Commercial Aviation consists of many branches, the most obvious being Airlines A.K.A Scheduled Passenger and Chartered, also Cargo Operations are growing. Other branches include Aerial mapping, Aerial Advertising, Agricultural Aviation, Emergency Medical Technicians, Fire Suppression, Heavy Lift and Recreational (fantasy flights).
The only way you can make flying a living is by obtaining a commercial pilot license (CPL). Best compared to a commercial driving license the CPL gives you the privileges of flying for compensation or hire. This covers everything from flight instruction and crop dusting to piloting large airliners.
Before you start training for the CPL you need to hold at least a private pilot license (PPL). You do not require a PPL licence before obtaining a CPL. An instrument rating is recomended because without it, certain restrictions apply to your commercial pilots licence.
Commercial Pilot License in the United States (FAA) There are two ways of obtaining the commercial pilot license in the United States; through a certified instructor or through a certified flight school (part 141).
If you choose to fly with a freelance instructor in a flight club you need at least 250 hours of total flight time. These are broken down in cross country hours, pilot in command time etc. Most commercial pilots in the United States have close to or over 250 hours when they get the CPL.
Flying with a part 141 flight school the hour requirements are a little less. However you have to do your training from scratch (private pilot license) in a part 141 program. This way you can obtain the CPL at a minimum of 190 hours total time. It is also a requirement that you have completed the instrument rating (IR), or currently enrolled in an instrument rating (IR) course.
Commercial Pilot License in Europe (JAA) The training for the commercial pilot license in Europe is slightly different then in the United States. Many flight schools do your instrument rating (IR) and multi engine class (ME) combined with the commercial training. This way you only do one “check ride” (flight exam) and obtain the multi engine class and instrument rating (IR) on the commercial pilot license right away.
Depending on the flight school’s program you do a total of 130 hours flight time before you get the CPL. As most students aiming for a commercial license in Europe are career oriented they usually follow a scratch to CPL program and can therefore get away with less flight hours.
Airline Transport Pilots
This is the highest certificate you can get as a pilot and is required to act as the pilot in command (PIC) [captain] of a multi crew aircraft. Both in Europe and United States you have to be at least 23 years of age and have at least 1,500 hours of total flight time before obtaining an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP).
In the United States (FAA) it is common to fly as a commercial pilot (flight instructor, first officer, etc.) until you have the needed hours for then to do the written exam followed by a check ride (flight exam). As airlines usually hire you for one day to be a captain with the company some require you hold the ATP to get a job even though you fly as a first officer. This of course varies depending on the market situation.
In Europe (JAA) most flight students do all the theory right away and get a “frozen” ATP. The final exam consists of 14 topics and takes from six months to a year to get through. As everything is taken as one exam it is very common to fail one or two topics. You then redo the topics failed.
A “frozen” ATP just indicate you have done all the theory but don’t have the required flight experience to get a full ATP. Ones the company upgrades you to Captain, the ATP is issued combined with the pilot in command type rating for the aircraft to be flown.
Title 14 CFR part 61 prescribes the requirements for pilot certificate for those of commercial, recreation and general aviation purposes. It also prescribes the requirement for issuing of flight instructor certificates.
For the purposes of privilege, no person may act as a certified pilot or instructor if their certificate is suspended or revoked.