Thursday, October 14, 2010

European Aviation Safety Agency Bill, or "Why I'm grateful I fly in the US"

The European Parlament is expected today to sign a bill today that will cancel priveleges of pilots holding FAA certificates in European Union countries.

Once the bill is signed into law, FAA ticket holders must undergo the conversion process to a JAA/EASA equivalent. A process that could involve several medical exams and additional knowledge exams.

The situation is even grimmer for those who wish to fly IFR. Unlike the US, IFR requirements are stricter under JAA/EASA, which is closer to obtaining an ATP license in the US. The estimated amount of time to obtain an IFR rating in Europe for an average pilot with a family would be a year of groundschool and nearly cost nearly $30,000.

Don't think this won't impact the United States either. While there aren't hard numbers out there, it's been estimated that the FAA issues certificates to several hundred international students every year. After the bill is signed into effect, it would be pointless for international students to come to the US to train. This could have a severe financial impact on an already struggling flight training market.

For more information, check out the IAOPA October newsletter, and listen to this special podcast from AvWeb and Emmanuel Davidson, vice president of AOPA in France.

In my opinion, this bill has nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with political protectionism. The EU is trying to address why so few pilots have a JAA/EASA license and spend money training in Europe by brute force. What they'll find is that this measure (like user fees) will only shrink aviation in Europe more until it is only available to the very rich or to airlines.

I just hope some "brilliant" politician or lobby group doesn't get the same idea here.

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