Flight Engineer

Flight engineers assist pilots and co-pilots on large aircraft by monitoring and operating many of the instruments and systems and watching for other aircraft. They carry out minor repairs and adjustments before take-off, while the aircraft is in flight, and after landing, to ensure the safety of the aircraft constantly.

Before take-off flight engineers carry out safety checks against a pre-flight check list. These checks include: inspecting for fuel or oil leaks; checking for electrical, hydraulic or pressurisation system malfunctions; verifying that passengers, freight and fuel do not exceed the weight limitations, and that the weight is evenly distributed.

While the aircraft is in flight the flight engineer needs to focus on the following tasks: monitoring fuel gauges and calculating the rate of fuel consumption; keeping a log of fuel consumption and engine performance; monitoring aircraft speed; maintaining cabin temperature; carrying out minor repairs; taking emergency measures in the case of equipment failure; logging repairs that were not corrected during flight and reporting these to the ground crew on landing.

As many flights take the crew of the aeroplane to far-off destinations, away from home, the airline provides hotel accommodation and an allowance for expenses. Since flights are at all hours of the day and night, work schedules are often irregular.

Personal Requirements

  • medically fit and sound mental health
  • alert
  • work well in a team
  • concentration and perseverance
  • calm and clear mind, especially in emergencies

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate is recommended

What to Study

To increase chances of selection, it is best to be qualified in one of the following trades: aircraft electrician, aircraft radiotrician, aircraft maintenance mechanic or aircraft instrument mechanician.

South African Airways (SAA) offers practical and theoretical training at OR Tambo Airport. The programme proceeds as follows:

  • medical flight test
  • examination set by Civil Aviation Authority on air navigation regulations and general knowledge of aeroplanes to obtain an “O” license.
  • the successful candidate starts a 6 week training programme as a flight engineer on a specific aeroplane: the course covers technical aspects of the aeroplane, operational and emergency procedures and flight planning
  • serve a 1-year period with a restricted licence, accompanied by a qualified flight engineer
  • 40 hours of simulator training followed by a test
  • allowed to fly on certain routes and must complete 50 hours on each type of aeroplane
  • test followed by exemption of temporary licence
  • proficiency check every 6 months in the simulator and medical test every 12 months.


  • airports
  • airline operators
  • contract work (locally and overseas)
Due to advances in aircraft technology, fewer flight engineers are required in aircraft nowadays, although SA Airways and some other flight operators still require flight engineers. Promotion possibilities are favourable and the flight engineer may progress to Senior Flight Engineer and/or Chief Flight Engineer.

Further Information

The Chief Flight Engineer Officer
South African Airways
c/o Flight Operations
OR Tambo Airport, 1627

Getting Started

  • make an appointment to speak to a flight engineer about this type of career
  • get in as much flying experience as possible and read up about aeroplanes

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