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I believe anything the FAA refers to as a "rating" upgrades automatically with your license. For example, if I get my instrument rating on my Private Pilot License, I don't have to retake the instrument checkride when I get my commercial license in order to fly IFR commercially. This is not true for license classes (single engine land, multi-engine land, single engine sea, multi-engine sea). If I get a private MEL, and then take my commercial checkride in a single engine, I still have to take another commercial MEL checkride in order to exercise commercial privileges in a multi-engine airplane.

The question is, do type ratings work like instrument ratings or like license classes, and what regulations govern this?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't have to retake the instrument checkride when I get my commercial license. But you do have to demonstrate instrument tasks. If you don't, your licence will be limited to VFR only. $\endgroup$ – Steve V. Feb 6 '14 at 3:57
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The answer to this lies in 8900.1, Volume 5, Chapter 2, Section 18 - Conduct an Airline Transport Pilot Certification, Including Additional Category/Class Ratings.

In most cases, yes the type rating "upgrades" or "elevates" along with your license since the type rating is always evaluated at ATP standards, even if you only have a private or commercial certificate.

Exceptions are type ratings for single-engine airplanes and type ratings that have a "VFR ONLY" restriction.

8900.1 excerpt:

5-710 PILOT CERTIFICATE LEVEL AND CATEGORY AND CLASS RATING. The following category and class rating(s) for which the applicant has qualified on the original or subsequent ATP practical tests are entered on the ATP certificate.

A. Addition of Lighter-than-Air and Glider Class Ratings. A lighter-than-air or glider category rating may be added to an existing ATP certificate; however, the rating may be added only at the recreational, private, or commercial pilot certificate level, as appropriate to the practical test completed. There is no provision for the original issuance of an ATP certificate with a lighter-than-air or glider category rating.

B. Type Ratings. Type rating tests are conducted to the ATP standard for all grades of pilot certificate. Therefore, all type ratings in that category and class of aircraft for which the practical test is conducted in are upgraded after successful completion of the practical test. For example, a person who holds B-737, DC-3, and SK-62 type ratings on his or her commercial pilot certificate, and later satisfactorily completes an ATP practical test in a CE-750, would have his/her B-737 and DC-3 type ratings elevated up to the ATP certificate. The SK-62 would not elevate up because the practical test was in a multiengine airplane. However, when the person satisfactorily completes an ATP practical test in a helicopter, the SK-62 would then elevate up to the ATP certificate. Therefore, all of the type ratings held on the superseded certificate carry forward at the new certificate level within category and class.

NOTE: A type rating for a single-engine airplane may not be upgraded to the ATP level.

1) Except for type ratings and, under some circumstances, the instrument rating, other ratings indicated on the superseded pilot certificate are carried forward at the commercial, private, or recreational pilot certificate level, as indicated on the superseded certificate.

2) Instrument rating privileges are shown on the ATP certificate only if the ATP practical test was conducted under visual flight rules (VFR) only, or to retain instrument privileges that were held on the superseded certificate for a category of aircraft other than the one used for the ATP practical test.

C. Type Rating Limited to VFR. A type rating bearing the limitation “VFR ONLY” may be added to an existing certificate other than an ATP certificate under the provisions of § 61.63(e). This limitation may be added to an aircraft type rating not capable of instrument maneuvers or procedures required on a practical test. The practical test must be administered under the appropriate ATP PTS for an aircraft type rating limited to “VFR ONLY”. A type rating bearing the limitation “VFR ONLY” may be added to an existing ATP certificate under the provisions of § 61.157(g). The practical test must be administered under the appropriate ATP PTS for an aircraft type rating limited to “VFR ONLY.”

NOTE: There is no provision for taking an initial practical test for an ATP certificate in an aircraft that would require a VFR limitation.

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  • $\begingroup$ Apparently the FAA uses both upgrade and elevate. "...for which the practical test is conducted in are upgraded after successful completion..." and "would have his/her B-737 and DC-3 type ratings elevated up to the ATP certificate." $\endgroup$ – Bret Copeland Feb 6 '14 at 5:14
  • $\begingroup$ Wow, they can't even stay consistent in the same paragraph! $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Feb 6 '14 at 5:18
  • $\begingroup$ "There is no provision for the original issuance of an ATP certificate with a lighter-than-air or glider category rating." Aw, shucks! There goes my plan for a glider-based airline! $\endgroup$ – raptortech97 Apr 10 '15 at 14:33

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