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Unsure about a Flight Safety Officer + First Officer job

African Aviation Regional issues that affect the numerous pilots who work in this area of the world.

Unsure about a Flight Safety Officer + First Officer job

Old 7th Apr 2019, 07:11
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: May 2018
Location: Mauritius
Age: 26
Posts: 6
Grrr Unsure about a Flight Safety Officer + First Officer job

Good day everybody, hope you're all doing well. I need some advice and insight on what an FSO does and how to become one. Full story below, important parts in bold.

So I was recently offered a job with a company based in South Africa, but with operations in west Africa, where my posting will be. When I went for assessment and interviews, it seemed clear that I was to become an ATR First Officer, and after a while, also become a Flight Safety Officer. Doing things in this order seemed to make sense to me. I did alright in the simulator parts, and really well on the technical paper, so I was confident I'd get an offer.

Fast forward three weeks, they call me to confirm the offer, except now I will have to be FSO first, and then FO. Now consider the following:
  1. I have very little experience in commercial air operations (I do some skydiving, but that's the only pilot work I've had since flight school)
  2. I do not have experience, let alone a type rating, on ATR 42 / 72
  3. I am a newcomer to this company, so still have to learn a lot about their policies
  4. I have no experience in flight safety jobs
  5. Pilots who enter this company usually have 500 - 1500 hours upon entry. I have 250 total time (and I have a CPL with ATPL subjects completed).
These in mind, why would I be considered for this job at all? Their reason was I am a French-speaker and have a South African license (most of their planes in west Africa are registered in SA), and they need one like me over there to liaise with the civil aviation authorities, but I can't shake the feeling that my language skills alone can't possibly make up for this much lack in experience. My worry is that they might need someone inexperienced to sign-off some papers, or do some shady things with my name on it. Besides, my main motivation is to gain some flight experience. Some extra money on the side in always welcome, but I may not be ready to take some extra responsibilities this early-on in my career.

Anyway, I turn to you guys for any kind of guidance as per what an FSO does exactly. Also, do you know of any cases of companies taking advantage of inexperienced young pilots, and of anything I may do to protect myself? Any and every bit helps. I won't mention the company in question, but if you guys name-drop some companies which have been known to do such things, it might help me make a decision. And are there training / certification requirements to become FSO?

Thanks for your time everyone, and fly safe
Cobalt
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Old 8th Apr 2019, 19:49
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Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: UK
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A flight safety officer is a cog in the safety management system. Not having much experience of commercial aviation is quite interesting - although First Officers are quite frequently in these positions.

There are plenty of courses, which you would expect your future operator to send you on some sort of formal training. The relevant manager for the safety management system will allocate investigations to an SFO, who will then interview crew, ATC, etc as appropriate and look at what went wrong, and how to avoid this going wrong again in the future. Once your investigation and recommendations have been made, another FSO should conduct follow up.

it is an interesting role, and valuable experience. You’re not really in a position to “sign off” on anything, but it is wise to be a bit wary - although don’t let that put you off, just keep your eyes open.

Have a look at Annex 13 and get hold of a copy of some work by Sidney Dekker. He also has a Youtube series, which is good to dip into. Essentially, pilots are gong to make errors. Simply saying pilots shouldn’t make errors in the future isn’t an appropriate response, but a common one from less reputable operations. Better to try to understand why the crew made a mistake, was there an organisational pressure, latent error, etc... because a similarly qualified crew could make the same error, so either remove the organisational influence, or build a defence around the crew. Just a very brief taste. Good luck.
Journey Man is offline  
Old 8th Apr 2019, 21:30
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: All at sea
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If they initially said that you would be type rated first, insist on this.
To have credibility you do need to gain some operational experience before taking on such an important role.
It seems to me that they really want a ‘fall guy’ merely to satisfy the regulatory authority. I have seen more than one example where junior pilots were pushed into these roles with no training and where nothing much was ever achieved.
Management really only paid lip service to the whole concept of SMS. Just dragging management to quarterly safety meetings was difficult, let alone ever getting them to positively embrace the concept. Especially if it involved money.
You don’t need to blot your record so early in your career. Be careful, very careful.

Last edited by Mach E Avelli; 8th Apr 2019 at 21:45.
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Old 9th Apr 2019, 10:20
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Join Date: May 2018
Location: Mauritius
Age: 26
Posts: 6
Hi, and thanks for your input.

Originally Posted by Journey Man View Post
There are plenty of courses, which you would expect your future operator to send you on some sort of formal training.

You’re not really in a position to “sign off” on anything, but it is wise to be a bit wary - although don’t let that put you off, just keep your eyes open.

Have a look at Annex 13 and get hold of a copy of some work by Sidney Dekker.
Very helpful info indeed, many thanks Journey Man! Not being one to sign off on documents does reassure me a lot.

Originally Posted by Mach E Avelli View Post
If they initially said that you would be type rated first, insist on this.
To have credibility you do need to gain some operational experience before taking on such an important role.
It seems to me that they really want a ‘fall guy’ merely to satisfy the regulatory authority. I have seen more than one example where junior pilots were pushed into these roles with no training and where nothing much was ever achieved.

Be careful, very careful.
First of all, nice user name. I agree that some ops experience should be a prerequisite before becoming FSO. I suppose it's wise for me to insist a little on the FO position, but the risk is that since I barely have operational experience, I don't expect they'll bend over backwards for a newbie. You say you've seen examples of inexperienced pilots pushed into management/admin - do you mind telling me a bit more on what happened to these guys? Did they end up with a huge skidmark on their career and struggle to find other jobs later on?

Originally Posted by Journey Man View Post
Good luck.
THANKS seems like I'll need it either way.

Also, new question: Are any of you fellow PPRuNe members aware whether the lack of French-speaking pilots in West Africa is bad enough that they'd recruit someone with less hours than their other applicants?
Falcon Cobalt is offline  
Old 9th Apr 2019, 18:19
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Join Date: Sep 2008
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What they’re trying to say is that you won’t be flying.
4runner is offline  
Old 9th Apr 2019, 20:42
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Join Date: Feb 2006
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There is a guy on here called Mobuto who is based in the DRC -a pilot who knows the pitfalls of some parts of West Africa -I have had a few dealings with him about a particular airframe -he was /is very knowledgeable with his feet on the ground -good contact -find him and ask your questions
Dave Sharpe is online now  
Old 10th Apr 2019, 00:59
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: All at sea
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Falcon to answer your question. One operator I was associated with would suck in young CPL hopefuls to work the operations desk, rostering, manual revisions, flight planning, clearances etc. with a promise of a type rating. When they burned out from the constant workload, they would suck in someone else. None ever got the rating.

As for safety officer, no I do not know of anyone whose career was blighted, but more by good luck than good management, because most who took it on became quickly disillusioned by management's lack of commitment and bailed out. Had there ever been a serious incident on their watch it could have been different. Whenever there is an accident the blame game starts at the bottom - hang the weakest out to dry is the usual policy.
Mach E Avelli is offline  
Old 11th Apr 2019, 07:51
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Join Date: May 2018
Location: Mauritius
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Posts: 6
Alright, thanks a lot Mach. That does help a lot. My initial contract with them is 6 months, so if there's no flying at the key I can still bail out after making some money. It's mainly the "FSO but without experience AND WHILE NOT FLYING" part that's really weird to me.

P.S. Dave, I got in touch with the guy, awaiting a response at the moment. Thanks for the advice.

This thread may be useful to another newbie, so I'll be sure to update with what the employer said with regards to the terms of employment and the type rating (I'm only going to take the job if I have a guarantee that they will make me fly - otherwise I think it's too risky). Maybe it'll help someone, who knows.

Meanwhile, all my gratitude to you, and fly safe.
Cobalt
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Old 11th Apr 2019, 12:21
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Join Date: Aug 2011
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Exclamation

SFO is a serious position in aviation! But i suspect they want you there to fill out a position to meet some CAA requirements as operators.
I suggest you stick to getting the type rating first.

Be careful
physicx is offline  
Old 11th Apr 2019, 19:40
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Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: I can't remember
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I am quite sure that operator/company is Overland Airways. Please be very careful. You can PM for more information. Most crew who work in Nigeria know this too well
glideslopealive is offline  
Old 12th Apr 2019, 20:39
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Join Date: Jul 2005
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Originally Posted by glideslopealive View Post
I am quite sure that operator/company is Overland Airways. Please be very careful. You can PM for more information. Most crew who work in Nigeria know this too well
The Overland Airways based in South Africa?
EladElap is offline  
Old 2nd May 2019, 10:23
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Join Date: May 2018
Location: Mauritius
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Hey everyone, just a quick update.

First of all, thanks for having given some of your time to help out. Being new to the trade, I realise I still have a lot to learn, so it's much appreciated that you all tried to enlighten me a bit. So I've been in touch with the company in question, and indeed FSO before FO is well weird. Somewhere along the line there was a miscommunication. The offer in question comprises a type rating, so that as an FSO I would know what I'd be talking about.

They were actually really reassuring and helpful (pretty pleased that they'd be this patient). They explained that an FSO in their company works under a safety manager (which I suspect is standard in most companies), so I wouldn't be on my own, signing stuff here and there without knowing what's going on. In any case it is required that an FSO is rated on at least 1 of the aircraft that a company uses. I suspected some rule like this existed within civil aviation, but couldn't reference it, however the company confirmed that, indeed, this is a regulation in force.

Before they told me all of this, I've been pestering them a bit, asking to clarify this and that here and there, so if they haven't grown tired of me and the offer's still on the table, I am keeeeen to take it.

Conclusion: My main issue - being an FSO without flying, before maybe becoming an FO - this was a gross misunderstanding. It's been made clear to me that it wouldn't happen in that order, and I can't assume FSO duties before being type rated and flying with them.

Heh, maybe "too good to be true" isn't always true (no pun intended) and I was just being paranoid. I hope this info can be useful to someone else someday.

Hope you have a great day everybody, fly safe.
Cobalt
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