Pilot licenses caught in post-Brexit limbo

Following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (EU), some continuity has been achieved due to agreements between the two sides. However, the agreements have not covered everything. One of the subjects is pilot licensing and now a UK-based pilot group is calling for a reciprocal agreement between the UK and EU over the transfer of flight crew licenses.

Outlined in a petition, affected pilots want to ensure that flight crews would not have to “convert their licenses by retaking all fourteen Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) exams in a European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) state, skills tests, an EASA ELP test and class 1 EASA medical,” reads the petition.

You can find and sign the petition right here: petition.parliament.uk/petitions/578133

“The aviation industry has been brought to its knees by the pandemic, having a significant effect on pilots’ mental health and wellbeing. Now, pilots who wish to transfer their licenses to Europe are facing the prospect of having to re-sit exams, adding severe pressure and huge expense at an already very stressful time.” 

According to the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s UK-EU transition page, while UK-issued license holders would be able to operate UK-registered aircraft, they would not be able to operate EU-registered aircraft. “To continue operating EU-registered aircraft, you may seek a license validation from any of the EASA Competent Authorities, which would be valid for aircraft registered in any EASA Member State,” reads the page. The other option would be to transfer one’s pilot license to a National Aviation Authority (NAA) within the EU.

However, if a pilot with an EU-based license wants to operate a UK-based aircraft, they will have to obtain validation from the British aviation authority. If a pilot’s license was obtained or was in the process of being transferred prior to Brexit, validation could be obtained for up to two years. After the two-year period, they would have to obtain a UK-based license to operate UK-registered aircraft.

“Many in the pilot community have been made redundant or face redundancy due to the pandemic and are now facing the prospect of their licenses not being recognized by EASA and having to re-do all 14 exams, IR, ELP and initial medical again in order to hold the same EASA license that they held before Brexit,” one pilot, affected by the matter, told AeroTime News under the condition of anonymity.

According to the CAA’s Brexit transition informational page, if an EASA-based pilot’s license was issued post-Brexit, the pilot is “required to complete training as recommended by a UK ATO, complete all theory exams and a skill test with a UK examiner and to gain a UK medical certificate appropriate to that license.”

“There are currently some limited ameliorations to these requirements in that recognition will be given to any theoretical exams taken in the EASA system prior to December 31, 2020, flight training conducted at an EASA ATO prior to December 31, 2022, and skill tests conducted by EASA examiners during this period,” further read the CAA’s page.

“This is placing tremendous stress and expense on pilots who are in this situation,” the pilot added.


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