Along the way to becoming a commercial pilot and flying for an airline, there are not one, or two, but several qualifications you need to gain and hoops you need to jump (fly) through for that to become a reality.
Sadly it’s not akin to driving: provisional to pass and off you go…
You’ll need to obtain several flying qualifications known as Licences and Ratings, all which will slightly differ, depending on what and where you want to fly.
And that’s not all, even once you’ve been awarded these, you need to renew them regularly to keep them valid.
Confused yet? Let us help.
In a nutshell, a License is a permission which allows to fly an aircraft, and a rating is an ‘add on’ which gives you more specific permissions such as the type of plane you can fly.
Quite simply a licence means a permit from an authority to own or use something.
In this case it is the golden ticket which allows you to fly a plane and is awarded by the local authority i.e. the UK Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA) in the UK and the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) in - you guessed it - Europe.
There are many types of flying licence and each one decides what aircraft you can fly, where you can fly it and who you can fly it with.
These are some of the typical Licences issued in Europe:
PPL: “Private Pilots Licence”, the licence obtained by private pilots. It can have different ratings attached to it and is recognised worldwide.
LAPL: “Light Aircraft Pilot Licence”, a shortened version of the PPL with fewer medical restrictions. It still allows you to to fly aircraft, balloons, helicopters and gliders but with a maximum of 3 passengers and a maximum take-off weight of two tonnes.
CPL: “Commercial Pilots Licence”, a CPL is considered a professional licence. It allows you to exercise all the privileges of a LAPL and a PPL. You’ll need a CPL should you wish to carry out any commercial operations and you could get a job operating pleasure flights, for example.
ATPL: “Air Transport Pilot Licence”, you can exercise all the privileges of a CPL plus you can act as ‘Pilot in Command’ in a multi-crew commercial flight, or put more simply: as a First Officer or Captain for an airline.
However, some of these licences, the CPL and ATPL in particular are very limited without also having ‘ratings’ on your licence.
A rating is an add on to a licence which allows you to fly different types of aircraft in varying conditions.
If you are an operating crew member or applying for a flying job then it is essential to keep your ratings valid.
Let's take a look at some common ratings:
This is a broad rating that you to fly a certain “class” or group of of aeroplane with similar characteristics and applies to light aircraft. e.g Single Engine Piston (SEP) or Multi-Engine Piston (MEP) rating which, as you may suspect means the former allows you to fly an aircraft with a single piston engine, and the latter any aircraft with multiple piston engines (usually two).
Validity:Your SEP rating will be valid for two years and your MEP for one.
This rating allows you to fly an aircraft in Instrument Flight Conditions. This means conditions of low or poor visibility where you cannot rely on visual flying.
Most commercial airliners can land without visual flying, but this requires a further rating known as LV (Low Visibility). This is practiced in the simulator and qualifies you to operate when LVP’s (Low Visibilty Procedures) are in force at an airport..
Validity: The instrument rating is valid for 1 year.
Type Ratings can be either single-pilot or multi-pilot and are usually valid on one ‘family’ of aircraft, e.g A320 family which is made up of A319,A320 and A321 aircraft.
A Single Pilot Type Rating allows you to fly a type of aircraft which requires single pilot operations. Most single pilot aircraft requiring a type rating rather than a class rating are classed as “high performance”, e.g Hawker Beechcraft BE family C90, F90, E90.
A Multi Pilot Type Rating allows you to fly an aircraft which requires multi pilot operations. This type rating is required for most well-known commercial aircraft, e.g. Boeing 787 and Airbus A380.
Validity: Type Ratings are valid for one year.
Revalidation is when your rating has yet to expire but you want to extend it. To do this you simply need to complete a proficiency check with a qualified examiner.
Renewal is for when your licence expires and you need to activate it again. This is a slightly more complex training and you will need to visit your nearest ATO to find out how much training you will require.
Keeping a log of your licences and ratings
Most pilots will go through their career acquiring many licences and ratings. Pilots need to keep track of their permits and - most importantly - ensure they’re up to date and renewed.
And let’s not forget the satisfaction of penning them with pride when you have achieved each one!
Log your licences and ratings with Aileron in your own personalised Professional Pilot Logbook.
Browse the collection
Shop the Aileron range
The latest Aileron news, press releases and blog posts.