Are All Pilots Called Captain?

No, The commander of the aircraft is normally the most experienced pilot in the cockpit. The captain sits in the left-hand seat and has the overall responsibility of the aircraft and its occupants. The others in the cockpit are pilots or co-pilots.

Depending on the airline, they will normally have at least 3,000 hours of flying experience. A captain wears four stripes on their uniform shirts and jackets.

Captain positions are hard to come by and are usually filled by someone who already works within that specific airline company. These positions will usually only become available when an existing captain retires and someone is needed to fill that gap.

Additionally, captain jobs may become available when an airline company is expanding, as they’ll need more experienced pilots to keep up with flight demand. 

captains are responsible for everything and everyone on board an aircraft. Should they need to do so, they have the authority to break the rules in the interest of safety, if they deem that a situation warrants it.

Not only do they need the flying skills to handle the aircraft in the most demanding of weather conditions, but they also need the ability to make clear and concise decisions, often under extreme pressure.

How do you address a pilot?

When considering this question, it’s important to remember that the term “pilot” is simply just a job description, and does not imply any qualification or rank. Professional pilots have completed either a Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL) or an Air Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL). This differentiates them from amateur pilots who have a Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL).

A first officer is a person who can (in the sense of is capable of and legally permitted to) act as a pilot, and who has been hired or promoted by their employer to the rank of First Officer. It is the rank below captain. They can typically be recognized by having three gold bars on their shirt shoulders.

Nowadays, the term co-pilot isn't widely, if at all, used in commercial aviation. Both pilots in the cockpit of a modern airliner are fully qualified pilots, and the terminology has been changed to reflect this fact. 

Many people address every pilot as Captain, which is technically incorrect. While many pilots on online forums mention that they’re often referred to as Captain when out in public in uniform, they still make it clear that they prefer to be addressed by their specific title. 

What is the difference between a pilot and a captain?

In every aircraft, there must always be a nominated senior pilot who is in overall charge of the aircraft, this pilot is the Captain.

A newly-qualified airline or private jet pilot is given the rank of First Officer then later can advance to Senior First Officer, before they take a Command Course. If this is completed, this means they can become a Captain. In the military, First Officers are called Co-pilots.

Commercially-chartered private jet flights in Europe and the US are operated by two pilots. One will take full responsibility for the flight and be referred to as the Captain. If both pilots are Command Course qualified, one pilot will take responsibility for the flight and will sometimes be referred to as ‘Commander’.

Let’s break it down:

  • A pilot is a person who is licensed to fly an aircraft.
  • A pilot can be employed by an airline company either as a first officer (co-pilot) or as a captain. 
  • A commander is a pilot who is responsible for the safety of the flight. This can either be a private pilot or a captain on a commercial airliner.

What is the main pilot called?

On an airliner, the pilot in command is called the captain. The captain, who generally sits on the left side of the cockpit, is ultimately responsible for everything that happens on the flight.

Some of the responsibilities of the captain include making major command decisions during the flight, managing the cabin and crew team, taking lead during emergencies, and handling nuisance passengers. 

All three pilots in the flight crew have equal levels of training, but they usually have varying degrees of seniority. At most airlines, the career track is based almost completely on length of service.

To become a captain, you have to rise through the ranks and wait until it's your turn and a position opens up. Seniority also dictates the sorts of planes a pilot flies, as well their flight schedule. 

Ultimately, the “main” pilot would be the Captain. This is because they have greater powers within the aircraft, before, during, and after the flight. They also have a lot more responsibility than the others in the cockpit, so they’re certainly the most senior pilots on board.