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ATPL vs. ATPL Theory Timeline Explained. How Long Does It Take to Complete ATPL?

ATPL vs. ATPL Theory Timeline Explained. How Long Does It Take to Complete ATPL?

The journey to becoming an airline transport pilot (ATPL) is a rigorous and rewarding process. The ATPL is the highest license a pilot can achieve, opening the doors to a career as a captain in commercial aviation. Understanding the requirements and timeline for obtaining an ATPL is essential for aspiring pilots.

What is an ATPL?

The Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) represents the highest license a pilot can obtain. It allows the holder to act as the pilot in command (PIC) of aircraft in commercial air transport. To be eligible for an ATPL, applicants must meet stringent criteria set by aviation authorities such as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

The term ATPL is very often used not only for the type of license itself, but is also used as a name for ATPL integrated or theory course. We will first cover the time to get the ATPL license and then the time to complete the ATPL theory courses.  

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Requirements for ATPL

To apply for an ATPL(A), applicants must hold an MPL (Multi-Pilot License) or a CPL(A) (Commercial Pilot License for Aeroplanes) with a multi-engine Instrument Rating (IR) and have completed Multi-Crew Cooperation (MCC) instruction.

Applicants must have completed a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time in aeroplanes, which includes:

  • 500 hours in multi-pilot operations on aeroplanes
  • 500 hours as PIC under supervision or 250 hours as PIC
  • 200 hours of cross-country flight time, with at least 100 hours as PIC or under supervision
  • 75 hours of instrument time, with a maximum of 30 hours being instrument ground time
  • 100 hours of night flight as PIC or co-pilot

Many new pilots joining airlines in Europe do not have an ATPL initially. They typically obtain it during their career as they accumulate the necessary flying experience, which takes between 2 and 4 years

Integrated vs. Modular Training

ATPL can be also used for the flight training. In integrated training, students complete all their flight training in one continuous program, often with a single flight school. This method usually takes around 18 months to complete, depending on the flight school and the student’s progress. In contrast, modular training allows students to complete different stages of training at their own pace, often with multiple flight schools.

ATPL Theory Duration

An essential component of the ATPL is the ATPL theory, which can be achieved through either integrated or modular training. The ATPL theory consists of 13 subjects plus Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes (KSA). The ATPL theory requires 650 hours of study, as mandated by EASA. This study can be conducted online or in a live classroom format. Typically, the 650 hours of theory can be completed in 6-8 months, but students can take up to 18 months if needed. Once the theoretical exams are passed and the relevant licenses are obtained, the student holds a “frozen ATPL” (although this term has no legal significance),  which becomes “unfrozen” once the minimum flight hours are met. 

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Our Online ATPL Course

Our comprehensive online ATPL course is designed to meet the needs of aspiring pilots. The course spans 650 hours, including 80 hours of live consultations with experienced instructors. While it can be completed in 7 months, we offer flexibility for students needing up to 18 months due to personal or professional commitments. Throughout the course, candidates receive full support from our instructors and access to all necessary study materials.

For more information about our EASA ATPL course and how it can help you achieve your aviation career goals, please visit our website.

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