ATPL (A) Information For Student Pilots




To become an airline pilot, or any type of commercial pilot, trainee pilots must pass the theoretical knowledge exams for a Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL) or Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL). This classroom phase of pilot training is known as ‘ATPL theory’, or ‘ATPL ground school’.

This theory is the academic foundation of your career, so it’s essential to understand it. Airlines recruit pilots whom they believe will fit it to their organisation well, and will easily complete all phases of training. They look for pilots who can demonstrate an intelligent approach to flight operations and have the depth of knowledge needed to navigate unexpected challenges.


As well as psychometric tests and a general interview, airlines want to gather evidence that you have a good grasp of ATPL theory. The first step is a set of good exam passes. But that’s not all. They’ll also subject you to a rigorous technical interview. The purpose of this interview is to see whether you truly understand your professional knowledge or are only able to repeat what you’ve learned by rote. If you don’t impress at the technical interview, your interviewer will suspect that you won’t be able to learn at the rapid pace demanded by type rating training and line training.

The Padpilot approach to ground school is designed with your airline career in mind. We don’t just guide you through the knowledge required to pass the exams. We also prepare you for the next hurdles on the path to a pilot career.

Those who show deep understanding and large stores of professional knowledge are the ones who will find piloting jobs in these very difficult times.


Whether you’re training to become a pilot through the modular or integrated route, ground school must be completed with an Approved Training Organisation (ATO). 

In integrated programmes, ATOs usually put you through the ground school phase before you begin flight training. In modular pilot training, ATPL ground school comes after you’ve gained a basic Private Pilot Licence (PPL).

Studying for your ATPL theory exams before you’ve gained substantial flying experience isn’t ideal. Many of the topics you’ll encounter will be unfamiliar, and you’ll struggle to understand their significance or relevance. As a result, students often underestimate the importance of what they are being asked to learn.

To help you overcome this difficulty, Padpilot’s books introduce every topic by starting at the absolute basics. We then build on this knowledge with practical examples, showing how and when the knowledge or skill is applied.

This is a very different approach from some other theory providers who often list facts in short, concise ‘manuals’ and expect you to just grasp their significance. This might get you through the ATPL exams but it’s no help to you in becoming a professional line pilot.

If you learn the theory by rote, you’ll struggle with your airline interviews and you’ll struggle with airline type training. Line operations will become a very steep learning curve as you try to absorb all the new operational knowledge that you either forgot – or didn’t understand – or even cover during ground school.

Padpilot books give you the tools and the knowledge to achieve ATPL exam success and build a solid academic foundation for your flying career. They go beyond basic theory to give you the airline-focused professional knowledge you’ll need to be a professional pilot.

Padpilot’s ATPL(A) Course


Padpilot theory books are carefully laid-out to make reading easier and to simplify the process of laying down deep stores of knowledge.

We write short, simple sentences to make it easier for students whose first language isn’t English. We standardise our expressions and abbreviations so that you don’t have to keep learning new ones. We break up our texts into short paragraphs and always work methodically from simple or known knowledge to the more complex.

This style of writing is difficult for us to demonstrate on a website and yet it takes up most of our development effort. We’re constantly reviewing our explanations and English to see if we can phrase things more simply and more clearly.

You’ll often see student feedback on our social media channels saying how easy it is to read and understand Padpilot’s books.


Wherever it’s important, we supplement the main body of text with call-outs in the page margins. Their purpose is to demonstrate the significance and importance of what you’re studying. For example:

  • Insights. Insights provide you with little snippets of knowledge which add interesting facts, connect a knowledge item to some other part of the syllabus or explicitly explain how a piece of knowledge applies to the aviation world.
  • Case studies. Fatal and non-fatal case studies describe accidents whose causes relate directly to the topic being discussed. Learning from others’ mistakes is an essential part of becoming a well-rounded pilot.
  • Threat and Error Management (TEM). Throughout our books you’ll see TEM flags, indicating common threats or errors associated with the topic being discussed. These help to alert you to the practical problems that this piece of theoretical knowledge is trying to address.
Examples of case study call-outs on the left and threat and error management flags on the right

We help you to engage with the material and understand it better by making some of it interactive. Interactive items include videos and 3D models which you can explore and manipulate. All these interactive features bring ATPL theory off the page, and into life.

Many of our interactive models are also VR/AR ready

Interactive content isn’t a gimmick. We’re increasing adding models which you can interact with, explore and learn without reading text. Learning by doing rather than reading.


All our digital books include the most important study tools, such as the ability to highlight text, take notes, and turn these notes into study cards.


We illustrate our books lavishly and extensively. This isn’t just to make them look good. Extensive illustration is a key educational tool.

Many people are visual learners who learn more quickly and easily by studying images rather than reading large amounts of text. Even if you are not a visual learner, well illustrated books have another advantage. Graphics associated with explanations provide another pathway for laying down long-term memory. You’ll find it easier to recall essential facts when you can recall the image that went with them.


To be 100% compliant with the EASA syllabus, we must include sufficient detail to address every single learning objective. This we do.

But the EASA ATPL syllabus is far from perfect. It includes knowledge requirements for technologies and procedures that are obsolescent or obsolete and it fails to include knowledge items on new and emerging technologies or procedures which you really must know about.

Consequently, our authors and editors finely calibrate the content to make sure that you devote the most time to the things which will be most important to you in your career.

Topics which are necessary only for exam-passing are dealt with as quickly as possible and in the minimum depth needed. Other topics are covered in much greater depth. Missing but essential topics are included to give you the complete picture. In our second edition books we colour code each section in the books accordingly.


In our second edition books every chapter is structured in the same way.

The body of the chapter contains all you need to know to pass the exams plus the additional knowledge you need to be a competent pilot.

Then, starting from the chapter summary, we switch emphasis to exam-passing mode. Each chapter ends with a summary which addresses knowledge or skill requirements for each EASA exam learning objective covered in that chapter. The summaries don’t summarise any other additional knowledge covered in the chapter.

Finally, an electronic end-of-chapter quiz tests your knowledge of the points covered in the chapter summary so that you can be sure that you’ve absorbed all the essential points necessary to pass the exam.

This is the future of e-learning. It’s a radically different approach from the traditional publishers who still follow the outdated methodologies associated with printed volumes.

ATPL Editions

Our ATPL (A) theory books are available the Apple Bookstore as two different editions:

  • The original 1st Edition for the old/current theoretical knowledge syllabus which expires in June 2022.
  • The new 2nd Edition for the new EASA 2020 first examined in August 2020. The second editions are enhanced with updated content and new features.

At the moment, many ATOs are still teaching the old syllabus, so it’s vitally important to download the correct edition to match your training course. However, if you are buying books to supplement those given to you by your ATO, then we strongly recommend that you choose the second editions.

Regardless of which edition you choose, the ATPL course is covered in a series of 16 volumes:

  • Air Law
  • Aircraft General Knowledge: Electrics
  • Aircraft General Knowledge: Engines
  • Aircraft General Knowledge: Airframes and Systems
  • Basic Instrumentation
  • Advanced Instrumentation
  • Mass and Balance
  • Flight Planning and Monitoring
  • Human Performance and Limitations
  • Meteorology
  • General Navigation
  • Radio Navigation
  • Operational Procedures
  • Principles of Flight
  • Communications (IFR and VFR)
  • Aeroplane Performance