New proposed rules about European flightcrew licensing threaten to throw much of the continent's pilot training industry into chaos, at the same time closing down associated flight training organisations in the USA and damaging US-owned flight training/type rating training organisations based in Europe.
A group of eight major European flight and type rate training organisations have jointly signed a letter to the European Aviation Safety Agency protesting about its current notice of proposed amendment to JAR flightcrew licensing, which would radically change many of the ground rules defining how a training organisation must conduct its business to be approved to train pilots for an EASA licence.
EASA's rulemaking has to comply with basic European Union law, and EASA interprets this as requiring that approved flight training organisations shall be based in Europe, will conduct most phases of training in Europe, and shall be owned by companies whose main base is in Europe.
At present most major European organisations rely on a significant part of their students' flying training taking place abroad, mainly in the USA, using instructors that have US Federal Aviation Administration licences even though they are training to an EASA/JAA syllabus.
The proposed rule would disallow instruction by pilots who do not hold at least the same level of European pilot's licence or rating for which they are preparing their students, plus an instructor's or examiner's rating.
At present instructors in the USA or training bases in other countries do not have to hold European licences if they are licensed as instructors in their own countries and are training the student pilots to a JAA-approved syllabus and testing regime.
A completely European alternative would have to be found, according to Peter Moxham of the European Council of General Aviation Support.
The training organisations that have written to EASA say there is no certainty that this could be achieved, let alone achieved in time for the rule's adoption in 2009 and implementation in 2012.
As EASA says: "When developing rules, the agency is bound to follow a structured process as required by Article 52(1) of the [EU] Basic Regulation."
EASA also notes that, since its original draft of the notice of proposed amendment, it has had to incorporate amendments voted by the European Parliament.
These have tended to strengthen the Europeanness of the requirements which, if adopted as proposed, would make the European flightcrew licensing requirements like an eastern Atlantic version of the FAA licensing rules: US pilots have to be trained by US schools in the USA by US instructors with FAA pilot licences.
The European flight training organisations' joint letter challenges EASA's interpretation of the EU Basic Regulation, and it cites the statement in the proposed amendment that EASA flightcrew licensing will be based closely upon the existing JAR rule, which allows transatlantic training.
The letter warns EASA of the consequences of adopting the proposed amendment as it stands. It says the consequences include:
- 224 instructors that now train JAR flightcrew licensing pilots outside Europe would be lost and could not be replaced within the EU
- 161,000-plus flying hours annually flown outside the EU would have to be undertaken within EU airspace, which is already saturated
- at least 500,000 additional take-off and landings annually would need to be accommodated at European airports and airfields
- this would result in a further shortfall of 1,250 professional pilots a year to the EU airline industry, when the demand for pilots is higher than it has ever been.