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How To Get an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate

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In the United States, the airline transport pilot certificate is the highest level of pilot certification. The ATP is a certificate required for many of the most desirable jobs in professional aviation. It necessitates flight hours, academic requirements, and passing a practical exam.

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 Exactly Is an Airline Transport Pilot License?

The ATP is the world’s most prestigious certification (or licence, in some countries). There is also a Restricted ATP (sometimes abbreviated R-ATP) in the United States, which allows certain pilots who do not meet the standard requirements for holding an ATP to obtain a limited version valid only in certain US operations.

What Can an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate Get You?


An ATP is required 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.

Many more professional pilots may be required to hold an ATP due to insurance requirements. An ATP holder receives all of the benefits of a commercial certificate and is presumed to have a rating for an instrument.

With an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, what types of aircraft can you fly?

An ATP allows the holder to fly all aircraft in the category and class, with the exception of tailwheel-equipped aircraft, which require an aircraft-specific type rating, special federal air regulation (SFAR) training, or optional endorsements.

Because type ratings must be flown in accordance with ATP standards, pilots frequently apply for their ATP certificate practical exam at the same time as they apply for a type rating.

The Advantages of an Airline Transport Pilot License


A pilot with an ATP certificate is very marketable because it shows that he or she has invested significant time and energy in flight training as well as meeting the practical exam standards.

For applicants of an aeroplane multiengine land class ATP, the FAA mandated the addition of the Certification Training Program (commonly known as the ATP-CTP) in 2014. For pilots who complete their ATP training on their own rather than through an employer, the additional course can add significant cost.

Requirements for an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate

Unless they are a former military or collegiate pilot who qualifies for one of the Restricted ATP exemptions, applicants for an unrestricted ATP certificate must meet the following requirements:

  • To apply, you must be at least 23 years old.
  • Maintain a strong moral compass.
  • You must have a commercial pilot’s licence with an instrument rating in your category and class.
  • FAR 61.159 specifies the flight time requirements.
  • Successfully complete both the written and practical exams.


Learn in 5 Easy Steps How to Get an Airline Transport Pilot License.
For a pilot looking to complete the ATP on their own, the steps are relatively simple. You should be familiar with knowledge tests, practical exams, and what to expect on check ride day by this point in your professional pilot career.

Step 1: Completing the Required Minimum Hours

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 for pilots applying for an unrestricted ATP.

The requirements for pilots seeking a Restricted ATP (R-ATP) are specified in FAR 61.160 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 International Civil Aviation Organization’s requirements (ICAO).

Step 2: If necessary, complete the CTP Course.

Only applicants for an ATP or R-ATP in the aeroplane multiengine land class are required to complete a Certification Training Program (CTP). The one-week standalone CTP course covers topics such as aerodynamics, meteorology, air carrier operations, and crew resource management (CRM).

It is also necessary to have a flight training device (FTD) and a full motion simulator that simulates a 40,000-pound aircraft. The FAA has compiled a PDF list of authorised CTP providers.

Step 3: Pass the FAA Written Examination.

Depending on the category and class, the FAA written exam for ATP certificates ranges from 90 to 125 questions.

It is an overall knowledge test that requires a 70% to pass and will generate a report detailing items missed for review on your practical test at the end of the exam.

Step 4: Completing the Mandatory Flight Training

After completing the required minimum flight times and, if applicable, your CTP course, you can apply for the practical exam.

Although instructor approval is not required, depending on how you complete the ATP, you may need to go through a variety of training regimens to achieve proficiency (as a stand-alone checkride, as part of an airline training programme, or concurrently with an aircraft type rating examination).

Step 5: Finish the Practical Exam

The airline transport pilot certificate is the highest level of certification available, regardless of category or class. The oral exam and the flight portion of the check ride are both held to high standards and cover a wide range of normal and emergency operations, as well as manoeuvring, navigation, and various instrument procedures.

After a successful practical, the temporary certificate will be issued. 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—this is already included in an ATP certificate.

The first step towards a career in the airline industry is to obtain a certificate as an airline transport pilot.

Obtaining an airline transport pilot certificate is a significant achievement for any pilot and is frequently the beginning of a professional career. FLYING Magazine offers resources for pilots of all skill levels, whether they are pursuing a private pilot certificate, an airline transport pilot certificate, or another rating. Sign up for the FlyingMag newsletter today to stay up to date on all things aviation.

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