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Flying other aircraft

Transitioning between Aircraft

We are going to spend time and space to see what is involved when pilots transition to other aircraft with significantly different flight characteristics than he or she is customary with. Be that from the small two seat trainer to a larger four place model with a higher powered engine and with controllable propellers.

Or moving on to a multi-engined aircraft with higher takeoff weights and number of seats. These aircraft have different operating procedures, higher performance and other flight properties than the pilot is accustomed with thus requiring further training with a qualified instructor.

Accident records have shown that pilots take unnecessary risks attempting to fly a different type of aircraft without familiarizing themselves with the idiosyncrasies, limitations and systems. Even when the pilot has a rating but is not current on the type, it pays to go out with an instructor familiar with the type you wish to fly.

This part of the site will emphasize the importance of the training required when pilots transition to these higher performance and oftentimes more complex aircraft. Although most private pilots will fly one or two different aircraft types, those training for CPL and higher licenses will certainly find themselves transitioning every now and then.

Step by Step

As airplanes become more and more complex it will be apparent that the pilot changing to another make or model aircraft, that they need training to familiarize themselves with different flying characteristics. Although most cockpits feature similar controls, that may lead persons to believe that pilot competency can be carried on from one type to another.
Regardless of weight, speed, radio and navigation systems, performance characteristics, limitations and operating procedures.

With aircraft, size does not matter. Familiarity is the key. Pilots flying transport type airplanes wishing to fly smaller two seat type Cessna's or Light Sport Aircraft also need a checkout equally to those wishing to upgrade to larger iron. Whichever the case may be, a number of items are considered important during pilot transitioning training, as we will see below.

Flight Manual

Before flying

Time spent studying the pilot operation handbook or aircraft flight information manuals is really valuable. The pilot must have a thorough understanding of the fuel, electrical and or hydraulic systems, basic empty and maximum allowable weights plus loading schedule and engine/aircraft emergency procedures.

Normal and emergency flap and landing gear operations and of course knowledge of the preflight inspection is essential to the transitioning pilot.

Cockpit layout

Arrange to just sit in the cockpit when the aircraft is not scheduled to fly. Study and memorize the panel layout, engine and flight controls. Verify the location of any switches and indicators and radio / navigation equipment. Do this until you can find all controls practically blindfolded, this will help tremendously during the actual flight training. It helps to make photo's of the cockpit for study at home

Flight instruction

A very important point: obtain the services of a qualified checkout pilot or flight instructor with a current rating for the aircraft you wish to transition too. They should also be capable to effectively communicate pilot techniques for safe operation of the airplane.


During flight training its important to learn the V-speeds, practice takeoffs and landings in different configurations and circumstances including crosswind situations to the limit of the aircraft.

High performance complex aircraft usually have one or more engine(s) equipped with constant speed propellers, retractable gear and flaps. Pilots must have a thorough understanding of the proper combinations of propeller (RPM) and engine power settings (MAP). The engine manufacturer has set limits on Brake Mean Effective Pressure (BMEP) of the cylinders, pistons and cylinder walls so that damage is prevented. The correct order of manipulating power and propeller controls makes sure that these limitation will not be exceeded, this can not be emphasized enough.

Gross weight

Usually with small two seat training aircraft the all up weight will normally not change a lot except when flying solo. With larger aircraft all seats may not be filled with passengers and this will surely change between several flights and as a result changing handling properties for the pilot. It is therefore an advantage if during transitioning training the aircraft is loaded to gross weight or maximum all up weight (MTOM / MAUW) and also flown at minimum weight on several occasions and different circumstances.

Weight and balance calculations for different loading situations should also be part of this training.


When the transition training is completed have a proficiency checkout arranged with another qualified safety pilot or instructor / examiner. Most requirements for aircraft ratings will include this.

Legal requirements

To obtain a refresher training for any aircraft rating you need to comply with the rules laid out by the aviation authorities of the country you fly in, make sure you are up to speed on those rules.

Written by EAI.

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