An Introduction To The In-House ATPL Theory Course


Curious about our ATPL Theory course but need more information before making a decision? 

Or perhaps you’re wondering what ATPL Theory actually is?

Maybe you’re simply unsure when an ATPL is needed in your journey to becoming a professional pilot?

Don’t panic. We’re here to help.

So what exactly is an ATPL?

ATPL is an acronym for Airline Transport Pilot Licence. It is the licence most airline pilots hold, but it is not the licence they start out with. To hold a UK CAA or EASA-approved ATPL you must be at least 21 years old, hold a Class 1 medical – and have completed a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time in aeroplanes, including at least;

  1. 500 hours in multi-pilot operations on aeroplanes.
  2. 500 hours as Pilot in command under supervision (PICUS) OR
    • 250 hours as Pilot in Command (PIC) OR
    • 250 hours to include a minimum of 70 hours as PIC and the remainder as PICUS.
  3. 200 hours of cross-country flight time, of which at least 100 hours should be as PIC or as PIC under supervision.
  4. 75 hours of instrument time, of which not more than 30 hours can be instrument ground time.
  5. 100 hours of night flight as PIC or co-pilot.
  6. Of the 1,500 hours of total flight time required, up to 100 hours can be completed in a suitable simulator (FFS or FNPT – but only a maximum of 25 hours may be completed in an FNPT).

As you can see, you will not have the above experience when you first apply to or join an airline or equivalent. At this stage you will more likely hold a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), have completed your ATPL Theory course and passed the 13 exams. 

You will also hold the following ratings: Instrument Rating (IR), Multi Engine Rating (ME) and Night Rating. This is sometimes known as a ‘frozen’ ATPL – there is officially no such licence but it has become a term widely used amongst trainee pilots and is sometimes used in the wider aviation industry. 

You will also need to have built up the flying hours for CPL and IR issue. Please see our detailed pages on these licences, ratings and the hours building required.

What do I need to be able to start the ATPL Theory course?

To start the ATPL theory course you must hold an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) equivalent Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) – if you hold an EASA or UK CAA PPL you meet these criteria. If not then please check with us or the UK CAA.

You should have a reasonable knowledge of Mathematics and Physics; we will put you through some relevant Mathematics and Physics revision before you start, but you will find that if you haven’t used these subjects for a while a quick refresh will help throughout your training. 

It is worth mentioning that having good mental maths is a great help during your training and throughout your career – it is never too late to become good at this and there are a number of apps and books on this subject that can quickly help you improve.

How do I complete an ATPL Theory at BSA?

As with most things in aviation, there is more than one way to complete your ATPL Theory course and the 13 exams it entails. Here at BSA, we provide two routes. Both of these routes are modular training – please see our page about how to become a pilot for the differences in modular and integrated training.

How to become a pilot

We’ll describe both routes here, along with other information you need to know before purchasing a course from your chosen provider.

What’s involved in the ATPL Theory course?

You are required to study 14 subjects and take 13 UK CAA (or EASA) exams as well as being assessed on a non-examined, but competency-based element of training called KSA100 (knowledge skills and attitude, with 100 being the subject code).

What is the in-house ATPL Theory course and how is it different to the distance ATPL Theory course?

With an in-house ATPL Theory course, you are required to attend the course every day and receive the information directly through lectures delivered by an instructor. This instructor is a subject matter expert in one or more subjects. The reason you must attend each and every day is to make sure you meet the mandatory 650 hours of study prior to sitting the exams.

When studying away from BSA’s campus, you are still required to study the mandatory 650 hours, but typically study is 90% at home, working through the materials and progress tests, before attending what is known as a brush-up course where your instructor(s) will help you work through the tougher parts of each subject whilst also preparing you for the UK-CAA/ EASA exams that normally follow on from each brush-up course.

How long does the in-house ATPL Theory course take?

An in-house ATPL Theory course normally takes between 5-7 months depending on the school.

How are the exams run?

Once the study and mandatory progress tests have been completed, a student would (if part of an in-house course), sit the UK-CAA/ EASA exams that have been studied for, before then moving on to the next stage and repeating the process until all of the exams have been passed. 

Are progress tests involved?


Progress tests are the tests that are mandated by the CAA & EASA to make sure that a student is understanding and retaining the information they are learning.

There must be a progress test every 15 hours studied that should be submitted to the school for assessment, with additional self-assessed progress tests every 5 -10 study hours.



As always, if you still feel a little lost or have a specific question, please submit your queries to our instructors here:

Recent Blog Posts
I had the privilege of sitting in our instructor Mick's B737 MAX Engineering class.
Dreamt of becoming a pilot since childhood, but don't know where to start?
"I became obsessed with flying on a family holiday when I was 14..."

Get Course Updates

Be the first to know about our upcoming courses and training.