In this post we’ll answer the common question, what is a restricted ATP.
It’s been a decade since the FAA changed the rules and mandated that Part 121 copilots must hold the ATP certificate—what was known as the 1,500-hour rule.
This was a big change for the industry, where a Commercial certificate and 250 hours were previously good enough.
But, to stem the risk of a pilot shortage, the FAA created a Restricted ATP (R-ATP) license that some pilots could get with as little as 1,000 hours.
Even now, the rules surrounding this restricted license are misunderstood. Who is eligible for a R-ATP, and how do you get one? Here are the answers.
What’s the Difference Between the ATP and the Restricted ATP?
The basic difference between the ATP and the Restricted ATP is that the R-ATP is only good for serving as a copilot.
You cannot be the Pilot-in-Command (PIC) on a flight that requires an ATP PIC, which are those flights made under Parts 121, 135, or 91.1053 (Fractional Ownership Programs).
There are also differences in who is eligible for each one.
Requirements for an ATP Certificate
The rules have only changed slightly for the regular ATP—you still need a minimum of 1,500 hours total time and to be at least 23 years old.
In addition to these two big requirements, there are many other things like minimum PIC, cross-country, night, and IFR times that the pilot must possess to get the ATP.
Restricted ATP Requirements
The Restricted ATP, on the other hand, is a little more complicated.
- A valid Commercial Pilot Certificate and Instument Rating
- 21 years old
- Pass the ATP knowledge and practical exam
- Complete tan Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program (ATP CTP)
- 1,500 hours of total time and 200 hours cross country time (these hours may be lower as detailed below)
Only pilots who have graduated from an FAA-approved university aviation program and completed their flight training with their Part 141 school are eligible.
These programs are approved individually, so the only way to be sure what rules apply is to carefully read the school’s Letter of Authorization (LOA) issued under FAR Part 61.169.
Generally, a four-year bachelor’s degree graduate of an approved program is eligible for the Restricted ATP at 1,000 hours.
If it’s a two-year degree, the minimum time is 1,250 hours. But again, this depends entirely on the school’s curriculum.
Some four-year programs only have enough aviation credits to meet the 1,250-hour requirements. The only way to find out is by reading the school’s LOA.
In addition to being able to apply with lower hours, R-ATP applicants need only be 21 years old when they apply.
Once the holder of an R-ATP certificate reaches 1,500 hours total time and is 23 years old, they can apply for the regular, unrestricted ATP.
Who Is Eligible for the Restricted ATP?
The first step to getting the Restricted ATP is to be a student enrolled at an approved school. Here is a link to the FAA’s list of approved institutions.
This is important because there is a misconception that you can get the R-ATP with any bachelor’s or associate’s degree.
In fact, you must attend and graduate from an approved institution on this list and complete one of the specified degrees. You cannot complete an unrelated degree and still be eligible for the R-ATP.
Once you’re a student at the university, you must also complete your flight training with them.
Some schools have a Part 141 flight department, while others have agreements with separate companies to provide flight training.
Either way, you must follow the school’s LOA and complete the programs described.
The precise requirements for the Restricted ATP are outlined in FAR Part 61.160.
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Liz Brassaw is a first officer for a regional airline and the former Chief Pilot and Chief Flight Operations Officer for Thrust Flight. She holds an ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI, AMEL, ASES with over 2,500 hours of flight instruction given. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the Utah Valley University School of Aviation Sciences. She’s passionate about flying and enjoys instilling that love in the instructors on her team and the new students she trains.