Leaving The European Union and EASA
On December 31st 2020, the United Kingdom officially left the European Union. The British Government agreed on a deal and the path was laid for a future relationship with our closest, and in many cases, largest trading partner.
Aviation, like many industries, was significantly impacted by the Brexit deal and at the time of writing (January 2021), the process of Flight Crew Licencing (FCL) continues to be worked upon. This short paper is designed to share current understandings.
The UK-EU trade deal, announced December 24th 2020, includes agreements on air transport and aviation safety which came into effect at 23:00 GMT on 31st December 2020 when the UK ceased to take part in the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and other EU institutions.
While the agreements involve some elements of continuity, they do not constitute a replication of the UK’s regulatory arrangements as part of the EASA/EU framework and many sections of the aviation and aerospace industries are faced with changes after December 31st.
The largest challenge with the understanding and processing of FCL is the differences that exist between the various National Aviation Authorities (NAA). Therefore each pilot situation is almost unique and by definition requires an individual action and direction.
A Common Example
“I am a pilot with a UK issued EASA licence wishing to apply for jobs with aircraft registered in the UK and the EU, how do I comply with the new regulations?”
The key point here is under the terms of the agreement, you CANNOT fly an EU registered aircraft with a UK Issued EASA licence.
You must select an EU member state to apply to, follow their process and exchange your UK issued licence for that member states’ issued licence. The process is called a State Of Licence Issue (SOLI) Transfer. Once issued, this will allow you to work on EU registered aircraft.
The SOLI process is form intensive and requires three stages: firstly you must request to transfer your licence from your current authority. Secondly, submit a similar request for your medical records to be transferred and finally your chosen EU NAA must submit a request to the CAA to become your new NAA. You will then have to apply for a CAA issued UK National Licence to supplement the one you have just received from the EU.
This process has not been detailed by the UK CAA yet and they have indicated that the earliest this option will be available is April 2021. This will ultimately mean you have two licences and unfortunately, two sets of requirements to meet for Licence Proficiency Checks (LPC) and Class1 Medicals. This may well mean you will have to complete two LPCs and medicals for example. One for each licence is required. It is hoped there will be a reciprocal agreement but currently, nothing has been agreed.
The UK CAA will acknowledge EASA issued FCL to operate UK registered aircraft, but the reciprocal is not true – hence the 4Q2020 rush towards SOLI. A validation form is available on the CAA website, and a process for receiving a UK Part FCL will be available from 1st April, 2021-although there is no detail available yet as to the actual process and cost.
SOLI costs, requirements and timelines vary depending on EU NAA as does the process, so take extra care when selecting your NAA. Particularly when in many cases the process may have had to be initiated before December 31st 2020 to receive full acknowledgement of your existing qualifications – ground school results, Instrument Rating, Type Ratings, Type Rating Instructor and Examiner qualifications.
What will my licence look like?
Any licence and or certificate issued by the UK CAA after 31st December 2020 will not include references to the EU and EASA but those issued prior to that date stating EU and EASA within them will continue to be legally valid for the operation of UK registered aircraft.
The medical process will also see changes and any Class 1 medical certificates issued after January 1st 2021 by CAA approved AME’s will not be valid for EU pilots licences. However, were they issued a week before by the same AME, they would be valid because the UK was still part of the EU and therefore EU regulatory framework.
UK validation of a Third Country Licence
Following withdrawal from the EU, the UK validation of a third country licence will now only apply to operating UK registered aircraft. As a third country licence holder, you will require a separate validation from an EASA state NAA to operate EU registered aircraft. Likewise, EASA validation of a third country licence will require separate validation by the UK CAA to operate UK registered aircraft.
Airline Training Organisations (ATO)
UK based ATO’s are in a challenging position with the uncertainty of recognition of Part – FCL ground school exams and flight training. The current CAA guidelines advise if your exams have concluded before January 1st 2021 the UK CAA will support planning to transfer your licence, but it is dependent on the receiving NAA and their processes as to whether or not they will accept them. If nearing the final stages of your training, then unfortunately, your chosen EU NAA must be carefully selected to ensure full recognition of your training.
From experience, the process was handled both professionally and promptly by the UK CAA and the receiving EASA NAA selected – despite the volume of applications and the pandemic restrictions. There is a clear working together from all authorities and although the final piece of the puzzle is not yet in place for those who have SOLI transferred out from the UK to another EU registered NAA and are subsequently seeking a UK national licence (April 2021), the framework for validation is in place.
There is still much to be agreed between EASA and the CAA and one can expect to see further developments over licensing and reciprocal recognition over the next few months. We will keep you advised of developments as and when they become available.