The airline transport pilot certificate is the highest level of pilot certification in the United States. The ATP is a certificate that requires flight hours, academic requirements, and practical exam completion for many of the most sought-after jobs in professional aviation.
Though the routes to obtaining an ATP certificate vary, the end result is something any pilot can be proud of. Let’s go over the process of obtaining your ATP certification step by step.
What Is an Airline Transport Pilot License?
The ATP is the most prestigious certification in the world (or licence, in some countries). In the United States, there is also a Restricted ATP (sometimes abbreviated R-ATP), which allows certain pilots who do not meet the standard requirements for holding an ATP to receive a limited version valid only in certain US operations.
What Can You Do With an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate?
To fly for a Part 121 airline, to serve as pilot in command (PIC) in some Part 135 operations, or to fly an aircraft with more than 30 passenger seats, an ATP is required.
Due to insurance requirements, many more professional pilots may be required to hold an ATP. An ATP holder receives all of the advantages of a commercial certificate and is presumed to have an instrument rating.
What types of aircraft can you fly with an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate?
With the exception of tailwheel-equipped aircraft, which require an aircraft-specific type rating, special federal air regulation (SFAR) training, or optional endorsements, an ATP allows the holder to fly all aircraft in the category and class.
Pilots frequently apply for their ATP certificate practical exam at the same time as they apply for a type rating because type ratings must be flown in accordance with ATP standards.
The Benefits of Having an Airline Transport Pilot License
An ATP certificate makes a pilot very marketable because it demonstrates that he or she has invested significant time and energy in flight training as well as meeting the practical exam standards.
In 2014, the FAA mandated the addition of the Certification Training Program (commonly known as the ATP-CTP) for applicants of an aeroplane multiengine land class ATP. The additional course can add significant cost for pilots who complete their ATP training on their own rather than through an employer.
Airline Transport Pilot Certificate Requirements
Applicants for an unrestricted ATP certificate must meet the following requirements unless they are a former military or collegiate pilot who qualifies for one of the Restricted ATP exemptions:
- You must be at least 23 years old to apply.
- You must be an instrument-rated commercial pilot in your category and class.
- The flight time requirements are outlined in FAR 61.159.
- Complete both the written and practical exams successfully.
Learn How to Obtain an Airline Transport Pilot License in 5 Simple Steps.
The steps are relatively simple for a pilot looking to complete the ATP on their own. By this point in your professional pilot career, you should be familiar with knowledge tests, practical exams, and what to expect on check ride day.
Step 1: Completing the Minimum Hours Required
For pilots applying for an unrestricted ATP, a minimum of 1,500 hours total time, 500 hours cross-country flight time, 250 hours of flight time as pilot in command (PIC), 100 hours of night time, 75 hours of actual or simulated instrument time, and 50 hours of time in the aircraft class you are applying for the ATP in is required.
FAR 61.160 specifies the requirements for pilots seeking a Restricted ATP (R-ATP) based on the type of applicant (former military, collegiate aviation graduate, etc). It should be noted that the R-ATP is only valid for the aeroplane multiengine land class and does not meet the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Step 2: Finish the CTP Course if necessary.
A Certification Training Program is required only for applicants for an ATP or R-ATP in the aeroplane multiengine land class (CTP). Aerodynamics, meteorology, air carrier operations, and crew resource management are among the topics covered in the one-week standalone CTP course (CRM).
In addition, ten hours of aircraft training in a flight training device (FTD) and full motion simulator simulating an aircraft weighing at least 40,000 pounds is required. The FAA has compiled a PDF list of CTP providers that have been approved.
Step 3. Pass the FAA Written Exam
The FAA written exam for ATP certificates ranges from 90 to 125 questions depending on the category and class.
It is an overall knowledge test that requires a 70% to pass and will generate a report at the end of the exam detailing items missed for review on your practical test.
Step 4: Complete the Required Flight Training
You can apply for the practical exam after completing the required minimum flight times and, if applicable, your CTP course.
Although instructor approval is not required, depending on how you complete the ATP—as a stand-alone checkride, as part of an airline training program, or concurrently with an aircraft type rating examination—you may need to go through a diverse training regimen to achieve proficiency.
Step 5: Complete the Practical Exam
Regardless of category or class, the airline transport pilot certificate is the highest level of certification available. Both the oral exam and the flight portion of the check ride are held to high standards, covering a wide range of normal and emergency operations, as well as manoeuvring, navigation, and various instrument procedures.
The temporary certificate will be issued following a successful practical. Remember that your new certificate will say “Airline Transport Pilot,” but it will no longer include the instrument rating in the category in which you are completing the check ride—an ATP certificate already includes this.
A certificate as an airline transport pilot is the first step toward a career in the airline industry.
Obtaining an airline transport pilot certificate is a significant accomplishment for any pilot and is often the start of a professional career. FLYING Magazine provides resources for pilots at all stages of their flight training, whether they are pursuing a private pilot certificate, an airline transport pilot certificate, or another rating. To stay up to date on all things aviation, sign up for the FlyingMag newsletter today.