David Learmount/LONDON

Failure is rife among European student pilots taking the new Joint Aviation Authorities written examinations for their commercial pilot licences.

A European pilot training school says it normally expects 75-78% of its students to pass all the exams first time, but fewer than 50% have succeeded, even though they are known to be of high quality.

Most of the 26 JAA member states still use national written examinations rather than the Joint Aviation Requirements - Flight Crew Licensing (JAR FCL) papers, although technically they should have converted by now. Those which have are Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the UK, and all have suffered the same higher failure rates.

British Airways, which sponsors carefully screened candidates, says results "have not been as successful" as usual. BA general manager, flight operations and resources, Paul Douglas says: "We back the JAA initiative- but we have huge sympathy for the students who are victims of the transition."

Aer Lingus says its students, who performed well in their in-house tests, suffered many surprise failures and it blames the UK Civil Aviation Authority, which was responsible for checking the new English language papers for "problematic" questions from the new JAR FCL exam question bank.

The CAA says the schools were warned that the exams would reflect the higher technical complexity of aviation today, but concedes it is clear the schools need time to adjust. It has proposed to the JAA that students have the pass mark lowered by an agreed figure, but the JAA has rejected that option. Instead, it is considering delegating to the national authorities power to adjust marks where they identify "problematic" or badly worded questions.

Source: Flight International