What’s a Frozen ATPL?

Once a pilot has passed all 14 ATPL theoretical exams, they have obtained what’s known as a frozen ATPL.

This is often regarded as the training section of an ATPL, where pilots gain the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience whilst on the job. 

If you’re aspiring to be a first officer or a co-pilot working under a captain, employers may require you to obtain a frozen ATPL. 

What’s a frozen ATPL

This allows a trainee pilot to build up many hours of multi-pilot experience,  This experience is crucial for those looking to be hired by an airline in the future.

To get your hands on an ATPL, you’ll need to obtain at least 1,500 hours of total flight time experience. This also must include at least 500 multi-crew flight hours. 

It’s important to note that many employers can, and will, demand more than the standard 1,500 hours flight time required to become a commander.

Aspiring pilots will also need to display a working knowledge of avian English and possess a class 3 medical certificate to achieve their integrated airline transport pilot license. 

It is possible for future pilots to be a captain with a frozen ATPL and a CPL. The difference is that you cannot be part of a multi-pilot plane cabin crew without an unfrozen ATPL. 

Can I get a job with a frozen ATPL?

Yes, you can get a job with a frozen ATPL. But, it’s important to note that holding a frozen ATPL doesn’t guarantee you any pilot jobs at commercial airlines.

Many employers will take into account the hundreds of hours spent flying, taking exams, and theory training involved in obtaining a frozen ATPL, which can work in your favor.

However, they’ll also be aware that this is just a license and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re right for the job. 

Each specific position at every airline will have certain requirements. Take a look at what the specific airline is looking for.

For example, some commercial airlines will only employ those with the right attitude and enthusiasm.

To improve your chances of being successful after you’ve been issued your license, you’ll need to focus on what sort of pilot the employer is looking for, as well as being able to operate a commercial aircraft to instrument rating standards. 

Most successful pilot applicants would have ensured that they have submitted an excellent covering letter and up-to-date CV that have been tailored to the specific airline they are applying to work for.

Spending extra time on your application is worthwhile when trying to get a job with a frozen ATPL.

How do you unfreeze ATPL?

In order to unfreeze your ATPL, the authorities will need to see paper evidence of the correct number of flight time hours you have obtained.

Most pilots will already know that 1500 hours of flight time is the requirement to unfreeze an ATPL, but these usually have to be logged in a specific way. Here’s the typical breakdown of requirements:

  • 500 hours in multi-pilot operations on airplanes. 
  • 500 hours as PIC under supervision, or 250 hours as a PIC, or 250 hours as a PIC under supervision, (PICUS), including a minimum of 70 hours as PIC.
  • 200 hours of cross-country flight time, of which at least 100 hours should be as PIC or as PICUS. 
  • 100 hours of night flight as PIC or Co-pilot. This can be completed in a simulator- either a Full Flight Simulator (FFS) or Flight Navigation Procedure Trainer (FNPT), but only a maximum of 25 hours may be completed as an FNPT.
  • 75 hours of instrument time, of which no more than 30 hours can be instrument ground time.

How long is frozen ATPL valid?

The ATPL exams expire 7 years after your last IR expiry, don't go longer than 7 years or you'll have to take the theory exams again. Alternate years can be renewed in a simulator which is much cheaper than the aircraft.

For renewals you don't need a CAA central examiner which saves you money, most schools have their own examiners that charge around £250-£300 for the test.

If your ATPL theory exams are not valid anymore, you will have to do them again.

It is possible to transfer A320 rating from CAAC (ICAO) license to an EASA one - depending on your experience. You would need, however, to do LST (license skill test) on A320 in the simulator and pass all 14 EASA ATPL exams again.

What does ATPL stand for?

The acronym ATPL stands for Airline Transport Pilot Licence, FATPL stands for Frozen Airline Transport Pilot Licence. 

This license standard has been agreed upon by 26 European countries and it is often regarded as the highest level of aircraft pilot certification.

As airline transport pilots should already possess significant aviation knowledge and training, airline transport pilot licenses do not have special endorsements, such as an instrument rating.

Although, any aircraft that weighs more than 12,500 pounds can still only be flown by pilots who have a certification that is specific to the make and model of the aircraft in question.

For example, if you are taking the skill test on a Boeing 737, you must have met the relevant flight training requirements for that type of aircraft before the Skill Test. 

You must be at least 21 years old to get your ATPL. You also need to do the following for the category rating you want to get with your ATPL:

  • Hold either a commercial pilot license or multi-crew pilot license with the same aircraft category rating
  • Complete the relevant flight training
  • Learn the theory and pass an ATPL theory exam for the category rating
  • Complete an approved course of multi-crew cooperation training pass an ATPL flight test
  • Meet the minimum aeronautical experience requirements.