AOPA will be closed Wednesday, June 19 in observance of the holiday. We will reopen Thursday morning, June 20th at 8:30am ET.
Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here

Airline Transport Pilot

If you’re planning to fly for a career, certain pilot training and certification are required. A commercial pilot certificate is required to begin earning money as a pilot, while an airline transport pilot certificate is required to become an airline pilot or a charter captain.

A few years ago the FAA changed the regulations required to obtain a multiengine ATP certificate. Like other pilot certificates, a written and practical test are required, but certain additional steps are now involved.

In order to be eligible for an ATP certificate you must:

  • Be of good moral character
  • Be 23 years old
  • Hold a commercial pilot certificate and an instrument rating
  • Pass the ATP written and practical tests, and
  • Meet the minimum flight hour requirements specified in FAR Part 61.


Beginning in 2014, an applicant for an ATP knowledge test must first take and pass the ATP Certification Training Program. The course covers advanced knowledge areas and includes some simulator training. Most courses are five days long and cost around $5,000. A list of approved programs is available on the FAA’s website. Note that while airlines actively seek pilots they may pay for an applicant to take the course and complete the ATP in an airline-sponsored environment.

Hour requirement

Unless otherwise exempt, you must have 1,500 hours before applying for an ATP certificate, including 500 hours of cross-country time, 100 hours of night time, 50 hours in the class of airplane for the rating, 75 hours of instrument time, and 250 hours of time as pilot in command.

Restricted ATP

If you flew in the military or through a collegiate flight program, the minimum number of hours required for the certificate may be less. In these cases you can obtain a restricted ATP and still be eligible to fly for an airline or as a charter captain. Military pilots can receive a restricted ATP with 750 hours of experience, someone who attends a four-year aviation college can get the restricted ATP at 1,000 hours, while a two-year aviation college grad can do it at 1,250 hours. Every category of restricted ATP applicant has a number of sub-requirements, including cross-country, PIC, and so on.

Afraid you’ll never make it to those hours? Here are some great ways to build time.