Air Transport World

A common problem. (Cross Crew Qualification program from Airbus Industrie) (includes related article) (Cockpit Concerns) (Cover Story)

* Airbus Industrie's decision to develop two dissimilar-sized families of aircraft that share a common design philosophy and similar cockpit and performance characteristics has become a marketing tool in the consortium's efforts to compete across the spectrum of 130-350-seat transport aircraft. Virtually since the launch of the A330/340 program. Airbus has promised that airlines operating an all-Airbus fly-by-wire (FBW) fleet, including the A320/321 and A330/340, will enjoy a strong advantage over operators of mixed fleets competing across the same sizes and missions.

While the concept of common pilot type ratings among different transport aircraft is not new, Airbus claims that its approach goes well beyond competitors' efforts in this regard (see box, page 52). Certainly, it has been the most vocal in claiming a distinct advantage, having publickly quantified the savings operators will enjoy (see table, page 52). Now, with the A320, A321, A330 and A340 in revenue service, Airbus is working to bring to its customers the commonality benefits it has promised for so long.

Foremost among these are the crew training and operational advantages offered through the consortium's Cross Crew Qualification (CCQ) concept, under which transition training between the A320 and A330/A340 families is dramatically shortened, owing to the similarities among the jets (see table, page 57). CCQ is not the same as common pilot type ratings, a concept linked to the Boeing 757 and 767 families of aircraft. Rather, CCQ allows pilots with experience in one Airbus FBW aircraft to earn credit for the experience toward a type rating in other Airbus FBW aircraft, thus speeding up the training process. Additionally, CCQ can result in having crews qualified to fly all three types interchangeably, so little is the difference between them (ATW, 11/94).

Last summer, the U.S. FAA tentatively approved the consortium's proposed criteria for use of the CCQ program in transition training among Airbus FBW types, subject to final approval. Canadian regulatory authorities also have accepted the criteria, as have the French DGAC, the German LBA, the Austrian MOT and the U.K. CAA.

No one denies the success of the manufacturer's overall approach. Airline officials them substantial benefits. Austrian Airlines Capt. Martin Hohn says a traditional 2-month transition course is cut to seven days when moving from the A320 to the A340 and only 4 1/2 days when going in the opposite direction. Officials at other airlines confirm similar time savings.

But some of the theoretical advantages being promoted by the manufacturer are running up against practical realities. Discussions with large airlines suggest that they will have difficulty exploiting the full spectrum of benefits and only a limited number will attempt to operate A320s and A330/340s using a common pool of pilots, which is the ultimate payoff of the CCQ program, according to the consortium. …

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