European pilot-training organisations at all levels will have to cope with a new set of standards.

David Learmount/LONDON

Most European pilots know that flight-crew licence requirements are changing to a European standard, but few could say when or describe the differences. Pilot-training organisations, on the other hand, have to start implementing the changes six months from now.

A two-year transition period, during which pilot-training organisations in the European Union will have to reorganise to meet new pilot-licensing standards, will begin from October. From 1 January 1998, all pilots applying for new flight-crew licences (FCLs) must have completed training to the new Joint Aviation Regulations (JAR) requirements.

Alvar Nyren, director of flight training at the Stockholm, Sweden-based SAS Flight Academy, says that he does not expect any real problems in adapting, but explains that the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) have not yet made everything clear. Not only is the JAR (FCL) draft document about 50mm thick, but the new regulations have to be interpreted correctly and ambiguities eliminated - a problem inherent in all new regulations.

The draft exists now only in English, but the UK Civil Aviation Authority has pointed out that, when the time comes for translation into other European languages, the translators will apply their own interpretations. Unless they are carefully supervised, this could have an adverse effect on standardisation. The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) observes separately that " worries how the English text will be interpreted in other countries".

European airlines, however, say that they approve of the new standards required by JAR (FCL). They see it as a "leveling-up", not an averaging out of national proficiency requirements. BALPA agrees, seeing it as being the "highest common denominator".

Despite changes in licence-rating currency requirements, the airlines' own continuation-training organisations say that, in practice, it will mean few changes for them. They welcome, however, increased emphasis on proving "multi-crew proficiency" in individual licence applicants, which in effect is an embodiment of crew-resource management (CRM) principles into the licensing system.

Nyren believes that the larger, more sophisticated schools such as that of Scandinavian Airline System (SAS) will reap commercial benefits from the changes. The smaller schools, however, may lack the appropriate equipment to handle the CRM training themselves and may be forced to subcontract the CRM to specialists.

Most of the training that the SAS Flight Academy does is for type conversions, or type-rating revalidation/renewal. Nyren expects a requirement for more highly specific instructor qualifications than required by current Scandinavian regulations. This is not perceived as a problem, however, although the draft regulations do not make clear how much, if any, of the instructor-rating process can be delegated by the authority to the school itself, once the authority has approved the process.

The new JAR (FCL) also gives a greater incentive for ab initio students to raise the money to buy an integrated course at an approved college. This pressure is applied in two ways: by closing some of the low-cost "self-improver" routes to a commercial pilot licence (CPL); and by reducing the number of flying hours required on integrated CPL courses, compared with some existing national regulations. Airlines, naturally, see potential savings in the reduction in hours. They also praise the move to introduce students to disciplined training environments, rather than have them rely on the "self-improver" system of accruing extensive experience through time in the air.

The European Association of Airline Pilot Schools, however, is concerned that the minimum flight-training-hours requirement for a CPL achieved on an "integrated" course has been reduced from 200h to 150h, says the British Aerospace Flying College's chief instructor Capt. Dave Thomas. This is a major commercial concern, says Thomas, who has been surprised to find that even high-quality airlines indicate that they will choose the minimum requirement for their sponsored trainees, accepting the effect on quality that the associated cost-saving may bring.

The aviation community seems to welcome the licensing approach, however. It acknowledges that the JAR requirement to "register" establishments, which instruct up to the private pilot licence (PPL) standard, has the potential to improve surveillance of general aviation training quality. In some European countries, provided that the staff are adequately qualified and that the flying-skills and ground tests are carried out by authorised examiners, registration of establishments are not compulsory.

Registration, says Des Payton, head of flight crew licensing at the UK CAA, does not look like the heavy hand of authority. On registering, the schools will receive a list of their regulatory obligations. They are then liable to inspection, but a lack of resources dictates that inspection is unlikely, in practice, to be frequent, Payton believes.


Similarly, Europe is effectively waving goodbye to the pure "self-improver" route to the CPL. First, PPL holders will still be able to gain an instructor's rating, but will not be allowed to use it for reward. Salaried instructors teaching pilots for PPL will be expected to have CPLs at least.

Payton says: "The fact that all training has to have a level of approval is one that we applaud." He points out that the "modular", as opposed to the integrated, method of training for a CPL "...recognises the difficulty of funding" faced by aspiring young pilots. Under the modular CPL scheme, 25h in the minimum total of 200h has to be professional instruction, carried out at an approved (rather than merely registered) flying-training school. Amassing 700h flying by any available means and then taking the skills test and theoretical examination will no longer be good enough. It is an acceptance, says Thomas, that flying hours alone are not all it takes to be a professional pilot.

Meanwhile, the UK is having to abandon the Basic CPL (BCPL), used until now as a step in the self-improver's ladder and which allows the pilot to earn wages by carrying out limited categories of commercial operation on the way to a full CPL. Already, Thomas says, UK approved flying colleges are taking in BCPL pilots eager to upgrade before the JAR FCL is implemented. The UK CAA's FCL Section says that UK BCPL holders will retain "grandfather" rights on their licences, but for UK-registered aircraft only.

Medical requirements are little changed. The nature of the periodic checks and the definition of who is qualified to perform them are changed more than the level of fitness itself. The pilot-union fear of psychometric testing becoming a part of licence tests is unfounded, according to Payton. Psychology has been introduced into the JAR (FCL) requirement, but only by virtue of being a natural component of CRM, he points out.

In the end it would appear, no one loses, except the self-improver. The new creation is the modular pilot.

Source: Flight International