For most pilots, the final milestone before beginning your airline pilot career is obtaining the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. This is the highest level of pilot certificate obtainable and a remarkable achievement. While a commercial certificate allows an aviator to work (and earn money) as a professional pilot, the ATP certificate can be found as a requirement for most professional pilot jobs.
Pilots with an ATP certificate are eligible to fly for an airline and will meet the hiring minimums of most regional airline pilot jobs. An ATP certification will also open a wide array of job opportunities with various corporate and private air carriers. After meeting some specific requirements, ATP pilots may also instruct other pilots in air transportation service and endorse pilot logbooks and training records in aircraft of the same category, class, and type for which the airline transport pilot is rated. “Type” refers to “type rating” which is additional training beyond the training required for an initial ATP certificate. A type rating allows a pilot to act as pilot-in-command of an aircraft that exceeds 12,500 pounds maximum takeoff weight, or all turbojet aircraft regardless of weight.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the ATP-CTP?
Pilots applying for an ATP certificate with a multi-engine class rating or jointly with a type rating after July 31, 2014, must satisfactorily complete an airline transport pilot certification training program (ATP-CTP) before applying for the ATP knowledge test. The ATP-CTP course is an informative program including 30 hours of ground instruction covering a myriad of subject matters including aerodynamics, weather, air carrier operations, and 10 hours of simulator time. For many pilots, this is their first introduction to real airline training and training in the airline-oriented full-motion simulators. Following the ATP-CTP course, candidates must pass the ATP knowledge test.
How Long Does It Take to Earn an ATP Certificate?
While the requirements to obtain an Airline Transport Pilot certificate may seem daunting, the training and completion of the requirements are earned over an extended period. The timeframe to complete all requirements from a brand-new student pilot with no experience to completion of the ATP pilot certificate could be as little as two years for a motivated pilot. Pilots pursuing top-tier aviation jobs should remain focused on the individual goals that eventually culminate in the ATP certificate, setting the stage for the rest of their careers.
In order to be eligible for an FAA airline transport pilot license:
- Be 23 years of age (or for a U.S. military pilot may apply for an airline transport pilot certificate 20 years old).
- Read, speak, write, and understand the English language.
- Must hold either:
- A commercial pilot certificate with an instrument rating, or
- Meet the military experience requirements to qualify for a commercial pilot certificate, and an instrument rating, or
- A foreign airline transport pilot license with instrument privileges.
- Medical Requirements:
- Hold a 1st class medical certificate to act as pilot-in-command
- Hold a 2nd class medical certificate to act as second-in-command
- Have logged 1500 hours of flight time
- Satisfactorily complete an airline transport pilot certification training program (ATP-CTP)
- Pass the ATP knowledge test
Reference 14 CFR §61.153 for the entire list of eligibility requirements.
In order to exercise the privileges of an airline transport pilot license, you must hold a 1st class medical certificate to act as pilot-in-command or hold a 2nd class medical certificate to act as second-in-command, which can be obtained through an aeromedical examiner (AME).
Health Requirements for Airline Pilots
Airline pilots are subject to certain health standards, such as vision, hearing, equilibrium, mental, neurologic, and cardiovascular requirements. For a complete list of the health requirements for obtaining a second-class medical and flying as a commercial pilot reference CFR 14 §67 Subpart C.
According to federal regulations, you must meet the following aeronautical flight experience requirements to earn an airline transport pilot license. Requirements to obtain an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate are:
- 1500 hours Total Flight Time
- 100 Hours Night Flight Time
- 250 Hours Pilot-In-Command (PIC)
- 500 Hours Cross-Country
- 75 Hours of Instrument Training
- 50 Hours in Class of Rating Sought (i.e., Multi-Engine)
There are certain allowances for some of these requirements that can be researched. For example, a person who has conducted at least 20-night takeoffs and landings to a full stop may substitute each additional night takeoff and land to a full stop for 1 hour of night flight time, up to 25 total hours gained. Once these requirements are met, the candidate can complete the practical test required for the ATP certificate.
Reference 14 CFR §61.159 for more details on flight time requirements.
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