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The Boeing 787 shares its type rating with the 777, but what exactly does that imply?

Surely it cannot mean any 777 pilot can just jump into a 787 and fly it. While being similar, the 787 has some different systems, most notably bleed-less engines.

I assume it means something like a reduced course to switch to the 787 instead of a full type rating. But then again, Airbus advertises how easy it is to switch between different Airbus aircraft (see "Benefits for Pilots" section in https://www.airbus.com/aircraft/passenger-aircraft/commonality.html), so shouldn't they all share the same type rating then?

So what are the limits for "same type rating"?

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If two aircraft (let's call them Aircraft A and Aircraft B, since this isn't specific to 777/787) share a type rating (technically known as a "common type rating"), it means that, if a pilot is already certified to fly Aircraft A, and wants to get certified to fly Aircraft B, they only have to take a course on the parts of Aircraft B that are different from Aircraft A. If Aircraft A and Aircraft B didn't have a common type rating, an Aircraft A pilot wanting a certification for Aircraft B would have to train for every part of Aircraft B, even if many, or even most, of those parts were exactly the same as on Aircraft A.

As you can imagine, getting two (or more) aircraft types a common type rating can save quite a lot of training time and money for pilots switching from one to the other.

Grossly-oversimplified example

  • Our aircraft:
    • Aircraft A is composed of parts A, B, C, D, E, and F.
    • Aircraft B is composed of parts A, B, C, G, E, H, and I.
  • Our pilots:
    • Grace is certified to fly Aircraft A. She wants to become certified to fly Aircraft B.
    • Tedd is certified to fly Aircraft B. He wants to become certified to fly Aircraft A.

Scenario 1: Aircraft A and Aircraft B do not have a common type rating

  • To gain certification for Aircraft B, Grace has to take courses on parts A, B, C, G, E, H, and I.
  • To gain certification for Aircraft A, Tedd has to take courses on parts A, B, C, D, E, and F.

Scenario 2: Aircraft A and Aircraft B share a common type rating

  • To gain certification for Aircraft B, Grace only has to take courses on parts G, H, and I. She doesn't have to take courses on parts A, B, C, or E, since those parts are the same as on Aircraft A, which she's already certified on.
  • To gain certification for Aircraft A, Tedd only has to take courses on parts D and F. He doesn't have to take courses on parts A, B, C, or E, since those parts are the same as on Aircraft B, which he's already certified on.

Real-world example

The A330 and A350 share a common type rating (but the A340 doesn't, because different number of engines); as a result, whereas (say) a 767 or A300 pilot wishing to gain A350 certification needs 23 days of comprehensive training on every aspect of the A350, an A330 pilot has to take an eight-day course to become an A350 pilot. This eight-day course, covering only the parts of the A350 that differ from their counterparts on the A330, is, appropriately enough, termed "differences training". (Source)

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the clarification. If I understand you correctly, an A320 pilot still needs to do the full training when transitioning to the A350 then? $\endgroup$ – Bianfable Aug 20 '18 at 7:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Bianfable: Yes; it's easier than transitioning from (say) a 767 to an A350 would be, since (like you said) Airbus keeps their aircraft fairly similar cockpit-wise, but, since the A320 and A350 don't have a common type rating, your A320 pilot still needs to take just as long of a course as a 767 pilot would need to before either of them can fly A350s. $\endgroup$ – Sean Aug 21 '18 at 2:47
  • $\begingroup$ This answer has a problem: it is not necessary for planes to share a type rating to benefit from a shorter training class. For example, an A330 to A340 class is much shorter, 7 days, even though they don't share a type rating. My understanding too is if you do initial A330 and A340 training simultaneously, the additional time is as small as 3 days. The real benefit to sharing a type rating is currency: requirements between the two models are pooled. $\endgroup$ – user71659 Feb 11 at 0:00

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