Another fine mess from the European Commission

I’ve recently been approached by a constituent concerned about a new piece of EU regulation which threatens to cost him his job, and to damage his industry.  Nothing new there — it happens constantly — but this is such an egregious example that I thought I should highlight it.

My correspondent Nick O’Brien is a qualified pilot, and has been flying safely for many years.  He flies corporate jets, and he has an American FAA pilot’s licence complying with ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) rules.  Until now this has been recognised for use around the world.

But now the EU has decided that pilots flying non-EU-registered aircraft in the EU must have the new EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) licence.  The problem is that this qualification, even for an experienced pilot with a recognised US/International licence, takes a year’s training and costs around £100,000.  I understand that there are some four to five hundred pilots in Mr. O’Brien’s position, and the new requirements will effectively end their careers.  Mr. O’Brien is forty-nine and has a daughter about to go to University.  He doesn’t relish the prospect of unemployment.  

I remember years ago someone in a completely different context expressing a fear that she would be “killed by accident” by ill-judged EU regulation.  Here we see the same problem again.  I don’t suppose that the Commission intended to end Mr. O’Brien’s career.  It is just an unforeseen consequence.  Collateral damage.

So why is the Commission doing it?  Two explanations are offered.  First, the EU approached the FAA and suggested some kind of joint licensing deal.  But the FAA, worried very reasonably about the threat of EU-style bureaucracy, demurred.  So the Commission decided to get one over on the Americans by introducing its own exclusive EU licence for use in Europe.  The other possible explanation comes down to money and protectionism.  This new licence will generate substantial business and revenues for training agencies in the EU.  There is naturally, therefore, a strong lobby in favour of it.  Who is to say which explanation is right?   Perhaps both.

There is a pilots’ web-site, improbably named, which is scathing about the EASA system which allows onerous and unnecessary regulation of this kind to get through.  It suggests that because EASA depends on EU funding, it is only too eager to adopt any half-baked idea from the Commission.  And the European parliament’s Transport Committee has been bought off by concessions in other areas.  EASA regulation (says PPRUNE) is crippling and threatens to destroy the industry.  The “comitology” procedure under which these rules are developed lack transparency and leave the public in the dark — and leave my constituent out of a job.

The real frustration for me is that there really isn’t a lot I can do about it.  I will table a Written Question to the Commission, and they will send me a standard, anodyne reply which will talk about safety priorities and the need for a level playing field in Europe, and will take us no further forward.  There is talk of the pilots possibly bringing a case before the European Court.  I hope they get some very careful legal advice before doing so.

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8 Responses to Another fine mess from the European Commission

  1. europarlpse says:

    According to Article 8 of the Regulation (1178/2011) a pilot licence issued by a third country (e.g. the USA) can be accepted by EASA under certain conditions. Whilst it is true that Annex 3 of the Regulation does set out training and medical requirements for American pilots holding an ATP, the Regulation also provides for competent authorities of Member State to determine the conversion requirements, which can be reduced on the basis of a recommendation from an approved training organisation. This means any experienced US pilot with enough flying time should not have any problems.

  2. Heather Alibakir says:

    Do these people leave their brains behind when they enter an EU building and what do the French say about it? There are times when it pays to work together and I am sure that they will be equally horrified at this intrusion in peoples’ lives. Get us out of this expensive organisational farce David, please.

  3. Andrew Shakespeare says:

    I’m sure there will be many other measures passed by the Europe in the coming days and weeks, with Anders Breivik’s trial in Norway dominating all European media. An excellent month for burying bad news. An extra £10 billion for the IMF to back-hand to Greece? Go for it. Water down plans to reform the ECHR? No-one believed it anyway. 100 percent pay raise for Eurocrats? Cheers. That’ll do nicely.

  4. Gary Rickard says:

    This also affects British pilots with British (or even European) licences working overseas using a foreign licence. An example would be a British 747 Captain flying on a Hong Kong licence but holding a British or European licence as well. In fact, this is even more ridiculous as the Hong Kong system is a virtual copy of the UK system.

    In the past, as a current pilot, it was easy to ‘re-activate’ the UK licence if you wanted to return by simply doing a routine simulator check and coughing up an outrageous fee. Now, if your UK/Europe simulator check was over seven years ago, you have to retake a range exams as if you were a new pilot. Imagine a policeman having worked in Australia for seven years having to retake driving theory and practical tests before he can again drive a police car – even though he has always held a licence. Or a vicar whose done a few years’ missionary service having to retake his theology degree.

    We have two problems here. Firstly, the EU is a self perpetuating daftness machine. Secondly, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (a QANGO), is revenue driven and any excuse for a bit more lunacy in the charging department is welcomed.

    Meanwhile, new European flight time limitations are being introduced, allowing pilots to work longer hours and we are expected to believe that these regulatory authorities prioritise safety – yeah, right !

  5. David W. says:

    How are those vested in the education requirements connected to the EASA.

    Just like with regard to the climate change agenda, “Just follow the money”.

  6. David C says:

    It’s worth watching Michael O’Leary, the Ryanair boss, on the EU even if you’ve seen it before.

  7. Axel says:

    This is perhaps related to UN Agenda 21, Chapter 9 ?

    Chapter 9. Atmosphere
    9B. Sust energy, transport, industry, resources
    9C. Ozone depletion
    9D. Atmospheric pollution

    Obviously a way to reduce the number of flights,
    is to reduce the number of “qualified” aircraft pilots.
    Should regulations effectively remove six hundred pilots
    from the available roster, then flights will necessarily
    be curtailed because no pilots are available to fly
    many aircraft, thus at least in the short term
    achieving those goals set out in Chapter 9, in an
    artificial way, without costly engine modifications.

    Can it be the case that these new regulations
    are the result of lobbying from aircraft manufacturers
    and airlines themselves, for a reduction in the number
    of available pilots ? The EU Commission would no doubt
    find such a deceitful approach attractive, since not only
    does this reduce emissions in the short term, but does
    increase bureaucratic control over people and business.

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