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Home > Blog > Commercial Pilot Licence

Commercial Pilot Licence

Posted 14 Feb 2022

Commercial Pilot Licence

When it comes to pursuing a career as a pilot, you will need to prove that you are fit to take to the skies both mentally and physically and that you have sufficient training which will not allow you to become a threat to the safety of yourself or anyone else while you pilot an aircraft.

There are few careers as thrilling and awe-inspiring as those involving aviation. Flying is a dream for many, but only a few have the dedication and willpower to put in the time and effort to achieve that dream.

If you are one of the select few who have decided on a career as a pilot and are willing to go through the rigorous process of training to fly an aircraft, then you can rest assured that your hard work will pay off, leaving you with a fulfilling and prosperous career.

When it comes to pursuing a career as a pilot, you will need to prove that you are fit to take to the skies both mentally and physically and that you have sufficient training which will not allow you to become a threat to the safety of yourself or anyone else while you pilot an aircraft.

To ensure these criteria are met, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of the United Kingdom requires you to obtain a formal licence, after which you are allowed to take to the skies and make your dreams come true.

It must be taken into account that there are a few different types of pilot licences. These fall under two broad categories, which are separated on the basis of whether you wish to pursue aviation as a full-time career, or if you simply wish to pilot an aircraft as a hobbyist, expecting no monetary compensation in return.

If you fall in the former category, then a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) is what you will need to acquire so that you can become a professional pilot with an airline or otherwise.



 Basic Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL)

The CPL is your gateway into the world of professional aviation. A basic CPL will be your first need when it comes to pursuing a career as a pilot.

Unlike the Private Pilot Licence (PPL), which is the licence of choice for most of the people who engage with aviation for the purpose of recreation alone, and which does not allow for one to request monetary compensation in return for piloting an aircraft, the CPL is perfect for professionals.

As compared to the PPL, the requirements for the CPL are far more stringent, with the minimum age requirement for this licence being 18.

In order to acquire the licence, the applicant must complete 200 hours of flight training, which is a huge increase from the 45-hour requirement of the PPL.

However, for those who wish to pursue more complicated aviation careers such as jetting around the world in an aeroplane full of passengers through a commercial airline, an upgrade may be required to either the Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) or the Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL).

Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL)

When it comes to commercial licences, the Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) is truly top tier. This licence is needed if a pilot wishes to fly an aircraft with 9 or more seats. The ATPL thus allows its holder to pilot aircraft with a commercial airline, transporting people from one place to another via air.

It is the highest pilot licence a civilian in the UK can hold, and the process of obtaining this licence is far more rigorous than the basic CPL.

In order to reach the ATPL, the applicant is first awarded the frozen Airline Transport Licence (fATPL) after sufficient training.

While this licence allows the holder to apply for jobs with a commercial airline, further training is required in order to upgrade the licence to the ATPL, after which the pilot is free to fly an aircraft carrying a high number of passengers. 

Multi-crew Pilot Licence (MPL)
If you are certain about wanting to pursue a career as an airline pilot, the Multi-crew Pilot Licence may be the best option for you. This licence is focused on airline pilot training, allowing the applicant to bypass a lot of the single-pilot elements involved in the acquisition of the ATPL.

Due to the specificity of the licence, several airlines have made the MPL their licence of choice when it comes to aspiring pilots.

The MPL, which is also relatively cost-effective, introduces applicants to the cabin environment of a commercial aeroplane much sooner than the ATPL. However, if you are unsure of whether you wish to become an airline pilot, it is best to obtain the ATPL, since it allows for more choice in the long run.



When it comes to obtaining your Commercial Pilot Licence, it is best to follow a step-by-step approach.

While some applicants may wish to directly put in the time and effort of obtaining the more stringent CPL, others may choose to go through the process of first obtaining a PPL in order to ensure they are comfortable in the skies. 



The Private Pilot Licence (PPL) is the licence of choice for hobbyists. This basically serves as the entryway into the wonderful and thrilling world of aviation.

 The PPL can be obtained at a younger age as compared to the CPL and is great for students who wish to learn the basics of aviation before committing to the rigorous and drawn-out process of obtaining a CPL.

Commercial licences are also more expensive to obtain, and for those who are still testing out different careers, the investment may not make sense.

In order to obtain the PPL, the applicant must undergo 45 hours of flight time accompanied by an instructor.

In addition to this, the applicant must be proficient in nine subjects on which they will be tested during the theoretical exams. These subjects include meteorology, air law, navigation and principles of flight.


Instrument Rating (IR)

 This is the next step to achieving your commercial pilot licence. This is necessary if you wish to fly under instrument flight rules.

The Instrument Rating (IR) allows you to fly in certain weather conditions and command an aircraft with a specific kind of cockpit instrumentation. Basically, ratings confer certain privileges that don’t necessarily come with a basic licence like the CPL.

An IR can be completed in three categories: Aeroplanes, which is necessary if you wish to fly as a commercial pilot with an airline; helicopters; and airships.



The final step to your commercial pilot journey, at least in the initial phase, is the attainment of the CPL. If you wish to broaden your horizons further, you can opt for an upgrade to an Airline Transport Pilot Licence or a Multi-crew pilot licence. Go for the latter if you are certain you wish to pursue a career as an airline pilot.



When it comes to becoming a pilot, there really is no need for a career-specific degree. Your theoretical and practical training involved with achieving a licence is more than enough to help you qualify for the job.

Flight training requires long hours of flying large aircraft and having access to ample open spaces for taxi purposes. Most college campuses cannot accommodate such large expenses or aircraft due to the restrictions in funds and space.

However, the applicant is required to have a bachelor’s degree. There is no specific subject which the licence requires, and a degree in anything, even Art History, will suffice.



There are so many skills that can be used to your advantage when piloting an aircraft! The first requirement on the list is a true passion for aviation.

The difficulty of training is bound to drown you out, and if you aren’t dedicated to the idea of becoming a pilot with complete conviction, then the pressure may make you crumble. So don’t forget to bring your enthusiasm with you on the first day!

Attention to detail is also a must-have skill when it comes to careers in aviation. It is important for a pilot to be meticulous since the slightest error can result in disastrous consequences.

It is also necessary for an aspiring pilot to have a good grip on spatial awareness. A pilot should be able to discern speed requirements and space availability with ease when preparing for landing or take off. Also, if you plan on becoming a pilot, make sure to get a good handle on your lefts and rights!

The importance of being a quick thinker who is adept at problem-solving cannot be stressed enough. When you are thousands of feet in the air and in control of an aircraft, you’re mostly on your own when it comes to making things work out in case of an issue.

The ability to remain level-headed under pressure is also an incredibly valuable skill that, in case of an emergency, can end up saving many lives.

You’re going to be coming in contact with a lot of numbers, so it’s best if you have a knack for math. That makes getting through certain subjects such as general navigation so much easier.

Finally, when it comes to pursuing a career in aviation, confidence is key. You can’t control an aircraft if you don’t feel in control. However, as important as confidence is, it is necessary that you don’t let it get to your head. Overconfident people are difficult to work with, and piloting an aircraft is a team effort.



Practical training

As discussed previously, the training requirement for the CPL is much more stringent when compared with the PPL. As compared to the 45 hours of flight training needed when applying for a PPL, a total of 200 hours are required when applying for a CPL.

The stricter requirement makes sense, because while a PPL holder will not be commanding any aircraft with a seating capacity of more than three people, a CPL holder will, at times, be in control of a far more technically complicated aircraft with a seating capacity of a higher number of people.

Out of the 200 hours of flight time logged, 100 hours have to be spent in command of an aircraft, with 20 hours being cross-country.

One solo flight is also necessary, which must total to a distance of at least 300 nautical miles. Five hours of night instruction are also necessary. If the applicant wishes to gain the privilege of flying after dark, they must log five-night landings and takeoffs.

Medical requirements

In order to obtain any kind of pilot licence, a pilot medical certificate is necessary to ensure that the applicant is physically and mentally fit to fly without becoming a danger to themselves or others. There are two types of pilot medical certificates, Class 1 medical and Class 2 medical.

 The Class 2 medical certificate is not as stringent as the Class 1, and it is required when applying for general aviation licences such as the Private Pilot Licence (PPL) and the Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL).

 The Class 1 medical certificate is what is required when applying for the CPL. This certificate is more expensive than the Class 2 medical certificate and is necessary when applying for the CPL, with the exception of those issued for balloons.

It is also required when applying for the ATPL, MPL with an aeroplane rating, Flight Engineer Licence, as well as Student Flight Engineer Licence.

Theoretical exam

In addition to the practical training, it is necessary to prove that you are proficient in a variety of theoretical subjects.

For this purpose, the applicant for the CPL will be required to sit for and clear exams for subjects including Air law, Aircraft general knowledge - airframe/systems/powerplant, Aircraft general knowledge - instrumentation, Mass and Balance, Performance, Flight planning and monitoring, Human performance, Meteorology, General navigation, Radio navigation, Operational procedures, Principles of flight, Visual flight rules (VFR) communications.


Becoming a professional pilot is a costly endeavour. It’s best to be sure about your career path when opting for this licence since it is a huge investment.

While the exact fees will depend on the path that you take to get the CPL, an estimate of the total cost of becoming a professional pilot is anywhere between £70,000 to £120,000.

Money is spent at various stages, from getting the medical certificate to spending money on training and exams, the field of aviation will require you to have a significant amount of funds in your bank account.



Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs.
We cater to brand new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades. We offer dedicated CPL training as well as comprehensive PPL (A) training and the required experience for operating aircraft at night.

In addition to this, the club also offers simulators for various training needs and to help new pilots gain confidence before the real deal. For those who wish to experience the thrill of a flight for fun or to help fuel their aviation dreams, Sherburn offers experience flights for the newbie, as well as the veteran. The flight experience option is also available for people who wish to take to the skies for special occasions, even if they aren’t into aviation for the long run.

If you wish to begin your career in aviation or wish to take to the skies as a hobby, Sherburn offers pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward.

You are required to take medical exams to prove you are fit enough to take to the skies when applying for a licence, and the facility at Sherburn allows you to start off your aviation journey on the right foot.

Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on pilot training in the UK!

Photo by Tim Dennert on Unsplash 



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