Can Airbus Pilots Fly Boeing Aircraft?

Last month we asked the question, “Can Boeing pilots fly Airbus aircraft?” We discussed the similarly sized (and thus competing) aircraft between the two manufacturers and had a brief overview of their control systems. Let’s go a little more in-depth with this question and what challenges and requirements pilots would face when flying a different aircraft type.

Can Airbus Pilots Fly Boeing Aircraft?
Larger airlines will often have mixed fleets, comprised of both Airbus and Boeing jets. The three major airlines are good examples of this, with each carrier having both the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737- among others. Photo: Getty Images

What pilots have to say

Our previous article looked at the biggest difference between Airbus and Boeing jets: The aircraft’s flight control systems. Boeing jets are controlled using a yoke, while Airbus aircraft use a sidestick.

Some pilots, who had flown both Airbus and Boeing jets, commented on our video discussing the topic. They reminded us that there are, of course, more differences than this. Beyond the flight control mechanism, there’s a long list of differences, including aircraft systems, the pilot-aircraft interface, as well as aircraft handling characteristics.

Another pilot noted that it might take some time to get accustomed to the logic, design, and management of the airliner that each manufacturer develops- but that it’s possible to make the switch with the proper and required training.

Can Airbus Pilots Fly Boeing Aircraft?
The cockpit of a Boeing 787. Photo: Alex Beltyukov via Wikimedia Commons 

Another pilot, who had flown both narrowbody offerings from the two planemakers, noted that the Airbus A320 cockpit is more comfortable, joking that in a Boeing 737, “if you’re a tall bloke and sneeze, half of the overhead switches will go off.”

And finally, another said that going from Boeing to Airbus was “not too challenging,” but going from Airbus to Boeing was “more challenging.” Of course, experiences are likely to vary- especially with the wide variety of Boeing and Airbus jets flying. 

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Type ratings

Ultimately, it all comes down to having the necessary type rating for each aircraft. This can be achieved by completing the necessary training- most of which will be carried out in a simulator.

In addition to this, pilots will need to be current with the aircraft. Being current means that your flight experience is relatively “fresh.”

Flying Magazine begins one of its articles with the question, “Which is safer, a 10,000-hour pilot who has flown only 20 hours in the last year or a 200-hour pilot who has flown frequently in the last month?” The answer is that quite often, it’s the latter, with the author pilot Tom Benenson saying, “Flying an airplane is not like riding a bicycle; if you don’t use the skills, you’ll lose them.”

Staying current varies from country to country, with civil aviation authorities setting the rules. For example, you might need three takeoffs and landings in 90 days to be considered current.

Can Airbus Pilots Fly Boeing Aircraft?
A look at the cockpit of an Airbus A380. Photo: Alex Beltyukov via Wikimedia Commons 

There is some conflicting information regarding the ability to hold multiple type ratings, with some insisting that the FAA will not allow a pilot to have more than two type ratings. Other sources state that no maximum exists and that the limit is set by airlines.

Either way, a limit would exist to prevent pilots from confusing the different aircraft with one another. One source on Stack Exchange states that some countries will remove a type rating from a pilot certificate when they are no longer current and offers Mexico as an example.

Ultimately though, the answer to the article’s headline question is no, Airbus pilots cannot fly Boeing aircraft – unless they obtain the necessary training and certification to become Boeing pilots themselves.