What is the Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL)?
This is an informational page and is, as far as possible, unbiased. To find out about our course, or to book your place, please go to the Book a Course page.
The Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL) is the first licence that allows you to be paid to fly.
As mentioned on the page about the ATPL theory, this is not ultimately the licence you will hold once you have become a seasoned airline or equivalent pilot, but is the licence you are required to hold before you can apply for a job.
How does the CPL compare to the Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL)?
The CPL builds on the knowledge you obtained during the PPL and hours building. You will need to fly to more accurate headings, altitudes and be expected to handle the aircraft in a more professional manner.
Can I complete the course in a Multi Engine Piston aircraft?
You can if you hold a Multi Engine Piston (MEP) rating.
There are pros and cons to this approach – you gain more hours in a MEP aircraft, but have the added complexity and cost.
What do I need to start my CPL course?
You’ll need to:
- Hold a Class 1 medical.
- Hold an ICAO PPL.
- Have completed either your CPL or Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL) theory and passed the exams. To be considered for an airline pilot’s job and to be able to also complete your IR in this scenario you will need to complete the ATPL theory and exams (you can complete an IR theory course, but it would not allow you to hold an ATPL at a later date without completing the ATPL theory course).
- 150 hours flight time.
What do I need to take my CPL skills test?
- 200 hours of total flight time.
- 100 hours of Pilot in Command time (PIC)
- 5 Hours of night flying (see night rating page)
- 20 Hours of cross-country flight time as PIC. One of the cross-country flights must be a VFR flight of at least 300NM and include 2 full stop landings at 2 different aerodromes
- 10 Hours of instrument flight instruction of which 5 hours may be in an approved simulator.
What does the CPL course consist of?
The course itself consists of:
- 25 Hours of dual flight instruction, including 10 hours of instrument instruction and 15 Hours of visual flight instruction.
- At least 5 hours of the flight instruction must be completed in a 4-seat aeroplane with a variable pitch propellor and retractable landing gear.
- Unless you hold a night rating you will also need to complete at least 5 hours of night flight instruction, comprising 3 hours of dual instruction, which will include at least 1 hour of cross-country navigation and 5 solo take-offs and 5 solo full stop landings.
How long does the CPL course take to complete?
This depend on a number of factors, including your availability, the instructor’s availability and of course the weather, but it is wise to allow 3-6 weeks.
How much does the CPL course cost?
This very much depends on the school you choose their location and the aircraft type. Things such as landing fees vary as do fuel costs, but you will need to allow between £5,000 – £8,000.
What are the CPL lessons made up of?
You do not need to know this for your course, it is here purely for your information. Please speak to an instructor if you are unsure about any of the information provided and to make sure you have the most up to date information.
Pre-flight operations: mass and balance determination, aeroplane inspection and servicing.
Take-off, traffic pattern approach and landing, use of checklist, collision avoidance and checking procedures.
Traffic patterns: simulated engine failure during and after take-off.
Maximum performance (short field and obstacle clearance) take-offs and short-field landings.
Crosswind take-offs, landings and go-arounds.
Flight at relatively critical high air speeds; recognition of and recovery from spiral dives.
Flight at critically slow air speeds, spin avoidance, recognition of and recovery from incipient and full stalls.
Cross-country flying using DR and radio navigation aids; flight planning by the applicant; filing of ATC flight plan; evaluation of weather briefing documentation, NOTAM, etc.; R/T procedures and phraseology. Positioning by radio navigation aids; operation to, from and transiting controlled aerodromes, compliance with ATS procedures for VFR flights, simulated radio communication failure, weather deterioration, diversion procedures; simulated engine failure during cruise flight, selection of an emergency landing strip.
Instrument flight training:
- This module is identical to the 10 hours basic instrument flight module as set out in Part-FCL AMC2 to Appendix 6. This module is focused on the basics of flying by sole reference to instruments, including limited panel and unusual attitudes.
- All exercises may be performed in an FNPT I or II or an FFS. If instrument flight training is in VMC, a suitable means of simulating IMC for the student should be used.
- A BITD may be used for the following exercises: (9), (10), (11), (12), (14) and (16).
- The use of the BITD is subject to the following:
- the training is complemented by exercises on an aeroplane.
- the record of the parameters of the flight is available.
- an FI(A) or IRI(A) conducts the instruction.
Basic instrument flying without external visual cues; horizontal flight; power changes for acceleration or deceleration, maintaining straight and level flight, turns in level flight with 15 ° and 25 °bank, left and right; roll-out onto predetermined headings.
Repetition of exercise 9. Additionally, climbing and descending, maintaining heading and speed, transition to horizontal flight; climbing and descending turns.
(1) start exercise, decelerate to approach speed, flaps into approach configuration.
(2) initiate standard turn (left or right);
(3) roll out on opposite heading, maintain new heading for 1 minute.
(4) standard turn, gear down, descend 500 ft/min.
(5) roll out on initial heading, maintain descent (500 ft/min) and new heading for 1 minute.
(6) transition to horizontal flight, 1.000 ft below initial flight level.
(7) initiate go-around.
(8) climb at best rate of climb speed.
Repetition of exercise 9 and steep turns with 45° bank. Recovery from unusual attitudes.
Repetition of exercise 12
Radio navigation using VOR, NDB or, if available, VDF; interception of predetermined QDM and QDR.
Repetition of exercise 9 and recovery from unusual attitudes.
Repetition of exercise 9, turns and level change and recovery from unusual attitudes with simulated failure of the artificial horizon or directional gyro.
Recognition of, and recovery from, incipient and full stalls.
Repetition of exercises (14), (16)
Once you have completed all the lessons and your instructor feels you are ready, they will put you forward for your test with an examiner.
What can I expect in the CPL skills test?
Below we have listed the content of the skills test, this is for information purposes only and you should always consult with your instructor or examiner for the most up to date information.
Here is a link to the UK CAA Standards doc for the CPL skills test. This is the information that has been created from the information listed below the link, from EASA Part FCL.
In the future this might change, but at the time of writing, although the UK is no longer part of EASA we are still following the rules as they stood on December 31st 2020.
1. The aeroplane used for the skill test shall meet the requirements for training aeroplanes and shall be certificated for the carriage of at least four persons, have a variable pitch propeller and retractable landing gear.
2. The route to be flown shall be chosen by the FE and the destination shall be a controlled aerodrome. The applicant shall be responsible for the flight planning and shall ensure that all equipment and documentation for the execution of the flight are on board. The duration of the flight shall be at least 90 minutes.
3. The applicant shall demonstrate the ability to:
(a) operate the aeroplane within its limitations,
(b) complete all manoeuvres with smoothness and accuracy,
(c) exercise good judgement and airmanship,
(d) apply aeronautical knowledge; and
(e) maintain control of the aeroplane at all times in such a manner that the successful outcome of a procedure or manoeuvre is never seriously in doubt.
FLIGHT TEST TOLERANCES
4. The following limits shall apply, corrected to make allowance for turbulent conditions and the handling qualities and performance of the aeroplane used.
normal flight ±100 feet
with simulated engine failure ±150 feet
Tracking on radio aids ±5°
normal flight ±10°
with simulated engine failure ±15°
take-off and approach ±5 knots
all other flight regimes ±10 knots
CONTENT OF THE TEST
5. Items in section 2 (c) and (e)(iv), and the whole of sections 5 and 6 may be performed in an FNPT II or an FFS.
Use of the aeroplane checklists, airmanship, control of the aeroplane by external visual reference, anti-icing/de-icing procedures and principles of threat and error management apply in all sections.
SECTION 1: PRE-FLIGHT OPERATIONS AND DEPARTURE
a) Pre-flight, including: Flight planning, Documentation, Mass and balance determination, Weather brief, NOTAMS
b) Aeroplane inspection and servicing
c) Taxiing and take-off
d) Performance considerations and trim
e) Aerodrome and traffic pattern operations
f) Departure procedure, altimeter setting, collision avoidance (lookout)
g) ATC liaison – compliance, R/T procedures
SECTION 2: GENERAL AIRWORK
a) Control of the aeroplane by external visual reference, including straight and level, climb, descent, lookout.
b) Flight at critically low airspeeds including recognition of and recovery from incipient and full stalls
c) Turns, including turns in landing configuration. Steep turns 45°
d) Flight at critically high airspeeds, including recognition of and recovery from spiral dives
e) Flight by reference solely to instruments, including:
(i) level flight, cruise configuration, control of heading, altitude and airspeed
(ii) climbing and descending turns with 10°–30° bank
(iii) recoveries from unusual attitudes
(iv) limited panel instruments
f) ATC liaison – compliance, R/T procedures
SECTION 3: EN-ROUTE PROCEDURES
a) Control of aeroplane by external visual reference, including cruise configuration
b) Range/Endurance considerations
c) Orientation, map reading
d) Altitude, speed, heading control, lookout
e) Altimeter setting. ATC liaison – compliance, R/T procedures
f) Monitoring of flight progress, flight log, fuel usage, assessment of track error and re-establishment of correct tracking
g) Observation of weather conditions, assessment of trends, diversion planning
h) Tracking, positioning (NDB or VOR), identification of facilities (instrument flight). Implementation of diversion plan to alternate aerodrome (visual flight)
SECTION 4: APPROACH AND LANDING PROCEDURES
a) Arrival procedures, altimeter setting, checks, lookout
b) ATC liaison – compliance, R/T procedures
c) Go-around action from low height
d) Normal landing, crosswind landing (if suitable conditions)
e) Short field landing
f) Approach and landing with idle power (single engine only)
g) Landing without use of flaps
h) Post flight actions
SECTION 5: ABNORMAL AND EMERGENCY PROCEDURES
This section may be combined with sections 1 through 4
a) Simulated engine failure after take-off (at a safe altitude), fire drill
b) Equipment malfunctions including alternative landing gear extension, electrical and brake failure
c) Forced landing (simulated)
d) ATC liaison – compliance, R/T procedures
e) Oral questions
SECTION 6: SIMULATED ASYMMETRIC FLIGHT AND RELEVANT CLASS OR TYPE ITEMS
This section may be combined with sections 1 through 5
a) Simulated engine failure during take-off (at a safe altitude unless carried out in an FFS)
b) Asymmetric approach and go-around
c) Asymmetric approach and full stop landing
d) Engine shutdown and restart
e) ATC liaison – compliance, R/T procedures, Airmanship
f) As determined by the FE — any relevant items of the class or type rating skill test to include, if applicable:
(i) aeroplane systems including handling of autopilot
(ii) operation of pressurisation system
(iii) use of de-icing and anti-icing system
g) Oral questions.
As you can see from the above sections, there is a lot to learn! This is why it is a good idea to be fully prepared and to have made sure your hours building has been used to hone your skills as a pilot.