As we all know, the past year has been very challenging for our aviation community. It’s no secret the impact of Covid has meant many pilots have faced job losses, lack of flying, and a great deal of uncertainty about a potential return to the skies.
Many airlines have understandably stopped, or frozen recruitment thus reducing the chances of re-gaining employment in the short term. To add to the challenging situation, UK pilots are also facing issues regarding licencing transfer requirements because of Brexit.
One of our Resilient Pilot Mentors has experienced these challenges first-hand, due to being made redundant by their former employer. After losing their job, they wanted to transfer their UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Flying Crew Licence (FCL) to a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) FCL to look for recruitment opportunities in Europe. We are sure our mentor is not alone in this endeavour!
Some Pilots, including our mentor, did not transfer to EASA during the ‘transfer window’ ending on the 31 December 2020. This was due to already having a job or believing that a fair and mutually reciprocal agreement would have been reached between the UK and EU. Since this deadline has passed, the process has become far more difficult.
This series of blogs aims to showcase, from a Pilot’s perspective, the route of trying to obtain an EASA licence post Brexit and the hurdles faced along the way.
Please understand this is a personal case study of updates and by no means a method to be quoted for obtaining an EASA licence. It is written simply to raise awareness of potential steps to take, which needs to be supplemented with your own research.
A bit of background…
Having missed the transfer deadline due to personal circumstances, when our mentor started to pursue the option of gaining an EASA licence post Brexit, they were faced with a harsh reality; They would have re-do all 14 Airline Transport Pilot Licence Examinations, Skills test, English Language Proficiency Test and EASA Class One Medical due to no mutual agreements as part of Brexit negotiations.
This process, and huge financial output of doing so was a hugely worrying thought, especially since before the deadline the UK licence was equally recognised in Europe and follows the same training syllabus.
Step one in our mentors’ journey to gaining an EASA licence was to raise awareness of the difficult situation UK Pilots found themselves in, thus a petition was launched. The petition appeals to the UK government for reciprocal and fair mutual agreement on the transfer of FCLs between the CAA and EASA – without the need to repeat exams. It is still open until 26th September and can be signed here:petition.parliament.uk/petitions/578133.
Launching a UK petition was a positive step. However, there needed to be recognition from the EU also about the importance of a mutual agreement, hence a separate EU petition was also created. This petition was advised to be ‘admissible’ but, unfortunately, is currently closed. More to follow on that in the next update…
So, no transfer, but what about a conversion?
With the realisation that an agreement of a transfer deal was not on the cards imminently, our mentor decided to research the process of a licence ‘conversion’ by contacting individual EASA states to discuss their requirements.
A dual citizen, with a right to live and work in the EU, our mentor first decided to contact the Irish Authority. In an email response, the IAA licencing department declared the suspected truth that a ‘simple’ transfer was no longer possible and the only option to convert meant:
Redoing 14 ATPL exams
EASA ELP test
Class 1 EASA medical
The email was signed off: “Your exams were EASA before 31/12/2020, but unfortunately down to the EU Commission, EASA and the UK Government, this is the deal that they came up with and they are no longer classified EASA exams” and hence the thought of obtaining an EASA licence now seemed to be getting further away.
Where to go from here?
Determined to find a solution, our mentor decided to contact a different EASA state to understand their individual rules, namely Austro control. Thankfully these discussions were more positive…
Over the phone Austro confirmed our mentor would not have to retake all 14 ATPL examinations, and his current (UK) examinations could be accepted if they were completed within the last 7 years, and they possessed a current IFR (instrument rating). For clarity, our mentor holds an unfrozen ATPL with over 1500 hours.
This was great news, yet our mentor also wanted confirmation to be able to hold both an EASA and UK licence simultaneously, and finally when undertaking his upcoming aircraft revalidation that this would also satisfy the requirements of an EASA ‘Skills Test’. The phone conversations were positive with the Authority confirming these three requirements would be met if an EASA examiner was present for the Skills Test assessment. Our mentor is now waiting for this confirmation in writing.
Our mentor has, therefore, decided to undertake the process to ‘convert’ to an EASA licence and this blog series will follow that journey….
The next step for our mentor is to complete their aircraft revalidation in Austria, with the hope (mentioned above) this will also classify as an EASA skills test. Whilst this is a positive move, it has not been a decision taken lightly by our mentor, due to the many requirements they must still fulfil, and the large associated cost output:
Initial EASA class 1 medical: £750
Verification letter from the UK CAA: £46
ELP and RT test: £150
4-hour simulator rental in Austria: £1300 (Only Dash 8 Q400 Simulators available)
Cost of EASA Examiner
Flights, accommodation and covid tests to fly to Austria
Licence processing fee
In an ideal world…
The ideal scenario would be for a transfer agreement to be reached where UK and EASA licences are equally recognised and, therefore, no need for this expense. You can still help to achieve this through signing the petition. This agreement is important for current EASA licence holders too, as the current agreement to recognise EASA licences in the UK is only valid for 2 years: the clock is ticking with 17 months now remaining; or when you complete your first revalidation and,therefore, for an LPC this timeframe will be less.
Until the next update please reach out to Resilient Pilot to support you through these difficult times. We offer free mentoring; licencing solutions through our FlightPlan services; a free Resource Hub to maintain your pilot competencies; monthly Competency Development Scenario 1:1 workshops as well as monthly technical and non-technical workshops; and regular online events to keep you connected with the industry. Click here to find out more.
Petition link: petition.parliament.uk/petitions/578133.