So you have your Airline License? It’s also known as ATP or ATPL, airline transport pilot license. You now want to convert it into Canadian ATPL? First question is…. WHY? Hear me out. As of the moment when I’m writing this article in 2023, and at all times known to me in the past, Canadian Airlines only hire on pilot positions either Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada. So if your goal to quickly convert your foreign ATPL into Canadian (and it can be done relatively quickly) and apply for an airline job in Canada, you might be up for a bad surprise and wasting some money too. Just the license conversion will not even give you a study permit into Canada, as the duration of this training is less than six months. Can be less than one month really. (For all the immigration details, see the Immigration Canada website.) So if your goal is to move to Canada and continue working as a pilot, you might need to find some additional relevant training, e.g. Canadian Flight instructor rating. And then spend some time working on smaller aircraft than you are used to. Just one of the options. With that you might eventually with time obtain the permanent residency and go back to flying the airliners. If the above does not apply to you – for example, if you are a Canadian citizen who holds a foreign ATPL or you have a contract outside Canada to fly Canadian registered aircraft, then let me get into…. HOW?
- Canadian medical. This is the step number one, you need to obtain a category one pilot medical. See our page on the aviation medical for details. Book your doctor’s visit as soon as possible, because you will not walk out of the doctor’s office with the pilot medical. The doctor will send your paperwork to Transport Canada (TC), and TC will mail you your medical certificate. This process can take multiple months. There are Canadian aviation medical examiners around the world. Consider doing it before you come to Canada to avoid delays. You must have the category 1 medical in hand to be admitted to the exams.
- Written exams. SAMRA, SARON, INRAT. The SAMRA examination is on the Meteorology, Radio Aids to Navigation and Flight Planning. The duration is 3.5 hours, pass mark 70%. The SARON examination is on the Aviation Regulations and Air Traffic Procedures, Aeroplane Operations and General Navigation. The duration is 3.5 hours, pass mark 70%. The INRAT examination is on the Instrument Rating. The duration is 3 hours, pass mark 70%. The INRAT. The FAA ATP holders complete a simplified FAAIA exam, duration is 1 hour, pass mark 70%. You are not required to attend any courses to be admitted to these exams. Self-study or online study can be done even before you come to Canada. Bookings are all made with Transport Canada directly, with one of their offices. You do not require a letter of recommendation.
- If you had a PPC (pilot proficiency check) or an IPC (instrument proficiency check) within 12 months of your conversion application date, you will not need this step. Otherwise, you need to complete either PPC or IPC. Flight schools usually offer an IPC. It can be completed in either an actual aircraft, a certified flight simulator or flight training device. If your skills are reasonably fresh, it is possible to have it accomplished within a day or two.
- You need to complete the paperwork and actually apply for the license. Timeline is critical. Written exams are valid for 24 months. Flight tests (PPC, IPC) – for 12 months. Medicals – depending on your age. The date on your license application, which should be the date when you submitted the application to Transport Canada, is the determining factor. Even if TC takes longer to process your application, it will not affect your validity. Meaning, for example, if you apply 2 weeks before your written exam expires, and TC takes 4 weeks to process your application and issue your ATPL license, you will still get your license. But there is a catch! If your application gets rejected (for example, because of an expired medical), then you will need to submit a new application after renewing the medical. But at the time of that application your exam will have been expired – so you would need to re-do it also. So apply early and check paperwork thoroughly!