There is a buzz in the media about commercial pilots’ licences.

It’s almost as well to start with the question: why do pilots need a licence?  The roots of pilot licencing go to the earliest days of flying.  Quickly it was realised that specific attitudes, skills and knowledge were essential to be able to fly safely.  To start with licences were not mandatory.  That changed markedly when civil aviation became commercial.  The need for mandatory licencing was well established in the 1940s when the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) came into being.

Today, Article 32 “Licenses of personnel” of the Chicago Convention is clear:

  1. a) The pilot of every aircraft and the other members of the operating crew of every aircraft engaged in international navigation shall be provided with certificates of competency and licenses issued or rendered valid by the State in which the aircraft is registered.
  2. b) Each contracting State reserves the right to refuse to recognize, for the purpose of flight above its own territory, certificates of competency and licenses granted to any of its nationals by another contracting State.

Today, the EU Basic Regulation and its implementing rules apply in the UK.  Today, we have a harmonised system with mutual recognition in 32 European States[1].  We respect and recognise each other’s pilot licences.

Tomorrow, post March 31, 2019, the EU Basic Regulation will not apply in the UK[2].  Tomorrow, UK law may be a straightforward copy of the exiting EU law.  At that time mutual recognition is not guaranteed unless an agreement is in place.

So, EU will need to decide – will it recognise a National licence from a “third country” that uses the “same” rules?  Will any recognition be dependent upon rules continuing to be harmonised?  What level of standardization auditing will maintain confidence that the system works?

I can’t answer these questions (yet).

POST: It’s 3-years on from this posting. A licencing imbalance has prevailed during that time. As of 1 January 2023, the UK will cease to recognise EASA-issued licences and certificates for the operation of UK (G-registered) aircraft. Whatever happened to hopes for mutual recognition? Pilot licensing | BALPA

[1] Licences issued by the National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) according to a set of common rules applied by the European Aviation Safety Agency, known as EASA – Flight Crew Licensing (EASA-FCL).


Mettle and Mulligrubs

My last post had a glimmer of optimism about it.  As the week progresses the basis for that optimism is subsiding.  Slowly but surely.  One cause is the endless, wholly erroneous diatribe of macho language that bleeds from the Brexit supporters.  So, much effort and energy are being expended provoking conflict, heightening tensions and blaming others.

Constant uncertainty of the Brexit clock ticking is doing damage, even as we speak.  The health of manufacturing confidence has reached a low.  Contingency measures are kicking-in as companies move out of the UK.  Hard working, tax paying, long-standing EU nationals are drifting away.

As real impacts are being felt by real people, so our politics seems more unreal.  The UK is divided between people who are head-down studying, training or working and frantic groups that are fighting ancient battles.  Politically Left or Right there’s a myopic obsession infecting public life.

Former governor of the Bank of England, Lord King has branded Brexit preparations as: “incompetent”.  He’s coming from a position of supporting Brexit.  My answer to him is the earthy historic phrase: you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear.  The poor of preparation started the day an “advisory” referendum was proposed and driven through by a gambling PM.

Now, we have the ridiculous situation of the Brexit secretary Raab saying those in Parliament worried about warnings of damage to the UK car industry: “show more mettle”.  Again a 17th century phrase.  Maybe it’s time to revive some other historic words and phrases from that era.

Government is telling a: “Banbury tale” which is a form of: “cock and bull” story.  That’s a ridiculous story, or a tale that rambles on without going anywhere.  How apt for Brexit.  Particularly considering that David Cameron’s constituency was in Oxfordshire.

I’m always astonished how many Brexiters are “mulligrubs”.  That’s people in an exaggerated bad mood all the time.  How they keep it up being so sullen when they “won” the referendum in 2016 is beyond belief.  That word rolls off the tongue so maybe it’s worth reviving.

The political media is full of “pickthanks”.  That’s gossiping tell-tales who spreads malicious rumours to carry favour.  I can see why that one died.  There are better words for such people but many of them are not to be used in polite company.

Brexit isn’t an answer to our current predicament.  It’s a symptom of a much deeper problem.  The longer we avoid that reality the worse the situation will get.  Regrets are not enough.  We need serious action to rethink.  Sign-up[1].



Brexit and Aviation 30

The summer holidays are ending, and the prospect of autumn is all around.  Fortunately, the summer weather continues, and the BBC PROMS[1] have one more week to run.  The House of Commons returns on Tuesday, 4 September[2].  Already, UK MPs are lining up in front of the media with 101 opinions on where Mrs May is right, wrong, sad, mad and maybe the only game in town.

Where the political pendulum will settle is anyone’s guess.  To give it a jolt there’s the Party conference season to come too.  I’ll be down in Brighton this year.

In the statements coming from negotiations in Brussels[3], last week there’s some constructive and positive sounding words.  The UK’s White Paper contains the recognition of the European Court of Justice as the ultimate arbiter of EU law.  This sticks in the throats of Brexit fundamentalists.  But it is pragmatic, as it’s the only way that 27 remaining EU Member States can be bound.   This does open the door to the UK’s wish to remain a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Typically, several airlines release their late spring schedules for the following year in September.  That task is going to be tricky this year given the uncertainty that continues as negotiations unfold.  The schedule from 1st of April 2019 will likely mean that tickets sold will have terms and conditions saying this is subject to a new regulatory environment.

In my view the notion that UK airlines will be unable to fly into and out of the Europe is not plausible[4].  There’s been a lot of sensationalist media coverage and some badly written papers about what is theoretically possible as a worst-case scenario.  There may be fewer routes, higher costs and restrictions, but it’s overwhelmingly in the interest of both sides that flights continue post-Brexit.  It’s clear that the EU is not going to ignore its own legal framework, but parties reciprocate when it’s in their interests to do so.

What my advice?  Plan a good winter break somewhere in Europe.  The days of cheap flights to unusual destinations maybe ebbing away.  At least from us in the UK.  It’s sad to see such a curtailment of freedom of movement.  The blame lies firmly on the shoulders of a generation of unimaginative politicians.