Second officer

A second officer


Second officers are responsible for monitoring and controlling various aircraft systems, including fixed-wing and rotary-wing. They work in close coordination with the two pilots during all phases of flight. They make pre-flight, inflight, and post-flight inspections, adjustments, and minor repairs. They verify parameters such as passenger and cargo distribution, the amount of fuel, aircraft performance, and appropriate engine speed according to the instructions of pilots.

Second officers typically do the following duties:

  • Responsible for component checks, ensuring everything is in working order.
  • Complete repair work if any mechanical issues are identified.
  • Assist in interpreting flight-related gauges and instruments.
  • Assist with pre-flight navigation preparations.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to second officer:

inflight engineer
flight engineer

Working conditions

Second officers can find jobs with commercial airlines and the military. They follow the schedule of their airline or employer, which often means unpredictable hours because flights change due to weather and staffing concerns. They work onboard aircraft and must work for the duration of the flight. Cross-country and overseas flights create long work hours and nontraditional schedules, including nights, weekends, and holidays. Therefore, second officers can sometimes spend long periods away from home.

Minimum qualifications

A bachelor’s degree is typically required to become a second officer, with subjects such as aircraft engineering with pilot studies, aviation engineering and aeronautical technology the most applicable to the role.

Second officers who hold a professional pilot’s license will be more sought after than those without. With the appropriate license, they can also become pilot or co-pilot.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Second officer is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Second officer career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to second officer. helicopter pilot
air traffic controller
private pilot
airline transport pilot

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of second officer. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of second officer with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

airspace manager
flight test engineer
air traffic manager
air traffic instructor
air force officer

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of second officer.

  • Geographic areas: Know the geographic area in detail; know where different organisations carry out operations.
  • Airport planning: Know airport planning for different types of aircrafts; use that information to mobilise resources and people in order to handle the aircrafts while they are in the airport.
  • Aircraft flight control systems: Know the setting, features and operation of aircraft flight control systems. Manage flight control surfaces, cockpit controls, connections, and operating mechanisms required to control the flight direction of an aircraft. Operate aircraft engine controls in order to change aircraft speed.
  • Electrical systems used in transportation: Understand the functioning of electrical systems, their specifications, and application in operations and systems for the transportation of freight and people.
  • Electronics: The functioning of electronic circuit boards, processors, chips, and computer hardware and software, including programming and applications. Apply this knowledge to ensure electronic equipment runs smoothly.
  • Air transport law: Know air transport laws and regulations. Due to the nature of aviation, knowledge of air transport laws partially overlaps with knowledge of international law.
  • Aviation meteorology: Understand aviation meteorology to deal with the impact of weather on air traffic management (ATM). Understand how thorough changes in pressure and temperature values at airports can create variations in head and tail-wind components, and may impose low visibility operating conditions. Knowledge of aviation meteorology can help to reduce negative impact on the ATM system by diminishing disruption and the consequent problems of disturbed flow rates, lost capacity and induced additional costs.
  • Airport safety regulations: Know airport safety regulations and instructions.
  • Common aviation safety regulations: The body of legislation and regulations that apply to the field of civil aviation at regional, national, European and International levels. Understand that regulations aimed at protecting citizens at all times in civil aviation; ensure that operators, citizens, and organisations comply with these rules.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of second officer.

  • Use meteorological information: Use and interpret meteorological information for operations dependent on climatic conditions. Use this information to provide advise on safe operations in relation to weather conditions.
  • Ensure ongoing compliance with regulations: Conduct tasks and procedures to ensure that aviation certificates maintain their validity; undertake safeguarding measures as appropriate.
  • Possess visual literacy: Interpret charts, maps, graphics, and other pictorial presentations used in place of the written word. The graphics used vary from process to process; therefore, the professional must have sufficient knowledge of the field in order to follow and use the information presented.
  • Deal with challenging work conditions: Deal with challenging circumstances in which to perform work, such as night work, shift work, and atypical working conditions.
  • Ensure public safety and security: Implement the relevant procedures, strategies and use the proper equipment to promote local or national security activities for the protection of data, people, institutions, and property.
  • Carry out navigational calculations: Solve mathematical problems to achieve safe navigation.
  • Address aircraft mechanical issues: Identify and resolve mechanical issues which arise during flight; identify malfunctions in fuel gauges, pressure indicators and other electrical, mechanical or hydraulic components.
  • Ensure smooth on board operations: Ensure the trip goes smoothly and without incidents. Before departure review if all security, catering, navigation and communication elements are in place.
  • Ensure compliance with airport security measures: Ensure compliance with airport security measures prior to the boarding of planes.
  • Operate cockpit control panels: Operates control panels in the cockpit or flight deck according to the needs of the flight. Manage on-board electronic systems to ensure a smooth flight.
  • Read 3d displays: Read 3D-displays and understand the information they provide on positions, distances, and other parameters.
  • Handle stressful situations: Deal with and manage highly stressful situations in the workplace by following adequate procedures, communicating in a quiet and effective manner, and remaining level-headed when taking decisions.
  • Ensure aircraft compliance with regulation: Ensure that every aircraft complies with applicable regulation and all components and equipment have officially valid components.
  • Comprehensively inspect aircraft: Conduct inspections of aircraft and aircraft components, namely their parts, appliances, and equipment, to identify malfunctions such as fuel leaks or flaws in electrical and pressurisation systems.
  • Comply with checklists: Follow checklists and ensure compliance with all the items included in them.
  • Perform aircraft maintenance: Carry out inspection and maintenance on aircraft parts according to the maintenance procedures and documentation, and perform repair work to remedy functional and deterioration problems.
  • Undertake procedures to meet aircraft flight requirements: Ensure that operation certificates are valid, guarantee that take-off mass is a maximum of 3,175 kg, verify that the minimum crew is adequate according to regulations and needs, ensure that the configuration settings are correct, and check if engines are suitable for the flight.
  • Perform routine flight operations checks: Perform checks before and during flight: conduct pre-flight and in-flight inspections of aircraft performance, route and fuel usage, runway availability, airspace restrictions, etc.
  • Follow verbal instructions: Have the ability to follow spoken instructions received from colleagues. Strive to understand and clarify what is being requested.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of second officer. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Launching of satellites into orbit: Know about the different procedures, phases, and requirements for launching satellites into orbit.
  • Geostationary satellites: Know about geostationary satellites and how they function; moving in the same direction as rotation of the Earth. Understand how they are used for telecommunication and commercial purposes.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of second officer. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

ISCO group and title

3153 – Aircraft pilots and related associate professionals

  1. Second officer – ESCO
  2. Flight engineer job description – Aviation Job Search
  3. What Does a Flight Engineer Do? – Canada
  4. Featured image: By U.S. Navy Photo by Master Chief Photographer’s Mate Terry Cosgrove. – Public Domain
Last updated on March 12, 2023