The EASA ATPL Explained

The Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) is the highest level of aircraft pilot licence, required to command aircraft over 5700 kg or with over 9 passenger seats.

The EASA Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence is a common licence standard that has been agreed by 26 European countries. Bristol Groundschool is approved by the UK Civil Aviation Authority to provide EASA ATPL training in the UK, and our training material is used in 15 other countries through our international partners.

EASA is a rulemaking EC body which has taken over responsibility for Airworthiness Directives, aircraft Certification Specifications and licensing standards from the National Authorities such as the UK CAA and the French DGAC. The EASA Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL) and Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL) are European licences, accepted in all EU States. Although EASA sets the rules, the National Authorities still exist, and act as agents of EASA, issuing pilot and engineer licences and approving the schools who are allowed to conduct training, normally within their national boundaries.


Bristol Groundschool is approved by the UK Civil Aviation Authority to provide EASA ATPL training in the UK.

Our training material is also used in 15 other countries through our international partners. Although other elements of training can be carried out in different states, all of your ATPL theory exams must be completed under the authority of one single member state. If you want to take your exams in Europe please contact our international partners in the appropriate State. Please note that you must pass all exams within 18 months of your first exam sitting. You have a total of 6 sittings to pass all the exams and no more than 4 attempts at any one subject within those 6 sittings.


Useful to Know

ATPL Air Transport Pilots Licence ATPL(A) ATPL(Aircraft)
ATPL(H) ATPL(Helicopters) CPL Commercial Pilot Licence
CPL(A) CPL(Aeroplane) CPL(H) CPL(Helicopters)
IR Instrument Rating IR(A) IR(Aircraft)
IR(H) IR(Helicopters) MCC Multi-Crew Cooperation training
MEP Multi-Engine Piston Aircraft MEP(L) MEP(Land) aircraft
PPL Private Pilot Licence PPL(A) PPL(Aircraft)
PPL(H) PPL(Helicopters)

"I have now completed my first run through Module One. First of all let me say how fantastically impressed I am. For a person with a short attention span like me the course is exceptional. The quizzes and progress tests really reinforce retention. The 'curve' is an excellent combination whip and carrot. While some subjects are a bit more fun than others, they are all of a very high level."

Andreas Rosboch

Integrated or Modular?

At the very beginning of your flying training for an EASA professional licence, you need to make a choice about which training path to follow, integrated or modular.

Integrated training is carried out with one school all the way through, whereas modular training allows you to complete sections or modules of training at different schools, choosing the best provider for each module. Integrated training takes only 12 to 15 months to complete, where as modular training is typically completed within 3 to 5 years. Integrated training is significantly more expensive than modular training, costing as much as £80,000 to £90,000 (€95,000 to €110,000), compared with about £35,000 (€45,000) for modular training.

With integrated training, you’ll complete the course with a relatively low number of flying hours – about 170, with as many as 50 in a simulator. Modular training is completed with around 235 flying hours, of which only 35 will be in a simulator.

When you complete an integrated course you’ll have a CPL Instrument Rating (IR) with ATPL theoretical exams and a Multi-Crew Co-operation (MCC) Course. With modular training the licence can be issued without the IR and MCC.


To hold an ATPL(A) you must pass flight and ground tests and have at least 1500 flying hours, of which at least 500 must be on multi pilot aircraft. The ATPL(H) only needs 1000 flying hours, but also needs time on multi-pilot aircraft. Most people finish flying training with between 150 and 200 hours, so it’s unlikely that you will be able to hold an ATPL right from the start even if you do pass all the ground and flight tests. Normally your first qualification will be a commercial pilot’s licence, a CPL, which can be upgraded to an ATPL when you have sufficient hours.

The CPL together with an instrument rating and passes in all of the ATPL ground exams, is often referred to as a ‘frozen ATPL’. This is the minimum licence standard for airline employment in the fixed wing world – it’s an ICAO requirement that both pilots of multi-pilot aircraft over 5700kg hold ATPL theory passes, even if the first officer only holds a CPL. CPL(H) holders will find that more jobs are available which don’t require either ATPL theory or an Instrument rating, because helicopters are lighter and fly mostly VFR. However, those qualifications will still be needed to fly the larger multi-pilot helicopters under IFR.

If you already hold a JAA or EASA licence and want to upgrade to a higher level licence or convert between fixed and rotary wing, you may need to do some additional theory exams. The rules are somewhat complex, so we have produced a flowchart to help you. You can also contact us to discuss your requirements.

EASA pilot licensing is regulated by a document called Part-FCL, the UK CAA’s summary of that, together with some supporting information, is called CAP 804. The information in this website is only a summary and plain language translation of Part-FCL and it’s associated documents, if you have any doubt you must refer to the original regulations.

ATPL Modular Course Structure

Integrated-training mod only

Before you start your ATPL theory course, the first step is to get a PPL issued to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. Nearly all PPLs meet these standards, it doesn’t matter whether you hold an FAA licence, an Indian PPL or an EASA PPL. One of the very few licenses that does not meet ICAO standards is the new British National PPL (NPPL).

You will finish your PPL with 45 to 65 flying hours. The next flying course, the CPL course, requires to have 150 hours flying time before you start. This means you will need to gain some experience and build up your flying hours. The hour building may be conducted under the supervision of a training organisation, as it is on so-called ‘structured modular programmes’; or it may be conducted privately, perhaps solo in a hired or private aircraft; again anywhere in the world. You also need to have completed your ATPL theory exams before the start of the CPL flying course so it is convenient to study the ATPL theory in parallel with the hours building.

The CPL is usually completed on a single engine aircraft to save money (it must be a ‘complex’ type with 4+ seats, a retractable landing gear and a variable pitch propeller). However, it may be flown on a MEP aircraft to gain more multi-engine hours, in which case the MEP module precedes or is combined with the CPL module.

The IR is usually left until after the CPL, but may be conducted anytime after the PPL is issued provided the relevant theory exams have been passed. The IR must be flown on a MEP aircraft, so the MEP module either precedes or is combined with the IR.

Your licence may be issued before the MCC module; this must be done before or combined with your first multi-crew type rating. But many people like to save the MCC until they are actively seeking employment and use it as a refresher before selection. There is also the possibility that your first employer will include the MCC module in your first type rating.

Bristol Groundschool courses are only available as part of a modular course. If you choose the integrated path, you will not be able to do the ground exams with us. The licence you get at the end is exactly the same, regardless of whether you opt for modular or integrated training. Both are ‘approved’ and the flight tests and ground exams are exactly the same. The only differences are that integrated training is carried out with one school in a much shorter time than a modular course, but is more expensive and results in less flying hours.