The landscape of pilot licenses in the UK can be a bit bewildering for the inexperienced. If you’re just starting out on your , how do you know your private pilot license from your CPL, and which do you need to be a pilot in the UK. Here we go through an overview of the different types of licenses in the UK, so that you know how to build a worthwhile flying career.
Whichever pilot license you embark on getting, it will take time and dedication. Each license, including the private pilot license, trains you in everything you need to know to safely take to the skies in specific types of aircraft under specific conditions. To decide which type of license is right, you need to consider your flying goals. Different privileges are extended to different license types. For example, you can’t fly commercially in the UK with a private pilot license, but you can fly for recreation with it.
When looking at pilot licenses in the UK, you broadly need to consider two overarching categories: commercial and recreational. The basic premise is that recreational flying is for pleasure and personal use. Commercial flying is when you are paid to do so. If you’d like to make a career as a pilot then you will, ultimately, need to go down the commercial route.
However, it can still be worth starting at the recreational level as this is a more affordable and eye-opening way to discover if commercial flying is for you. Nothing is lost by gaining one type of pilot license, such as a private pilot license in the UK, because it can act as a stepping stone to the next level.
If you want to fly beyond UK airspace then you will need a license which is certified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). ICAO licenses allow you to fly globally. You can also choose licenses certified by the European Aviation Safety Authority which would allow you to fly in the UK and EU. Some licenses issued by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) only allow you to fly in the UK.
The ATPL is an additional license, specifically for those looking at an aviation career. It includes multi-crew training and also single and multi-engine operations. It takes around 18 months to complete and you must be at least 21 years old to apply. In comparison with the private pilot license, it takes far more than 45 hours flying time, but instead requires 1500 hours. You will also need to carry out night time flying and instead of a maximum aircraft weight requirement; there is a minimum one of 5700 kgs.
Ratings are additional sub-qualifications that add further privileges to a license. For example, an aircraft rating sets out which type of aircraft you can fly with a particular license. The type of aircraft you can fly is usually determined by the rating. Other ratings may apply to night time flying.