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Old 1st Mar 2011, 16:37
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Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Gabba
Age: 38
Posts: 9
SO Guide. Part 1. Introduction and Despatch

The Ultimate SO Guide
By Second Officers X, Y and Z.


Ever dreamed of soaring among the clouds, pushing the throttles forward as you accelerate 400tonns of metal down the runway? Watched aviators navigate the skies, arriving with a firm touchdown some fourteen hours later and wonder if that could ever be you? Remaining calm as you’re confronted with an emergency requiring all your knowledge and skill to be applied in just the right sequence to save the lives of your passengers and crew?

As a Second Officer, you can forget all that. Your function is to eat any food not consumed by senior crewmembers, prepare the bunks for the real pilots and stare into darkness knowing that if anything actually happens which require the last bit of decision making or actual pilot skills, you’re on your way to the back of the cockpit as fast as you can say “sandwich?”

Since your job doesn’t really amount to much, the company hasn’t bothered to write a job description for you. The only place you’re mentioned is when describing your place in the food-chain; squeezed in tightly between the ISM and the safety pilot. In real life, mind you, you’re below the ISM, the captain’s wife, all first class passengers, as well as any positioning aircrew. If you want some respect as a result of your fancy title and giant hat, the 19 year old stationed at L5 is your best bet. Anyone wearing black, blue or purple uniform is above you, and if it wasn’t for the fact that there are actually two pilots required in the cockpit, you’d never see any of them from takeoff to landing.

So we’ve written this guide to help you along in your new role as a Second Officer. With the ink still wet on your P2X rating and your hat still looking like a nuclear mushroom cloud, reading the following pages will at least let you pretend to know what you’re supposed to be doing.


Sign on time is 70 minutes prior to departure. You’d be an idiot to actually show up 70 minutes prior to departure, giving away your newbie status immediately. As a Second Officer, you’re expected to be there early enough to stock the flight documents bag with all the essentials; ear plugs, sanitary wipes, moisturizers and covers for the headsets. You’ll ultimately be blamed if a missed NOTAM causes any problems down the line, so you’re also expected to memorize closed taxiways and shortened runways for airports you’ll never see from your windowless seat. You should retrieve the DDG from dispatch if there are any ADD’s raised, and be prepared to wait outside the circle as the rest of the crew huddle in secrecy to discuss any implications the DDG might have. Once they’ve finished, you take the DDG back to dispatch without a clue as to what just happened.

This takes us on to the flight documents. Gross-error checks are big part of the operation, and just like real pilots you’re expected to make your own little notes on your own little paper in your own non-standardized way about the flight. Make a note of the estimated ZFW on your paper, and when the others decide on how much fuel to bring, add that to the ZFW. You now have your very own ramp weight, and after deducting any taxi burn you should be able to estimate your TOW. A further deduction of trip-fuel should give you the landing weight, which as the SO has no meaning to you what-so-ever.

Some captains, having recently completed a CRM course, might ask you about relevant NOTAMS or weather of concern. But most don’t. Keeping your mouth shut, your back straight and your eyes down will make you look the role of a seasoned SO; not expected to provide any useful information and not deemed worthy to share any with.

As the “briefing” comes to a close, expect the ISM to approach the table having finished her own separate briefing for the cabin crew at a different location. You have no idea what she has told her crew, and in the best CRM fashion she has no idea what we're expecting from the flight. She will smile, introduce herself to the Captain, and shake your hand.

With everything set to go, your job is to collect all the paperwork, less the Initial Dispatch Message and Crew Currency Sheet. Place them in the flight documents bag and carry them to the aircraft like the junior crewmember you are. If the captain wears a jacket, put on a jacket. If he wears a hat, put on your hat. And off you go to board the bus.
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