Becoming an Airline Transport Pilot - Two Routes to the Same Destination
In the United States, a candidate who is wishing to earn an airline transport pilot certificate must complete and pass the required knowledge test within 24 calendar months of attempting the practical test. Unlike the knowledge tests for the private pilot and commercial pilot certificates, when attempting the knowledge test at the airline transport pilot (ATP) level, the applicant is required to choose between two different exams.
These two exams are classified as the Part 121 exam and the Part 135 exam and selections as to which exam to take are based upon the type of flying the applicant anticipates in his or her career. According to the United States Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR), Part 121 is applicable to scheduled air carriers. Therefore the Part 121 knowledge test for ATP candidate who selects the Part 121 exam will experience questions suitable to air carrier operations.
The other exam is called the Part 135 exam and just as the Part 121 exam is based on regulations found in Part 121 of the FAR, the same is true for FAR Part 135. This exam is suitable for those pilots who expect to enter into non-schedule operations such as air charter and air taxi service.
There are also other airmen personnel who may be required to pass either exam and one example of this is the aircraft dispatcher candidate. The aircraft dispatcher is required to have the same aeronautical knowledge as a flight crew member. This makes good sense as the dispatcher is responsible for all of the pre-flight planning for schedule air carrier operations.
A pilot who is wishing to seek airline tranport pilot privileges for operations in Europe, as well as most other countries, will be candidates for an airline transport pilot licence (ATPL). There is little difference between the name "licence" as it is known internationally and "certificate" as named in the United States. However, the path to meet the theory requirements for the ATPL is quite different, and in some cases more comprehensive.
Internationally known, but mainly in Europe, the Joint Aviation Authorities originated in 1990 and was developed as a part of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) and represented the combined efforst of civil aviation regulatory authorities of many European countries. Each member country agreed to co-operate in developing and implementing common standards and procedures that were intended to provide consistency throughout Europe.
Today, the JAA is phasing out of regulatory operations while the newly formed European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is taking the lead in this effort. What was commonly known as the "JAA ATPL" exams are now being replaced with the EASA ATPL exams for the current airline tranport pilot licence candidates. There are currently 14 EASA written exams that are required of ATPL candidates. They are as follows:
Principles of Flight, Aircraft General Knowledge - Systems, Aircraft General Knowledge - Instrumentation, Human Performance, Meteorology, VFR Communications, IFR Communications, General Navigation, Radio Navigation, Flight Planning, Aircraft Performance, Mass & Balance, Operational Procedures, and Air Law.