In the question How do non-US pilots get the hours necessary for an ATP?, the question was raised of whether we have 250 or 500 hour foreign pilots flying airliners into major U.S. airports. DeltaLima's answer mentioned the ICAO Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL), which

allows a pilot to exercise the privileges of a co-pilot in a commercial air transportation on multi-crew aeroplanes.

Of particular interest is the large gap in the minimum experience requirement between this license and an ATP license that would normally be required to fly an airliner in the U.S. While the FAA normally requires airline pilots to have at least 1,000 flight hours (or 1,500 if they don't have a degree in aviation,) the requirement for the ICAO MPL standard is much less. According to ICAO:

The ICAO Standard for the MPL specifies 240 hours as the minimum number of actual and simulated flight hours performing the functions of the pilot flying and the pilot non-flying.

While the U.S. has no such pilot certificate, what I'm wondering is:

  1. Is a pilot who receives an MPL from another country allowed by the FAA to fly an airliner on normal scheduled passenger service routes into major U.S. airports?
  2. If so, are there any further restrictions on doing so? For instance:

    • Can they fly a route subject to ETOPS regulations into the U.S.?
    • Can they fly a 777 into the U.S. or are they limited to smaller aircraft (e.g. turboprops and the like?)

What is required for a pilot to fly in another country? and I have a European EASA license - what do I need to do to be allowed to fly in the US? cover some general points about the certification requirements to fly an aircraft in a country other than the one where the pilot obtained their license, but they don't address issues specific to flying airline routes.

Interestingly, ICAO seems to suggest that pilots with an MPL would indeed be able to fly in the right seat of an airliner into any ICAO country:

International recognition of flight crew licenses

The Convention on International Civil Aviation, often called the Chicago Convention, provides for worldwide recognition of flight crew licences issued by any member State of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) provided that:

1.the licence meets or exceeds the ICAO licensing Standards of Annex 1 – Personnel Licensing to the Convention on International Civil Aviation; and

2.the licence is used on an aircraft which is registered in the State which has issued or validated the licence.

If the licence is to be used on an aircraft which is not registered in the issuing State, the licence holder must obtain a validation of the licence from the State of Registry or alternatively obtain a new licence issued by the State of Registry.

Can someone provide a reference to the FARs (or something of similar authority) or cite personal experience to confirm whether this is indeed allowed and, if so, what restrictions are placed on such operations?

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    $\begingroup$ an emergency is all it takes $\endgroup$ Jan 6, 2015 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ @ratchetfreak Well I suppose you could answer that to just about any question that starts with "Can a pilot...", but that's not really what I'm asking about here. I'm wondering whether someone with an MPL (according to the ICAO standard) could fly SIC on a regularly-scheduled airline flight into the U.S. (which has no such thing as an MPL,) not whether they could divert to the U.S. in an emergency situation. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Jan 6, 2015 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ The questions you linked to deal with operating aircraft registered in the destination country. While the ICAO rule you quote covers flying aircraft registered in your country. So those pilots can fly to and from US with aircraft registered in their countries, but not fly aircraft registered in the USA. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jan 8, 2015 at 10:33
  • $\begingroup$ If your license and registration are from the same country, then that country's licensing rules apply in any ICAO member state that you fly to, rather than those of the country you're in. It's only when you mix countries that things get weird. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    May 1, 2019 at 23:25

3 Answers 3


The MPL doesn't allow the holder to fly as Pilot-in-Command, although in a pinch he probably could do it. It's a basic ticket to allow a non-ATPL pilot to fly as a fully qualified crew-member of an aircraft that otherwise requires the full ATPL ticket. Elsewhere the pilot would likely be accumulating only solo experience, and he won't be much use when transitioning to a multi-crew airplane. The MPL only allows the holder to act as copilot, 2nd officer (flight engineer) or cruise pilot, not as PIC, on any flight including to the USA. Where it's used, the MPL holder will be granted his ATPL when he completes any additional regulatory requirements and has accumulated the required hours. The MPL pilot is entitled to fly in his aircraft as co-pilot from anywhere outside the USA into the USA, although not in a USA-registered aircraft. Some pilots start their MPL training after completing A PPL or CPL beforehand.

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    $\begingroup$ I thought MPLs do not have a CPL $\endgroup$
    – Radu094
    Jan 21, 2015 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, mostly they don't. A CPL is not required, but some MPLs start their training with a PPL or CPL in hand already. I edited my answer to make clear that MPLs don't always have a CPL (nor an Instrument Rating). $\endgroup$
    – RJ Burke
    Jan 23, 2015 at 22:32

Yes. Remarkable to think that the FAA permits the foreign-operated airplane off your wingtip on a simultaneous approach into JFK to have a MPL FO with as little as 258 hours (8 hours gained while on current flight) while the same FAA requires 1500 hours for the FO in your U.S. operated airplane of the same type.

Note the odd situation when your initial training is for multi-crew ops: Per ICAO, MPL is equivalent to CPL endorsed with an instrument rating and a type rating on a multi-crew aircraft. But ... an MPL pilot cannot generally fly a single pilot aeroplane without meeting additional requirements. (!) IDK what happens if the Captain becomes incapacitated during a flight with a MPL FO.

The Ethiopian 737 MAX that crashed March 2019 had a MPL FO with a total of 361 hours. He had 207 hours in type, all of them accrued within the 90 days prior to the accident but was certified to fly as a 737 FO 88 days prior to the accident. (?!)

The Final Report of the Lion Air 737 MAX crash investigation noted that in establishing the pilot type rating, training, checking and currency requirements for a new airplane, Boeing uses a group of pilots who have an operational flying background, and the group includes airline line pilots "to help ensure the requirements are operationally representative." The Safety Recommendation: "The FAA and OEMs should re-evaluate their assumptions for what constitutes an average flight crew’s basic skill and what level of systems knowledge a ‘properly trained average flight crew’ has when encountering failures."

My thoughts: The FAA should add to their intrepid Glossary of terms: Properly Trained Average Flight Crew — The lowest common denominator of pilot competency found in the worldwide pilot pool; used as the best case design standard for human factors.



§ 129.15 Flightcrew member certificates Each person acting as a flightcrew member must hold a certificate or license that shows the person's ability to perform duties in connection with the operation of the aircraft. The certificate or license must have been issued or rendered valid by:

(a) The State in which the aircraft is registered; or

(b) The State of the Operator, provided that the State of the Operator and the State of Registry have entered into an agreement under Article 83bis of the Convention on International Civil Aviation that covers the aircraft.


  • $\begingroup$ Many remarkable thing have come to light during the would be a farce if people had not died MAX cerification process. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Feb 8, 2020 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ A farce is a farce. The fact that people died and will continue to die if the cause—inadequate training, which is a clear and present danger—is not addressed and eliminated, makes the media’s interference in the investigative process criminal. The ICAO needs to analyze the decade+ worth of real life experience since the MPL was created and evaluate how it serves the flying public in contrast to the FAA’s 1500 hr restriction that was initiated at the same time. $\endgroup$
    – Pete P.
    Feb 18, 2020 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ I agree. It makes me wonder how planes get more an more complicated, yet at the same time there is a tendency to create licence categories that enable less and less trained people to fly these winged computers. Still, Boeing had a key role in the MAX catastrophy. They tried to avoid having to train pilots! Stupid, stupid, stupid. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Feb 18, 2020 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ @PeteP. Yeah, it's especially interesting to compare vs. the U.S. in that same period. On all U.S. air carriers put together (which represent a rather large percentage of all air scheduled air carrier operations worldwide,) there has been exactly 1 passenger death since 2009. And that was due to flying debris from an engine failure. The last passenger fatality due to pilot error was the Colgan crash in 2009 and the last one on a mainline airliner was the A300 crash in Queens in 2001, nearly 19 years ago. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Jul 30, 2020 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ @jpe61 Avoiding training i.e. designing for natural human behavior/capability is not a bad objective. Training often tries to overcome natural behavior/capacity but when the human brain is sufficiently fatigued or overstressed it tends to revert to a minimal effort mode, perhaps in self-protection. Then pilots recall the most easily recalled muscle memory and perform actions for airplane B while flying airplane A. That reversion point is unpredictable due to the number of factors involved and individual variances in response to each. The same type rating is not to save money but for safety. $\endgroup$
    – Pete P.
    Dec 16, 2023 at 14:29

A pilot with an MPL licence here. I've been flying in and out of the US for the past year with an MPL licence. In all fairness I've been flying around the rest of the world and amassed 2000hrs before I flew to the US for the first time.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome Maverick. Based on the other answer, what kind of flying? Were you PIC? Please provide answers with enough details. You can edit your post to add details. Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Aug 18, 2019 at 11:09

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