All Nippon Airways (ANA) is set to become the first airline in the world to let its pilots mix flying the Airbus A380 and the far smaller A320 range of single-aisle aircraft. The change follows a ruling by Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau that allows airlines and pilots to practice a concept known as Mixed Fleet Flying.
Airbus says Mixed Fleet Flying is possible between the two aircraft types because, despite the massive size difference, the controls in the flight deck are pretty much the same.
ANA was one of the last airlines in the world to take delivery of the A380 with three in total to fly the wildly popular route between Tokyo Narita and Honolulu. But the pandemic has, of course, stymied demand and forced ANA to ground its A380 pilots.
Even when demand does pick up, A380-trained pilots would be left flying just one route if single-certification continued.
“For airlines, the increase in revenue hours flown by pilots due to less standby and downtime results in a significant improvement in productivity,” explained Stéphane Ginoux, Head of North Asia region for Airbus following the decision by Japenese regulators.
Airbus developed its A320 range of aircraft with fly-by-wire technology which was then extended to its A330 and A340 aircraft. The same technology and commonality are present in Airbus’ other aircraft like the A380 and the newer A350.
Airbus has touted MFF but the idea hasn’t yet become routine and remains an anomaly rather than the norm.
The idea could, however, take off with the likes of British Airways and Qatar Airways who are bringing back only a handful of A380 superjumbos into service but also have large A320 aircraft fleets. By cross-training and certifying pilots, airlines could easily deploy pilots across a range of services.
Pilots unions remain opposed to the idea, fearing that cross-training and mixing between aircraft types could prove to be a serious safety risk.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.