Anyone wishing to obtain a position as a Pilot in Commercial/Airline operations must have the relevant Pilot’s Licence, known as an Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL).

The route to gaining this licence obviously involves intense training and subsequent testing, but what exactly is required, and what are the differences between licences?

Training classically starts with the Private Pilots Licence. Training is normally conducted on a single engine piston aircraft and includes ground studies to pass the Ground School exams. A successful flight test is also required before the licence can be issued. This licence allows the pilot to fly single engine piston land aeroplanes in visual meteorological conditions, in daylight, but not for hire or reward. Therefore the licence held is a Private Pilots Licence with a Single Engine Piston Land Rating attached to the licence.

With further training and testing a Night Rating can be attached to the licence, enabling the holder to fly at night. A Multi Engine Piston Land Rating can also be added to enable the holder to fly Multi Engine Piston Land aircraft. (Further Ratings can be added if required, following mandatory training and testing, i.e. Aerobatics, Seaplane aircraft etc., but these are not a requirement for a professional licence).

Upgrading the PPL to a Commercial Licence (CPL) requires a course of ATPL Ground School, which is conducted full time within 6 months and  in-house, covering all 14 written EASA exams essential to the Airline Pilot Transport Licence.

Once the ground exams are passed, the Commercial flight training can begin as long as certain criteria are met and 170 hours total have been attained. This flight training can be conducted on Multi-or Single Engine Piston Land aircraft. Conventionally and for financial reasons, this is conducted on a Single Engine Piston Land aircraft, with at least 5h on a complex aircraft. The training involves a minimum of 25 hours (or 15h if you hold an IR) and is concluded by a flight test with an authorised CAA Examiner.

Your training continues with the Instrument Rating. This requires 45 hours of training (or 55h, if you don’t have your CPL) of which 30h are done on an approved simulator. Following a successful flight test and meeting the relevant criteria an Instrument Rating can be attached to your licence.

So you may now have a Commercial Pilot’s Licence with Single Engine and Multi Engine aircraft and Instrument Ratings attached.