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EASA ATPL theory 2020 Q&A

Your questions about the new EASA 2020 ATPL syllabus answered by aviation theory publisher Padpilot.

What are the main differences between the old and the new syllabi?

The Learning Objectives in the new syllabus are more up to date. A lot of unnecessary knowledge requirements are gone, and there’s more emphasis on new procedures and new technologies.

For example, details about the separation rules applied to aircraft by air traffic controllers have gone, making room for a more in-depth discussion of new avionics and new datalink communication procedures, and more about aircraft automation.

You no longer need to remember all the qualification criteria for a CPL or ATPL – EASA accepts that you can look it up in a book.

The new syllabus still refers to some obsolete technology, but it’s a lot clearer, more focused and more relevant to modern airline operations than the old one.

And of course, there is the new KSA100 area which aims to test a student’s attitude to training, not just his or her skills and knowledge.

When does the new syllabus come into effect?

The new syllabus is already in effect. Some pilot training academies in Sweden are already teaching it, and many more Approved Training Organisations (ATOs) will be starting soon.

There is going to be an overlap period where both syllabi will be examined, but – at the moment – the first exams for the new syllabus are scheduled to start this summer.

Individual ATOs can decide when they switch to teaching their cadets the new ATPL syllabus. Many are changing over soon, and some will delay until the autumn.

If you’re about to embark on pilot training, particularly if you’re a modular student, it may be worth checking with ATOs when they plan to move to the new syllabus as you don’t want to risk running out of time under the old syllabus.

How does the changeover affect trainee pilots studying the current syllabus?

Students currently studying ATPL theory with an ATO using the old syllabus don’t need to do anything differently and can continue on their current programme. The CAA recently extended the date for the final exam sitting under the old syllabus to June 2022.

Will trainee pilots studying the current syllabus have to update their knowledge?

Keeping your knowledge up to date is an essential part of being a professional pilot; the job involves a constant process of learning, testing and updating.

But for student pilots studying the old syllabus and sitting the old syllabus exams, you don’t need to update your ATPL theory knowledge in order to gain your licence.

If you’ve studied the old syllabus but plan to sit the new exams then, yes, you’ll need to fill in the gaps in your knowledge and be aware that some topics have moved from one subject area to another, meaning that there’ll be changes to what you see in the exams.

Which syllabus should students study now?

If you have the choice, we would advise studying the new syllabus. It is far more up to date and will better prepare you for a career in aviation. There is also nothing to fear by taking the new exams.

Although the online question banks won’t have captured all the new exam questions yet, by and large, the trivia has been removed.

Any good set of ATPL books addressing the new syllabus will prepare you for the updated exams questions. And, if you’re using time at home to begin studying ATPL theory yourself, then reading the new syllabus books means you don’t risk running out of time.