The air transport pilot licence flight test
Learn about the air transport pilot licence flight test, introduced on 1 September 2014 under part 61 of the civil aviation safety regulations.
Who should read this information?
- Applicants for the air transport pilot licence (ATPL) flight test.
- Flight examiners.
- Flight training operators.
- Operators with a training and checking organisation.
To find out more about who needs an ATPL and what requirements you need to meet in order to gain and maintain one, read CASA’s Getting your air transport pilot licence information sheet.
What is the ATPL flight test?
The ATPL flight test is an assessment of an applicant’s ability to conduct a flight as pilot-in-command of a multi-crew aircraft operation, covering the competencies of managing normal and non-normal operations with a strong focus on non-technical skills.
The flight tests for the aeroplane category rating ATPL(A) and the helicopter category rating ATPL(H) are different.
- The aeroplane category rating ATPL(A) flight test is conducted as an instrument flight rules (IFR) operation in a multi-engine turbine-powered aeroplane that is configured for flight and operated with a co-pilot.
- The helicopter category rating ATPL(H) flight test is conducted as a visual flight rules (VFR) operation in a turbine-powered helicopter that is certificated for night VFR operations, as well as being configured for flight and operated with a co-pilot. The test may be conducted as an IFR operation.
An ATPL flight test can also be conducted in an approved flight simulator (read on for more information).
Why was the ATPL flight test requirement introduced?
The ATPL flight test was re-introduced into Australia’s flight crew licensing system for two reasons.
The first relates to the expanded implementation of licensing rules for multi-crew operations with the application of a common set of practical flight standards that are relevant to the privileges of the ATPL.
The second relates to harmonising our licensing system with the international aviation community.
Prior to the 1990s, pilots were granted ATPLs as pilots in airlines. There was a first class and second class ATPL. The first class licence was granted when the pilot completed their final command check as pilot of the airline.
Under the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988 (CAR 1988), the requirement for an ATPL applicant to be employed by an airline was removed. Instead, applicants only needed to pass the aeronautical knowledge exams, be 21 years old and meet the minimum aeronautical experience rules. Aeroplane ATPL applicants also needed to have a command multi-engine aeroplane instrument rating. These rules were not compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.
With the changes introduced under Civil Aviation Safety Regulation (CASR) Part 61 the ATPL is, once again, an ICAO compliant licence. It also serves a wider scope of operations than the airline sector.
Who can conduct an ATPL flight test?
The following people are authorised to conduct ATPL flight tests.
- Pilots who hold a Part 61 flight examiner rating and ATPL flight test endorsement.
- Pilots who hold a regulation 61.040 approval that includes conducting ATPL flight tests.
- CASA officers who hold an appropriate delegation.
How is the flight test structured?
ATPL flight tests are structured as scenario-based line-orientated assessments. Each test utilises representative operational documentation for the aircraft being used, operational briefings and a real time flow of events. During the test, non-scripted situations can occur which provide opportunities for the applicant to demonstrate their ability to manage non-normal situations in areas such as leadership, cockpit management, communication management and task prioritisation.
The test is developed by the examiner and will include several of the following:
- variable and, at times, high workloads
- non-normal conditions that have operational consequences affecting the continuation of a planned flight such as air-return, diversion or continuation
- significant weather considerations
- technical considerations such as minimum equipment lists or configuration deviation lists
- activities approaching operational or aircraft performance limitations.
ATPL applicants are assessed against the standards contained in Section K, Schedule 5 of the Part 61 Manual of Standards (MOS). Competency is tested in a relatively complex environment, consistent with a contemporary commercial aviation operation that reflects the environment where the privileges of the ATPL are exercised.
What is the difference between an ATPL flight test and an instrument rating test or proficiency check?
While the ATPL (aeroplane) - or ATPL(A) - flight test is conducted as an IFR operation, the ATPL (helicopter) - or ATPL(H) - flight test can be either a VFR or IFR operation. An ATPL flight test that is conducted under the IFR is more than just a flight test or proficiency check for an instrument rating.
Elements of the instrument rating test are required to be included for an ATPL flight test that is conducted under the IFR. ATPL flight tests also cover elements of the pilot type rating flight test.
The ATPL(A) flight test also satisfies the requirements for an instrument proficiency check.
I fly for an Australian regular public transport operator. Do I have to complete multi-crew cooperation training before I can apply for the ATPL flight test?
Part 61 requires applicants for an ATPL flight test to have completed an approved course of multi-crew cooperation training (MCC). However, an exemption has been made that provides alternative means of complying with the MCC training requirement.
CASA exemption EX225/15 specifies the qualifications and experience options pilots can use to be exempted from having to complete a separate MCC training course. Pilots who work for regular transport operators need to:
- hold a pilot type rating
- have at least 50 hours experience as a pilot in multi-crew operations conducted by an Australian air operator’s certificate holder, engaged in regular public transport operations in accordance with Civil Aviation Order (CAO) 82.3 or CAO 82.5 during the last three years.
I want to work for an operator that requires me to have my ATPL before I can apply, or start work. Is this necessary?
Operators are entitled to set their recruitment standards to suit their needs, and these may be in excess of the licensing requirements for the job.
Traditionally, airline pilot applicants have been able to gain their ATPL as there was no flight test or even a requirement for having multi-crew experience or training. Part 61 has changed the licensing system and the ATPL now includes requirements in those areas.
CASA has worked collaboratively with airlines to integrate the ATPL into their command upgrade training programs, rather than as an entry requirement. Some operators are including the ATPL in the first-officer upgrade training program, especially for the long-haul fleets where the first officer acts as pilot in command in certain situations.
I am applying for an overseas airline job and need my ATPL. How can I complete my ATPL flight test in this situation?
Pilots without an ATPL who want to have a career outside of Australia with an operator who does not provide an ATPL flight test may have to complete the test at their own expense. This is not a new situation as many Australian pilots have travelled outside Australia to obtain an ATPL from another country in order to gain employment around the world. Similarly, many pilots are required to obtain their own type rating before securing local or offshore employment.
It is possible that in the future training organisations might develop integrated programs to offer multi-crew cooperation training, aircraft training and the ATPL flight test.
Can I undertake my ATPL flight test in a flight simulator?
A flight simulator may be used for the ATPL flight test, provided the simulator supports the demonstration of competency to the standards specified in the Part 61 MOS. In some instances, the use of an aircraft may be necessary to satisfy all the flight test standards.
There is no flight simulator available in Australia for the aircraft I fly. Can the instrument proficiency check I gained overseas fulfil the ATPL flight test requirement?
No. The ATPL flight test cannot be subsequently associated with an already completed instrument proficiency check. The ATPL flight test also involves testing more competencies than are required for an instrument proficiency check.
Refer to the guidance about overseas ATPL flight tests contained in this information sheet.
Can my ATPL flight test be used to satisfy an IPC or an operator proficiency check?
Yes, but only under the following circumstances.
- If you pass your ATPL(A) flight test you meet the IPC requirements for aeroplanes - refer to paragraph 61.695 (3) (a).
- The ATPL(H) flight test is conducted as a VFR or IFR operation. If you complete the ATPL(H) flight test and an IPC during a combined flight, then you would pass both as long as you satisfactorily demonstrate the competencies for the ATPL(H) and the instrument proficiency check. Your flight examiner would conduct the flight accordingly. For licensing purposes, separate flight test report and instrument proficiency check notifications are required.
- An ATPL flight test could be used to satisfy an OPC. However, a regular OPC would not satisfy the ATPL flight test standards. If you want to complete your ATPL under your operator’s training and checking system that is for a multi-crew operation, then the operator needs to have a specifically designed flight test as an alternative. The usual pathway would be for a pilot to complete their ATPL prior to commencing command upgrade line training. Otherwise, a separate flight test would be required.
However, the ATPL flight test requires the applicant to demonstrate his or her competencies to conduct the operation as the pilot in command.
How do I arrange to undertake a flight test outside Australia?
ATPL flight tests can be conducted outside of Australia. However, careful consideration needs to be given to arranging for a suitable person to conduct the flight test. Flight tests can only be conducted by a flight examiner, 61.040 approval holder or delegate of CASA.
Operators who conduct instrument proficiency checks and pilot type-rating flight tests overseas should consider making arrangements for one of their flight examiners to apply for the ATPL flight test endorsement, or a 61.040 approval for ATPL flight testing.
There are significant costs associated with having a CASA inspector conduct a flight test overseas. Savings can be made if more than one test can be conducted while the inspector is on site at the overseas facility.
I hold a foreign ATPL. Do I have to do the ATPL flight test in order to gain an Australian ATPL?
Yes. CASR Part 61 requires applicants converting a foreign ATPL to an Australian ATPL to pass the Australian ATPL flight test (refer to regulation 61.275).
If you hold an ATPL that was issued by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, you don’t need to complete the ATPL flight test. You should apply to CASA under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement. Information about the requirements - including application forms for an Australian licence on the basis of an overseas licence - is available on the CASA website.
I have an ATPL issued by another country. Can I have it converted into an Australian ATPL?
Yes, the regulations make provision for converting foreign equivalent licences, ratings (except the flight examiner rating) and endorsements, subject to meeting the requirements in regulation 61.275. This also applies to any ratings on the licence that are equivalent to the Australian licence, rating or endorsement.
Applicants from countries other than New Zealand will need to pass the overseas conversion aeronautical knowledge examination and the ATPL flight test.
What forms do I need to complete to apply for my ATPL or ATPL flight test?
There are a number of CASA forms to complete for an ATPL application or ATPL flight test application. To access these, visit the CASA website, click on ‘Publications and resources’ and then select ‘Forms and templates’ from the drop-down menu.
If you aren’t sure which flight crew licensing form to use, or if you have any questions about the requirements, please contact CASA’s Licensing and Registration Centre on 1300 737 032 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a flight examiner - how do I get the ATPL flight testing endorsement?
To gain approval to conduct ATPL flight tests, you need to meet the requirements in CASR Subpart 61.U. An alternative is to apply for a regulation 61.040 approval.
Information about gaining an approval is available on the application form 61.FEA (Application for CASR 61.040 approval - privileges of a flight examiner rating) or you can email CASA’s flight training office at email@example.com.