How do pilots end up flying a specific plane type? Do they choose what type of plane they want to fly and persevere the goal or do you generally get an ATPL and then get a rating based on what your employers aircraft models are?


I love turboprops and in particular the ATR42, I get employed, if I'm lucky or good, by an airline that has ATR42/72 mixed with other aircraft in the fleet. Do I have a choice as a pilot or do I have to strictly adhere to the aircraft that my employer assigns me?


It depends. In the US and at airlines, seniority rules what aircraft, and what base you start at. Usually, there will be bases for pilots, that are then broken down by aircraft(though not all bases will have options for all aircraft types) and then Captain and FO spots for each group. For example at Delta, at one point, the new hires were going primarily 767 FO spots, at JFK. As their seniority in the airline increases, they can then try to bid to a different aircraft or a captain spot on any aircraft that their seniority can hold, or to a different base. Some may spend a bulk of their career as FOs and just like being a senior FO at a base or type, others will jump around slowly moving up and progressing through various options, depending on the individual.

In the US, and airlines, generally you don't pay for your training for the type ratings. Though, Southwest has in the past required applicants to have a 737, and a few others require the type rating already in hand.

  • $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity do you have any means or knowledge to expand the question to include carriers out of the US? $\endgroup$ Jan 24 '16 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ From my understanding, Europe is similar to the US in it. (Though for Europe, it's usually the short haul stuff that is the most senior, versus the US, where it's long haul). The rest of the world(esp where they hire foreign crews), I suspect it's similar, but I have no information on how they operate. $\endgroup$
    – slookabill
    Jan 24 '16 at 15:03

Commercially you can choose most of the time within some reason of what aircraft type you would like to fly, however if you join the RAF for example you won't get an option what to fly, when you join as a pilot you get selected by them for whatever aircraft you will be flying, this can range from small light aircraft, to large transportation jets and even helicopters!

Hope this helps :P

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting but are you sure that you really are able to choose? $\endgroup$ Jan 24 '16 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ If choice would be available what happens if all of the pilots select the same type of aircraft? $\endgroup$ Jan 24 '16 at 14:52
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, well most UK airlines will let you have a preference. :D $\endgroup$
    – Mike
    Jan 24 '16 at 16:13

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