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. Those certified as Airline Transport Pilots (unconditional) are authorized to act as pilot in command on scheduled air carrier's aircraft under CFR 14 Part 121. In the UK, pilots must hold an ATPL before they can be Pilot In Command on an aircraft with 9 or more passenger seats.[1]


Any pilot operating an aircraft for pay must start by obtaining a Commercial pilot certificate (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.


Theoretical subjects included in the examination of ATPL applicants are:[2]

  • Air law
  • Aircraft general knowledge
  • Flight planning and monitoring
  • Human performance and limitations
  • Meteorology
  • Operational procedures
  • Principles of flight
  • Communications (IFR & VFR)
  • Performance
  • General navigation
  • Radio navigation
  • Instrumentation
  • Mass and balance


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 pilot in command (PIC) and be at least 23 years old.[3] 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 approved universities such as Bowling Green State University, The Ohio State University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, the University of North Dakota, Farmingdale State College (State University of New York), Middle Tennessee State University, Purdue University, Eastern Kentucky University, LeTourneau University, Central Washington University, Florida Institute of Technology, Polk State College, Westminster College, Western Michigan University, Jacksonville University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Arizona State University, Southern Illinois University Carbondale or the University of Central Missouri that have 1000 hours of total flight time and are 21 years or older.[4]
  • 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.[5]

Differences between FAA and EASA[edit]

The two most common pilot licensing systems worldwide, FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have some fundamental differences. The FAA ATP certificate requires one theoretical knowledge test covering the all knowledge areas which can be passed with as little as a week's preparation with a $5000 course. The EASA ATPL requires candidates to pass 14 separate theoretical exams, with a 6-month residential or 12 month distance-learning course mandatory during this phase. Course costs of $4000–8000 are typical, along with time off work and living expenses.

The FAA ATP flight test can be taken in a light piston aircraft with 1500 hours experience. It is therefore common for FAA pilots to earn their ATP (required to command large commercial aircraft) without ever having flown such aircraft. The EASA ATPL, by contrast, requires 500 hours experience as a co-pilot of multi-crew aircraft, with the ATPL flight test being taken on a multi-crew aircraft.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The EASA ATPL". Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-07-29. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
  3. ^ "FAA Airman Knowledge Testing" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Federal Aviation Administration. February 2012. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  4. ^ "Institutions Authorized to Certify its Graduates for an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate with Reduced Aeronautical Expierence" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration.
  5. ^ Udris, Aleks (1 August 2013). "The 1500 Hour Rule - Restricted ATP Requirements for First Officers".

External links[edit]