What are the differences between a CPL, MPL and ATPL?

There are three different professional pilot licences in Singapore. The are the Commercial Pilot Licence, Multi-Crew Pilot Licence and the …

There are three different professional pilot licences in Singapore. The are the Commercial Pilot Licence, Multi-Crew Pilot Licence and the Airline Transport Pilot Licence. Any of these three licences are required before you can work for an airline in Singapore. But what are the differences?

For the purpose of this article, we will only be comparing the professional pilot licences in Singapore; these licences are the CAAS MPL, CAAS CPL and CAAS ATPL.

CAAS Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL)

From the CAAS Website

The CAAS CPL entitles the holder of the licence to fly as the Pilot-In-Command of a single-crew aircraft or co-pilot of a multi-crew aircraft registered in Singapore for the purpose of public transport.
In layman’s term? If you have a CPL, you can become a First Officer in a charter or airline in Singapore. With a CAAS CPL, you are immediately employable by any of the Singapore registered charter or airlines.

But getting the CPL doesn’t end there. Before you can fly as a co-pilot or first officer, you need to be Type Rated. You need to undergo training on the particular aircraft, attain your Type Rating before you can exercise your role as a co-pilot or First Officer. This training could be sponsored by the company (SIA and Silkair), or self-paid (by employee i.e. at Tiger and Jetstar Asia), or subsidised (Scoot).

After getting the required pre-requisites (in terms of flying hours), you will be upgraded to a CAAS ATP.

While a job after getting your CAAS CPL isn’t guaranteed at least, you do have the option to work for any one of the (few) airlines in Singapore. This compared to the CAAS MPL holders that are only allowed to work for one particular company.

CAAS Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL)

Extracted from the CAAS Advisory Circular.

The MPL provide the aviation industry with an opportunity to train pilots directly for co-pilot duties in an airline operational environment.

The CAAS MPL is airline specific. What that means is, if you are a Scoot MPL holder, and you decide not to work for Scoot anymore, Tiger (or any other airline in Singapore) will not be able to recognise your MPL. Meaning, your MPL becomes worthless.

There are advantages though. Because your MPL training syllabus is airline specific and aircraft specific, at the end of the MPL, you should be extremely familiar with your hiring company’s SOPs. Also, you will be automatically type rated at the end of the course, saving you money for a separate type rating (like how the CPL holders need).

Since the MPL is so streamlined and so specific, it will cost less to get the MPL as compared to getting a CPL.

Similar to the CPL, after getting the required pre-requisites (in terms of flying hours), you will be upgraded to a CAAS ATP.

CAAS Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL)

From the CAAS Website

An Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) entitles the holder to the privileges of a Commercial Pilot Licence. In addition, the holder of an ATPL is also entitled to fly as PIC of a multi-crew aircraft registered in Singapore for the purpose of public transport and aerial work, for those aircraft types endorsed in the licence.

The CAAS ATPL allows you to fly as the PIC of a multi-crew aircraft. While the airline might not immediately put you up for command training, at least you know you are eligible in the eyes of the regulators.

For CAAS MPL and CPL holders, the pre-requisites for an upgrade to an ATPL is simply hours. In general, after flying for 2-3 years in a low-cost carrier, most MPL and CPL holders will have the prerequisites for an ATPL.

It is worthwhile to note that you do not need to be an Airline Captain to upgrade your CAAS MPL or CPL into a CAAS ATPL. There are many First Officers in the Airlines holding a CAAS ATPL but are still waiting in a long queue for the upgrade to Captain.

How do I get a CPL or MPL?

There are a few training schools in Singapore that provide training the attainment of the CAAS CPL and MPL, for both fresh out of school kids and mature mid-life career switchers. Read our article How do I become an Airline pilot in Singapore for more information!

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