NOTICE: This post is intended to provide aspiring pilots with a fair and unbiased explanation as to the two differing types of aircrew licence available in the United Kingdom and other EASA territories. Having failed Virgin Atlantic selection I am now training for an ATPL with CTC Aviation as part of their Whitetail program. However, if I were to have been successful then I would have ended up training for an MPL. I want to make it clear that I hold no preference for one over the over and personally feel both have good standing. I hope you find this post informative.
Whilst both lead to the same end goal - the MPL with more guarantees than the other due to a conditional job offer - the ATPL and MPL are, in simple terms, licences permitting their holder to fly and assume commercial pilot responsibilities in aircraft with 9 or more seats. With that said, the ATPL can also permits you to fly smaller aircraft in the same apacity but considering the audience of this blog are typically individuals focussing on airline flying, I feel it's not really relevant to cover that here. If you're wondering what they stand for it's Airline Transport Pilot Licence and Multi-Crew Pilot Licence respectively, although I think one thing we can all agree on is that they're both quite a mouthful so from now on I will simply refer to them by their abbreviations of ATPL and MPL.
Throughout this post I describe what each licence type is, in order that you can begin to understand the key differences between them and identify which you feel is best for you.
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The ATPL licence has been around for a significant amount of time now and is the highest tier of licence a civilian pilot can hold. On completing the various stages of training to attain it, the holder is then deemed by the local aviation authority to be at a level of competency to fly an aircraft of 9 or more seats commercially. In the UK the typical licence route looks something like this (excluding individual components):
Cadets of Integrated ATPL courses such as CTC Aviation's Whitetail course will leave with the third licence on this list known as the Frozen ATPL, abbreviated to fATPL. The word Frozen means that whilst you have the requirements to fly an airliner you do not hold sufficient experience to justify a completely unrestricted licence.
Holding a frozen ATPL means you will have attained the following during training:
It is at this point which the two licence types vary significantly. Holding an fATPL means you can start applying for jobs with airlines and in the case of a CTC cadet you would be placed in to the hold pool. Once you secure yourself a role at an airline you would then continue training to achieve a Type Rating which would provide you with the required knowledge and experience to fly the aircraft assigned to you by your airline. For example, if you were to secure a place with easyJet you would train on the Airbus A320 family whereas Thomson could train you on either the Boeing 737 or 757.
Having achieved all of the above you would then be fulfilling your dream as a Second or First Officer (airline dependent) and be well on your way to command. Your frozen ATPL will become a fully-fledged ATPL on reaching 1500 hours with a mixture of pilot in command and pilot monitoring experience to be included. At a short haul airline like you could reach this point within a couple of years.
The MPL licence was created following the review of the way airline pilots are trained by the bodies responsible for governing global aviation and according to IATA is designed to replace the traditional, tiered, hour-building training of the former ATPL syllabus.
Whilst the ATPL licence by name is an Airline Transport Pilot Licence, the MPL focusses much more on airline operations from the very beginning of the in-aircraft phase and replaces many of the single-pilot elements of flight training with multi-crew operations and procedures the trainee would eventually follow. It is due to the heavy focus on 'the airline' that many airlines are now opting to use the MPL as their preferred entry in to the organisation with companies such as easyJet, Virgin Atlantic and FlyBe all opening their own courses with training providers such as CTC Aviation.
With thanks to the increasing accuracy of simulation environments, such as pictured, the MPL introduces cadets to their end-operating environment much sooner than the equivalent ATPL cadet who otherwise wouldn't see it until their Type Rating. This allows an MPL cadet to familiarise themselves with the standard operating procedures of their end-employer meaning that such a cadet would effectively join an airline 'line-ready'.
When compared to the ATPL, training can be delivered in a much more cost-effective manner meaning the average course cost is considerably less. For example, take the easyJet MPL which costs £109,000 all in, compared with the ATPL course with Type Rating reaching upwards of £120,000. Of course, the final cost of the ATPL course is totally dependent on whether an airline makes a contribution to the the type rating or not, as some do.
Unlike the ATPL which trains you for a commercial licence with additional training for ratings and certificates, the MPL is commonly split in to four distinct phases with all but one completed in the simulator, although this may well change depending on the airline behind the MPL program you look at. You'll notice phase one requires the completion of the ATPL Theoretical Exams just like the ATPL licence. See below:
Just like with the fATPL, you can convert this MPL licence to a full ATPL licence on reaching 1500 hours should you wish to.
As in the notice at the top of this site, I applied to an MPL myself but sadly didn't make the cut so took CTC Aviation up on their ATPL course. Nevertheless, i feel it's important you see what many believe the negatives of the MPL are in order that you be able to make your own mind up about the two differing licence types.