airline transport pilot certificate

What does an airline pilot do?

“Without the pilot, there is no flying from one place to another.”Lailah Gifty Akita.

Airline pilots operate large, multi-engine aircraft. They are skilled in managing complex situations with many factors at play. This job also involves a lot of responsibility; the safety and well-being of the aircraft and its passengers depend on the pilot’s ability to think quickly. The ATP must also ensure flight safety by communicating with air traffic control towers, operating radar systems, and understanding the weather patterns that may affect their flight path to reach their destination on time.

What are the requirements for getting an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate?

Before you can get a certified rating as an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP), you must be at least 23 years old. As for the flight hours, you must have accrued a minimum of 1,500 hours, which includes 500 hours of cross-country flight time, 100 hours of night time, and 75 hours of instrument flight time.

Also, you must have completed an FAA-approved certification program that includes ATP ground school and simulator training. Lastly, you must pass the FAA written knowledge and practical-flight exams for the airline transport pilot certificate.

You must note that there are instances in which a pilot’s flight hours might lessen–the “restricted ATP.” Fortunately, each restricted ATP certificate option still enables a career working at an airline. Some military pilots may have fewer hours than required, and commercial airline pilots who hold a bachelor’s degree with an aviation major from an institution of higher education have to have a minimum of 1,000 hours. The alternative options the FAA defines for restricted ATP certificates is quite elaborate. For reference, you can look into FAR § 61.160.

The Federal Aviation Administration has recently raised the bar on ATP hiring requirements, according to a bill passed by Congress in 2010 following the Colgan Flight 3407 crash. As a result, American Airlines and JetBlue have already started to ramp up their pilot-teacher rating programs so that they can find and recruit qualified co-pilots before the new rule takes effect.

  • At least 23 years old by your “FAA Checkride.” 
    • 21 if pursuing the restricted ATP
  • Be able to read, speak, write and understand English
  • Be of good moral character
  • Hold a commercial pilot certificate with an instrument rating
  • Unless pursuing the restricted ATP, you must have logged at least 1,500 hours of total flight time as a pilot, consisting of at least:
    • 500 hours of cross-country flight time
    • 100 hours of night flight time
    • 50 hours of flight time in the class of airplane for the rating sought
  • Exams Required for Certification
    • Knowledge Test
      • To be eligible, you must receive at least 30 hours of classroom instruction known as ATP CTP aka ATP Certification Training Program 
      • Multiple choice exam administered by FAA-authorized facility
    • FAA Checkride
      • Oral Exam
      • Flight/Practical Exam
  • See Current FAR/AIM part 61.151 – 61.159 for further requirements details.

Steps to earn an Airline Transport Pilot Certification

To earn your airline transport pilot certificate and become an airline pilot, you need to follow these steps as part of the application process for the certification:

1. Attend an FAA-Approved Institution of Higher Education

FAA-approved colleges and educational institutions often have all sorts of valuable resources available to students, such as ATP flight simulators, computer software for flight planning, and dedicated facilities. If you want to become an airline pilot, you can benefit by requiring reduced hours to obtain the ATP certificate. Most accredited aviation schools/universities offer ATP flight training as part of their program. This way, students can begin learning and honing their skills while earning a degree in aeronautical science or aerospace engineering.

2. Earn a private pilot certification. 

Obtain your pilot’s license by learning basic flight methods, aircraft maneuvers, navigation, and emergency training. By earning this certification, you can legally fly a plane on your own and will have mastered the ability to do so safely with precision and move on to getting your instrument rating.

3. Get your instrument rating

Being a pilot for an airline usually involves flying through different kinds of weather conditions and traveling to other areas at varying heights. Once you’ve earned a basic pilot certificate, you can begin your Instrument training. Pilots need to use sophisticated instruments that help guide them through adverse conditions. Federally operated air traffic control oversees the airspace, which serves its citizens by providing runway and taxiway guidance and clearance, instrument flight rules control, and landing facilities to pilots within the controlled airspace.

4. Get your Commercial Pilot License

A commercial pilot license allows pilots to earn money by flying goods or people at various companies. Once a pilot has this license, he/she can take jobs in several categories: flight instruction, search and rescue, passenger flights, and cargo deliveries. Under this category, a pilot often earns more money but must undergo additional training to pilot an airplane at an airline (become ATP certified).

5. Get a flight instructor certificate to gain experience and flight hours

Working as a flight instructor is a common way for pilots to get their hours in. Many pilots choose to do this because it pays well, and they can log flight hours simultaneously, preparing them for the day that they finally decide to apply and take the first step toward fulfilling their dream of working as a pilot for an airline.

6. Get a multi-engine rating

A multi-engine rating is required to fly a commercial airplane with more than one engine. The training for this consists of learning how to handle planes with multiple engines, which is necessary to work at almost any airline. The student learns how to respond in the event one of the engines fails, which serves a unique challenge.

7. Log a lot of hours in the air

You’ll spend many hours in the air to get all the experience you need to become an experienced pilot. You can add some hours to your total by taking classes, training, and working as a commercial pilot while completing your education.

8. Get your Airline Transport Pilot Certification

When it comes to being an airline transport pilot, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) highly regulates everything from who gets to fly airplanes and in what capacity to how much experience is needed to do so safely. First and foremost, before becoming a licensed airline transport pilot, prospective pilots must be able to achieve a certain number of hours of flight time and practical experience. Additionally, future pilots must also meet age requirements and fulfill physical requirements by passing required medical examinations and the commercial pilot certificate.

FAQs about Airline Transport Pilots

“Flying is more than a sport and more than a job; flying is pure passion and desire, which fill a lifetime.” General Adolf Galland

How much do airline pilots make as airline career pilot?

Airplane pilots earn between $27 and $100 per hour, depending on the size of the company they are employed by, the type of aircraft they fly, and their seniority. Airline pilots are eligible to earn up to 1000 hours of flight time per year which includes flying time, ground instruction and testing for annual recertification for airline transport pilot. Hourly rate is a determining factor in calculating how much an airplane pilot makes.

The national average salary of a first officer, or commercial pilot in the United States, is $53,325 per year. The base pay for a captain can start around $55,362 per year. You can also search airline transport pilot salaries and compare.

What is the difference between Airline pilots and commercial pilots?

There is not a lot of variance between them. In fact, an ATP has basically the same privileges that a commercial pilot does. It comes down to the operations involved (where the pilot works). The pilot with an ATP certificate has the ability, if trained, to act as the pilot in command or second in command at an airline operating under Part 121, for example. Basically any airline you are familiar with around the U.S. is  going to be required to have ATP-certified pilots in the cockpit. A commercial pilot certificate does not quite cut it for an airline. A commercial pilot can still engage in passenger and/or cargo operations but typically only under private, corporate operations. Once the aircraft becomes quite large and the operations very robust, the airline or carrier will be required to have ATP-certified pilots. The requirements to become commercial pilot certified is only 250 hours whereas the ATP is a whopping 1,500 hours minimum.

Do you need perfect vision to become an airline pilot?

In the United States, you must have 20/20 vision (or better) to fly an airplane. The Federal Aviation Administration prohibits pilots from flying if they have uncorrected vision of less than 20/40 in either eye or a corrected vision of less than 20/40. It has nothing to do with safety or commercial pilot certificate; it is a requirement of the FAA.

Earn experience towards your Airline Transport Pilot Certificate with the help of Santa Monica Flyers!

Santa Monica Flyers is here to assist you in your endeavor to harness the power of the skies. We can get you all the experience you need, aside from a multi-engine certificate, which will be necessary if you want an airline or major operation to consider hiring you. We have had dozens of pilots come through our doors and go on to flying successful careers at airlines across the U.S.

Contact us and schedule your lesson today! Call 310-800-8050


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