EASA/EU regulation to hit FAA licensed pilots in Europe

EASA has managed to introduce a law which requires all pilots whose "operator" is resident in the EU to have EASA licenses and medicals - even if the aircraft is registered outside the EU. These licenses would be in addition to the State of Registry (e.g. FAA) licenses required by ICAO.

The Basic Regulation (216/2008) says:
1. Aircraft, including any installed product, part and appliance, which are:
(c) registered in a third country and used by an operator for which any Member State ensures oversight of operations or used into, within or out of the Community by an operator established or residing in the Community;
shall comply with this Regulation.
2. Personnel involved in the operations of aircraft referred to in paragraph 1(b), (c) or (d) shall comply with this Regulation.

Nobody knows how the "operator" and the other terms such as "residing in the Community" are defined. Clearly, many operators of foreign registered jets will be able to arrange a non-EU operating base, but ordinary private owner-pilots will not be able to do this easily. The residence or citizenship of the pilot himself is on the face of it not relevant (but see notes on the derogations below).

This is bad news for N-reg owner/pilots who make up the bulk of Europe's IFR-capable pilot community. A private IFR pilot would have to get the 7-exam EASA IR and an EASA Class 1 medical, or a Class 2 medical with the Class 1 audiogram. Plus of course an EASA PPL. A commercial IFR pilot would have to get the 14-exam EASA CPL/IR, and an EASA Class 1 medical. He would not need to do an EASA Type Rating however; his existing ICAO one would be acceptable to EASA, under the current proposals.

There is absolutely no safety case for this move; it is based on politics of envy, FTO and other business protectionism, airline pilot union pressure, and some unrelated EU-USA disputes thrown in.

3/2020: Some of the above EASA wording has been changed. See updates dated 2020 near the bottom of this writeup.

More information
A detailed paper (local copy)
A very clear explanatory article
Additional background to the EU-USA politics

EU Transport Committee interrogation of EASA (9 Oct 2010)

Of the five or so concurrent EASA initiatives, the relevant one is the Basic Regulation. This is an "enabling regulation" on which the detailed regulations would be built. It is an old trick; you introduce a law which is worded such that nobody can politically oppose it, and then use that to sneak in the hard stuff.

The process which EASA followed to achieve this has been less than open. Some history follows:

On 19/12/2010 (local copy) EASA managed to get its FCL proposal passed through Comitology, with some not yet published changes. Some info, including links to clearly sanitised Minutes of the comitology proceedings, can be found here. The composition of the committee has been secret; presumably nobody wants to be seen to be openly screwing GA.

The UK CAA notes on the above are here (local copy). They add little new information other than to show how confused the CAA is about a lot of the stuff coming out of EASA. An updated version of the foregoing doc is here (local copy). A later update is here (local copy).

A January 2011 UK AOPA update is here local copy. Nothing really new there.

This document (local copy) is a more recent version of the EASA FCL proposal and is being discussed by the EU Transport committee on 25/5/2011.

6/2011: The UK CAA has published its proposals on amending UK legislation (the ANO) to comply with forthcoming EASA directives here (local copy). Article 61 has the anti-N-reg stuff, but the CAA requires both the pilot and the operator to be non EU resident, whereas EASA requires only the operator to be non EU resident. The CAA has also published a Q&A on the changes here (local copy); this document correctly shows the "operator" terminology, and clearly shows the CAA going for the 2-year derogation which means a UK based operator does not need to force the pilot to have a JAA IR until 2014. A later version of that doc, showing updates in italics, is here (local copy) - 1(d) on page 15 - and the corresponding FAQ is here.

8/2011: The EU has voted in favour of implementing the EASA FCL proposals. Bad news... More info here.

11/2011: The EU has passed most of the FCL stuff into law here (local copy). Nothing unexpected in there. It's worth noting that the IR still requires the audiogram in each ear separately on the initial medical, despite me having been told in 2008 by Eric Sivel (EASA's then head of rulemaking) that the initial v. renewal dictinction will be ended by EASA. This is the normal pattern of EASA behaviour: tell different things to different people.

1/2012: I obtained my insurance policy against the above proposals by getting the JAA IR (I already had a UK/JAA PPL). The conversion process from the FAA IR to the JAA IR is described here. In short, it is 7 exams plus 15hrs minimum flying time. It wasn't "hard" but took up a fair bit of time. The resulting papers are not even valid under ICAO to fly the aircraft outside UK airspace (ref FAR 61.3) but that's life....

3/2012: The Irish CAA has published this (local copy) which on page 19 suggests they are going for a 2 year derogation too. However on page 9 this appear to incorrectly use "pilot" instead of "operator".

3/2012: The Netherlands CAA has published a doc (in Dutch ) stating that they are also going for the 2-year derogation.

8/APR/2012: EASA FCL is now law in the EU. Today, the pilots whose operator is based in the EU are vulnerable to arrest, etc, unless they have EASA papers, or the country has applied for the derogation.

Some additional text is here (local copy). Here is a great article by a well known German aviation writer.

Among many vague areas of this stupid European regulation is whether the 2-year derogation (which each EU country has to apply for individually) means that pilots whose operator is based in that country can freely fly around the EU during the derogation period without risking arrest elsewhere in the EU, or whether it means that pilots flying into the country which applied for the derogation are safe there. This remains unresolved, but this UK document suggests the UK sees the former interpretation as more likely (para 3.1, bottom of page 1). This also suggests that the UK could, during its derogation period, arrest a pilot who flew into the UK and whose operator is based in a country which didn't apply for the derogation (in practice, this means pilots from most of the EU can be arrested).

As for penalties, nobody yet knows but presumably this will mirror the current penalty for flying without an appropriate licence ie £5,000 on summary convicton or a (unlimited) fine and/or up to 2 years imprisonment on conviction on indictment.

This stuff is straight out of Kafka.

How much time to sort out this mess?

There are in fact two kinds of derogation, available to each EU country, and each country has to apply to EASA for each one as required:

The first is the "horizontal" derogation which was included in the 30th March 2012 Regulation:

"By way of derogation from paragraph 1, Member States may decide not to apply the provisions of Annexes I to IV until 8 April 2013".

Annexes I-IV are all of Part FCL and Part MED so this derogation deals with the N-reg issue at least until April 2013. It is expected that most EU countries will apply for this one, because they need the time to comply with the full impact of EASA FCL etc.

The second is the derogation applicable to the N-reg issue, which was originally provided by EASA, which can run till April 2014. It is clear that most EU countries have not applied for this one (probably because most were not aware of it).

A good explanation is here (local copy).

An EASA page carrying more information is here but the "third country operators" section is empty

Here (local copy) is the latest guidance from the UK CAA. Nothing new in there. The usual stuff about "operator based in the EU" is on the bottom of page 11, and the CAA does not try to clarify that. I recently met a top official from there who advised me they don't have any idea on how to interpret it!

France (translated local copy another unofficial translation) has applied for derogation. In article 4, they say that "French national licences (non-JAR FCL)" may be used until april 8th 2014, after that date, the pilot of a "national" licence shall convert it to an EASA licence to exercise the privileges. They will start issuing PART-FCL licences on April 8th 2013 but in article 5(f) they clarify the N-reg situation and confirm that an EASA licence won't be required until 2014 for "European Operators".

Ireland has indicated they might, but they have misunderstood the regs anyway by hanging the dual papers requirement on the residence of the pilot, not the operator...

Switzerland is assuring its pilots they will be OK, but that page does not mention the issue. Switzerland is not in the EU, so its status is unclear.

Germany, in an English statement, seems to have gone for 1 year. On March 26th, the German LBA put a German statement online announcing a one year horizontal derogation of regulation 1178/2011. The English version of the statement (previous link) contains an unfortunate translation error: it mentions 2012 instead of
2013. The statement was issued before the horizontal derogation became available via the regulation 290/2012 (published on April 5th, applicable as of April 25th).

Netherlands is also believed to have gone for the maximum 2 years.

A list of countries which are opting out of any part of EASA FCL appears here. It looks like a number have published stuff on their national websites but haven't told EASA yet


18/6/2012: An interesting development from Austria... An Austrian pilot asked his CAA for a ruling and they came back with an amazing reply, basically saying that ICAO rules remain and that the EASA moves are ineffective. There are however other possible interpretations - in addition to the old chestnut of a ruling having come from somebody in the CAA who didn't understand the question.... An account of the matter is here local copy (in German).


22/10/2013: EASA has moved the 8th April 2014 date to 8th April 2015. So Europe based N-reg pilots have an extra year to obtain the EASA licenses/ratings. There has also been a provisional agreement on the CBM IR (now called CB IR) and the EIR, which subject to a parliament vote early in 2014 should go ahead. The CB IR offers a conversion route for FAA IR holders which involves no written exams; it uses an oral exam with the IR examiner and a checkride. Plus of course the same medical as before: Class 1, or Class 2 with the Class 1 audiogram.


24/3/2014: The EIR and the CB IR (used to be called CBM IR) have now passed into law - to the surprise of many people. What is now remaining is how the training establishment will set up the facilities for it. The ab initio CB IR will need an online question bank (QB) for the exams, a syllabus, and FTO training manuals. The old problems whereby most FTOs don't want to do private pilots, and even fewer want to do private pilots with their own plane, are likely to remain. It is also not clear how "deep into" the FTO machinery will a pilot doing just the conversion need to go - the conversion (subject to meeting the logbook requirements) is an oral test and a flight test but it's likely this will need to be done via an FTO.


10/10/2014: The attack on N-regs (the dual pilot licensing requirement) has been postponed again - till April 2016. The reason being given for this is that it gives time to conclude a bilateral treaty (BASA) with the USA. Nobody is saying what form such an FCL treaty might take (there is already a fairly recent and marginally useful treaty covering certification) but one suggestion is that one could convert an FAA IR to an EASA IR using a route like the present CB IR but with slightly fewer requirements.


24/10/2015: The April 2016 FCL deadline in the paragraph above still stands. Some new information has surfaced on the background to it - see here It seems likely that if the EASA-FAA treaty is not agreed in time, the deadline will be extended further. That would make sense, given that the EU Transport Committee voted in favour of the EASA FCL move on the assurance (an assurance given dishonestly by EASA officials at the time) that there will be a treaty by April 2012 which will make it a non-issue.


4/4/2016: The April 2016 deadline has been moved to April 2017. There is still no sign of the EASA-FAA treaty. The text of the treaty was published by the FAA here. See a discussion here.


5/11/2016: The effect of the UK leaving the EU is interesting because it is likely to sidestep this whole issue. One EuroGA discussion is here.


14/11/2016: This document local copy has been discovered.


19/8/2017: A further postponement to April 2019 seems to have been done but in a strange way. This EuroGA discussion relates. Basically, you have two options:

- obtain the equivalent EASA papers as per EASA FCL, or

- get form SRG2140 complete and send it to the CAA - summary here

The situation is now a complete mess. The above form was introduced in a massive hurry under political pressure from the Department for Transport which reportedly gave the UK CAA 1 week to implement this. The original deadline for the form submission was impossible to meet and at the same time rendered the FAA Class 3 medical invalid in UK airspace. In another complete farce the CAA extended the deadline by a few days "to allow pilots to return from the aviation show at Friedrichshafen"! After some weeks the position changed and the FAA Class 3 is now acceptable as the "ICAO Class 2" which the form refers to. So, you have to visit an examiner at some PPL school and get him to fill the form in.

It isn't clear how long this will last for but probably around 2019. After that, unless an FAA-UK FCL treaty is done, it will have to be extended yet again.

5/3/2020: The wording of the EASA regulation has changed. See explanations and references here.

The language used in the current EASA Basic Regulation is “aircraft operator established, residing or with a principal place of business in the territory to which the Treaties apply” and “operation of aircraft into, within, or out of the territory to which the Treaties apply” etc. The territory, according to art 52 para 2 of the Treaty on European Union, is specified in art 355 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Amendment of the UK Basic Regulation (link) by chapter 5 of the Aviation Safety (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (link) resulted in “territory to which the Treaties apply” being replaced on exit day (31 Jan 2020 at 11:00 pm) with “United Kingdom”.

This affects the interpretation for UK pilots.


Individual country acceptance of the postponement

This EASA page carries a table of which countries are going along with the postponements.


Aircraft Operating Regulations

Contrary to what has been widely feared, EASA has not done anything to control aircraft. They have gone after the pilots instead, as described above. However, the "EASA Complex" category (see below; not affecting most piston aircraft) is getting some extra "attention":

From 2012: According to this proposal - local copy - (pages 7 and 9; some inconsistencies re the ICAO v. EASA Type Certificate requirement on a privately operated aircraft) EASA is not currently going to evict foreign registered aircraft from the EU. However, "complex aircraft" (basically, ME turboprops, all jets, aircraft over 5700kg or having 19+ seats) will be subject to EASA Part M maintenance oversight. No details are out yet, and it is not clear how this will work since - under ICAO provisions - an EASA maintenance company has no competence to sign a release to service for an aircraft of non-EASA registry, especially if the aircraft contains modifications installed under the rules of the non-EASA registry.

October 2015: the proposal in the above paragraph appears to have died and has resurfaced as "Part-NCO" ("NCO" = non commercial operations) effective 25 August 2016. Details here (local copy). The main change is that multi engine turboprops won't be "EASA complex" anymore. But all jets are still caught up in this, including the proposed Cirrus Jet which will be under Part-NCC (commercial operations) and will carry a big operating overhead, similar to being operated under an AOC. Some more info here

Additional background on placing and keeping an aircraft on the FAA registration is here and more information on the recent EASA moves are at the end of that article under "The Future of N-reg".


This page last edited 5/3/2020

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