Initial Operating Experience (IOE, or some airlines shorten it down even more and call it OE) is where the fun stuff finally begins- flying an airplane again, which is why we are all in aviation, right? You will fly an actual trip/rotation with passengers on your flight- just don't let them know it's your first time in the airplane. Haha.
I've had IOEs in four types of airplanes now- the EMB120 Brasilia, the CRJ (200/700/900), the B757/767, and most recently, the A220. The first one in the Brasilia was the most challenging because I didn't really know what to expect, but it has gotten a little easier each time I've had to go through this phase of training.
This was on my first IOE trip at SkyWest airlines back in 2012.
I remember that first IOE trip in the Brasilia like it was yesterday, even though it was over 5 years ago... I felt like an imposter in my pilot uniform walking through security as a crew member. I was so nervous. But I acted like I knew exactly what I was doing, like I'd been an airline pilot for years, and walked through the airport with confidence.
That first day was a whirlwind. I felt like I knew quite a lot from sim and ground training, but there was still so much more to learn on the line, which I quickly found out. My trip had a showtime of 10:40am and an end time of 10:20pm- long day for a newbie! I flew 6 legs (flights) that day... actually I only flew 5 of them; the checkairman flew the first leg while I got some of my nerves out, then I flew the rest of them. Each IOE I've been on has been this way, with the checkairman flying the first leg, and it is quite nice to have a flight where I can soak it all in before doing it myself.
If you've never heard the term checkairman before, no worries. He/She is a captain with extra training- he'll know how to fly the airplane from both seats and he'll fly with new first officers and captains. Most of them become checkairman because they love teaching and helping newbies out, but there are a few that do it for the ego boost. You will know right away which ones are there for you, and which ones are there for themselves. If you end up with one who is unpleasant to fly with, don't take it personally- soak up as much information from them as you can, and look forward to flying with a (hopefully) more pleasant checkairman next time.
My first trip was 4 days long, which I've found is pretty typical for an IOE. There will usually be 2-3 IOE trips, depending on how much flight time you can acquire on each one, and if you need additional training. Each airline may require a different amount of flight time for IOE to be complete, but it's usually between 15-50 hours.
I remember being so exhausted by the end of that first day, but my brain was going a million miles an hours, which made sleep incredibly difficult. Thankfully I had an 18 hour layover, so I had some time to unwind and [try] to relax. When I woke the next morning I decided to look over the notes the checkairman had given me from day 1, and was able to study for a bit before heading out for the day. In addition to his notes, I also reviewed the checklists and flows, callouts, basic systems, and some of the operating procedures and company policies. I'd studied all of this countless times before, but I knew if I could remember all that without a problem, it would be much easier to soak in more information from my second day of training, which was soon approaching.
I was thankful I only had 2 legs that day. I was able to take in some more information and didn't feel too overwhelmed. However, that night we only had an 8 hour 51 minute layover (this was before the new rest requirements), and I did not sleep well at all. My term for this is stress sleeping- stressing about how little sleep I'm going to get, which in turn makes me not sleep at all. If you can prevent yourself from doing this, do it! It sucks. :)