Making room for national terrain- or weather-driven differences in pan-European pilot licensing regulations at the leisure-flying end of the scale may not sound like much to ask for, but voices can already be heard warning that this will be difficult.

This issue is going live now because the European Aviation Safety Agency is taking over the flight crew licensing task from the Joint Aviation Authorities, so the days of being able to put a liberal local interpretation on JAR FCL, or of bolting on an additional national rating without external consultation, are numbered.

EASA is already warning that this could be "complicated". Since when has the fact that creating a regulation is "complicated" been a valid excuse for not embodying a fundamentally good idea into the new rules? The problem, apparently, is that some EU countries might not want to adopt the additional ratings that other countries offer as proof of skills increments.

For example, the Swiss - who are JAA, although not EU - have a rating for flying in mountainous terrain. The associated learning and training advances pilot skills beyond the levels needed for the basic private pilot's licence. It would be a pity if that were disallowed by EASA because the Netherlands did not want it.

Likewise, the UK offers what is known as the IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) rating, a practical acknowledgement that the British weather is so fickle that it is wise for pilots to acquire the skills to survive an inadvertent encounter with IMC. It confers few privileges and is in no way comparable to a full instrument rating. It would be a bit ironic if, say, Greece shot the IMC rating out of the sky because Mediterranean weather does not demand it.

Flight International has full confidence in EASA's handling of this issue, "complicated" though it may be. There must be ways of gaining all the advantages for safety and commonality that an EASA FCL system should bring without throwing away tried-and-tested systems for skilling leisure pilots appropriately to survive in their home-base environment.

In response to a letter from Flight International about the survival of the IMC rating in EASA's hands, MEP Timothy Kirkhope assured us that "we had a very productive meeting with transport commissioner Jacques Barrot, who says he was committed to retaining a flexible licence for light aviation pilots above the minimum standards". So that's all right, then. All we have to worry about is all the other 700-odd MEPs.

Source: Flight International