What is the right Pilot Licence for you?

pilot licence

In Europe, you can obtain a variety of pilot licences, ranging from basic recreational licences to professional licences for commercial and airline pilots. The main difference between these 2 pilot licence categories is price and purpose:

The recreational pilot licence allow you to fly an aircraft for leisure purposes, while the commercial will allow you to earn money as a pilot.

Each licence has its own set of requirements and rules, and as a future pilot you need to understand the differences between them to make informed decisions about the career paths. You need a commercial pilot license to become a professional pilot and make it your career.

This article will discuss the different types of pilot licences in Europe, their differences, and the requirements for obtaining each one.

Recreational Licence

Commercial Licence

ATPL Theory exams

Privileges of holding a CPL

How to unfreeze the ATPL?


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Recreational Pilot Licence:



The European LAPL licence (Light Aircraft Pilot Licence) is the simplest licence you can obtained in the member states. Through the LAPL course, you get a first licence as a pilot of very small airplanes, known as ultra-lights. You will be certified to pilot an aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 2000 kg and up to four seats.

Theoretical knowledge:

The exam consists of multiple-choice tests. They cover areas like air law, aircraft and engines, meteorology, flight performance and planning, human performance and limitations.

Practical operations:

Flight test is conducted in a single-engine aircraft and consists of a pre-flight briefing, a flight test, and a post-flight debriefing.


It´s less expensive than a PPL, but you need to fly 10 hours post-licence issue before you can carry passengers, which would be your friends and family, as you cannot engage in commercial activities. Due to this restriction, the price difference with a PPL becomes almost zero, so it´s better to do the PPL course instead, as is less restrictive and more complete.



When it comes to recreational aviation, one of the most important licences to obtain is the EASA Private Pilot Licence (PPL). EASA is the European Aviation Safety Agency. This licence is required for those who want to fly a light aircraft, for private or recreational purposes – Act as Pilot in Command or co-pilot without remuneration on airplanes engaged in non-commercial operations.

The EASA PPL is a very comprehensive licence that is the baseline for many other aviation licences and ratings. To obtain this licence, you must meet the minimum requirements set forth by the EASA. The requirements for the EASA PPL are split into three categories:


Physical and mental:

The physical and mental requirements are there to ensure that the pilot is physically and mentally able to fly. To meet these requirements, you must obtain a class 2 medical certificate from an approved medical examiner, and be at least 17 years old.

Theoretical knowledge:

To achieve theoretical knowledge, it is mandatory at least 100 hours of ground instruction and pass nine theoretical knowledge exams. This exams cover topics such as air law, flight performance and planning, human performance and limitations, and navigation.

Practical operations:

Finally, you have to complete the practical operations requirements – flight lessons under the supervision of a qualified flight instructor. This includes completing at least 45 hours of flight time (including 10 hours of solo flight time) and 5 hours of solo cross-country flight time. The flight training must include a variety of different manoeuvres and activities, such as take-offs, landings, navigation, and emergency procedures.

Once the pilot has completed the practical operations requirements, they will be issued their EASA PPL. It is important to note that the licence does not allow the pilot to fly for commercial purposes.


To sum up, to obtain this pilot licence a training course at a Flight School (ATO) should be completed to pass several tests, including written exams and a practical flight test.

Here you can find Prices and duration of PPL.


Commercial Pilot Licence:


If you want to fly commercially, there is one licence that is over all others: the Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL). 

There are two ways to get this licence. Modular or integrated. Check our article Integrated vs modular pilot training – All you need to know to understand the differences.

Let’s focus on the integrated, as it´s the fastest way to go from zero experience to the flight deck of an airline in the shortest period.

To obtain an ATPL licence you start by holding a class 1 medical certificate from an approved medical examiner. Without it, you can forget a career as a commercial pilot. The second step is to guarantee you have enough funds to complete the course. Finally, you should select carefully the best Flight School for you.

Even if the course is called integrated ATPL, in reality, you will obtain a CPL with ATPL theory credits + MEIR + MCC + UPRT + PBN. All are required to obtain the ATPL.

. CPL – Commercial Pilot Licence
. MEIR – Multi-Engine Instrument Rating
. MCC – Multi-Crew Cooperation Course
. UPRT – Upset Prevention & Recovery Training
. PBN – Performance Based Navigation certification,

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Instead of the mandatory MCC, some schools like Quality Fly offer an Airline Pilot Standards Multi Crew Cooperation course (APS MCC). This course doubles the time of multi-crew work, and airlines expect you to have it nowadays.

This Licence is also called Frozen ATPL and will remain frozen until you have enough experience. Nevertheless, you can immediately start to work in an airline with a frozen ATPL.

The Frozen ATPL or CPL with ATPL theory credits is issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). It is a licence that allows pilots to fly commercial aircraft for hire or reward. This is the licence that you will get when you successfully finish the training in a flight school.



The CPL requires a minimum of 200 hours of flight time, including at least 70 hours of pilot-in-command time. The CPL also requires the successful completion of several theoretical exams, as well as skill tests.

The theoretical knowledge requirement consists of 13 different exams covering different subjects. You must pass all to obtain the licence.


These ATPL Theory exams are:


Air Law:

The air law exam covers topics such as international and national aviation regulations, laws and rules.

General Navigation:

Different maps, plotting great circles, measuring temperature, altitude, speed, etc.

Radio Navigation:

You will learn about the various radio navigation aids employed in daily operations when studying radio navigation.

Human Performance and Limitations:

You will learn important physiologic and psychologic human factors to execute a flight safely.


You will need to be familiar with communications with air traffic control. From general operating procedures, distress and urgency procedures to relevant weather information.


One of the most important parts of a pilot´s knowledge. Before every flight, you as the piloto in command need to check and decide if the flight will be safe to conduct and prepare for hazards that can occur. Meteorology includes the atmosphere and the consequences of different weather, cloud and atmospheric conditions on flight operations.

Operational Procedures:

Covers topics such as regulations and procedures, flight planning, flight monitoring, and flight management.

Flight Planning and Flight Monitoring:

You will learn the regulations and components necessary for plotting and executing a flight. This includes understanding the computations required for the flight, such as altitude, velocity, fuel consumption, and ground clearance.

Aircraft General Knowledge:

The aircraft technical exams cover topics such as airframe and powerplant, aircraft systems, and aircraft instruments.


Every instrument on an aircraft, how they work and the correct way to use them.

Mass and Balance:

You will discover how to compute the center of gravity of an aircraft to guarantee it stays within the accepted parameters during flight. This ATPL exam is relatively brief and requires knowledge of mathematics and the ability to interpret graphs.


Performance is a complex subject, requiring you to understand how an aircraft behaves in different phases of flight. You must be able to calculate take-off and landing data, as well as interpret graphs for all stages of flight.

Principles of Flight:

You will learn to comprehend the lift, drag, thrust, and weight forces that act on an aircraft during flight, as well as stability, aerodynamics and limitations. For this subject, it is necessary to have a strong understanding of mathematics.


You must pass all exams at an approved EASA training facility to obtain the EASA CPL with ATPL theory credits.


Holding a CPL, even when your ATPL is still frozen, allows you to:


– Act as Pilot in Command (PIC) or co-pilot of any aircraft engaged in operations other than commercial air transport; So, for example, you can rent a Cessna 172 and fly with your friends to Ibiza.

– Act as Pilot in Command (PIC) in commercial air transport of any single-pilot aircraft subject to the restrictions. You can immediately start to work professionally as a pilot in command in any aircraft that doesn´t need mandatory 2 or more pilots. For example, you can be hired by a private jet company to command a Cessna Citation. Also, you can work as a flight instructor if you do a FI course.

– Act as co-pilot in commercial air transport. This is the most wanted option. Any airline can hire you to be a second officer or first officer, you will only need to do the type rating of the aircraft you will fly. You will share all the piloting and duties with the captain, but you will be officially an airline pilot.

As we explained, the CPL with ATPL theory credits is a prestigious licence. Allows you to fly large commercial aircraft, such as the Airbus A320 or the Boeing 737. It is a challenging licence that requires dedication and hard work, but it is also incredibly rewarding for those who obtain it.


So, the big question is, how to unfreeze the ATPL Pilot Licence?


Very easy. After you start to work on an airline and complete 1500 flying hours, including 500 hours of multi-crew environment and be at least 21 years of age, your ATPL licence becomes Unfrozen. 

 When your ATPL is unfrozen, you can become a Captain in any aircraft, no matter how many passengers you carry or the weight of the aircraft.

The Airbus A320 FFS is part of the program to get your pilot licence.


In Europe, there are a variety of pilot licences available, ranging from basic recreational licences to professional licences for commercial and airline pilots. Each licence has its own set of requirements and rules. You need to understand the differences between them to make informed decisions about your career path.

At Quality Fly we are ready to explain to you all the details and how to become a commercial Pilot