Airline Transport Pilot Certificate
An airline transport pilot certificate is the highest grade of pilot certification issued by the FAA. An airline transport pilot (ATP) is a pilot who is trained in and responsible for operating large, technologically advanced transport aircraft, including passenger jets. All pilots in command of commercial flights, as well as their first officers (or co-pilots), must be ATP certified. Learn more about our Aviation Accident practice.
For a pilot to become ATP certified, that person must first earn a commercial pilot certificate. Then, in order to earn an ATP certificate, the following requirements must be met:
- Be at least 23 years of age.
- Accrue a minimum of 1,500 flight hours (including 500 hours of cross country flight time, 100 hours of night flight time and 75 hours of instrument flight time).
- 50 or more hours of flight experience on a multi-engine aircraft.
- Completion of an FAA-approved certification program, including ground school and simulator training.
- Pass the written knowledge exam and the practical-flight exam.
There are exceptions to the flight-hour requirement. Military pilots are allowed 750 hours; graduates of qualified bachelor-degree aviation programs have a minimum of 1,000 flight hours.
These qualifications were raised in accordance with the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, which was passed following the crash of Colgan Flight 3407. Several airlines have complained that these new safety regulations have made it tougher to find and recruit qualified employees, especially co-pilots who were once only required to have 250 flight hours and a commercial pilot certificate to be hired. To fill these positions, some carriers, including United and JetBlue, have begun offering incentives to pilots who have earned an ATP certificate or instituted their own pilot development programs.
It typically takes just over two years for a pilot to earn an airline transport pilot certificate. The FAA issues an average of around 6,000 ATP certificates every year.