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Licences, Ratings and More

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Please note new flight crew licensing rules come into effect on 1 September 2014. The information on these pages remains current until then.

Find out more about the new rules.

The term 'flight crew' is used to refer to pilots, radiotelephone operators and flight engineers.

Currently competency is measured through theory and practical examinations to determine the level of a person's skill and knowledge following training and the accumulation of experience (ie. hours) as well as medical examinations to assess a person's fitness to hold the licence. Many of these examinations are conducted by the aviation industry or medical examiners on CASA's behalf.

A licence is the first and foremost qualification obtained by a pilot and indicates a general level of training, experience and achievement.

An aircraft endorsement indicates that the licensed pilot has gained the hands on, manipulative skills and experience in a particular aircraft type or class of aircraft. Note, in qualifying for the licence, the pilot will obtain at least one aircraft endorsement.

A rating is a qualification that extends the privileges of the licence enabling the holder to engage in various operational activities following further training and testing; ie. ratings can be obtained for flying at night or solely by reference to the aircraft's instrument panel, to teach others to fly or to spray chemicals, seeds or fertilisers for agricultural purposes.

The full procedures for the issue of flight crew licences, endorsements and ratings are contained in the Flight Crew Licensing Manual. The regulatory requirements are contained in the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988, the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998, and the Civil Aviation Orders.

Validity of Qualifications

Once issued, a flight crew licence is valid for life, however, the holder is required to undergo regular recency and medical checks. The frequency and degree of these tests depend upon the nature of the operations being conducted, the more complex the operation the more exacting the checks.

Aircraft endorsements are also valid for life. However, the onus is on the holder to ensure he or she has completed refresher training on the aircraft if he or she has not flown that type for some time.

Some ratings are valid while the licence is valid, other are subject to periodic flight checks.

Student Pilot Licence

Applicants must

  • be at least 16 years of age
  • Meet the general English language proficiency standard for the student pilot licence (see CAO 40.0, paragraph 8)
  • If over 18, hold a current aviation security status check.

The student pilot licence is a permit to learn to fly.

Student pilots can fly 'solo' but are restricted to their local training area; flights must also be authorised by their instructor.

After they have completed further training and examination including a general flying progress test, student pilots may act as pilot in command of an aircraft carrying passengers, but not for hire or reward. The area restriction still applies as does requirement for flights to be authorised by a qualified flying instructor.

Private Pilot (Aeroplane) Licence

Applicants must:

  • be at least 17 years of age; and
  • hold a valid English language proficiency assessment of at least level 4; and
  • hold or be eligible to hold a flight radiotelephone operator licence; and
  • if over 18, have a current aviation security status check; and
  • have passed a written examination and flight test; and
  • have a total of 40 hours flight time including at least
    • 5 hours of general flight time as pilot in command
    • 5 hours of cross country flight time as pilot in command
    • 2 hours of instrument flight time

Private pilots may fly themselves or passengers anywhere in Australia for recreational purposes and do not have to obtain prior authorisation from their instructor.

Private pilots may share operating expenses of the aircraft with their passengers.

Commercial Pilot (Aeroplane) Licence

Applicants must:

  • be at least 18 years of age; and
  • hold a valid English language proficiency assessment of at least level 4; and
  • hold or be eligible to hold a flight radiotelephone operator licence; and
  • have a current aviation security status check; and
  • hold or be eligible to hold a flight radiotelephone operator licence; and
  • have passed a written examination (current exam consists of 7 parts) and flight test for CPL; and
  • have completed training and gained the necessary flying experience - one of the following:
    • have passed an CASA approved integrated CPL course where the theory and flying training are co-ordinated and acquired 150 hours in aeroplanes with at least
      • 70 hours as pilot in command
      • 20 hours cross country as pilot in command
      • 10 hours instrument flight; or
    • have acquired at least 200 hours flight time including at least
      • 100 hours as pilot in command
      • 100 hours of flight time in aeroplanes
      • 20 hours cross country flight time as pilot in command of an aeroplane
      • 10 hours of instrument flight time in aeroplane.

Commercial pilots may fly for hire or reward. Commercial pilots are authorised to fly

  • single pilot aircraft as pilot in command while the aircraft if engaged in any operation
  • multi pilot aircraft as pilot in command but for private or aerial work operations only
  • co-pilot of an aircraft engaged in any operation

Air Transport Pilot (Aeroplane) Licence

Applicants must:

  • be at least 21 years of age; and
  • hold a valid English language proficiency assessment of at least level 4; and
  • have a current aviation security status check; and
  • hold or be eligible to hold a flight radiotelephone operator licence; and
  • have passed a written examination (current exam consists of 7 parts); and
  • hold or have held a command multi engine aeroplane instrument rating; and
  • have a total of 1500 hours flight time including at least 750 hours as pilot of registered or recognised aeroplanes.
  • The 750 hours of aeroplane experience must include:
    • any of the following:
      • at least 250 hours of flight time as pilot in command;
      • at least 500 hours of flight time as pilot acting in command under supervision (ICUS);
      • at least 250 hours flight time, consisting of at least 70 hours as pilot in command and the balance as ICUS; and
    • 200 hours cross country; and
    • 75 hours instrument flight time; and
    • 100 hours at night as pilot in command or as co-pilot.

The balance of the 1500 hours of flight time must consist of any 1 of the following:

  • not more than 750 hours flight time as pilot of a registered aeroplane, or a recognised aeroplane
  • not more than 750 hours of recognised flight time as a pilot of:
    • a powered aircraft, or
    • a glider (other than a hang glider)
  • not more than 200 hours flight time as a flight engineer or flight navigator (in accordance with 5.173(7) of CAR 1988 and the balance of flight time as described in the immediate two points above.

Air Transport Pilots may fly an aeroplane as pilot in command or co-pilot in any operation. An ATPL is required to command a large airline type aircraft. Note: The above requirements apply to aeroplane pilot licences. Similar requirements apply to helicopter pilot licences, commercial balloon licences, gyroplane and airship licences.

Radiotelephone Operator Licence/Certificate

Available in two forms -Flight Radiotelephone Operator Licence (for flight crew) and Aircraft Radiotelephone Operator Certificate of Proficiency ( for ground crew) Applicants for either must pass an oral examination and practical test following training in radiotelephony procedures and use of the equipment; they must also be able to speak, read and understand the English language. No minimum age applies.

Flight Engineer Licence

Applicants must

  • be at least 18 years of age
  • have passed a written examination and been issued with a student flight engineer licence
  • have passed a flight test

Method of issue (all licences)

Prior to 1 July 2004, Student licences and flight radiotelephone operator licences were issued by industry delegates (ie. persons appointed by CASA to act on its behalf for a particular function) and CASA.

From 1 July 2004 all flight crew licences will be issued by CASA on confirmation that the applicant has satisfied the criteria for the licence, supplied photographs as part of an identification process and completed a security check.

Turnaround time from receipt of the application by CASA and issue and despatch of the licence is between 5-10 days.

Other types of licences/certificates

CASA also issues licences for helicopters at Private, Commercial and Air Transport level, gyroplanes at Private and Commercial level and balloons at Commercial level. Other available qualifications are called certificates and are not issued by CASA, and include qualifications for glider pilots, hang glider and paraglider pilots, pilots of weight-shift and ultralight (below 544kg registered with RAAus) aeroplanes, and balloons and light gyroplanes flown privately.

For information on glider pilot certificates, contact:

Gliding Federation of Australia (GFA)
Building 130 Wirraway Rd
Essendon Airport VIC 3041
Ph (03) 9379 7411
Fax (03) 9379 5519
e-mail secretary@gfa.org.au
web http://www.gfa.org.au

For information on hang gliding, contact:

Hang Gliding Federation of Australia (HGFA)
130 Wirraway Rd,
Essendon Airport VIC 3041
Ph (03) 9379 2155
Fax (03) 9379 2177
e-mail office@hgfa.asn.au
web http://www.hgfa.asn.au

For information on ultralight pilot certificates, contact:

Recreational Aviation Australia Inc (RAAus)
Pirie Street
Fyshwick ACT 2609
Ph (02) 6280 4700
Fax (02) 6280 4775
e-mail admin@raa.asn.au
web http://www.raa.asn.au

For information on private balloon certificates, contact:

Australian Ballooning Federation (ABF)
PO Box 402
Emerald VIC 3782
Ph (03) 5968 6533
Fax (03) 5968 6599
e-mail ausballooningfed@bigpond.com
web http://www.abf.net.au

For information on light gyroplane (up to 600kg, single and two-place) pilot certificates, contact:

Australian Sport Rotorcraft Association
PO Box 666
Morriset NSW 2264
Ph (02) 4973 4845 (VP and Registrar)
Fax (02) 4973 5273
e-mail secretary@asra.org.au
web http://www.asra.org.au

Medical Certificates

Although a medical certificate is not required for issue of a licence, it is required before you undertake a flight test or are permitted to use the licence. You must have regular medical examinations to keep your medical certificate current. Flight crew medical examinations are conducted by doctors approved by CASA. These doctors are known as Designated Aviation Medical Examiners or DAMEs. List of current DAMEs.

Alternatively, flying schools and CASA offices can assist you with the names and addresses of DAMEs in their area. The medical requirements are divided into Class 1, for commercial (except balloon), air transport and flight engineer licences, and Class 2, for all commercial balloon, private pilot and student licences. The variance is in the depth of examination. For instance, a Class 2 examination is primarily physical in nature whereas a Class 1 examination involve an ECG, an audiogram, a blood lipids test and a specialist eye examination in addition to the general physical. Medicals exams, in both classes, usually become more exacting as you grow older. If you have any concerns as to whether you will might satisfy the medical requirements, you can discuss your condition with a DAME or one of CASA's doctors. Call CASA's national telephone number 131 757 (toll free) and ask for the Aviation Medicine Section in Canberra. After obtaining a medical certificate, you must notify CASA if there is any variation to your medical condition.

Ratings and Aircraft Endorsements

Pilots may also qualify for aircraft endorsements and ratings. Endorsements can be either for a particular type of aircraft or for a class (ie. where a number of aircraft with similar handling capabilities are grouped for endorsement purposes). The four types of rating are:

Night (VFR) Rating

The rating allows a pilot to fly at night (including dusk) in visual meteorological conditions. Applicants must

  • hold at least a private pilot licence
  • have acquired the specified experience
  • have passed a flight test

Instrument Rating

The rating allows a pilot to fly in cloud, day or night, in non-visual meteorological conditions. Applicants must

  • hold at least a private pilot licence
  • have passed a training course, a theory exam and flight test
  • have acquired the experience specified

Agricultural Rating

The rating is used for crop spaying for pest control and fertiliser spreading Applicants must

  • hold at least a commercial pilot licence
  • have passed a training course, a theory exam and flight test
  • have acquired the experience specified

Applicants must also obtain a chemical rating which is issued by the Department of Agriculture or Environment in the Australian State where he or she intends to operate.

Instructor Rating

The rating allows the pilot to train other pilots Applicants must

  • hold at least a commercial pilot licence
  • have passed a training course, a theory exam (as required) and flight test for the grade of rating sought
  • have acquired the experience specified

Method of issue (all ratings and endorsements)

CASA has established a Log Book Endorsement System so that all ratings and endorsements can be issued by an industry delegate via an entry in the applicant's log book. This enables the applicant to use the qualification immediately. The delegate forwards the paperwork relating to the entry to CASA for inclusion in the pilot's flight crew licensing records. The entries in the log book are proof of any ratings or endorsements held.