What are the major differences between an FO and a CA? Seniority, pay, responsibilities? Both are pilots
Another great question Blake.
Different pilots will give you different answers on this one but I go with the FAA and that means responsibility.
FAA 14 CFR Part 91.3 (aka the pilot rule book) states: The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.
Basically ANYTHING that happens on that flight the CA is getting the call. One thing that always bothers me is on occasion I’ll fly with a CA who’ll say “the only reason I’m in this seat and your not is seniority”. Personally I feel that’s false humility and just not true. If you’re sitting in that seat you earned it. While seniority affords you the OPPORTUNITY to upgrade it’s not guaranteed. There’s training involved and frankly not every pilot is successful. And yes for that added responsibility the pay is considerably higher but I don’t know any pilot who doesn’t think that’s fair.
One common misconception though is who’s doing what. CA/FO are ranks and they do not change. Pilot flying and pilot monitoring (radios, nav, etc) does change so yes FO’s do actually takeoff, fly and land (often better than the CAs do! )