David Learmount/LONDON

The US Federal Aviation Administration has performed a dramatic policy U-turn, allowing non-US schools to train pilots for an FAA licence. The policy change was prompted by the fear of an imminent ruling by the European Joint Aviation Authorities, which would curtail the use of US pilot training schools by student pilots aiming for a European licence.

Until the US Department of Transportation document stating the new FAA policy was released on 5 October, only schools located in the USA were allowed to train pilots for US airline pilot licences. The ruling was one of the main reasons why the European training industry had lobbied successfully for the draft Joint Aviation Requirements flight crew licensing (JAR FCL) to contain a clause requiring that any establishment training pilots for the European licence should have its "headquarters and main place of business" in a JAA country.

The final version of the draft, still containing that clause, will be presented for adoption by the JAR Committee next week, according to the JAA. With this in mind, the DoT/FAA released its ruling without formally consulting the US industry, quoting the JAR FCL deadline dates as a reason for haste. Senior officials in the UK pilot training industry say they believe consultation has, in fact, taken place in the form of lobbying by the US training industry, which has forced the FAA to act quickly.

The head of the JAA's flightcrew licensing department, Anke Mengelberg-Thissen, says she received a copy of the FAA ruling on 7 October and that she could not respond to its proposals in detail until she had had sufficient time to consider it.

The primary duty of the JAR Committee, however, is to put the JAR FCL into effect, explains Mengelberg-Thissen, because it has taken a great deal of harmonisation work among the JAA partners to get it to the adoption stage. Implementation is planned for 1 July, 1999. Mengelberg-Thissen will not confirm whether a wording change is possible before adoption, saying that discussion on the point continues, and that the FAA's action would be taken into account. She adds that "special arrangements" could be adopted at a later date.

A major motivation for change cited in the DoT/FAA ruling is FCL harmonisation, so that pilots could use the US qualifications as credits for gaining a JAA licence, and vice versa. The USA warns, though, that "-at this time there is no conversion arrangement between the FAA and the JAA and, if the JARFCL restrictive language is not removed, the harmonisation efforts under way may not produce [one]."

Source: Flight International