In Focus

What differentiates a CPL pilot from a PPL pilot?

“I actually feel like a qualified pilot now,” said a student that I recently congratulated for receiving his PPL. I chuckled and remembered using similar words when I was awarded my PPL. So, with that thought in mind, what exactly is the difference between a PPL holder and a CPL holder? I’m not talking about privileges and limitations, the seven CASA exams or the minimum aeronautical experience requirement. I’m talking about the slight change in mindset that is applied to planning and flying an aircraft. It’s a conversation that comes up regularly at work, so I figured it may be helpful to list some of these factors from a Flight Instructor’s perspective and how they can be applied. It’s also a productive topic for discussion.

Cockpit organisation

Regardless of whether or not an EFB is used, a commercial pilot will have an organised cockpit that is tidy and flows like a well-oiled machine. You won’t find papers, charts, lost pens, rulers and other navigation tools laying around sporadically (hopefully!). Imagine you were a passenger who knew nothing about flying – if you looked at your pilot and saw him franticly trying to find a pen on the floor among a sea of expired charts that have slipped out of his/her kneeboard, you may start to feel a little concerned. Irrespective of the situation, an organised cockpit frees up time and brain capacity for the pilot, which improves situational awareness and paves the way for efficient decision making.

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