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Home > Blog > Ppl To Cpl Upgrade

PPL to CPL upgrade

Posted 07 Jul 2022

PPL to CPL upgrade

There are many different factors to take into account when deciding on a licence, and since most licences have a fair bit of variation when it comes to requirements and training, it is important you make the right decision so as not to waste any precious time and financial resources.

If you are new to the world of aviation and are just getting a hang of the different types of licences that you have the option to obtain, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. It is important to understand the different types of pilot licences out there in order to opt for the right decision, making sure it is most beneficial to your path as a pilot.

There are many different factors to take into account when deciding on a licence, and since most licences have a fair bit of variation when it comes to requirements and training, it is important you make the right decision so as not to waste any precious time and financial resources.

If you wish to pursue a career in aviation as a pilot for an airline or as a commercial pilot of some other sort, your trajectory can be different from that taken by an aviation enthusiast who is in it for fun and wishes to pursue flying as a hobby.

While aspiring commercial pilots opt to train towards the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), hobbyists will mostly go for the Private Pilot Licence (PPL). However, it is understandable if you are unsure about the path you wish to take. Even though you may have an interest in pursuing a career in aviation as a pilot, you may want to experience training before making any big decisions or commitments.

Alternatively, you may be interested in aviation solely for thrill-seeking and pleasure at the moment, but do not wish to remain closed off to the possibility of a career as a pilot. Those who are yet to decide on their trajectories in the world of aviation can rest assured since the option to upgrade from a general aviation licence, such as the PPL, to a commercial licence, such as the CPL, is entirely possible.

It is, in fact, the path opted for by many pilots! Read on to find out how you can take this step-by-step approach, as well as whether it is the right approach for you!



For the uninitiated, the first step to understanding the aviation industry is to understand the different types of flying that exist. These are generally divided into two broad categories.


The first category is commercial aviation. This includes airline pilots as well as any other pilots who choose to exchange their flying skills for monetary compensation. If you wish to build a career as a pilot, then you must opt for a licence that falls under the umbrella of commercial flying. These are the only types of licences that allow for any kind of remuneration.

Even those pilots who wish to teach by becoming Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs) or those who wish to work in emergency services such as with the police or as air ambulance operators must opt for a commercial licence.


Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL)

The entry-level licence to commercial flying is the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL). This licence allows a pilot to fly a light aircraft with a single-engine in return for monetary compensation.

However, if a pilot wishes to fly larger aircraft or would like to fly in the dark or during conditions of reduced visibility, the CPL will have to be upgraded with the addition of ratings such as the Night Rating as well as Instrument Ratings.



The second category is general aviation. This is the kind of aviation that is pursued by hobbyists and thrill-seekers who are in it solely for the joy of flying. These pilots do not wish to get any kind of monetary compensation for their flying.

In fact, those who hold a general aviation licence cannot fly an aircraft in exchange for money. If a pilot wishes to make money off of flying, then they must upgrade their licence to one that falls under commercial aviation.


Private Pilot Licence (PPL)

The most popular type of general aviation licence is the Private Pilot Licence (PPL). This licence allows its holder to fly a single-engine light aircraft, much like the CPL, with the option to broaden their horizons through the addition of ratings. There are other types of general aviation licences as well which come with a set of requirements that are far less stringent than that of the PPL.

The Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL) can be obtained after fewer hours of training and a relatively relaxed medical certification. Similarly, obtaining the CPL comes with stricter requirements as opposed to the PPL.



 As already discussed, for those who aren’t entirely sure about what path they would like to take when it comes to aviation, the option to upgrade the PPL to the CPL always exists. There is a greater commitment of time and financial resources required when it comes to obtaining the CPL, so for those who would like to test the waters before making a commitment, this is a great option. The PPL can easily be upgraded to the CPL with a little bit of time and effort.

Since the flight hour requirements for the CPL are higher than that for the PPL, and the medical exam is also stricter, the PPL holder will have to undergo additional training and medical exams in order to obtain the CPL.  



 In order for an aspiring pilot to obtain a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), they just undergo training with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). The total hours of flight time that must be logged before applying for a PPL are 45 hours.

Out of these 45 hours, 10 hours must be of solo flight, in order to prove that the pilot is fit to take command of an aircraft without becoming a threat to the safety of themselves or others. The rest of the flight hours can be via dual instruction with a CFI. Five hours out of the 10 of solo flight time must be dedicated to cross-country flights totalling at least 270km.

 In addition to the flight training requirement, the applicant must undergo medical examinations in order to make sure they are physically and mentally fit to fly. The medical certificate required when applying for the PPL is the Class 2 medical certificate.

Apart from this, the aspiring pilot must also clear nine theoretical exams, which cover subjects such as meteorology, navigation, air law, and principles of flight. The applicant must score at least 75% in each of these exams in order to be eligible for the PPL.



A PPL holder can easily upgrade their licence to the CPL by adding to the training that they already have. Flight hours are cumulative, so you can fly on your PPL and then present the hours in addition to those already logged before your PPL application.

If you decide to pursue a career in aviation, you will need to log in more flight hours, get a higher-class medical certificate, and clear a few more theoretical exams in order to qualify for the CPL. 


Additional training

The total flight time required when applying for the CPL is 200 hours. This is a big jump from the 45 hours required by the PPL, and so you must undergo additional training and flying in order to become eligible for the CPL.

Out of the 200 hours, 100 must be dedicated to solo flight, while the other half can be completed through dual instruction with a Certified Flight Instructor. In addition to this, a solo flight totalling at least 300 nautical miles is necessary.


Advanced medical certificate

In order to qualify for the CPL, the applicant must have a valid Class 1 medical certificate. The requirements for this certification are more stringent, with the medical check-up being far more thorough than that required for the Class 2 medical certificate.

You can have a licensed medical examiner conduct your tests, with the doctor signing off on your medical certificate issued by the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom.


Theoretical exams

 The applicant must also pass, with a minimum of 75%, a series of theoretical exams, including subjects such as 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.



When it comes to whether this step-by-step approach of getting the PPL before the CPL is right for you, the answer is highly dependent on who’s asking. Whether this is the correct path for you depends on how sure you are of your future in aviation.

If you are positive about pursuing a career in aviation and do not think you will get cold feet or quit towards the end of the training, then you may be better off opting directly for the CPL, since this may save you quite a bit of time.

However, if you are unsure about what the future may look like and wish to keep your options open, then this truly is the best approach. There are certain factors to consider when deciding whether you wish to go about things in a step-by-step manner. Here is a list of pros and cons of the method to help you decide whether it is right for you.


Pros of the step-by-step approach


Greater flexibility

The fact that the training needed for the Private Pilot Licence (PPL) is not as strict and demanding as that required for the CPL means that the beginner has room to explore other hobbies and career paths as well.

Training for the CPL is very demanding when it comes to time and financial investment, and those youngsters who are starting off in aviation may find themselves consumed by training with no time left for other hobbies such as sports and art.

For younger aspiring pilots who are just getting a hang of their interests, this may feel like too much of a sacrifice. For this reason, they may prefer to opt for the PPL before the CPL. This will help make sure they are prepared for the commitment and are fully invested in pursuing a career in aviation when the time comes to upgrade.


Head start

The minimum age for getting a PPL is 17 years, while the minimum age for the CPL is 18 years. This means those who are itching to start their aviation journey but are not yet 18 can easily get a head start. This extra year of training can make a lot of difference when it comes to polishing their piloting skills and getting ahead of the game.


Less initial investment

Just as the PPL does not require too great of a time investment; it also comes with a relatively light price tag. This means those who are hesitant to dive head-first into the world of aviation can easily opt for the low-commitment PPL before going for the CPL.


Relaxed initial training environment

The fact that the PPL is focused on hobbyists and those who wish to pursue aviation for fun means that the learning environment is also far more relaxed as compared to that of CPL training. The stakes are not as high, which means CFIs also focus on maximising pleasure and enjoyment. The comfortable and welcoming environment can help beginner pilots fall in love with aviation before deciding to pursue a full-time career in it, which requires a higher level of commitment.


Cons of the step-by-step approach


Long time to get to your goal

If an aspiring pilot opts for a CPL directly, they enter aviation with a laser focus. This helps them reach their career goals much faster, as opposed to the slow and steady step-by-step process. For those who are sure about a career in aviation, the time spent in acquiring a PPL may feel like time wasted, with the aspiring pilots choosing instead to go straight for their ultimate goal.

More financial investment on the whole

While the CPL is more expensive than the PPL, the cumulative cost of the step-by-step approach is higher than going directly for the CPL.



 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. With a large fleet of new aircraft and an airfield refurbishment with new runways, hangars, and an extended clubhouse, we also offer a dedicated day-long Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) course for those wishing to get the certification, running the first Sunday of every month.

Sherburn also offers pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward. 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.

In addition to that, if you are looking for a hangarage for your own aircraft, need servicing or repairs, want to buy a new aircraft or aviation equipment, or are just looking to enjoy and watch the aircraft, Sherburn Aero Club is the place to be.

Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on private pilot licences (PPL), commercial pilot licences (CPL), and how you can upgrade from PPL to CPL.


Photo by Andrew Palmer on Unsplash 



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