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Introduction to ATPL Theory

Charlotte Berrystone12 Jun 2018 Posted in: atpl training, ATPL exams, exam preparation, be a pilot

One of our most asked questions during our tour is "what exactly is ATPL Theory?"

Airline Transport Pilot Licence Theory (ATPL Theory) is one of the stages you undertake when completing your Integrated Flight Deck Programme. Both Option A and B contain this. You cannot obtain an ATPL licence without completing the ATPL theory. This is done by successfully passing 14 theoretical exams including Meteorology, Principles of Flight and Navigation.

Commercial pilot training consists of theoretical and aircraft flight instruction. Phases 1, 2, 3 and 4 are spent in various aircraft and simulators. They account for 43% of the total course time. The ATPL theory is spent in a classroom environment and accounts for the remainder. The ATPL theory is delivered in 6 consecutive months and requires a student’s focus and dedication to full-time study and revision.  Classroom hours of ATPL Theory is a total of 735 hours.


The ATPL theory is divided into 3 sections. The ATPL Theory stage is designed to teach you all the theory that is required in order to safely and professionally operate aircraft in a commercial environment. After every completed section the corresponding exams are taken at the CAA at Gatwick.

There are 14 subjects:

Section 1:

  • Meteorology
  • Aircraft General Knowledge covering; power-plants, systems and electrics
  • Air Law
  • IFR Communications
  • VFR Communications

Section 2:

  • Principles Of Flight
  • Instrumentation
  • Performance
  • Flight Planning

Section 3:

  • Operational Procedures
  • General Navigation
  • Radio Navigation
  • Human Performance and Limitations
  • Mass and Balance

If you are considering being a pilot or studying with us at FTA, why not test yourself with our FTA Pilot Assessments? We have teamed up with AirlinePrep to deliver two assessments so that you can gain an insight into the level of understanding required before commencing your flight training. The following assessments are 1. Mental Arithmetic and Numerical Reasoning Quiz and 2. Science and Aviation Knowledge Quiz. You can take the following assessments here.


Some find that the ATPL Theory is the most demanding part of the course, and we advise that students set their pace from the start, applying themselves conscientiously to their study. Our students have regular reviews with their instructors throughout the ATPL theory and support is offered through our Student Welfare team. The sequence of the course segments varies depending on the start date. The total duration of the course is approximately 14 months.

For more information on ATPL Theory, visit our school with a tour or get in touch. In addition, read our advice and tips for completing your ATPL Theory.

Good Luck!


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