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Cockpit Commonality Across Types  
User currently offlineBeltwaybandit From United States of America, joined Mar 2003, 495 posts, RR: 0
Posted (12 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 2680 times:

Would there be any benefit to having cockpit commonality between two commercial aircraft even if they are two different types? For example, if Boeing could make the 717 cockpit identical to the 737, would it create efficiencies that would help Boeing better compete with the 318?

No doubt there are equipment variations that make it impossible to have both aircraft under a single type certification. But if an airline could save training costs, and simplify second type certification, it might be a worthwhile exercise.

9 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineB747Skipper From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (12 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 2646 times:

There are many "common" configurations across types, and I agree it is quite beneficial for parts commonality, and... training (where in the hell is that switch...?).
I was flying 727s and 707s for many years, going from one to the other, then again reassigned, etc... quite convenient to have everything where it is supposed to belong. You have that situation with 757 and 767s... as a matter of fact, the pilot qualification and training is common (on the license), flying both types merely requires pilots to get a short "differences" classroom session.
Talking about the subject of commonality, where the problem really comes, leading to some confusion, is an airplane of abc airline leased to xyz airline, where the switches and instruments are different, even if the airplane is exactly same... I had many such instances in my 747 career so far...
Happy contrails  Smile
(s) Skipper

User currently offlineM717 From United States of America, joined Dec 2002, 608 posts, RR: 4
Reply 2, posted (12 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 2648 times:

First of all, I don't think it would be possible to make the cockpits identical without making the systems identical. While it might be possible to have very similar displays, unless the systems were identical, then the overhead panels, for example could not be identical. There are also major differences in the FCP of the 737 and the MCP of the 717, due largely to the fact that the autoflight systems are significantly different.

The 717 is not a Boeing design, therefore major changes would be required to accomplish what you are suggesting. So many changes in fact, that I believe it would be impossible to do while still retaining the DC-9 type certification for the 717.

While it might sound good in theory, achieving "commonality" between the 717 and 737 is simply not practical, or IMO, even possible.

User currently offlineGE From Singapore, joined Mar 2000, 320 posts, RR: 6
Reply 3, posted (12 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 2620 times:

I would really appreciate it if you could elaborate more on that point you made about differences in switches/instruments when a plane is leased from one airline to another.

Exactly how different are they (esp. since they are same plane)? Do they require a bit of extra training to adjust/familiarise yourselves to the differences in the cockpit?

Do airlines get to choose from a lot of options when configuring their cockpit? I know that the layout of the EADI in the 767 can be quite different for diff airlines. Wonder what it's like for the 747 Classics' cockpit?

Thank you very much! Big grin

Russell J.

User currently offlineB747Skipper From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (12 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 2590 times:

Dear Russell -
There are definitely marked differences between airplanes of one airline vs. airplanes of one other, since all these airplanes are "subject to options" offered by the manufacturer...
I mention here difference pertaining to analog instruments type cockpits, since I know that an effort has been made to improve standardization for the airplanes with "glass cockpit"...
Overhead panel - the switches are ON or OFF in opposite direction depending where (what airline) previously operated. An airplane for an airline in USA will have switch "ON" (i.e. landing lights) when switch is moved "forward"... Most airlines outside the USA have switches placed "ON" in the opposite direction. It is extremely frustrating when you fly an "odd" airplane in the fleet... you are tired, at the end of a flight, and you turn your landing lights OFF when in reality you want them ON...
Now, you guys don't tell me which way is right, I don't care to discuss that.
Instrument displays - the dual cue and single cue flight directors (sometimes referred to as "crossbars" and "v bars") - I find dual cue more accurate. When tired, my eyes can hardly see a very slight correction command on "v bars".
There are 1,000 examples of differences... and each time an airplane is leased, it is necessary to issue a differences manual applicable to that plane, sometimes even, attend an 8 hours classroom session...
Hope this answers some of your questions, Russell  Smile
(s) Skipper

User currently offlineBellerophon From United Kingdom, joined May 2002, 587 posts, RR: 58
Reply 5, posted (12 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 2549 times:


One of the lesser known, but more irritating, factors about life as an Airline Pilot is the lack of standardisation; regarding engine type, cockpit layout, instrument position and switch function; that can exist on a supposedly standard fleet.

Whenever you see different coloured pages in a Flight Manual, or an accompanying Differences Manual, you know you are in trouble.

B747Skipper has hit the nail on the head with his comments about landing lights and flight directors, and there are many other examples that could be given.

I've flown B747s with three different engine types, three different nav systems and two types of instrumentation, all on the same fleet at the same time. All accompanied by their own differences manual.

A few years ago, I moved to a fleet with only seven aircraft, thinking that on such a small fleet all the aircraft would have to be the same.


One aircraft is different to the others, and is accompanied by its own differences manual.

When I retire from my present employer, if I look for another job, I'm going to look for an airline that only owns one aircraft - that way they can't have a differences manual!



[Edited 2003-06-20 22:13:07]

User currently offlineGE From Singapore, joined Mar 2000, 320 posts, RR: 6
Reply 6, posted (12 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 2469 times:

Thank you very much Bellerophon & Skipper for those excellent examples.  Big thumbs up

Really appreciate you elaborating on that point for me. I now understand it quite well. I agree with Bellerophon that there really should be some sort of standardisation. It certainly would makes lives much easier for the pilots!  Smile

Thanks again guys.

Russell J.

User currently offlineB747Skipper From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (12 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 2458 times:

In this subject - there is another thing to mention about "standardization"...
I have been (besides flying the line as a regular pilot) instructing in airline training departments for most of my career, in classrooms, simulators and line flying, and plan to stay in the training management when I retire as pilot... I think I know something about training in the airline environment...
Boeing publishes excellent manuals, sure, they can be improved, but they still remain clear, and are specific to the customer's aircraft... Boeing will change, on customer request, their publications to meet the specifics of an airline...
Most, sorry, ALL USA air carriers "publish" their own aircraft AOM, they all claim to be "better" than the Boeing edition... well, true, some airlines have excellent manuals, i.e. PanAm, and TWA 747 manuals were outstanding, while some other airlines... such as UAL 747 (classic) manual would have been better if published by Walt Disney... a stupid manual with little if any information as to normal, abnormal or emergency procedures information, even the "aircraft systems" pages were hardly covering valuable information...
I have all these manuals in my library at home, as well as manuals that were published by Evergreen and Kalitta... these two manuals are rather good as well, they could have educated the UAL 747 classic pilots... I use them as reference for "hard to find" technicalities...
Each airline in USA wants to do it "their way" and no necessarily conform to the Boeing recommendations (or place additional limitations) - If you worked, as a pilot with PanAm, in the 747, and for whatever reason quit and went to work for TWA or UAL on the 747 as well, you were in need to basically forget all your past training (if not knowldge and standardization) that you had acquired with your former airline... FORGET all you learned... Sit in classrooms for 3 weeks to re-learn all you need to forget... then simulators, learn to call everything with a different name...
Most foreign carriers operate with standard Boeing publications and "QRH", there are at times (very) minor differences. The check lists are virtually the same, challenge and responses are the same... procedures are the same...
After PanAm folded, got hired by Cargolux as a contract pilot, and at times they assigned me to Air Atlanta Icelandic for a few weeks when that carrier had a need for 747 pilots. Cargolux flies straight Boeing procedures, and Air Atlanta as well... I had to spend a morning over coffee with my manuals and a pilot from Air Atlanta to be "fully standardized" to their procedures and the differences of their own 747s... Three hours of review was sufficient... I even flew one week for Martinair, on "loan" from Cargolux... same thing... so easy to conform to the Boeing procedures and publications...
The FAA supposedly "objects" that the "name" of the airline is not on the top of the page of Boeing publications... well, Mr. USA air carrier president & CEO, Boeing will publish THEIR books for YOUR airline, with YOUR airline name and logo on top of each page, to suit your request...
Argentina uses full Boeing procedures, over my dead body if you try to change that. We have at times used pilots from other carriers who used standard Boeing procedures... We gave them one day of ground school... that's all... they had nothing new to learn... In the simulator, passed their proficiency check "as is", without training, just give the guys 15 minutes of warmup for them to be accustomed to that simulator...
That is another step of standardization - procedures for airlines...
Happy contrails -
(s) Skipper

User currently offlineXXXX10 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2000, 779 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (12 years 11 months 2 weeks 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 2386 times:

Off topic- can you tell us which particular aircraft in your fleet is different?

User currently offlineB747Skipper From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (12 years 11 months 2 weeks 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 2384 times:

We have our standard fleet of 747-287Bs, no differences.
In the past, in addition, we have operated these on long-term lease -
747-212B (ex Singapore), 747-238B (ex Qantas), 747-2L5B (ex Varig)
747-SP27 (ex Braniff), 747-228F (ex Air France via Cargolux),
747-269B(SF) (ex Kuwait via Kalitta)...
All these airplanes had different engines, different instruments, tanks configurations and capacities, navigation equipment...
And Sherlock Holmes rode on the jump seat to locate some of the switches!
Happy contrails -  Smile
(s) Skipper

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