Airline Transport Pilots License – (ATPL)


The Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) is the highest level of aircraft pilot licence, required to command aircraft over 5700 kg or with over 9 passenger seats.

The EASA Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence is a common licence standard that has been agreed by 26 European countries. EASA is a rulemaking EC body which has taken over responsibility for Airworthiness Directives, aircraft Certification Specifications and licensing standards from the National Authorities such as the UK CAA and the French DGAC. The EASA Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL) and Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL) are European licences, accepted in all EU States. Although EASA sets the rules, the National Authorities still exist, and act as agents of EASA, issuing pilot and engineer licences and approving the schools who are allowed to conduct training, normally within their national boundaries.

What is an ATPL?

An ATPL is the highest licence a pilot can obtain and is the qualification that allows the holder to act as the Pilot in Command (PIC), or Captain of a large transport aircraft.  An ATPL is gained after a holder of a CPL (usually coupled with an instrument rating) has accrued 1500 hours of flying experience, 500 hours of which must be PICUS time (Pilot in command under supervision or Co-pilot flying time).

What can I do with an ATPL?

The issue of an ATPL entitles the holder to:

  • Act as pilot-in-command (PIC) of an aircraft in air carrier service
  • Act as PIC in aircraft with a max gross weight over 5,700 kg (12,500 lb) and/or over 9 passenger seats
  • Act as the commander of an aircraft, for valuable consideration (Pay)
  • Act as the commander of a multi-crew aircraft for which they are qualified

Minimum requirements for an ATPL?
If you are applying for an ATPL (A) you will need to already:
– Hold an MPL, 
– Hold a CPL (A) and a multi-engine IR for aeroplanes, Have completed instruction in multi-crew co-operation (MCC).

Flight time
You must have completed a minimum of 1500 hours of flight time in aeroplanes, including at least:

    1. 500 hours in multi-pilot operations on Aeroplanes. 
    2. One of the following:
      – 500 hours as PIC under supervision, 
      – 250 hours as PIC, 
      – 250 hours as PIC under supervision, incl at least 70 hours as PIC
    3. 200 hours of X-country flight time, at least 100 hours as PIC or as PICUS
    4. 75 hours of instrument time, of which not more than 30 hours can be instrument ground time
    5. 100 hours of night flight as PIC or co-pilot.

1500 hours required, up to 100 hours can be completed in a suitable simulator (FFS or FNPT – but only a maximum of 25 hours may be completed in an FNPT)


What does the Skills Test consist of?

The ATPL skills test differs greatly from that of the PPL and CPL in that it is often combined with an LPC (License proficiency check) in a simulator to form an LST (License skills test). Common test items include:

  • Standard Instrument Departure
  • Precision Approach
  • Non-Precision Approach
  • Raw-Data Precision Approach (Without the use of flight directors)
  • Engine failure at V1
  • Single Engine Approach
  • TCAS event

How much does an ATPL cost?

ATPLs are often worked towards by completing the PPL or CPL, however, courses working towards a ‘Frozen ATPL’ are now the preferred method of training in Europe. Integrated flying schools providing ab initio training from zero flying time to fully qualified CPL/IR can cost £80,000+

Where Can I get a ATPL?

Click here to see a comparison of the 3 major EASA ATPL integrated flight schools. Also through our flight school finder: Click Here  

What does the Ground School consist of?

The CPL ground school requires you to pass a total of 14 multiple-choice examinations on the following subjects:

Air Law – 75 questions – 1 hour 40 minutes – Topics covered range from ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) directives to the rules of the air.

Aircraft Performance – 34 questions – 1 hour – This exam covers topics such as calculations of take-off and landing distances, including aircraft behavioural characteristics under differing operating environments.

Mass and Balance – 22 questions – 1 hour – Topics covered range from general theory of weight and distribution to calculations of aircraft traffic load, maximum take-off weights and center of gravity location.

Meteorology – 90 questions – 2 hours 30 minutes – Topics covered range from basic weather theory including clouds, precipitation and winds to the practical application of this knowledge in a flying environment.

Airframe, Systems, Electrics, Powerplant – 76 questions – 2 hours – Topics covered range from Engines, Fuel and Airframes to Electrics and Hydraulics.

Instruments – 56 questions – 1 hour 30 minutes – Topics cover everything from GPS systems to conventional aircraft instrumentation.

General Navigation – 54 questions – 2 hours – Topics covered range from form of the earth and GPS to calculations of distances using coordinates.  This exam includes practical navigation elements using tools such as plotting devices.

Radio Navigation – 59 questions – 1 hour 30 minutes – Topics cover radio navigation aids such as ILS/ADF/VOR, their theoretical and practical usage.

Human Performance and Limitations – 47 questions – 1 hour – Topics covered range from psychology to physiology in the aviation environment.

Flight Planning and Monitoring – 56 questions – 3 hours – Topics include Fuel planning, Map/chart calculations and other mathematical calculations such as equal time point.  This practical exam requires the student to perform map and aircraft manual-based calculations as part of the test.

VFR Communications – 23 questions – 30 minutes – Topics covered include Radio Telephony (RT basic radio theory and aviation radio phraseology for use under VFR.  As part of your CPL you will also be required to complete a practical Radio Telephony License test, if you don’t already have one from a previous PPL.

IFR Communications –  23 questions – 30 minutes – This exam covers the differences between VFR and IFR (instrument flight rules) and their subtle differences in communication techniques.

Operational Procedures – 50 questions – 1 hour 30 minutes – Topics cover all authority-regulated procedures applicable to CPL holders.

Principles of Flight – 44 questions – 1 hour – Topics cover basic aerodynamic theory including lift, drag and thrust.

A full syllabus of ATPL ground school topics can be found on Page 254 of the EASA PART-FCL.

Students are given 18 months in which to complete all of the above examinations, this begins at the end of the calendar month in which the first examination attempt was completed.