Introduction of the European Regulation concerning Aircrew Licences (Part.FCL)

The European Union (EU) is responsible for the harmonisation of aeronautical regulations across Europe. On the basis of the EASA basic regulations (Regulation (EC) No 216/2008), the European Commission has recently issued detailed rules on licences (Part-FCL), which will be applicable in the EU Member States as of 8 April 2012. The corresponding AMC/GM (Acceptable Means of Compliance / Guidance Material) was published on 20 December 2011.

Switzerland adopted the provisions of Part-FCL (Flight Crew Licensing) on 15 May 2012. The FOCA began implementation on 1 June 2012.

As concerns the concepts employed, the EASA has no legislative authority. The new rules therefore originate from the EU and not the EASA. They are nevertheless generally referred to as the "EASA Rules" as they were drawn up by the EASA, and the EASA performs important implementing tasks for the EU. We therefore also use this not entirely correct title in the following text, for the sake of brevity and clarity.

Who is concerned by the changes and what licences are affected?

In future, all licences for pilots of aeroplanes, helicopters, airships, sailplanes and balloons will be regulated by the EU.

The light aircraft pilot licence (LAPL) is a new licence introduced for all categories of aircraft. This is a non-ICAO-compliant licence, authorising flight only in the area governed by the EU.

Annex 1 provides an overview of the EASA Part.FCL licences that will be available in Swit-zerland in the future and the minimum conditions for a first-time application.

How can an EASA licence be obtained?

The transition period to exchange existing licences for EASA Part.FCL licences varies. The EASA has stipulated that JAR-FCL aeroplane and helicopter licences shall be replaced until 8 April 2018 at the latest. As of the entry into force of the EASA Rules, JAR-FCL licences will automatically be exchanged for EASA licences. According to article 12(3) of the Commission Regulation (EU) 1178/2011, national ICAO licences (aeroplanes and heli-copters) shall be converted into EASA Part.FCL licences latest until 8 April 2014. Sailplane pilots and balloonists have until 8 April 2018 to exchange their licences for an EASA Part.FCL licence.

The holders of licences issued in accordance with ICAO or with the DETEC Regulation concerning flight crew licences (ex RFP) for aeroplanes, helicopters, sailplanes or balloons must file a special application to exchange such licences within the transition period.

The FOCA plans, to the extent possible and in agreement with the EASA, to maintain "grand-father rights". For certain categories of licence, in particular those that are non-ICAO-compliant, pilots will nevertheless have to make up specific elements.

We recommend that exchange applications be filed as soon as possible. The corresponding application forms, with the minimum conditions for the exchange, will be available on the FOCA website in due course.BB licences and the so-called "based-on" licences are not exchanged. The rights in-herent in those licences will not be maintained beyond a "grandfathering period" and will become invalid at the end of the transition period, i.e. by 8 April 2015.

What about training commenced prior to the application of the EASA Rules?

Training commenced in accordance with JAR-FCL will be fully credited for the issue of an EASA licence, provided that the training and testing were completed by 8 April 2016 at the latest.

Training commenced for the issue of a licence in accordance with ICAO or with the DETEC Regulation concerning flight crew licences (RPPL, balloon and sailplane) must be completed before 8 April 2018 at the latest. It will be credited for the purposes of issuing an EASA licence. However, any missing elements will have to be made up.

Essential changes introduced by EASA Part.FCL

With the entry into force of the new EASA Part.FCL Rules, you as a pilot will be affected by various novelties, depending on the licence category. The most important changes are described below.
1. Licence validity
EASA Part.FCL licences have no expiry date; they are valid lifelong. As the holder of an EASA Part.FCL licence, you will therefore find no date of validity on the licence. What is limited, however, is the validity of the ratings entered on the licence (class/type ratings, sailplane and balloon types).
  • Pilots holding licences currently regulated by JAR-FCL (aeroplanes and helicopters) are only marginally concerned by the changes: class and type ratings continue to have an expiry date. The conditions for extensions and renewals are in the main identical to those under JAR-FCL.
  • Holders of a light aircraft pilot licence (LAPL for aeroplanes, helicopters, sailplanes or balloons) and holders of sailplane (SPL) or balloonist licences (BPL) will see various changes in terms of the current licensing system. As the holder of such a licence, you will now no longer find any mention of an expiry date on the licence. In order for you to exercise your rights, however, you must provide proof of ongoing flight experience on the aircraft used. This proof of experience is to be certified by the flight instructor in the flight logbook. Annex II contains detailed information on the conditions of ongoing flight experience.
2. Entry of national licence extensions, authorizations and ratings
Another new feature is that extensions, authorizations and ratings currently governed by national legislation but henceforth to be regulated by the EASA will not be printed separately on the attachment but rather entered on the licence itself. This concerns inter alia the extension for acrobatic flying (motorized and sailplanes) and the extension for mountain landings for aeroplanes.
Extension, authorizations and ratings that are not (yet) regulated by the EASA will continue to appear in the attachment until further notice.
3. Medical certificates
What is new for all categories of licence issued pursuant to Part.FCL, i.e. also for sailplane pilots under the age of 60 and for balloonists, is the requirement of a medical certificate to fly with a Part.FCL licence. In addition to the Class 1 medical certificate for holders of professional and airline pilot licences and to the Class 2 medical certificate, which is routinely required of holders of private pilot licences (PPL(A/H)), SPL and BPL, after the introduction of Part-Med there will be a new, LAPL-class medical certificate for holders of LAPLs. The Class 2 medical certificates differ decisively in that the LAPL medical certificate is less strict when it comes to medical conditions, the scope of the examination and the frequency of examinations. Medical certificates established under existing law remain valid for the corresponding category until the printed expiry date (also in connection with a Part.FCL licence).
4. Language proficiency
According to EASA Part.FCL, all aeroplane and helicopter pilots must have a language proficiency endorsement (minimum Level 4) for the language(s) used for radio communications. This requirement applies also to holders of LAPL(A) and LAPL(H). National facilitations will no longer be permitted. As in the past, sailplane pilots and balloonists do not need to provide such an endorsement.
What will change for the licence holders concerned is the validity of the endorsement: level 4 endorsements are now valid for four years for all licence categories concerned (Switzerland: to date, for plain VFR licences, 4 years; with instrument rating, 3 years); level 5 endorsements are generally valid for six years (Switzerland: to date, for plain VFR licences, 8 years; with instrument rating, 6 years). The validity of level 6 endorsements remains unlimited for the time being.
The validities applying as of the date of introduction of the EASA Rules will be implemented at the next language proficiency check that falls due. Existing endorsements will be neither shortened nor extended.
5. Training
Under the EASA Rules, all practical and theoretical training must be dispensed in a flight school, a so-called "approved training organisation" (ATO). Simple self-study of the theory, which was previously possible for private pilots, sailplane pilots and balloonists, is no longer admissible. The attendance of a course in an ATO is mandatory. Nor is it possible to train and undergo testing in different countries. The testing (theoretical or practical) must take place in the same country as the instruction.

The FOCA will be constantly updating its website and providing specific groups, such as training facilities and test staff, with further information.

Further information