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EASA Licences: What the Brexit agreement means for UK-based pilots

LONDON – Brexit has brought a lot of extra baggage – including the need for commercial pilots to retake exams in order to still operate European-registered aircraft.

Although some agreements have stayed the same between the UK and the European Union, the agreement regarding licenses for UK-based pilots has drastically changed.

According to information published by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Christmas Eve last year saw the announcement that the European Commission reached an agreement with the United Kingdom that they will cease “taking part in the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and other EU institutions”, a week before the agreement took effect.

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Outlined on the EASA website, after Brexit, which took place back in January, “holders of Part-FCL (Flight Crew Licencing) license previously issued by the UK CAA but under EASA cannot be longer considered holders of a Part-FCL license issued in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011 subject to mutual recognition within the EASA Member States. Such licenses are considered as third-country licenses in the EU after that date.”

In simple terms, the licenses that UK- based pilots held for years are no longer recognized by EASA, so, therefore, cannot fly aircraft classified as EASA. Before the UK made the decision to leave the EU, UK-based Pilots could freely fly throughout Europe with their EASA-recognised license, with Part-FCL being the main piece of European legislation.

The CAA also stated on their commercial pilot info page that “to continue operating EU-registered aircraft, you may seek a license validation from any of the EASA Competent Authorities under the requirements of Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/723, which would be valid for aircraft registered in any EASA Member State.” Alternatively, they said conversion of Pilots’ UK licenses can be made.

As it stands, before UK Pilots can fly an EASA registered aircraft, they will have to re-take fourteen Airline Pilot Licence (ATPL) exams, an EASA ELP test, an EASA medical test, and a skills test.

However, these new rules do not apply for EU pilots flying UK-registered aircraft; EU Pilots holding EASA licenses, or those in process of being transferred before Brexit, will just need to obtain validation from the UK CAA, which can be valid for up to two years. After two years, they will then need to acquire a UK license.

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Aviation Source was able to speak with a UK pilot who is affected by the new EASA license rules:

“It’s like someone turning around and saying ‘you are not allowed to do your job anymore. You suddenly are not adequately trained to perform your job because we say so. This is surely unlawful – prohibiting persons from performing their jobs.

If you want to, you will need to be put through multiple exams which you’ve already taken and passed before. It’s unfair to us as a community and it’s unfair to the aviation industry”.

He added, “On top of Coronavirus and multiple pilots I know – friends of mine – already being made redundant last year, it’s an added struggle, pressure, and stress this year, especially as flights are starting to pick up again now.

There is currently a petition to ensure licenses can be converted without the need for all exams to be retaken, which can be found and signed here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/578133.

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