A Commercial Pilot Licence is a minimum requirement to work as a pilot.
You need to complete a course of flight training with a Part 141 or Part 142 flight training organisation. Depending on where you go and how often you can fly, you can do this in 150 or 200 hours (see our previous post about integrated vs non-integrated CPL training).
CPL training includes theory, basic general flying, as well as cross-country and instrument flying.
Things to know before you start
Age requirements: you need to be 15 to fly solo, and 16 to get a licence. You can start flight training before 15 but keep in mind it generally takes only 10-15 hours to get to solo standard. You will need to be 18 to get a CPL.
Medical requirements: you will need a valid medical to fly solo. To obtain a CPL, you will need a Class 1. It’s a good idea to get one before you start training, just to make sure you can.
More information about medical certificates here.
English language requirements: to fly solo and to sit your CPL flight test, you must be able to prove your ability to communicate in English.
More information on this here.
CPL exams and testing
Training towards a CPL is more than just flying.
There are a series of exams and flight tests that you will need to pass in order to get a CPL.
The first exams are for pre-solo and pre-area solo. These are short written exams that we conduct in-house to check your knowledge before sending you on solo flights at certain points in your training.
The next exam you will do is the RPL exam. You must pass this in order to complete an RPL flight test. While it is not a requirement to obtain an RPL before your CPL, we do highly recommend it. It’s a much shorter flight test, but gives you an idea what your flight tests are like – the prep work involved, process, etc. Having an RPL will also mean you can take passengers on some of your hour building flights. Much more fun than doing all those hours alone!
There are 7 CPL theory exams. You can study the theory yourself if you have a self-learning course or you can attend classes at a flight training organisation. If you are completing an integrated training course, the theory training is incorporated into the CPL training course.
The following are the CPL exam codes and their corresponding subject-parts:
CNAV – CPL Navigation (common to Aeroplane & Helicopter)
CMET – CPL Meteorology (common to Aeroplane & Helicopter)
CHUF – CPL Human Factors (common to Aeroplane & Helicopter)
CLWA – CPL Flight Rules & Air Law (Aeroplane)
CADA – CPL Aerodynamics (Aeroplane)
CSYA – CPL Aircraft General Knowledge (Aeroplane)
CFPA – CPL Operation, Performance & Flight Planning (Aeroplane)
Information about what materials can be taken into each exam here.
The theory exams must be completed within a two-year period to remain valid.
And the final step…
CPL flight test
Before you can do your CPL flight test, you must meet certain requirements.
You will need a pass mark for the 7 CPL subjects, as well as completing the relevant Knowledge Deficiency Reports.
You also need to meet the following flight experience requirements:
Flight time as pilot
Pilot in command flight time
Pilot in command cross-country
Dual instrument time
Dual instrument flight time
The CPL flight test will be at least 2.5 hours long. Before the flight, you must pass a ground component with the examiner.
TVSA recommends budgeting for 3.5 hours for the flying portion of the test.
Finding work once you have a CPL
You have several options once you have a CPL. Some include:
General Aviation – work doing things like survey, fire-spotting, scenic, and charter flights.
Networking is crucial for finding a job in Aviation. It’s important to make sure you maintain a good reputation, even during your training.
Flight Instructor – complete an Instructor Rating and find work teaching others to fly. See our previous post about becoming a flight instructor for more information about this pathway.
To open up more opportunities, you could add on ratings and endorsements. Two common ones are the Instrument and Multi-Engine Class Ratings. These can be done separately, or together in (for example) our AVI50519 Diploma of Aviation (Instrument Rating).
If you want to fly as pilot-in-command or co-pilot in a multi-crew operation, as well as holding the appropriate aircraft rating, you must have completed an approved course of training in multi-crew cooperation.
A CPL holder cannot be pilot-in-command of:
- an aircraft engaged in multi-crew charter or regular public transport (RPT)
- an aircraft certified for a single pilot with a MTOW of more than 5700kg in RPT
- a turbojet aircraft with MTOW greater than 3500kg in RPT.
You must hold the appropriate aircraft category on your CPL and the class or type rating for the aircraft you want to fly.
Flight Examiner Handbook:
TVSA Nationally Accredited Training: