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Are You About To Fly A New Aircraft Type? Here's What You Should Do Today.

Even if no additional training is required to fly new airplane types with your pilot certificate, there are a few things you should do before you fly.

Jim Raeder /

Your Private Pilot Privileges

If you hold a basic private pilot certificate (single engine, land), you're automatically rated to fly hundreds of different types of airplanes. If you don't hold any additional endorsements or ratings, you can fly any single-engine non-turbojet powered airplane under 12,500 lbs maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) which doesn't require an aircraft-specific type rating. This is one area where the FAA is quite lenient...differences between avionics, equipment, flight characteristics, and aircraft-specific procedures don't prevent you from flying new airplanes that you're rated for.

Let's say you just finished your flight training in a Piper PA28 Warrior. The moment you receive your temporary private pilot certificate after your checkride, you are legally eligible to fly something like the turboprop, 11 seat Cessna 208 Caravan.

Does that mean you should hop in, fire it up, and go flying on your own right away? Probably not! Switching back and forth between light, single-engine piston airplanes should be treated as a new learning experience. If you've never done it before, it can seem daunting...

Swayne Martin

Want To Fly More Types? Some Aircraft Require Additional Training

Let's assume you followed the "normal" track of training in a single-engine, non-retractable gear, non-turbojet powered airplane. Here's some additional training which will expand your ability to fly different types of airplanes:

(Depending on how you accomplished your private pilot training, you may be certified on a few of these aircraft already.)

  • Tailwheel Endorsement: After just a few hours of flight training, a tailwheel endorsement from a properly rated flight instructor will give you the ability to fly tailwheel airplanes.
  • Complex Endorsement: A few hours of flight and ground training will give you the ability to fly retractable gear airplanes with controllable pitch propellers.
  • High-Performance Endorsement: If you want to fly faster and higher, a high-performance endorsement will give you the ability to fly airplanes with more than 200 horsepower.
  • Multi-Engine Rating: Want to fly with two engines? Train for a multi-engine rating. No FAA written exam is required, but you will have to take an FAA practical exam.
  • Single-Engine Seaplane Rating (SES): There is no set level of experience or training for this rating. Most pilots will add this rating onto an existing private pilot, single-engine land certificate. No written exam is required, but you will take an FAA practical exam.
  • Multi-Engine Seaplane Rating (MES): Like single-engine seaplane ratings, adding a MES simply requires that you demonstrate proficiency to an examiner.
  • Type Ratings: Airplanes over 12,500 lbs maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) or any turbojet-powered airplane requires a type rating. They're aircraft-specific ratings, meaning you'll need one for each airplane qualifying under this category. A type applies for anything as small as the Cessna Mustang all the way to a Boeing 747.
Jason Pineau

Download, Buy Or Borrow The Airplane's POH

If you can find a copy of the airplane's pilot's operating handbook (POH) from an online resource, vendor, or friend, use it to begin reviewing the airplane. Learn about its systems and unique procedures. You'll need this for the rest of your studying.

Study The Cockpit Layout

It's likely the cockpit will be different than what you've flown before. When you fly, you'll obviously want to know where every button, knob, and handle is located.

This should be the first step in your aircraft transition studying. Without knowing confidently where everything is located, it will be hard to review systems, checklists, and emergency procedures.

Swayne Martin

Is There New Equipment You Need To Learn?

If you're transitioning from a glass cockpit to a round-dial cockpit for the first time, or vice versa, there's a lot you're going to need to study before you go flying. The way you've scanned instruments won't apply in this new setup, which is an essential skill you'll need to develop.

This goes for any system, like airplanes that require switching fuel tanks, instead of having the fuel tanks on a "both" setting.

Review: Speeds, Limitations, Procedures, And Checklists

As you work your way through preparation to fly a new airplane, focus special attention on V Speeds, limitations, procedures (BOTH normal AND emergency), and checklist items. Once you're comfortable with the cockpit, you shouldn't have issues completing checklists.

Whether you're transitioning to a Piper Warrior or a Pilatus PC-12, you'll have to learn the exact same types of items and procedures...maybe just a few more in a PC-12

The more you switch aircraft, the more used to this you'll get.


Quiz Yourself

Now that you've reviewed the POH, cockpit, equipment, and procedures, it's time to quiz yourself. Make some study questions, use online test banks, or have a friend quiz you straight from the book.

Fly With An Experienced Pilot Or Flight Instructor

The last thing you should do before you fly solo in a new airplane for the first time, is to fly with an experienced pilot or flight instructor. They'll teach you the intricacies of the airplane, which the books may or may not be able to do.

It's hard to learn how an airplane really "flies" by reading a manual, so this is your chance to knock off the rust and see if you're ready to fly by yourself. Have the pilot you're flying with present scenarios like emergency procedures, and be open to letting them critique your performance.

Remember, just because you're certificated to fly the airplane, doesn't mean you'll fly it perfectly right away.

Swayne Martin

How Comfortable Are You?

The last step is all about self-awareness. Are you comfortable flying the airplane by yourself? Do you know enough to stay safe and feel confident? If not, keep training and flying with an instructor until you're ready.

This is a process every pilot goes through. Initially, it can feel like a lot to learn. But if you follow a study strategy early-on, it will make transitioning to larger, more complex airplanes easier as your flying career progresses.

Jim Raeder

What was the hardest aircraft transition you ever made? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and commercial pilot for Mokulele Airlines. In addition to multi-engine and instrument ratings, he holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525). He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures at

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