Since its inception, Airbus has placed a high priority on maximising the commonality of its aircraft families. The goal is to make operations, training and maintenance easier and less expensive for customers – a value that contributes to the efficiency and operational flexibility of Airbus jetliners every day.
Fifteen of the company’s aircraft models, from the 100-seat A318 to the double-deck A380 – including the three new A350 XWB Family members – feature nearly identical flight decks and similar handling characteristics. This commonality enables multi-qualification of pilots and reduced pilot training times, while bringing significant savings through reduced maintenance training and streamlined procedures.
Benefits for pilots
The commonality concept was taken to a new level in the 1980s with Airbus’ first single-aisle aircraft, the A320, and the introduction of digital fly-by-wire controls. Identical cockpits and operating procedures were applied to each of the A320 Family’s versions – the A318, A319, A320 and A321 – allowing pilots to fly all these aircraft with a single type rating.
In addition, with Airbus’ Crew Crew Qualification concept, fly-by-wire qualified pilots are positioned for an easy transition between the A320 Family and Airbus’ larger A330, A340 and A380 aircraft through straightforward and rapid differential training.
Another advantage of Airbus commonality is Mixed Fleet Flying, which is a pilot's ability to be current on more than one Airbus fly-by-wire aircraft type at a time. For example, this capability enables a pilot rated on an A340 to switch from very long-haul operations to short- or medium-haul flights at the controls of the A320 Family.
Each of these components of Airbus commonality leads to lower training costs for airlines and considerably increased crew productivity. The annual savings in training and payroll expenses through improved productivity from the reduced transition time can be up to US$ 300,000 for each new Airbus aircraft added to the fleet. It also is more economical for an airline to recruit new pilots who already are Airbus-qualified.
Cabin and maintenance crews
Airbus commonality extends from the flight deck into the passenger cabin as well, with a maximum use of similar systems, control panels and procedures within the various aircraft families.
As a result, cabin personnel benefit from the familiarity of aspects on various Airbus types, while aircraft maintenance also is facilitated with the high inter-changeability of systems and parts.