior FO, if there is a decline in the business -- source). A senior FO may opt to remain FO to continue without the additional responsibilities of a captain, and may become a senior FO with more flying experience than a junior captain. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 10:45
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    $\begingroup$ @mins an additional issue is that a first officer with a lot of seniority with have a lot of choice about routes and schedule. When that pilot becomes a captain he, or she, will typically be very low seniority, so will have little choice about routes and schedule. Typically, the crews that end of flying on Thanksgiving day, etc are a junior captain, junior FO, and junior flight attendants. $\endgroup$
    – Adam
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Adam -- you do have to take "green on green" rules into account $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ @UnrecognizedFallingObject - can you give more detail (or a link) on "green on green" rules? $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @FreeMan -- "green on green" rules forbid the pairing of a low-time captain with a low-time F/O to make sure there's somebody in the cockpit who isn't fresh out of training. In some companies, this is based on "time in company" instead of total-time, even -- this may apply where specialized flying is taking place. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 19:22

1 Answer 1


Have heard of a pilot who failed the captains' exam twice and became a senior first officer. He has an extensive flying experience, longer on type than most, and is teamed up with freshly graduated captains. Last I heard, pay was good.

It is some years ago, before covid and at the time of severe pilot shortage worldwide, and at the time after two attempts there were no more opportunities to graduate to captain. The choice was to remain senior first officer at the airline or leave for another and go for captain there.

This is a single case that I've heard of and I do not want to make the suggestion that this is always the case. It is essential for airlines to be able to couple experienced captains with novice first officers and vice versa, senior first officers simply have an essential role to play.


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