How Do I Go from ATPL to CPL?

Deciding what route to take as a student pilot can be confusing and require extensive research. So, we’ve broken down the two major licenses and how to convert from one to the other.

First off, you may be wondering what these abbreviations stand for. ATPL is an Airline Transport Pilot License while CPL is a Commercial Pilot License. Both pathways are pretty similar, but there are one or two major differences.

For one, the ATPL is an integrated course and the CPL is modular. Another big difference is the time required to obtain each license.

In terms of rank, the ATPL is actually the optimum license, so you wouldn’t want to convert from ATPL to CPL. Rather you’d convert from CPL to ATPL.

To attain the ATPL, you are required to complete at least 1, 500 hours of flight time. Of these hours, at least 500 of them need to be in a multi-crew aircraft. Although most airlines will prefer around 2, 500 hours of flight experience before a pilot could become a commander.

Once you have completed the required extra hours, you are able to upgrade their CPL to an ATPL.

Can I get a job after CPL?

After completing the relevant theoretical examinations, you will obtain your CPL. This makes you eligible to fly Commercial and Cargo aircraft.

But, getting a job within the Aviation industry can be tough for CPL holders. In fact, newly qualified license holders can really struggle to find work with major airlines. This is because these companies really value experience which, as a newly qualified CPL holder you won’t have much of. So, major airlines generally don’t like to let newly trained pilots handle passenger flights.

This is just a generalization though, it definitely isn’t impossible to find a job with a major airline as a newly trained pilot, if you are highly skilled.

However, looking to smaller airlines can bring about a lot of success for new CPL holders. Don’t wait around for that dream job, get in those much-needed hours of flight experience with a smaller airline. This will make it much easier to get a job in a bigger company later in your career.

Which is better ATPL or CPL?

So, which is better, ATPL or CPL? Well, both pathways are actually pretty similar in terms of the end result. Where they mainly differ is the time taken to complete. But, choosing which license to better suit your journey is super important and will affect the price, time taken and even the success of your career.

First, let’s look at the training processes and how they differ. Both programs are pretty much the same price, so this doesn’t really affect the decision-making process. But, what is different is what you get for this price.

Both the ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License) and CPL (Commercial Pilot License) training programs are designed for candidates with little to no flying experience to be able to work in the cockpit of a commercial aircraft as an F.O. (First Officer).

Many will favor CPL over ATPL because it takes less time to obtain. CPL training consists of only 30+ flight hours whereas the ATPL program will require you to achieve at least 1, 500 hours of flight experience.

If you need a flexible course that will enable you to complete the training while working or undertaking further studies on the side, the CPL program is perfect for this. The ATPL course in integrated rather than modular, so students do not have the option to take breaks and must complete the entire program in one go.

But, for the same price, the ATPL will provide you with a lot more flight experience, something to consider depending on where you want to take your career.

In terms of making payments, the CPL course offers an installment plan that will allow students to suspend their studies after the first module in order to work and save up for the next installment.

New ATPL trainees can immediately start flying as an F.O., thereby gaining back the money spent on the course whereas getting a job with a fresh CPL is much harder.

What is DGCA approval?

DGCA stands for the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Formed in 2020 as part of the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, its purpose is to act as a statutory body to investigate aviation accidents and incidents. It also maintains all regulations related to aviation and issues all aviation licenses such as PPL, CPL, and SPL in India.

This includes:

  • Approval of quality of training - institutes engaged in flying training, including the use of simulators, AME training and more, will require approval
  • Approval of aircraft repair, design, maintenance, and manufacturing
  • Approving of operators carrying dangerous goods