Airline transport pilot licence

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The airline transport pilot licence (ATPL), or in the United States of America, an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate is the highest level of aircraft pilot certificate. In the United States, those certified as airline transport pilots (unconditional) are authorized to act as pilot in command on scheduled air carriers' aircraft under CFR 14 Part 121.[1] In the UK, pilots must hold an ATPL before they can be pilot in command on an aircraft with nine or more passenger seats.[2]


Any pilot operating an aircraft for pay must start by obtaining a commercial pilot licence (CPL). Airline transport pilot certifications do not have special endorsements, such as an instrument rating, as airline transport pilots must already possess knowledge and training in these areas. However, aircraft heavier than 12,500 pounds still require pilots to have a "type rating" (specific to the make and model of aircraft) certification.[citation needed]

Theoretical examination[edit]


The EASA ATPL requires candidates to pass fourteen separate theoretical exams, with a six-month residential or twelve-month distance-learning course mandatory during this phase.[citation needed]

In European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) states[3] and the United Kingdom,[4] the 14 theoretical subjects included in the examination of ATPL applicants are:

  • Air law
  • Aircraft General Knowledge — Airframe/Systems/Power plant
  • Instrumentation
  • Mass and Balance
  • Performance
  • Flight Planning and Monitoring
  • Human Performance
  • Meteorology
  • General navigation
  • Radio navigation
  • Operational Procedures
  • Principles of Flight
  • IFR Communications
  • VFR Communications

All exams must be passed within an 18-month period. A CPL and/or Instrument Rating must then be gained within 36 months. Provided that a CPL and IR are achieved, ATPL examination results are accepted for seven years after the most recent validity date of the IR entered in the CPL.[5]

ATPL exams are acceptable for the issue of a CPL, so most pilots skip the CPL exams and take their ATPL exams before they obtain their CPL.

United States of America[edit]

The FAA ATP certificate requires one theoretical knowledge test covering the required knowledge areas. A $5,000 ATP CTP (Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program, usually paid for by a hiring airline) course is required but this alone does not prepare an applicant for the knowledge test. Several weeks of additional self-study using training software is required for a realistic chance of passing the test.[citation needed]



An applicant for an ATPL must hold a CPL(A) and a multi-engine IR for airplanes. The applicant shall also have received instruction in Multi Crew Cooperation. Alternatively, the applicant must hold an MPL (Multi Pilot License).

The applicant must have 1500 hours as a pilot of airplanes, including 500 hours in multi-pilot operations on airplanes, and a minimum number of hours as pilot in command (PIC) and/or pilot in command under supervision (PICUS).

The applicant must pass a skill test, demonstrating their ability to perform procedures and maneuvers, as PIC of a multi-pilot airplane under IFR.[6]

The ATPL flight test must be taken on a multi-crew aircraft or flight simulator.[7]

United States of America[edit]

To be eligible to take the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) ATP practical test, the candidate must have at least 1500 hours of experience in aircraft, including 250 hours as a pilot-in-command (PIC), and be at least 23-years-old.[8] Restricted Licenses (which allow the holder to perform only second-in-command duties) may be granted to individuals that meet one of the following criteria:

  • Military pilots who are 21 years or older with 750 hours total time.
  • Graduates with a four-year degree in aviation from certain approved universities, that have 1000 hours of total flight time and are 21 years or older.[9]
  • Graduates with a two-year degree in aviation, who have 1250 hours and are 21 years or older.
  • Pilots with 1500 hours who are 21 years or older.

The pilot can remove the restriction once they have achieved the normal prerequisites.[10]

The FAA ATP flight test can be taken in a light piston aircraft with 1,500 hours of experience, however, the FAA additionally requires a 'Type Rating' to pilot any large or jet-powered aircraft. Most FAA-certified pilots earn their ATP certificate and Type Rating (aircraft specific) simultaneously via the successful completion of a part 121 airline training program and type rating check-ride.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "14 CFR Part 121 Air Carrier Certification". Archived from the original on 3 February 2020.
  2. ^ "The EASA ATPL". Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  3. ^ Annex I - Part FCL. FCL.515 ATPL — Training course and theoretical knowledge examinations. pp. 719–720.
  4. ^ "Airline transport pilot licence for aeroplanes | Civil Aviation Authority".
  5. ^ "FAQ - Pilot Examinations".
  6. ^ Annex I - Part FCL. FCL.515 ATPL — Training course and theoretical knowledge examinations. pp. 721–722.
  7. ^ FCL.520
  8. ^ "FAA Airman Knowledge Testing" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Federal Aviation Administration. February 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
  9. ^ "Institutions Authorized to Certify its Graduates for an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate with Reduced Aeronautical Experience" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration.
  10. ^ Udris, Aleks (1 August 2013). "The 1500 Hour Rule – Restricted ATP Requirements for First Officers".

External links[edit]