I am not sure whether "rank" or "grade" are the most suitable words for this question. If someone know which the most suitable, please edit this question.

I mean, is the rank of a pilot of, say a Boeing 737, different than the rank of a Boeing 747? And the equivalent to my pilot of Airbus A320 and the pilot Airbus A380 are ranked differently? If different, which one is higher?

This question is related to the airplane's passenger capacity, not to the most advance technology installed in one particular airplane.


2 Answers 2


To the extent that there is any sort of "rank" amongst airline pilots, seniority comes first. The most senior pilot gets his choice of aircraft, schedules, vacations, and so on; the next most senior pilot gets his choice from everything that's left, and so on until the most junior pilot gets what's left over that nobody senior to him wanted. So the pilot hired a month before I was is senior to me, and I'm senior to the pilot hired a month after I was. Not that this translates into "rank" the way that a lower ranking officer in the military salutes a higher ranking officer -- I'm on a first-name basis with anybody I fly with, and I've flown with the most senior pilot in our company, and if not the very most junior pilot, pretty close to it.

At some airlines, larger aircraft pay more to fly than smaller aircraft, so one could contemplate a "ranking" of sorts in that regard. The pilot who transitions from the 737 to the 767 gains an increase in pay rate in doing that, so you might infer that 737 pilots are lower "rank" than 767 pilots. Of course, the most senior pilot on the 737 at that carrier has his choice of schedules, while the most junior pilot on the 767 has a schedule that most would see as less desirable. So I don't think there's too much stock to put into any idea that just because Allen is flying the 767 and Bill is on the 737, Allen is necessarily a higher "rank". Especially if he's flying to Timbuktu on weekends in that jet, while Bill enjoys his pick of layovers in San Diego in the winter and Boston in the summer.

And, some airlines don't have different pay rates for different equipment. This makes for less training burden, as pilots aren't switching aircraft to keep moving up the pay ladder as much.

Some guys will find any distinction that they can to make themselves feel special, or superior, or whatever, but for the most part that isn't all that common. "You're on a bigger airplane than I am, but I'm flying weekdays and you're stuck on weekend reserve." Or, "You have a better schedule, but my airplane is bigger than yours." Honestly, who cares? We're all pilots, we all started at the bottom, we'll all retire at some point between "here" and #1 on the list, and where "you" are on that progression compared with where "I" am right now doesn't really matter all that much.

Of course, the one very real "rank" distinction, on the flight deck at least, is Captain and First Officer. But between airplanes, not really so much in my experience.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your complete explanation. I voted up this. Yes, my point is regarding the salary, not the military-like rank. $\endgroup$ Jan 22, 2019 at 2:57

Being certified to fly a certain airplane is a type rating.

There is no ranking of airplanes like you mention. If you have a B737 type rating you are not allowed to fly the B747 or the other way around unless you have the type rating for that aircraft.

The list of type ratings that the FAA uses can be found on their website.

Getting a type rating while you already have one for another class can be easier than if you are getting it from scratch. Though that depends on the exact requirements to get each type rating.

  • $\begingroup$ It's probably worth mentioning that a pilot certified for a large, complex aircraft is generally paid more than one for a smaller less complex one. $\endgroup$ Jan 21, 2019 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ So, can I say that not a mandatory to hold licence to fly B737 before learn how to fly B747, or so on have to hold licence how to fly A320 before learn how to fly A380? Everyone can chose which airplane's license he want to get even for one just study how to be pilot? $\endgroup$ Jan 21, 2019 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ @DJClayworth: that what exactly my point. I was just thinking how to say it, but I was worry if many said off topic or not ethic. $\endgroup$ Jan 21, 2019 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ @AirCraftLover When we are talking about airliners, training to fly a specific type is usually paid for by the airline. They tend to send their most experienced pilots to learn to fly their largest aircraft. $\endgroup$ Jan 21, 2019 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ @DJClayworth, seems that pilot of B747 is ranked higher than pilot of B737, so does pilot A380 is ranked higher than pilot of A320, even it is not a formal ranking. Is my understanding correct? $\endgroup$ Jan 22, 2019 at 2:52

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