Let's say you have a demilitarized A-10 (this isn't too farfetched an idea, as this SDSM&T proposal for a replacement thunderstorm research aircraft demonstrates). With an empty weight twice the 12,500 pound limit, it clearly requires a type rating; however, there was only one two-seat A-10 (the YA-10B) ever built, and it likely isn't airworthy any longer. (It is on static display at Edwards AFB.)

So, how would you train a civil pilot to get their A-10 type rating? Would it be a simulator-only exercise, or a long ground school followed by a solo signoff?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Is your question pertaining specifically to de-mil'ed aircraft or more generally about single seat aircraft that might require a type rating (though I can't think of anything that might meet the criteria and NOT be a former military aircraft)? If it's de-mil'ed aircraft, they're normally registered as experimentals, so I don't think the normal type rating stuff applies. $\endgroup$
    – habu
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 12:02
  • $\begingroup$ @habu -- I was asking more generically, but using the A-10 as an example type $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Federico -- fixed link $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 22:19

1 Answer 1


The short of it is that most such ex-military aircraft, and replicas built new to spec on these designs, do not have a "type" as defined by the FAA at all. Because the absence of a type means the aircraft can't be certified as airworthy in the normal way, and pilots of these aircraft cannot receive a type rating to fly them, the certification of aircraft and pilot is a bit different.

The aircraft must first be issued an FAA "Special Airworthiness Certificate". This is essentially a slightly more rigorous form of airworthiness inspections for type-rated aircraft and virtually identical to that for experimental and/or home-built aircraft, resulting in the certification of the craft as airworthy in general even though it does not fall into a predefined aircraft type for which FAA instructors can issue type ratings.

The airman, because he can't be certified to fly a non-existent FAA aircraft type, must receive a special rating certification called a "Letter of Authorization", allowing the pilot to fly aircraft of a specific model, and/or a "set" of aircraft that have similar configuration, power, weight and other operational specifications and limits (but that aren't similar or common enough for a type rating). The training required for an LOA includes a combination of ground school and flight school containing information and in-flight training on the specific model to be authorized. But, when it is not possible or practical to do in-flight training in the exact model of aircraft to be authorized (usually because the aircraft in question is a single-seater with no two-seat configuration available), flight training in a "similar" aircraft can be a substitute. Pilots of vintage single-seat warplanes like P-51s typically get their flight training for the category in something similar to what military pilots of the day would have used, such as an AT-6. If the flight school just happens to have a Twin Mustang laying around, that would be even better, and also more directly applicable to multi-engine warbirds like the P-38.

Back to your example, say you get your hands on a "de-fanged" A-10 (which would require a ton of ballast weight to be added, literally; the GAU-8 weighs about as much as a Cadillac, but I digress). All flying examples are single-seaters; however, the avionics, especially of the original A-10A without the glass cockpit upgrade of the PEUP program, are comparable to any 70's-era jet trainer. So, you could receive flight training in a T-33, which is a trainer-compatible straight-wing turbojet with more similarities in its flight characteristics to the A-10 than differences. Coupled with ground instruction and/or simulator time on the specific systems of the A-10 (Which won't include any weapons integration, but honestly for the A-10A that was a single FLIR display and the arming/firing switches, and the C variant only upgraded that to a pair of MFDs; other than relative positioning, the flight instruments of the A-10 would be familiar to any PPL), you could be certified to fly your A-10 solo without any flight hours in an A-10 specifically.

The same might apply to aircraft that do have two-seater variants but where the flight school is unable to procure one. If you won the Powerball, and put a chunk of that money into your very own milsurp F-15C (\$38 million a pop back when they were being made and that's in late 1970s dollars), it's highly unlikely your local flight school would be willing to pony up for an F-15D two-seat configuration to train you on it (unless you bought the plane for them with another big chunk of your lottery winnings). They might, however, have a T-38 in their inventory or be able to loan one from the nearby naval air station, which would give you a primer into the capabilities of a multi-engine turbofan ex-military fighter. Honestly, though, if you wanted to fly an F-15, you'll probably want a two-seater, and your CPL, so you could give rides to paying customers and offset the cost of running this beast (typical fuel load without droptanks, 13,500 lbs which is about 1,985 gallons. With Jet A running about \$4.85/gallon, the cost of a fillup would be somewhere in the $10,000 neighborhood which would give you a cruising range of about 1,000 miles, so you could offer this as a special type of jet taxi).

Here's some more reading on the subject: FAA Flight Systems Information Management System - 8900.1 V5 Chapter 9 Sec 2 - Airman Qualification Requirements for Aircraft for Which the Operating Limitations Require an FAA‑issued Authorization to Act as Pilot in Command

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Might be hard to keep the A-10 radar, as they didn't have one originally. If the new mission is thunderstorm research, it'd probably get something new, tailored exactly to that mission anyway. Nice that you'd have all the space/weight of the missing GAU-8 available to put it in! $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 21:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That's right, the A-10A didn't even have its own laser designator or FLIR. Some A-10 pilots would have their crew chiefs intentionally neuter a Maverick (typically leaving the ignition/rail-release circuits disconnected on the last missile to sequence) to keep that missile as a "poor-man's FLIR" to find targets for The Gun in low light. A-10Cs still don't have radar, but they do have their own FLIR and laser designator, plus a glass cockpit, GPS, JHMCS and other abilities needed for modern "smart" weaponry. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 22:04

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .