The Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL) was adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in 2006 as as an amendment to Annex 1, Personnel Licensing. The details of the requirements for the licence are contained in Annex 1 and in the Procedures for Air Navigation Services - Training (PANS-TRG), Doc 9868t.
According to information on ICAO's website, "The MPL allows a pilot to exercise the privileges of a co-pilot in a commercial air transportation on multi-crew aeroplanes. It provides the aviation community with an opportunity to train pilots directly for co-pilot duties. ... The licence focuses on ab initio airline pilot training. MPL training and assessment will be competency-based and involve a multi-crew environment and threat and error management from the onset. It provides for greater use of flight simulation training devices and include mandatory upset training."
According to ICAO, all contracting States now recognise the MPL, even if they decide not to establish the MPL as a pilot license issued by their national aviation authorities.
According to the International Air Transport Association’s IATA MPL Course Tracker worksheet as of 1 December 2018, the tracked reports show 3,433 MPL graduates, 5,711 MPL students, 90 captain upgrades and 39 approved training organisation (ATO) programs for airlines. The tracker also shows a mix of fewer than 24 airlines and training organisations submit reports to the tracker.
ICAO survey data presented in 2014 show 26 States with MPLs in their national aviation regulations, and that 20 States had approved MPL programmes provided by an ATO. Among States that have adopted MPL into their regulations are Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Oman, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
The MPL remains controversial. Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in September 2019 said, “CASA is committed to the concepts underpinning the MPL and the need to find ways to evolve pilot training through the use of modern simulation technologies, better training practices and the further adoption of human factors and threat and error management.” While the Air Line Pilots Association, International, (ALPA) says on one of its websites, "For good reason, the MPL is not an available airline pilot training pathway in the United States, and ALPA opposes any effort for MPL to become a pathway.”
Competency Based Training
The MPL is designed to develop the abilities needed to fly multi-crew airline aeroplanes. Compared to traditional training pathways it makes greater use of simulators, adopts competency-based-training methods and further applies human factors and threat and error management in all phases of training. Traditional training methods emphasise independence and individual skills. While appropriate for single-pilot operations, they can impede the transfer to multi-crew operations. Pilots moving to work in airlines have needed bridging training.
MPL procedures put more emphasis on simulator training including the use of simulated air traffic control. Pilots will still be able to take the traditional pathway to qualifying to fly as co-pilot, progressing from the private pilot licence through the commercial licence to the air transport pilot licence.
To support MPL implementation, IATA has developed guidance material and best practices.
- “Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL),” Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia, September 6, 2019.
- “The Multi Crew Pilot Licence: Revolution, Evolution or Not Even a Solution? — A Review and Analysis of the Emergence, Current Situation and Future of the Multi-Crew Pilot Licence,” by Rickard Wikander and Dr. Nicklas Dahlström, School of Aviation, Lund University, May 16, 2014.