We hear from an anonymous UK pilot made redundant in the pandemic about further stress caused by the loss of mutual licensing recognition after Brexit – and how to find support.
The past year or more has been very challenging for the aviation community. Being a pilot, I was made redundant by my former employer, and losing my dream job was a heartbreaking blow.
While dealing with the impact of the Covid-19-driven downturn, many airlines have understandably stopped or frozen recruitment, reducing the chances of re-gaining employment. Now UK pilots are facing the issues that Brexit has brought in terms of licensing transfer requirements.
This is the first redundancy that I have experienced, and I would not wish it on anyone. The feeling of isolation – multiplied by the actual isolation of lockdowns – really affects your well-being, particularly after being used to frantic flying schedules and meeting many different friends and colleagues each day while line flying.
Having a very supportive family and friends helps, but sadly they do not understand all of the stresses that pilots are facing after flying into a perfect storm of redundancy, pandemic and now licensing issues.
After losing my job, I wanted to transfer my UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Flying Crew Licence (FCL) to a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) FCL. However, a number of EASA states responded advising that I would have to re-do all 14 Airline Transport Pilot Licence exams, as well as my instrument rating, English language proficiency test and EASA Class One medical.
Asking pilots to repeat all of their exams in order to hold the same licence gained previously under the same syllabus and regulations causes undue stress, and has a massive impact on well-being and mental health.
There was a transfer period where a pilot could convert their licence, but many missed this because they were still employed and had no need to do so at that time, or were hoping that a mutual agreement would be reached as part of the Brexit negotiations.
A pilot being faced with so many issues could find themselves in a place of despair.
I learned of an organisation called Resilient Pilot, created during the pandemic to keep pilots supported, current and connected. I have found this to be a great help during such an uncertain and unprecedented time. Supporting pilots to keep their licences valid, and reducing the cost of doing so, is really appreciated at this stressful and financially delicate time.
Having access to support and the latest developments in the industry by way of weekly webinars and offering one-to-one mentoring or coaching support is what pilots who find themselves in this situation really need at this time.
Even if it is just for a weekly chat about aviation, the connection provided reduces the feeling of isolation and the Resilient Pilot team have empathy with what you and others are going through. This can really help with your well-being.
As an independent, not for profit organisation, its goals are to help pilots navigate their return to the flightdeck when opportunities emerge. It works to highlight the challenges they are facing and supports initiatives to overcome barriers where safe and appropriate to do so.
The CAA itself has a microsite designed to update post-EU exit developments, and has delivered several webinars to address the key issues that we are facing. These can also be watched on demand via the resilientpilot.com website.
Pilots affected by the changes enforced by the UK’s departure from the EU have launched a petition appealing to the UK government for reciprocal and fair mutual agreement on the transfer of FCLs between the CAA and EASA – without the need to repeat exams. For more information, see petition.parliament.uk/petitions/578133.
A second petition, asking the European Parliament for a similar reciprocal agreement, is currently awaiting approval.
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