Getting a commercial pilot licence (CPL)

If you would like to fly an aircraft for work, you need a commercial pilot licence (CPL).

A CPL lets you fly for private and commercial operations under Part 61 of CASR Subpart 61.I.

You can be the pilot-in-command of any operation except:

  • multi-crew aircraft in charter or regular public transport (RPT) operations
  • single-pilot, RPT operations with a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of more than 5700kg
  • turbojet aeroplanes with a MTOW of more than 3500kg in RPT operations.

To pilot these operations, you need an air transport pilot licence (ATPL).

You can be the co-pilot in any operation.

What you need to get a commercial pilot licence

To get a CPL, you must:

Medical certificates for commercial pilot licences

We issue these medical certificate classes for a CPL licence:

  • Class 1 to take the CPL 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 flying in a private operation.

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

How to apply for a commercial pilot licence

To get a CPL for your chosen aircraft category rating, you'll need to:

  1. apply for a class rating or type rating
  2. learn the theory and train with a Part 141 or Part 142 flight training operator
  3. take a general English language assessment (you only need to do this once)
  4. pass the CPL theory exam
  5. do the minimum flying experience
  6. pass a CPL flight test based on the practical flight standards in Schedule 2 of the Part 61 Manual of Standards (MOS).

Once you have your CPL, you can:

  • go through this process again to add more aircraft category ratings
  • add endorsements.

To keep your licence active, you will do:

To fly in a multi-crew operation, you must also do approved training in multi-crew cooperation. You don't have to do this if you took part in multi-crew operations before 1 September 2015.

Theory and the exams for commercial pilot licences

Some of the subjects you will learn for a CPL are:

  • flight rules and air law
  • aerodynamics
  • meteorology
  • navigation
  • human factors
  • operation
  • performance and planning
  • power plants
  • aircraft systems.

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

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

Training for commercial pilot licences

Flight training courses teach general, cross-country and instrument flying.

There are 2 types of courses:

  • intensive integrated courses, through Part 142 flight training operators
  • non-integrated courses, through Part 141 flight training operators.

Some organisations offer both types of courses. You can search for a Part 141 or Part 142 flight training operator near you.

In an integrated training course, you do ground theory with practical flight training at the same time. It's a structured course that you can do quickly.

If you do non-integrated training, you will do more practical flight training and it will take longer.

Basic instrument flying

You will need to do basic instrument flying if you are:

  • applying for an aeroplane licence (CPLA)
  • doing an integrated course of training for a helicopter licence (CPLH).

Otherwise, basic instrument flying is optional.

If you get a CPLH through a non-integrated course, your licence will have a note that it doesn't meet the international standard.

You can still do the basic instrument flying later.

Flying experience for a commercial pilot licence

The right amount of flying experience you need to get a CPL depends on the aircraft category rating you're training for.

You can do these hours in any aircraft or any category except when conditions apply. If the condition is that you must fly a certain aircraft type, it must be recognised or registered.

Minimum hours for an aeroplane CPL

Experience Hours for an integrated course Hours for a non-integrated course Conditions
Aeronautical experience 150 200 Up to 10 hours can be in a flight simulator.
Flight time as a pilot 140 190 Must be in an aeroplane
Pilot in command 70 100 60 if you hold a CPL or ATPL with helicopter rating 80 if you hold a PPL with helicopter rating Must be in an aeroplane
Pilot in command cross-country 20 20 Must be in an aeroplane and include a flight of at least 300 NM with a full-stop landing at 2 aerodromes outside the flight training area.
Dual instrument time 10 10 Can be in a flight simulator
Dual instrument flight time 5 5 Must be in an aeroplane

Minimum hours for a helicopter CPL

Experience Hours for an integrated course Hours for a non-integrated course Conditions
Aeronautical experience 100 150 Up to 10 hours can be in a flight simulator. Up to 5 of the 10 hours can be tethered flight time
Flight time as a pilot 90 140 Integrated must be in a helicopter. For non-integrated, at least 70 hours must be in a helicopter.
Pilot in command 35 35 Integrated must be in a helicopter.
Pilot in command cross-country 10 10 Must include a flight of at least 150 NM with landings at 2 areas other than where the flight began. Integrated must be in a helicopter
Dual instrument time 10 10 Can be in a flight simulator
Dual instrument flight time 5 5 Integrated must be in a helicopter

Minimum hours for a gyroplane CPL

Aeronautical experience 150 Up to 10 hours can be in a flight simulator

Experience Hours for a non-integrated course Conditions
Flight time as a pilot 75 N/A
Dual flight time 20 N/A
Pilot in command 35 N/A
Pilot in command cross-country 20 Must be in a powered aircraft with at least 10 hours in gyroplanes
Dual instrument time 10 Can be in a flight simulator

Regulations for commercial pilot licences

The rules for commercial pilots are in these sections of Part 61 of CASR Flight crew licencing:

  • Subpart 61.E - general limitations
  • Subpart 61.J - commercial pilot licences
  • Regulation 61.570 - privileges of commercial pilot licences
  • Regulation 61.575 - limitations on exercising privileges - multi-crew operations
  • Regulation 61.580 - requirements for grant of commercial pilot licences - general
  • Division 61.I.2 - aeronautical experience requirements (pilots who have completed an integrated training course)
  • Division 61.I.3 - aeronautical experience requirements (pilots who have not completed an integrated training course).
Online version available at: https://www.casa.gov.au//licences-and-certificates/pilots/pilot-licences/commercial-pilot-licences/getting-commercial-pilot-licence-cpl
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