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Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) CertificationHow to Earn Your ATP Certificate?

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.

Why Should I Get My ATP Certification?

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.

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 is earned over an extended period of time. 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.

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What Are the Eligibility Requirements For an ATP Certificate?

  • 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 2 nd 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.

Aeronautical Experience

According to federal regulations, you must meet the following aeronautical flight experience requirements to earn an Airline Transport Pilot Certification.

ATP Flight Time Requirements
Total Flight Time 1500 Hours
Night Flight Time 100 Hours
Pilot-In-Command (PIC) 250 Hours
Cross-Country PIC 500 Hours
Instrument Training 75 Hours
In Class of Rating Sought (i.e. Multi-Engine) 50 Hours

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 landing 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.

What Is a Restricted ATP (R-ATP) Certificate?

Pilots pursuing the ATP certificate must be at least 23 years of age, although provisions exist that allow a pilot to receive a Restricted ATP (R-ATP) at just 21 years of age. This restricted ATP has certain requirements, however, regarding experience gained either through college education or through the military.

What Can I Do With a Restricted ATP?

A restricted ATP certificate does allow a pilot to act as a co-pilot, however you cannot act as pilot-in-command (PIC) until you log the required 1500 hours and get the full (unrestricted) ATP Certification.

R-ATP Requirements (Military Experience):

  • Be 21 years of age
  • Must be either;
    • A honorably discharged military pilot
    • Or, provide a record showing the pilot is still currently serving in the military
    • Or, a foreign airline transport pilot license with instrument privileges
  • Received a rating qualifying them as a military pilot
  • Have logged 750 hours of flight time

R-ATP Requirements (College Experience):

  • Be 21 years of age
  • Hold a bachelor's degree with an aviation major from specific university programs
    • Have logged 1000 hours of flight time
    • Completed 60 semester credit hours of aviation and aviation-related coursework
  • Hold an associate's degree with an aviation major from specific university programs
    • Have logged 1250 hours of flight time
    • Completed at least 30 semester credit hours of aviation and aviation-related coursework

Reference 14 CFR §61.160 for more details on R-ATP requirements.

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What is a Commercial Pilot License? Privileges, Requirements and Eligibility

A licensed commercial pilot may act as pilot-in-command of an aircraft for compensation or hire, as well as carry persons or property for compensation or hire. To put it another way, holding a commercial pilot license means you are legally allowed to get paid as a pilot.

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