Private Pilot Licence (PPL) vs Commercial Licences

If you’re thinking about becoming a pilot, you first have to know which licence will be best for you. There are a few types of pilot licences including a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) and an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) that are frequently used referred to by their acronyms:

PPL – Private Pilot Licence

CPL – Commercial Pilot Licence

ATPL – Airline Transport Pilot Licence


What is a Private Pilot Licence (PPL)?

Small aircraft used for PPL training

A private pilot licence (PPL) is the first licence you have to gain during your modular training route before moving on to your ATPL theory training.

With a private pilot licence, you’ll be able to fly as pilot-in-command of a single-engine piston aircraft for private use.

Before starting your PPL training we would recommend obtaining a Class 2 Medical certificate. You are required to hold a current class 2 medical prior to flying solo. This involves visiting an aeromedical examiner for a series of medical tests to confirm that you are fit and healthy enough to fly an aircraft. Without a Class 2 Medical certificate, your PPL licence will not be valid.

You’ll work towards your PPL in two parts, the practical and the theory.

The practical element of PPL training involves going to a flight school and practising flying and aircraft.

Your theory can be studied alongside your practical flight training, either as self-study or at a ground school. There are 9 subjects you’ll have to learn with each exam consisting of around 12 to 16 multiple-choice questions. Got a question about PPL theory or exams? Check out our guide to the most frequently asked questions about PPL.

Bristol Groundschool offers a PPL(A) theory course using interactive software, ATPdigital, to make learning your PPL subjects engaging and memorable. For exam revision, some students use online question banks, such as BGSonline, to test their knowledge and fill in any gaps.

Once you feel you are ready for your exams, you just book them with the authority you want to sit with.


What is a Commercial Pilot Licence?

There are two types of commercial pilot licences, a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) and an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL).

Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL)

The CPL licence is the next step after Private Pilot Licence and allows the licence holder to fly a small piston aircraft with a passenger capacity of up to 9 people for commercial purposes. With a CPL licence, you could become a private jet pilot, flight instructor (after additional training), agricultural pilot or medical/air ambulance pilot.

Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL)

An ATPL licence is the highest level of pilot licence. In order to become an airline pilot in the UK or Europe, you must have an ATPL licence issued by either the UK CAA or an EASA state.

For a more in-depth look at the differences between ATPL and CPL licences, check out our ATPL vs CPL blog post.


Study your PPL Theory with Bristol Groundschool

Study your Private Pilot Licence theory with our new computer-based training course – designed to make PPL theory learning immersive and engaging.

Study anywhere, anytime, with material tailored to the 9 subjects contained in the PPL syllabus that can be studied both on and offline

Our computer-based software, ATPdigital, includes immersive lessons on all PPL subjects, built-in testing using exam style questions, a study guide for each subject (so no need to buy extra books!) and can be downloaded on PC, Mac or iPad.

Our theory course is applicable to the EASA and UK CAA Private Pilot Licence syllabus.

Discover Bristol Groundschool’s Private Pilot Licence Theory Course

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