Getting an air transport pilot licence (ATPL)

An air transport pilot licence (ATPL) lets you pilot any private or commercial operation as pilot-in-command or co-pilot.

The ATPL is the highest licence you can get. When you get your ATPL it will include at least one aircraft category rating such as aeroplane or helicopter. You can add other category ratings later on.

  • ATPL(A) is ATPL with aeroplane category rating
  • ATPL(H) is ATPL with the helicopter category rating.

If you want to be the pilot in command of a multi-crew aircraft in an air transport operation, then you need to have an ATPL. You also need to have an ATPL if you want to be a relief pilot in command during cruise in extended duration air transport operations.

To use an ATPL for the aircraft you want to fly, you must hold the applicable:

What you need to get an air transport pilot licence

To get an ATPL, you must:

  • be at least 21 years old
  • have a commercial pilot licence (CPL) or multi-crew pilot licence (MPL) with the same aircraft category rating
  • study for and pass the ATPL aeronautical knowledge examinations
  • complete ATPL flight training with a Part 142 flight training operator
  • have the minimum experience
  • complete an approved course of multi-crew cooperation (MCC) training
  • hold a current Aviation English language proficiency assessment
  • complete the ATPL flight test
  • hold a class 1 medical certificate or a medical exemption if you are doing your flight test in an aircraft.

Medical certificates for air transport pilot licences

We issue these medical certificate classes for an ATPL licence:

  • Class 1 to take the ATPL flight test.
  • Class 1 or Class 2 to fly an aircraft.

If you use a Class 2, you are limited to flying a commercial aircraft with:

  • a maximum take-off weight of under 8618 kilograms
  • no passengers.

You can also use a Class 2 if you're using your private pilot licence (PPL) licence.

You must carry your medical certificate with you whenever you are flying.

How to apply for an air transport pilot licence

After you complete your ATPL flight test, you can apply to us for the licence. The flight examiner will submit the flight test report to us. Licence applications can be done online using the myCASA Portal. Your application will be for one of the aircraft categories.

You can apply for another category rating if you already hold an ATPL. The second category rating requires additional knowledge examinations, experience, training, and a flight test. The application process is the same for the subsequent category ratings.

Using your air transport pilot licence

You can use your ATPL to fly an aircraft as pilot in command or co-pilot in any operation as long as you hold the necessary aircraft and operational ratings and endorsements. Your ATPL also allows you to fly as if you held a private or commercial licence.

To use your ATPL, you will need to:

  • for VFR flights, have a valid flight review for the aircraft you’re flying
  • for IFR flights, have a valid instrument proficiency check (IPC) for the aircraft you're flying
  • if you are flying for an air transport or aerial work operator complete the operator’s training and checking requirements.

Theory and the exams for air transport pilot licences

The subjects you will learn for an ATPL include:

  • air law
  • human factors (with a focus on multi-crew operations)
  • meteorology
  • navigation
  • flight planning – category specific
  • performance and aircraft loading – category specific
  • aircraft systems – category specific.

If you don’t already hold an instrument rating, and you want an aeroplane ATPL, you will also learn the instrument rating theory. Most ATPL applicants already hold an instrument rating.

You can study the theory yourself, for example, through a self-learning course. Or you can go to classes with a training provider.

The ATPL theory exam tests how well you know the theory of your chosen aircraft category rating.

Training for air transport pilot licence

The ATPL flight training focuses on the knowledge and skills required to conduct an air transport flight as pilot-in-command in a multi-crew operation. It often happens during command upgrade training.

ATPL training covers:

  • instrument-rating competencies (aeroplane category only)
  • applying human factors and non-technical skills for multi-crew operations
  • multi-engine aircraft practical operational competencies
  • other generic piloting.

You will do an ATPL flight test when you finish the training.

Instrument ratings

You can operate under the VFR and IFR with an ATPL(A). You don’t need a separate instrument rating because the ATPL(A) includes instrument rating privileges.

The limitations are that you must:

  • have a valid IPC for the type of aircraft you are flying
  • meet the recent experience requirements.

If you want to fly IFR with your ATPL(H), you must have a current:

  • instrument rating with asingle engine or multi-engine helicopter endorsement. This depends on which type of helicopter you are flying.
  • valid IPC for the type of aircraft you are flying.

Limitations on single-pilot IFR operations

If you hold an ATPL you can only conduct a single-pilot IFR operation only if you have done one of these:

  • Passed the flight test for an instrument rating in a single-pilot aircraft. This doesn't have to be category-specific or recent.
  • Completed an instrument proficiency check in a single-pilot aircraft – this doesn't have to be category-specific or current.

Minimum hours for an air transport pilot licence

You can complete these hours of experience in any aircraft or any category except where the category of aircraft is specified. You must complete these minimum hours in the recognised or registered aircraft of that category.

ExperienceHours for an ATPL-AHours for an ATPL-HConditions
Aeronautical experience15001000Up to 100 hours can be in a flight simulation training device (FSTD), including up to 25 hours in an FSTD that is not a flight simulator. Up to 100 hours can be in an FSTD, with up to 25 hours in an FSTD that is not a flight simulator. Up to 5 of those hours can be tethered flight time.
Flight time as pilot1400900At least 750 hours must be in aeroplane (for ATPLA) or helicopter (for ATPLH)
Pilot in command (PIC) or pilot in command under supervision (PICUS) flight time500 or 250 if at least 70 are PIC250 with at least 70 as PICHours must be in an aeroplane for ATPLA or helicopter for ATPLH
Cross-country flight time200200Must be in aeroplane for ATPLA or helicopter for ATPLH
Cross-country flight time as PIC or PICUS100100Must be in aeroplane for ATPLA or helicopter for ATPLH
Flight time at night other than dual10050Must be in aeroplane for ATPLA or helicopter for ATPLH
Instrument time7530N/A
Instrument flight time4520Must be in aeroplane for ATPLA or helicopter for ATPLH

Regulations for air transport pilot licences

The main licensing rules for air transport pilots are in these sections of Part 61 of CASR Flight crew licencing:

  • Subpart 61.K – air transport pilot licences
  • Subpart 61.E – Pilot licensing — general limitations and authorisations

Other rules that apply to the ATPL are in other Subparts of Part 61.

Reprinting your licence

Contact us if you need a paper reprint of your licence for operational reasons, such as international air operations. The fee for a licence reprint is $25.

Last updated:
3 Apr 2024
Online version available at: https://www.casa.gov.au//licences-and-certificates/pilots/pilot-licences/air-transport-pilot-licences/getting-air-transport-pilot-licence-atpl
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