The journey towards training as a professional pilot is one filled with complex-sounding qualifications and terminology.
If you’re in the early stages of qualifying to be a pilot or are still thinking about the possibility, you will probably have heard the words ‘type rating’ mentioned at some point. But what does type rating mean, and how does it work?
In today’s article, we’re going to be answering all your burning questions when it comes to type ratings in pilotage qualifications.
We’ll be covering the basics of what a type rating is and whether they’re essential, as well as the more complex questions like how many type ratings a pilot can have.
So, buckle in and prepare for liftoff because we have a lot to get through!
What is a type rating?
First thing’s first: what is a type rating in pilotage terms? Put simply, a type rating is the pilot’s equivalent to a driver’s license.
Anyone who’s learned to drive a car will know that getting a license involves completing a series of theoretical and practical tests in order to be certified as a safe driver.
If you’re learning to drive a specific, heavy-duty vehicle (like a lorry, for example), you’ll need to take extra qualifications to make sure you’re up to the task. Getting a type rating involves a similar process for pilots.
A type rating qualifies pilots to operate aircraft weighing 5,700 kg (12,500 lbs) or over. For context, any aircraft below this weight is considered a light aircraft, whereas anything over this weight is considered a large aircraft.
So, getting a type rating qualifies a pilot to handle large or commercial aircraft. Additionally, any aircraft powered by a turbo engine requires a type rating for handling, regardless of its weight.
In order to qualify for your type rating, you will need to attend a training academy and study for theoretical exams.
You will also have practical system training in a controlled environment before proceeding to the final stage of the qualification, which is practical flight training. During this stage, which typically takes about 2 months, you will learn to pilot the class of aircraft you’ve been training for.
Only when all of the above has been completed to the required standard will you be granted your official type rating.
Is a type rating necessary?
Getting a type rating isn’t a necessity for all piloting jobs.
As we mentioned earlier, a type rating is a required qualification for piloting large, ‘complex,’ or commercial aircraft. However, your CPL (Commercial Pilot License) or PPL (Private Pilot License) covers the handling of standard or light aircraft.
If you want to be able to easily switch between different aircraft and airlines, however, a type rating may be necessary. Once again, if you want to pilot any aircraft that weighs more than 12,500 lbs or is powered by a turbo engine, a type rating is a strict and non-negotiable requirement.
Can I get a job without a type rating?
You can get certain jobs in piloting without a type rating.
As long as you have your CPL (Commercial Pilot License) and an instrument rating for flight in low-visibility conditions, you will be eligible for employment as a flight instructor. Moreover, any job where the aircraft in question weighs under 5,700 kg and is covered by your CPL or PPL should be within your grasp.
However, you will find that many opportunities in the wide world of aviation will remain closed to you until you qualify for your type rating. Therefore, we would highly recommend that you start working towards a type rating as soon as possible. After all, the last thing you want is to come across an amazing job opportunity, only to discover that you don’t have the necessary qualifications.
If you don’t yet have an employer or a position in mind, it can’t do any harm to earn an extra qualification. The best way to narrow your options down to the right type rating for you is to look at the most popular commercial or heavy aircraft in your area. This will involve researching the aircraft that airlines in your local area typically use and working from there.
Can a pilot have multiple type ratings?
Yes, a pilot can, indeed, have multiple type ratings. In fact, if your career goal is to gain as much experience in as many areas as possible, earning type ratings for multiple types of aircraft is an excellent idea.
By earning several type ratings, you’ll be showing your current, and future superiors that you’re not afraid of commitment and are capable of achieving under pressure. Moreover, you’ll be opening up new doors to career opportunities.
Since there’s no limit to the number of type ratings a pilot can hold at one time, you could, in theory, become proficient in handling all of the aircraft classes in the aviation industry!
Can a private pilot get a type rating?
Private pilots can get type ratings, too! Typically, the process is much the same as it would be for the holder of a Commercial Pilot License to add a type rating onto their qualification.
If the aircraft you want to qualify with isn’t covered by your PPL or NPPL, you will need to enroll in a licensing course for that specific aircraft. On top of the theoretical, oral exam, you’ll need to complete your system training and flight test.
However, please be aware that not all Private Pilot Licenses are compatible with all type ratings. You will need to do your due diligence when it comes to working out which type ratings you can add to your existing PPL.
Generally speaking, for instance, you can’t add a separate Instrument Rating to an NPPL (National Private Pilot License).
Do airlines pay for your type rating?
The question of who pays for type ratings is complicated and can vary from airline to airline.
Normally, the process of paying for a type rating (which, by the way, can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000) starts with the airline. In most cases, airlines will pay for an employee’s type rating upfront. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll be getting your type rating paid for in full by your airline.
Once the initial payment has been made, your airline will require you to pay back the cost of the type rating. They can ask you to pay the money back in a number of ways, but most often, you’ll be expected to either pay the full amount upfront or have it deducted from your salary in installments.
If you’re lucky, your airline may have a system in place for employment bonds. A bond, in the context of aviation type ratings, is where an airline will pay the cost of the type rating upfront, and you aren’t expected to pay it back - with the caveat that you must stay with the airline professionally for a certain length of time.
The duration of the bonds on offer will vary depending on the airline, although it will usually be around 2 to 3 years. We should make clear, however, that most airlines do not offer these opportunities.
Another rare and valuable opportunity offered by a select few airlines is the option to earn your type rating through a sponsorship.
So, to provide a conclusive answer to this question: your employing airline will usually complete the initial transaction for your type rating. However, in the absence of a bond or sponsorship, you will be asked to pay this amount back either upfront or in installments from your paycheck.
How long does a type rating last?
In most cases, a type rating lasts 1 calendar year and begins on the last day of the month during which you obtained the qualification.
So, for example, if you were to earn your type rating on the 19th of April 2021, the official commencement date for your license would be the 30th of April 2021. The type rating would expire on the 30th of April 2022.
The exception to this rule is single-pilot type ratings for single-engine aircraft. These type ratings last for 2 years under the same regulations. Therefore, in the above scenario, your type rating would begin on the 30th of April 2021 and expire on the 30th of April 2023.
Once your type rating expires, you will be required to complete a session of refresher training and a proficiency exam to renew the license. This helps to ensure that essential knowledge is not forgotten over time and that specialized pilots remain proficient to the highest standards.
We hope that we’ve answered all of your most pressing questions relating to type ratings in the aviation industry! Hopefully, you’re now more informed and in a better position to continue your career progression in the field of aircraft pilotage!
In summary, a type rating is like a driver’s license for a specific type of aircraft. You will need a type rating in order to be qualified to handle an aircraft weighing in excess of 5,700 kg or 12,500 lbs, or any turbo-powered aircraft.
You can add type ratings to existing Commercial or Private pilot licenses as long as the specific type rating is compatible with your current license.
There’s no limit to the number of type ratings you can earn, although each type rating can cost up to $15,000 and needs to be renewed every 1 to 2 years, depending on the aircraft.
If you’re employed by an airline, your employer will typically pay for required type ratings upfront. However, you will normally be asked to pay this back. If finances are an issue, you may be able to benefit from a bond or sponsorship in certain circumstances.