As a commercial pilot, a type rating is your ticket to fly complex aircraft not covered by basic licenses such as a PPL or CPL. They often comprise a mixture of ground-based and simulator-based training.
What is a Type Rating?
A type rating is a pilot qualification to fly a specific type of aircraft that has significantly different systematic and handling characteristics to standard aircraft covered by basic licenses such as PPL or CPL. The types of aircraft requiring the acquisition of a type rating require the pilot to undertake an in-depth course of study into all areas of the aircraft and its operation. Local aviation authorities determine which aircraft require a type rating, in the UK, that body is the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in Europe it is the European Aviation Safety Agency EASA and in the USA it is the FAA. A full list of (fixed wing) aircraft requiring type ratings under EASA can be found here and the same FAA list can be found here. It is often the case that single-engined aircraft under a maximum weight of (commonly) 5,700kg or 12,500 lb do not require a type rating for every variant of aircraft covered by one class rating.
What do I need to undertake a type rating?
A full list of requirements by the CAA can be found here, however it is commonly the case for a pilot undertaking a type rating to be in possession of at least a CPL (Commercial pilot’s license). Here’s some common requirements:
- Have at least 70 hours of flight experience as pilot in command (not under training) on aeroplanes;
- Hold a multi-engine instrument rating (Aeroplanes);
- Have passed the 14 theoretical ATPL (Aeroplanes) examinations;
- Hold a Multi-crew Co-operation MCC certificate or have at least 500 hours experience as a pilot in multi-pilot aeroplanes.
- Have completed the training course at an ATO (approved training organisation) A full list of CAA approved ATO’s can be found here.
What does a Type Rating Involve?
A common type rating involves two distinct stages, the technical phase and the simulator phase. Usually before the simulator training begins, pilots undertake a course of study into the nitty gritty elements of the aircraft they’re converting to, this course includes study of aircraft systems, dimensions and operations. This course normally lasts around two weeks and is commonly delivered through CBT (Computer Based Training) with the student working their way through sets of modules and completing a range of progress tests to evaluate their knowledge. These courses are notoriously fast-paced in nature and involve a great deal of self-study outside the classroom to gain the necessary knowledge to pass the final technical exam which includes no less than 100 multiple-choice questions covering all aspects studied in the ground phase.
The second phase is the simulator phase, pilots are often put in pairs for this section (if the aircraft is a multi crew aircraft requiring two pilots). The training often consists of 10 simulator sessions over a two to three week period at four hours each time, making a grand total of 40 hours of sim training before the LST (License skills test) which also commonly lasts around four hours for a two pilot crew. Upon completion pilots can present to the local authority with their training completion documents and licenses to have the new type rating added to their license (A full list of the CAA flight crew licensing forms can be found here).
For ab-initio pilots completing their first type rating, there is one last step before the license can be issued, this is the bit they’ve been waiting a long time for – Base Training.
What is Base Training?
Ask any commercial pilot what their most memorable flight ever was and it’s highly likely a high proportion of them will say their base training. Base training is a legal requirement for new pilots to complete 6 take-offs and 6 landings on the aircraft before license issue. These 6 take-offs and landings are undertaken with no passengers or cargo on board and are solely for pilot training. See our youtube channel for some more information on base training Youtube.
What is ZFTT?
ZFTT or Zero flight time training covers the requirement to complete 6 take-offs and 6 landings by a newly type-qualified pilot subsequent to completing a type rating, just in a simulator rather than the actual aircraft. ZFTT requirements usually require a pilot to have prior experience totalling no less than 500 hours on multi-crew aircraft or 100 sectors flown. Pilots completing ZFTT training will often fly their new type of aircraft for the first time under line training in a commercial environment.
What is Line Training?
Line Training is the final hurdle in a pilot’s transition from student to professional. Upon completion of a type rating conversion pilots undertake a series of flights under supervision by a line training qualified captain flying revenue making passenger or cargo routes on the network of the company they’re flying for. Line training often lasts a minimum of 40 sectors of normal operational training (the first few flights of which are accompanied by a 3rd safety pilot), however some operators impose a more stringent training programme with a higher sector requirement. Once the student meets the required standard they undergo a line check, upon successful completion of this the pilot is ‘released to the line’ and can put their new qualifications to use.
How much does a Type Rating Cost?
Due to the highly specialised nature of the training and the highly intricate training devices used to complete this training, type ratings don’t usually come cheap. It would be perfectly reasonable to budget around £20,000 to £39,000 for an initial type rating on an Airbus or Boeing type aircraft although some smaller business-jet type aircraft may be cheaper.
Do Airlines Pay for my type rating?
There is no black and white answer to this question in today’s aviation industry. Nowadays it is common that the cost of an initial type rating for a newly qualified pilot will be covered by the pilot, it is also becoming increasingly common for experienced pilots to have to cover the cost of conversions when converting on to new aircraft types with another carrier. It is, however, extremely uncommon for an airline to require a pilot to cover the cost of a type rating if moving fleet within the same company. Some airlines offer a bonded type rating, reducing costs for new entrants.
What is a type rating bond?
A type rating bond is almost like an airline’s insurance policy against you. Airlines frequently ‘bond’ their pilots for a specific time frame (usually 3-5 years) during which their initial training bond reduces. For example, if an airline bonded a pilot for three years for a training cost of £30,000, the pilot would pay nothing for their type rating unless they were to leave within that initial 3 year time frame, in which case they would owe the airline the balance (so if the pilot left after 2 years, the balance would be £10,000 as the bond reduces month on month proportionally to the amount bonded).
Do I have the qualification for life?
A type rating has to be kept current, for this pilots are required to undertake simulator checks bi-annually to keep the rating active. These simulator checks are known as LPC and OPC (License proficiency checks and operator’s proficiency checks) – the include practicing of failures and emergencies to ensure that pilots are fully prepared to deal with a range of situations with which they may be faced in their day to day operation. If a type rating is allowed to lapse without the completion of proficiency checks it becomes invalid for use.