Commercial Pilot License

Build a career as a Professional Commercial Pilot.

A Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL) is for pilots that wish to make a career out of flying or earn money for piloting an aircraft. No pilot may act as pilot in command of a South African registered aircraft and receive remuneration or reward in any form unless he is the holder of a valid Commercial Pilot’s License (CPL) or an Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL). In South Africa it is compulsory for a person to have a PPL before applying for a CPL.

Educational Requirements

There are no educational requirements but the pilot in question must be the holder, or have been the holder, of a valid South African Private Pilot’s License in the previous 60 months to begin with CPL training. Always remember the required hours does not necessarily mean that you will be the first to be considered when applying for a job. The more you have to offer, the better your chances are!

Medical Requirements

A Class I Medical Certificate is required for a CPL. It differs from a Class II Medical Certificate in that it must be renewed every year. Older pilots must renew their medical certificates more often or submit six-monthly medical reports to keep their medical certificates valid. Do not be misled by the old air force standards of medical evaluation. The standards are not as high in General Aviation. For example, people with bad eyesight are allowed to fly with corrective eyeglasses and there are no height requirements. You may consult a certified Aviation Medical Examiner for an examination to check if you are fit to fly.

The CPL Syllabus

The CPL course consists of a well worked out syllabus consisting of 8 theoretical knowledge subjects and ±50 hours of flight lessons. It may also include a night- and instrument rating course. The night rating will allow you to pilot an aircraft at night time while the instrument rating allows you to pilot an aircraft in conditions where you don’t have visual reference to the ground (in bad visibility or above 19 000 feet). 100 hours of the required 150 hours can be flown as pilot in command without an instructor.

The 8 theoretical knowledge subjects are:

It should be noted that the content of these subjects are not the same as those in the PPL and ATPL syllabus.

A General Radio License course exam must also be passed. The CPL flight skills test must be undertaken within 36 months after the theoretical knowledge examinations were passed.

Hours Required

The table below explains the hours and flight time that you have to log before you can apply for a CPL:

PPL + Night Rating
60 Hours
Solo + Dual Hours
120 Hours
Instructors Rating
20 Hours
Total Flying Hours
200 Minimum Required Hours

Flight Simulator Hours are not compulsory and can be flown as Solo or Dual Instruction Hours.

Most flight schools don’t have set dates or hours that you need to attend. You can start whenever you like and continue at your own pace. Soon after your first flight lesson and Medical Examination has been passed you will be issued a Student Pilot’s Licence (SPL) that will allow you to fly solo (without anyone on board) for the duration of your training.


Most South African banks offer student loans for Commercial Pilot’s Licences. However, there are limits as to how much they loan. A CPL can cost as much as R 500 000. Taking out a loan of that amount will require a monthly payment of at least R 5 000! 

The entry level salary for most pilots is round about R 5 000 – R10 000 per month. You’ll have to plan very carefully if you decide to take out a student loan for flight training. The second option is to take out a second bond on your house. This will result in a lower monthly payment but will take much longer to pay off.

CPL Checklist

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