First you will have to be deemed eligible for command by your airline. The criteria are obviously company specific. The following are generic examples.
Usually, company expansion or pilot (Captain) retirements makes slots available for First Officers to be promoted to fill the vacant captain`s positions. Therefore, time accrued working within your airline is used as a benchmark for illustrating how much experience you have.
Seniority essentially provides a queue for command, meaning you must bide your time before you become eligible. Use this time wisely to prepare for your command.
A seniority lists can protect weak pilots (in terms of eligibility) but if you rest on your laurels and coast your way through flying year-on-year, you are likely to struggle during the command course.
Total Flying Hours:
Some airlines have a minimum requirement for total flying hours. This could be to ensure a minimum experience level flying a certain type of aircraft (eg, Medium/Heavy jets) or simply could be due to insurance purposes (e.g. the A/C insurance company stipulates a minimum 3,000hrs jet time for captains). Typically, short haul airlines have a lower Total Hours requirement (usually 1,500hrs once you have unlocked your Air Transport Pilot Licence)
Having previous Pilot in Command experience or Training / Management experience, may also be a factor in your eligibility.
Previous LPC/OPC scores:
You will need to score well in your recurrent simulator sessions to progress towards command. Most airlines have a “Suitable for command” tick box on the simulator evaluation forms. The trainers / examiners use this tick box to indicate whether you have demonstrated command potential in your simulator session.
Conversely, most airlines will preclude you from command eligibility if you have failed any simulator events or had to re-do items. Scores of ‘Satisfactory’ or ‘Did not meet standard’ in your simulator sessions will hinder your eligibility for command.
Most airlines will have a number of self-study modules that you will need to complete before being considered for command. These are normally “drip fed” to you at key milestones, e.g. every year or every 500hrs, and you need to complete the modules to unlock the next set. This helps to keep you keen and preparing for your command as a First Officer. Also, expect to have exam quizzes on technical and operational aspects to demonstrate your knowledge.
There are a number of reasons why your airline might choose to suspend your eligibility for command. Some of these are listed below:
If you have recently undergone a company disciplinary event on your employment record then you will not be considered eligible for command. Therefore, it is imperative that you keep out of trouble and stay off the radar. The last thing you want is your name being used in the office for negative reasons, or even worse, being called in for “Tea and Biscuits” with the chief pilot for some un-company-like behaviour.
Down route behaviour:
This one is pretty obvious! Its important to be a brand ambassador for your airline, even when off duty and down route. Activity akin to excessive drinking, rowdiness, tardiness, lateness, jumping in the hotel pool at 2am in the morning etc runs the risk of a complaint getting back to your airline. Avoid this at all costs!
Abide by your airline’s social media policy. Most airlines are quite strict with regard to what you can say or do on social media regarding work. Hold back on any comments that are negative towards the company or colleagues or non-work comments that could be taken out of context or be deemed to be offensive to others. Also make sure you don’t post photos that you shouldn’t be taking (e.g. airside or in the flight deck). Everyone wants online kudos, but now is not the time to be turned down for your command due to breaching company policy.
Strive to be smart. Wear your uniform with pride (even if it is ill-fitting and 100% polyester!)
You might find the Head of Training coming down the jetway for the next sector only to find you without your tie on, shirt un-ironed and scuffed shoes.
The aim of your uniform is to make you stand out and make you identifiable to the passengers, and also to give you authority and respect. Looking scruffy will not help your cause of making management think you are a professional aviator with command potential.
It is highly likely that your colleagues (cabin crew, ground staff, engineers) will be asked their opinion of you at some stage during your pre-command period. This is usually to sanity check that you will make a suitable commander.
So it always pays to be nice to people you work with.