So what is actually involved with a type rating?
So you’ve got your licence, multi-engine & instrument rating, where do you go from here? Well, for some pilots it’s time to say goodbye to the class rating, and to move on to more complicated aircraft that require a type rating. Whether it’s for a Kingair, or the Airbus A380, the training structure is likely to be similar.
First of all, before you get anywhere near the simulator, you will need to know how all of the systems operate. Now I know that basic hydraulic, electric and pressurisation systems are taught in aircraft general before license issue, and the principles behind them will not have changed, so why are we looking at them again? You are really looking at the limits of operation for that specific system, and what will happen when part, or all, of the system fails. In most cases these aircraft normally have two, or in some cases three, parallel systems, so (unless you are incredibly unlucky) you will never be without the service entirely. It also looks at what other parts of the aircraft it will affect, for example loss of on hydraulic system is likely to impinge on the flight control systems, as the speed of control surface movement may be reduced, or you may lose some spoilers, or leading edge devices. It may also give you a solution, for example if you had a generator failure you may be able to stop the automatic load-sheading by switching on the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). However, the recovery procedures are normally taught in the Sim. The other thing this section teaches us, is the technical aspects specific to the aircraft and not included in the licence. Good examples of this are Airbus’ fly-by-wire laws, Normal (all protections available) Alternate law (some protections available) and direct law (no protection and it now handles like a conventional a/c). This section will tell you what each law will let you do, and how to tell when it’s been downgraded. There will be a written test for this section.
Also, in the ground school phase, you will look in detail at the mass and balance, and performance for the aircraft. Most licenced airfields in the UK have sufficiently long enough runways, that a single engine piston should be able to stop on the runway, if you were to have a failure at the rotate speed. (Always do the performance calculations though! Don’t get caught out) With a 50 ton+ aircraft this is unlikely to be the case, and therefore a decision speed (V1) needs to worked out, so that if a problem occurs after this speed is reached, you are committed to taking it into the air. This relies on acurate working out of the mass and balance. Also remember that having some systems on or off will affect performance. For example, if you have to use anti-ice that uses bleed air, this takes power way from the engine, increasing the take-off roll, which may in turn reduce V1.
Once this is completed and the relevant exams passed, you will then be let into the sim. Remember that demand for certain sim types are very high, so don’t be surprised if a session starts at 1am. The first few sessions will show you how the aircraft handles in normal operation, when they are finished you are on to the failures. This is where the learning curve suddenly becomes very steep. If it is a multi-crew aircraft there may not be time to show each pilot the failure when they are pilot flying so you need to pay attention at all times, if you are going to stand any chance of passing the skill test. Before you get there though, there will be a Line-Oriented Flight Training (LOFT) exercise. This is basically a flight from A to B with one or two failures thrown in. Unlike the earlier training, where you would simply return to the departure airfield, you may find that the weather makes it impossible to go back, and you have to decide how you wish to proceed. It’s really designed to see how your decision making process is working. Then it’s on to the skills test.
Once you have passed the skills test, you can’t just run to the CAA to get the type added to your licence. You have to complete 3 to 6 take-offs and landings (depending on your experience level) in a real aircraft. I think this is the most fun you can have with a public transport category aircraft, as without the passengers, baggage, catering and trip fuel they achieve accelerations normally only found in supercars, and climb like a home sick angel. Please remember while you are having fun, that you are still being assessed. Provided this all goes well, you can then get the new type stamped in your licence.