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I have heard before that even an experienced Boeing 747 pilot can't operate a Boing 787 Dreamliner without attaining the specific license first.

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  • $\begingroup$ Related: Why do some aircraft require type ratings to fly them? $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Sep 1, 2022 at 7:49
  • $\begingroup$ On some aircraft a single "Type Rating" covers more than one aircraft type. For example, if you receive training and a flight check for a "type" rating in a B757 you automatcally receive a type rating in the B767 as well at the same time. (They share a type rating). $\endgroup$
    – user22445
    Sep 1, 2022 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ FWIW: The controversies surrounding the rollout of the 737 Max had a lot to do with pilot training. Boeing really wanted pilots with a 737 type rating to be able to fly a 737 Max without retraining. That would give them a big leg up on the competition (aka AirBus). But, they did make changes, to things that pilots didn't expect and then things went very wrong. $\endgroup$
    – Flydog57
    Sep 1, 2022 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ This is why when one pilot is incapacitated and someone from the cabin volunteers to help out in the cockpit, the helper is usually operating the radio rather than flying the aircraft. Radio skills are largely the same across different aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – Nayuki
    Sep 2, 2022 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ @757toga I am curious, even when the 757 and 767 share a type rating, is this ever done in practice? Meaning, while you meet the technical requirement of 61.31 from the FAA perspective, would an airline still require a distinct training curriculum for each aircraft? $\endgroup$
    – Max R
    Sep 2, 2022 at 19:43

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Not a different "license" but a different "type rating" - a subtle, but important, distinction.

Although a 747 and a 787 have the same basic controls, controlling them through all phases of flight, with full understanding of the limitations, procedures, and emergency actions differ enough that specific training is required for each

When an aircraft becomes "suitably complex" (decided by the licensing authority) then a separate "type rating" is required

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    $\begingroup$ Further to Jamiec's answer, a type rating can be quite a significant endeavor. For instance, moving from a being a 737 captain to a A321 will take about 3 months, almost all of which is systems training. Because of the workload and focus required to complete the transition in 3 months, an airline will normally pull the pilot from flying status in their old aircraft while they undergo training in the new aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – Max R
    Sep 1, 2022 at 13:37
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In many countries, there is a Class Rating that covers many different Types. In my (Australian) experience, newly licensed pilots are officially allowed to fly any aircraft having a single piston engine and maximum take-off weight less than 5700kg (12,500lb), with fixed pitch propeller, and fixed undercarriage with nose-wheel steering.

With further experience and testing, a pilot may have the fixed-pitch or fixed-undercarriage restrictions removed.

Once you want to fly a multi-engine aircraft, a turbojet, or a bigger plane, you'll typically need a specific rating for that exact aircraft.

There can be exceptions. For example, there was an aircraft with twin centre-line thrust piston engines that I was allowed to fly without a specific type rating. The most challenging part of flying a twin-engined aircraft is dealing with the off-centre thrust if one engine fails. If both engines are centreline-thrust (one at the front, and a "pusher" at the rear), then there is not such a challenging asymmetric situation when one fails.

The specific regulations (e.g. Australian tend to be quite wordy.

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You will need a different rating, if the aircraft in question or different categories in classes. A person who holds a pilot certificate with a airplane single engine land rating, for instance, may not serve as PIC in a rotorcraft helicopter without a rotorcraft helicopter rating added to their pilot certificate, or received additional type specific training and signoffs per §61.31(h). These are US regulations but ICAO has similar ones as well. In addition for large aircraft, you will need to be type rated on the individual aircraft in question in order to operate them as PIC or serve as a required pilot flight crewmember. You are also required to requalify every 12 months on type ratings in order to operate said aircraft.

So to your original question, a person who has a current type rated for required pilot flight crewmember duties on a Boeing 747 cannot perform the same duties on a Boeing 787, 737, etc. without being type rated on those aircraft as well.

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