Aircraft Type Ratings: Everything You Need To Know

Type Ratings Guide

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Are you on the track to become an airline pilot or looking to fly some of the bigger aircraft the industry has to offer? Then you will need a type rating! What is this type rating that I keep hearing about? Where do I get it? Are you sure I need one?

You can fill a book out with all the questions and their respective answers on type ratings. The truth is, there is not a whole lot of super-specific information on there. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lays it out in the Part 61 regulations, but it is not the friendliest read. This creates gaps that could lead to misinformation and our goal is to avoid that.

In this article we aim to give you the big ideas about aircraft type ratings. We will dive into the who, what, when, where, and whys to hopefully clear up the confusion. We will also tackle some of the most common questions that are asked around the web. To be clear, most of this information can be found in Part 61 regulations provided by the FAA.

What Is An Aircraft Type Rating?

A type rating is essentially a certification that proves your proper training and evaluation on a specific kind of aircraft, which allows you to pilot this specified aircraft.

When you become a certified commercial pilot, you are certified to pilot aircraft in general. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and subsequently the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires certain pilots to hold these ratings to get behind the controls of certain aircraft.

The aircraft you trained and learned on to achieve your commercial pilot certificate is a lot smaller and far less complex when you compare them to aircraft utilized by the airlines. Imagine getting behind the controls of a Boeing 747 the day after receiving your commercial certificate, it would be a very big adjustment. The aircraft type rating requirement is designed to tackle this issue.

When Are Type Ratings Required?

Type ratings are required to act as pilot in command (PIC) A.K.A. as the captain of any aircraft that fits the description below:

  • A Large aircraft is defined by the FAA as any aircraft more than 12,500 pounds, maximum certificated take-off weight (MTOW). (Except lighter-than-air aircraft)
  • A Boeing 737-700 ER has a MTOW of 171,000 pounds which requires it to have a type rating
  • Turbojet-powered airplanes which is defined as a jet engine in which the jet gases also operate a turbine-driven compressor for compressing the air drawn into the engine.
    • This is regardless of weight.
    • The USAF E-3 AWACs has four TF33 turbojet engines and would qualify.

This is essentially saying that the FAA administrator or a person who they bestow the authority can also require a type rating for aircraft outside of these parameters if they deem necessary

Do Turboprops Require A Type Rating?

Turboprop aircraft do not qualify as a “Turbojet” so are not subject to the type rating due to this requirement, BUT turboprop aircraft could still require a type rating if the MTOW of the aircraft is higher than 12,500 lbs.

Are Type Ratings Required For Second In Command (SIC) Pilots?

According to 61.55, a pilot may serve as a second-in-command (co-pilot) of an aircraft type certificated for more than one required pilot flight crewmember or in operations requiring a second-in0command pilot flight crewmember ony if that pilot holds:

  • At least a private pilot certificate (PPL) with the appropriate category and class rating
  • An instrument rating or privilege that applies to the aircraft being flown if the flight is under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR)
  • At least a pilot type rating for the aircraft being flown unless the flight will be conducted as domestic flight operations with the U.S. airspace

Do All Aircraft That Require A Type Rating Require Two Pilots?

No, there are certain aircraft designated by the FAA that can be flown by a single pilot even though they require a type rating.

The FAA used to require that the slightly more complex aircraft be manned by a flight crew of at least two. In the 70’s that all started to change, which eventually led to the single-pilot rating which we will get into more later in this article.

Will The Airlines Pay For Type Ratings?

A type rating is essentially a certification that proves your proper training and evaluation on a specific kind of aircraft, which allows you to pilot this specified aircraft.

When you become a certified commercial pilot, you are certified to pilot aircraft in general. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and subsequently the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires certain pilots to hold these ratings to get behind the controls of certain aircraft.

The aircraft you trained and learned on to achieve your commercial pilot certificate is a lot smaller and far less complex when you compare them to aircraft utilized by the airlines. Imagine getting behind the controls of a Boeing 747 the day after receiving your commercial certificate, it would be a very big adjustment. The aircraft type rating requirement is designed to tackle this issue.

Will The Airlines Pay For Type Ratings?

The short answer is yes. When picked up by an airline, most will send you through the proper training that results in a type rating in the aircraft you will be operating. This type rating would be in essence free since it is on the airlines dime.

Every airline has their own inventory of aircraft meaning you potentially have the option of choosing your aircraft and subsequently your type rating which may influence your application choices. For example, Southwest famously solely operates the Boeing 737.

Not every airline is the same though. It is important to do your homework to find out if the one you are thinking about would like you to have a type rating beforehand. It is not unheard of that airline companies actually require you to get the type rating on your own. This is common in other areas of the world but even Southwest at one point would hire pilots but require them to get a type rating prior to them starting.

You do have the option of pursuing the type rating outside of the airlines to make yourself more competitive for the airlines, but is often considered unnecessary and comes with a very hefty cost. It is highly advised to exhaust all your options of pursing the airlines without it so that the training and the resulting type rating is on their dime.

What Does A Type Rating Course Entail?

Just like how every flight school has their subtle differences and some are better than others, most courses are the same way. Though, you will be held to the same standard and will be tested on the same topics and maneuvers. Most pilots that are getting their type ratings will get similar training that will consist of:

  • ~ 80 Hours of Ground School
  • Training on Systems integration
  • ~ 36 Hours of full flight simulator training

These numbers vary on who is conducting the training, but the requirements stay the same for the end result of obtaining the type rating.

Most schools or training utilizes the sim only, meaning that you can get a type rating without ever setting foot in the actual jet. There are opportunities to go to schools that do use the actual aircraft to teach and get experience, but as expected is very expensive. Flying in the jet prior to getting the type rating is not uncommon outside of the United States, but in the U.S. it is predominately sim only.

Temporary Student Pilot Certificate

Single Pilot Type Rating

Have you ever wondered how certain turbojets only require a single pilot when some pilots struggle with a simple Cessna 172? The answer is a single-pilot type rating! 

What Is A Single Pilot Type Rating?

A Single-pilot type rating allows pilots to fly aircraft designated by the FAA that are above the small takeoff weight threshold (12,500 lbs.), but the FAA deems it safe by one properly trained pilot.

When a pilot qualifies for their single-pilot type rating, they must log 25 hours of operating experience with a pilot that is also type rated to fly the aircraft before they are able to fly solo.

Do I Have To Get The 25 Supplement Hours?

There are pilots that will not be required to perform the 25 extra hours of flying in the aircraft if they:

  • Possess a current, unrestricted jet type rating.
  • Have at least 2,000 hours total time, with a minimum of 500 hours in multiengine turboprop or jet aircraft
  • Have a U.S. military pilot certificate with multiengine jet privileges.
  • Have logged 500 hours as second in command in the airplane in which they are seeking the type rating.
  • Earn at least 1,000 hours as second-in-command in two different aircraft that require a type rating.

Pilots that fall into any of these categories may immediately take their aircraft up once they qualify for their single-pilot type rating. The thought behind it is that these pilots have plenty of invaluable experience that 25 more hours will not provide much benefit to.

Examples Of Aircraft That A Pilot Can Get A Single-Pilot Type Rating For

To give a better understanding of the aircraft that this type of rating applies too here are a few examples that are very common.

  • King Air 250
  • Pilatus PC-12
  • Citation M2
  • Citation CJ3
  • Premier 1A
  • Phenom 300

There are plenty of others. If you are curious if your plane qualifies under this category, the list is on the FAA website.

Can A Type Rating Cover Multiple Variants Of An Aircraft?

The short answer is yes it may. Pilots can often take advantage of type ratings that cover multiple variants of an aircraft though they potentially can be quite different. This opposite is true as well. Some aircraft that are very similar to each other may have completely different ratings.

It would not be recommended to take up an aircraft that you are unfamiliar with even though it may have the same type of rating as one that you are without some proper training or supervision. 

If you are curious whether your specific type rating can be used for other aircraft, there are compiled lists on FAA.gov.

Can A Pilot Hold Multiple Type Ratings?

A pilot can hold as many type ratings as they can successfully acquire. In fact, many pilots hold several ratings especially if they have a long successful aviation career. The natural progression for a professional pilot has them starting small and eventually progressing to bigger and bigger aircraft. Each new aircraft will require a type rating and the proper training to hold it.

It is not uncommon for airlines to limit the number of types of aircraft that their hired pilots are assigned to for safety reasons. Imagine how hard it was learning an aircraft to an expert level and then throw in another aircraft, and another and then trying to keep switching between them. Eventually, mistakes would inevitably be made, and people’s lives would be put in danger.

What Is The Difference Between an ATP and A Type Rating?

A common misconception of these two independent certifications is that if you have an airline transport pilot certificate it automatically means you have a type rating and vice versa.

It is often that pilots with their ATP have a type rating because they are flying professionally and are required to have one for their aircraft, but it is not by virtue of having the ATP alone. These pilots most likely obtained their ATP, applied to an airline, and then went to training to get a type rating on the specific aircraft that they will be flying for the said airline.

A person can hold a type rating or an ATP certificate by themselves. In other words, if a pilot meets the requirement for an ATP certificate by getting 1,500 hours in a small multi-engine aircraft, they can get an ATP for fun.

Vice versa, if someone that is wealthy wants to own and fly their very own Gulfstream G4, as long as they have a PPL and a type rating, they can do so without having to get an ATP

In Closing

The vast majority of pilots will never need a type rating. It is normally reserved for those who plan on being a pilot for their professional career. These type ratings are valuable considering the dollar amount behind the training to earn them. If you are able to get a type rating for free, do it! 

We hope this article sheds some light on some of the misconceptions and questions that typically surround type ratings. Good luck and Cheers!

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