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 U.S.$300,000 for each new Airbus aircraft added to the fleet. In addition, it is more economical for an airline to recruit new pilots who already are Airbus-qualified.