Airline transport pilot licence

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The airline transport pilot license (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 9 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.


Theoretical subjects included in the examination of ATPL applicants are:[3]

  • Aviation 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.[4] 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 Auburn University, the University of Oklahoma, Broward College, Delta State University, Liberty University, 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, Middle Georgia 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, Henderson State University or the University of Central Missouri that have 1000 hours of total flight time and are 21 years or older.[5]
  • 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.[6]

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 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. 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. Course costs of $4,000–$8,000 are typical, along with time off work and living expenses.

The FAA ATP flight test can be taken in a light piston aircraft with 1,500 hours 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 checkride. 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. ^ "14 CFR Part 121 Air Carrier Certification". Archived from the original on February 3, 2020.
  2. ^ "The EASA ATPL". Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 29, 2014. Retrieved July 29, 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "FAA Airman Knowledge Testing" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Federal Aviation Administration. February 2012. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  5. ^ "Institutions Authorized to Certify its Graduates for an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate with Reduced Aeronautical Experience" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration.
  6. ^ Udris, Aleks (August 1, 2013). "The 1500 Hour Rule – Restricted ATP Requirements for First Officers".

External links[edit]