One, the other or both ?

News Category : Student Help & Advice

News Tag : Student Help & Advice

11th, June 2022

UKCAA or EASA Post Brexit

Stefan Wagner

One, the other or both?

Anyone who has been within hearing range of an airfield, flying club, flight school or aviation-themed café has heard mention of it: EASA, UK CAA, nightmare. Next time you do, seize the opportunity to join in and vent your frustration in a safe environment to get yourself ready for the next step before returning to this brief confuser to help you figure out what to do where and how. 

Political background 

All of us who are “lazy slippers” and seldom bother to untie and re-tie their laces have arrived at the front door ready to go out only to find our favourite shoes tangled into a neat bundle. Indeed, anything which relies on being intertwined for a prolonged period of time will be difficult to separate. The United Kingdom’s (UK) extraction process from the European Union (EU) is no different and especially in aviation, an industry whose regulation has become centralised and standardised heavily across Europe, there has not been a shortage of challenges during the endeavour. Unlike other European countries which are not EU-member states, like Norway or Switzerland, the UK government made a decision to also part with EASA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, leave some European regulations behind and copy-and-paste a lot of other European regulations into UK national law – at least for now. 

The official extraction date was midnight between 31st December 2021 and 1st January 2022. As of that date, any automatic recognition of EASA licences, ratings, certificates, approvals, documents and other paperwork by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is restricted to certain exemptions for pre-existing, “grandmothered/grandfathered” items; in short, if something is issued outside the UK after that date, it will not be recognised for use in the UK by default. 

Leaving aside the increase in licence tourism between the UK and many EASA member states by already qualified pilots who flew in one jurisdiction using a licence from the other, this leaves a lot of us who have not started training wondering what we should do. After all, the decision on where to start PPL training is a decision for life. Isn’t it? 

Training considerations 

Well, no, not quite. To get into the age-old discussion of integrated versus modular training would bust the scope of this article and there is a lot of information available on what is ultimately a matter of personal preference and considerations of time and finance. You may also want to have a look at some of the airline programmes on offer before you start, some companies help finance your training and some are willing to make a commitment to you with part-sponsored training or a cadetship approach with either guaranteed employment or at least better employment prospects at the end.

For the purposes of “choosing a side”, we need to understand that integrated courses are faster-paced, more flight-school driven and often (part-)sponsored by the airline industry and therefore leave less wiggle room. This is where we have to put a strength on the pro-list of modular training because it allows for more customisation and a pick-and-mix approach which lends itself better to training towards both licences. Both, really? 

Practicalities 

First of all ensure that you have the right to live and work in an EU country which is often contingent on a job offer and sometimes you may not be eligible. If it is likely that you are not permitted to work in one or more EASA countries, getting a commercial licence there would cost a lot of extra money and make no sense. 

Without putting the cart before the horse, let’s start with three simple scenarios regarding your commercial career plans: 

1. I’m in the UK and here to stay, I can’t see myself moving abroad for work. Sorted, shop around, find yourself a training organisation in the UK to get a UK licence and read Lawrence’s article on how to do that methodically! Your first few jobs at least will be flying aircraft on the UK register (G-XXXX). 

2. First half of a chance, I’m outta here, the south and the sun are calling. Sorted, find yourself a flight school in Europe (in your case Southern Europe if it’s sun you’re after) to get an EASA licence and read Lawrence’s article too! You will not be allowed to fly a UK-registered aircraft. 

3. I’m in the UK and wouldn’t say no to a home base but if something comes up across the water … and what about Ireland, north and south? Okay, it can be done, stick the kettle on and we’ll look at the challenges together: 

  • It will take you slightly longer. 
  • It will cost you more. 
  • t will take some more research and self-organising. 
  • It will make you more familiar with the nitty gritty of regulations than the average pilot. 

All is not lost 

We have kept scenario 4 quiet: I’m in the UK and have a flight school nearby which would suit me to start my PPL (Private Pilot’s Licence) course. Tell you what, as long as you don’t insist on a zero-to-hero fully integrated programme, jump in there and do it, you won’t look back. The big decision now will be where you do your commercial courses (ATPL theory, instrument training, etc.) and generally a UK PPL will still give you access to most EASA countries for commercial training. The pre-entry requirement under EASA, as in most countries around the globe, is a PPL which is compliant with ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) standards and the UK Part-FCL PPL is in that category (unlike the UK national PPL or NPPL, beware!) and that should not change any time soon. 

So whatever your decision for your Part-FCL PPL course, remember that nothing is set in stone until you start training for a commercial licence. In many ways, there are benefits to having at least a PPL in the UK if you’re planning on holding a commercial EASA licence – like being able to fly around in your favourite Piper or Cessna when you’re home for a few days. 

Last but not least, there are good conversion options from a CPL (or PPL with a minimum amount of hours) in one country to a PPL in another without too many hoops to jump through. For fear of opening another can of worms, we will let conversion of existing licences be the focus of another article … 


About the Author:

Stefan Wagner

SkyLearner TKI
Based: Northern Ireland

Stefan is a qualified Commercial Pilot, Flight Instructor & SkyLearner TKI, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. With 10 years of aviation experience, Stefan has a passion for flight, training & aviation theory.