EASA has finally shown its hand on the issue of N-registered aircraft based in Europe, and the news is bad. The Agency intends to make it illegal for pilots domiciled in Europe to fly perrmanently in Europe on American licenses, which will come as a hammer blow to holders of the FAA Instrument Rating. An estimated 10,000 European pilots will have to convert to JAA or EASA licenses, by a process and at a cost that has yet to be established. In the case of the Instrument Rating, it is not clear whether any credit at all will be given for having an FAA IR when applying for a European equivalent. It will certainly mean substantial and costly additional training and the sitting of seven examinations. The number of pilots driven out of general aviation, or declining to come in, is likely to be high.

IAOPA is particularly aghast at the sweeping nature of EASA’s intentions because they have nothing to do with safety. Over the decades in which the current system has pertained there have been no safety issues with oversight, with instrument flying, with maintenance or any other factor. General aviation is being sucked into a trade war involving the big beasts at Boeing and Airbus, with protectionist tactics grinding up our own GA industry in pursuit of political point-scoring.

A European pilot who obtains a licence or rating in the United States will be required to undergo as-yet unspecified validation and checking on his return, and within two years will have to have converted the FAA document to the EASA equivalent, a process which will not be straightforward or inexpensive. In the case of the Instrument Rating, EASA plans to require the applicant to study for and pass all seven written exams and undergo flight training which will probably cost tens of thousands of euros even for pilots who’ve been flying safely for decades on FAA IRs. While it will still be legal to own an N-registered aircraft, the market in such aircraft will shrink, with some that have been modified to FAA STCs being rendered unsaleable in Europe. Those pilots who have American PPLs but cannot attain JAR Class II medical standards will also be adversely affected.

The plans, set out by EASA’s Deputy Head of Rulemaking Eric Sivel in a note to AOPA UK, confirm IAOPA’s fears that political chauvinism is taking precedence over safety and good sense. M Sivel says the proposals are stipulated in the Basic Regulation which covers everything EASA does. However, in talks with EC Transport Commissioner Daniel Calleja and others over the past five years IAOPA has been given to understand they could be flexed at the Implementing Rule stage. In its response to EASA’s consultation on the implementation of its Flight Crew Licensing proposals IAOPA pointed out that if a state has issued a licence and a medical in accordance with ICAO standards, other states should accept it without adding onerous requirements. Now, however, we are being told it is set in stone.

The end result will be that if EASA gets its way, going to America for a PPL will be pointless; but how many of those who were contemplating it will now get EASA licenses instead? Of the FAA licence and IR holders now in Europe, how many will pay the money and take the time to covert, and how many will simply walk away? And at the end of it all, what will have been gained?
IAOPA Senior Vice President Martin Robinson is meeting IAOPA’s lawyers in Brussels next week to discuss options.