Europe prepares to shoot itself in the head, the USA in the foot

 European FTOs: threatened

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 If you think you’ve heard it all having read “European pilot training industry heads for paralysis”, actually you don’t know the half of it yet. Nobody does.

Europe is putting a significant proportion of its home-produced pilot training industry at risk by changing the rules about flight crew licensing (FCL), and also what is required of flight training organisations (FCL) and type rating training organisations (TRTO) to enable them to be approved as training providers. In addition, as currently framed, the notice of proposed amendment would put the US-based (and other foreign-based) FTOs used by European training organisations out of business, and it looks as if it may threaten about 40% of the business of big North American-owned TRTOs in Europe, like Alteon, FlightSafety International, and CAE.

I feel slightly sorry for the European Aviation Safety Agency, because all it wants to do is to convert the existing Joint Aviation Authority rules about European pilot licensing and approved pilot training organisations (JAR FCL) into EU law. The trouble is that the new regulations themselves have to follow a set of generic EU legal principles that are nothing to do with aviation. In other words, politics has intruded.

What politics? Well, ever since pilot licences in Europe ceased – almost a decade ago – to be different in each EU member state and the move was made to a single JAR FCL pilot licence, the European Commission has been looking enviously across the Pond at the US FAA system. US pilots have to be trained in America to FAA standards by FAA licensed instructors. To make that quite clear, FAA licences may not be gained by training at establishments outside America. It has the most inflexible training system in the world, and it is certainly not likely to go global or multinational any time soon.

Meanwhile at present, part of the flying that student pilots at almost all the larger European FTOs do is carried out in the USA, because it’s cheaper, and since the weather is more reliable it takes less time. This will stop under the proposed new rules because the US-based instructors – at present allowed to be FAA-licenced even if they train to a European syllabus - would be required to win EASA licences and ratings. From the point of view of individual instructors that is just not worth it, because they could not be guaranteed a permit to work in Europe, and they probably don’t want to anyway.

Europe has let it be known that if a European/US bilateral training agreement were to be signed, its proposed protectionist rules could be modified.

So let’s look at how likely that bilateral is, and how long it would take to get it. The USA is running up to a presidential election, and the FAA Administrator is a presidential appointee. So the FAA would not be in a position even to advance this proposal to a new administration for at least a year, and it has so many other priorities this is certainly going to be well down the list. If the proposal were ever to get that far, Congress would almost certainly see the bilateral proposal as having no merit.

The risk, for Europe, is that it will seriously harm its own pilot training industry and also damage multinational FTOs and TRTOs that serve the needs of European airlines and business aviation. And would America get the message in the process? Probably not, but if it were to, the damage would already have been done.

10 Responses to Europe prepares to shoot itself in the head, the USA in the foot

  1. ted welstead 11 July, 2008 at 11:05 am #

    As an ex Royal Air Force A2 QFI, BA Longhaul pilot and now an authorised CAA flight examiner and flight instructor I would like to comment. The only reason this training is carried out in the USA is because it is CHEAP providing a product that reflects the price. I find it hard to imagine that the beleagured European Flight Training industry would be unable to expand to cope with the forecast flying instructor shortage. This would be a shot in the arm for the industry at a time when flying schools are struggling to cope with rising fuel costs and closing. By the way lets have a level field with regard to fuel taxation as well. I had better keep my opinions on the quality of US trained pilots coming home to myself.

  2. David Learmount 11 July, 2008 at 12:02 pm #

    Ted, why keep your opinions to yourself? I suspect others might recognise what you have to say.

    On the more general points, although training is always about quality, it will also always be about cost, resources (instructors and airspace), and the availability of VMC in the early airborne stages.

  3. Peter Moxham 12 July, 2008 at 11:42 am #

    I cannot claim the long list of qualifications held by Ted but I do have a very long experience in the professional pilot training industry as well as, at one time, being Fight Operations director for a well established and respected Air Taxi operator and have worked on the JAA Licensing Committee and with EASA on its new proposals.

    Firstly I would make it clear that I strongly support EASA proposals for a common system for FCL matters across Europe – it was tried under JAA and failed due to national variations but now with the full force of law will hopefully succeed. This can only be to the advantage of better safety and flexibility for the pilots themselves as well as their employers. The NPA issued in June is out for consultation and it is up to those with responsibility for pilot training to study and make sensible comment in line with the responsibility of their profession. Failure to do so will leave them open to the charge of irresponsibility.

    Secondly I would make the point that there is no proven case that training in the United States of America actually produces a less safe pilot than training carried out in Europe. It is completely without foundation to suggest otherwise and I suggest that Ted could never provide any evidence to back his comments.

    He is correct to say cost is a factor, of course it is, but since Ted did not incur these costs, being trained by the Crown and his subsequent employers, his experience is not the way it is today. A budget of close to £100,000 is required to meet the costs of gaining a frozen ATPL. Anything that can keep these costs down should be applauded, providing that it does not lead to any lowering in standards. European Flight Training Organisations have been part training their students outside of Europe for many years yet the accident and incident rate goes down year on year. The training standards are approved by the national authority and have stood the test of time.

    The issues raised in the Flight article are however significant. The position expounded by EASA is not of their making, but are the making of the European Commission in its construction of the Basic Regulation which establishes EASA and is itself the law by which EASA is empowered. It is the interpretation of this Basic Regulation which the training industry wishes to challenge since this is neither based on experience or knowledge, but purely on national political matters. It should be pointed out that the EC Basic Regulation was never put to industry for consultation before being brought into law. Nobody in this industry agrees with the FAA stance on training approvals for FAA licences, but it is a fact that Europe shoots itself in the foot by its own proposals for Instructor licensing and qualification that causes the problem.

    If this is not challenged now then, by default, the proposals become binding law and this will have exactly the effects outlined in the article.

    Peter Moxham

  4. ecoangel 12 July, 2008 at 5:47 pm #

    The A2 QFI has a point. It is quite possible for both the EU and the USA to see the merit of international cross qualification of instructors to an ICAO standard. It may well take 5 to 10 years but I believe this is a step in the right direction if only to strengthen the case for EASA Instructors to be valued more highly.

    It is ironic that several of the signatories against the resolution have already shot themselves in the foot by farming out training abroad and de-valuing the Instructor Profession in the EU. The latter by telling youngsters they can jump from zero to hero in 250hrs of flight time.

    They sell students a £90-120k 2 year programme that can take them straight into the RHS of a 737 or A320. Sounds great until you see these students struggling in the credit crunch climate – a mortgage without a house to sell! This system has almost stopped airlines hiring experienced self improvers because low timers are much cheaper in the short term (ignoring additional Line Training Captain time).

    Compare this with the old UK CAA system back in the 1980s or the time honoured apprenticeship method valued by the FAA/USA Air crew: learn to fly, build hours, pass CPLs, become an Instructor, build experience, fly light twins in a commercial environment, progress to Turbo Props, move on to light jets (Commuter or GA), move on to Short Haul etc……

    The only ones I believe have a point with this protest are the likes of CAE and Flight Safety who actually operate and build Sims that can’t be found elsewehere in the EU.

  5. MP 14 July, 2008 at 1:22 am #

    “US pilots have to be trained in America to FAA standards by FAA licensed instructors.”

    That’s the normal way. Isn’t it?

    “To make that quite clear, FAA licences may not be gained by training at establishments outside America.”

    That’s normal too. Each country has it’s own Aviation Authority who has the power delegated to it to issue licenses and certificates, according to it’s standards. These standards are similar in almost every country who adheres to the framework of the ICAO.

    “It has the most inflexible training system in the world”

    Totally wrong. The US has a well established aviation envoronment that accomodates pilots on every level. It was created by them for them. Adding to that, the system is flexible enough to accomodate foreign pilots and trainees from anywhere in the world.

    The fact that some countries outsource their students and abuse the flexibility provided by failing to provide adequate instruction reflects badly on them. If you are flying in a given airpace overlying a country under one set of rules you should not “pretend” to be elsewhere.

    “and it is certainly not likely to go global or multinational any time soon.”

    No reason to. As you wrote: “the European Commission has been looking enviously across the Pond at the US FAA system.”

    As to the future of the EU legislation: of course the biggest training providers are crying wolf. They are about to loose they’re long standing monopoly. At last the smaller training outfits across Europe will stand on a level playing field.

    CAE, Flight Safety and Alteon will do just fine no matter what.

  6. David Learmount 14 July, 2008 at 4:44 pm #

    MP, I’m not arguing with what you say.

    I quote you: “CAE, Flight Safety and Alteon will do just fine no matter what.” They’re big, like the USA, so you’re right. But if this NPA goes through as is, their European arms will not like it. Believe me. Ask them.

  7. R 16 July, 2008 at 12:33 am #

    Has there been any lobbying by the European airline indsutry or the trade associations whose members are going to be hit hard by this all?

  8. David Learmount 16 July, 2008 at 2:02 pm #

    The rulemaking is still at the notice of proposed amendment stage, so it is still open for comment. As you will see from the linked story, the industry is not being slow to comment, but an NPA always gives an interesting glimpse at the way the regulators are thinking…

  9. Bill cline 12 September, 2008 at 7:15 pm #

    I would like to comment on the taxpayer paid RAF bigmouth at the begining of this forum.Whilst he likes to badmouth US training,He has forgotten who paid for his flight training.(the taxpayer did and I ,d like to know how much the taxpayer paid for that?)He
    obviously does,nt realise that most other commoners
    as ourselves had to beg borrow and steal to get enough money together in order to pay for flight training.I am currently flying for longhaul outfit on international ops.I don,t care where you come from
    or what kind of flying you,ve done .Unless you are currently flying it is difficult to stay sharp on instruments.This goes for both people that trained in Europe and people that trained in the United States.
    The US training system is baised on physical and mental apptitude of flying the aircraft and situational awareness.The US system also weighs heavily on the type rating oral where if a weak spot is identified the examineer will seize on it and then you,re finished.A far streach from writing a type rating test with only one right answer and no one to seize you on your weak points.The Jaa formerly CAA system leans more towards the complete understanding of flight theory technical subjects.I don,t believe you know what your talking about?Any monkey can fly an airplane from A -B with enough training “I know My own company is full of them”Did you know that they put monkeys into the first spaceships during the moon project 1965-1968 probably not.Becouse they were putting monkeys like you in the RAF,because you are the superior airman.You are pathetic.

    Bill Cline

  10. capt. 20 February, 2009 at 8:12 am #

    it’s all about politics of making business for European countries, because whether you train in the US or Europe the difference is like the difference between Coca Cola & Pepsi !

    Some European training centres train their cadets in Croatia, and other former East European countries ! talking of standards ?

    there is not much difference between Europe and the US when it come to clocking hours in the air on a single engine aircaft, but when it come to training on jet simulators , the US are not less superior in technology and training than Europe.