In 2018 the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued an amendment to Part-FCL (the rule book for pilot licensing) detailing new theoretical knowledge Learning Objectives. The National Authorities and the training industry were given until 2020 to prepare.
Timescales for introduction of the new syllabus
The introduction of exams based on the new syllabus has been delayed a number of times, but most if not all EASA National Authorities now have them as an option for candidates. EASA have allowed National Authorities to set their own timetables for introduction within certain boundaries. Unless these are extended, the old examinations must be withdrawn by 21st January 2022. As candidates are usually permitted 18 months to complete an examination series, this means there will be a cut-off date after which a candidate starting a new series must follow the new syllabus and sit the new exams. Initially, most Authorities had this date set in mid-2020; however, there have been a series of announcements delaying their cut-off dates. For example, the UK CAA recently announced that theirs would be deferred from 31st December for another 3 months to 31st March 2021. Other authorities may follow suit.
Differing approach of National Authorities
If you commence a series based on the pre-2020 syllabus before the cut-off date, you can expect your Authority to continue providing the old examinations until at least 21st January 2022. Although they definitely have control over the cut-off date, currently some National Authorities, notably Austria, consider that they do not have the authority to delay the date on which the old exams must be withdrawn. This means that the period a series of exams based on the old syllabus must be completed in may reduce; currently there is a minimum of 13 months for most National Authorities with a cut-off date of 31st December 2020 if the series is commenced just before the cut-off date.
The UK CAA have decided they have the authority to extend both dates and currently have a cut-off date for the first exam of the 31st March 2021 and a date for final withdrawal of the old exams of 30th September 2022. However, bear in mind that the UK will be out of EASA after 31st December 2020 and therefore able to do whatever they please.
The Austro Control dates have recently changed from 31st December 2020 to the 31st March 2021 for the cut-off date and 31st January 2022 for final withdrawal of the old exams.
Over the years EASA and the JAA before it made changes to examinations which proved to be disadvantageous for the first candidates to sit the new exams. This may not be the case this time, as we believe that the new exam database, ECQB2020, contains substantially the same questions as ECQB6 which it replaces, albeit some have moved between subjects and some will have been added. Notwithstanding this, if faced with a choice, you might opt not to be a guinea pig!
Which syllabus should I choose?
When you enrol on a course with us, you will need to specify whether you want to follow the pre-2020 syllabus or BGS2020, our new material. To aid your decision making, you’ll need to understand the cut-off date for your chosen exam authority and how long you anticipate it taking you to complete module 1. Few students manage that in less than 3 months; many take quite a bit longer. It really depends on your personal circumstances, your familiarity with the subject matter and academic ability. If you want advice, please discuss with us before making your choice. If you expect to sit the exams well before the cut-off date, then feel free to choose the pre-2020 material. Obviously, if your first exams will be after the cut-off date, then you must choose BGS2020. If you are aiming for exams just before the cut-off, the safe choice would be BGS2020, in case you need to slip. Bear in mind it is quite unusual for students to be ready ahead of schedule for exams, but common for them to delay.
If you do your first examinations on the old syllabus, the only circumstances where you would be required to switch to the 2020 syllabus are if you failed to complete all the exams in one series, i.e. pass them all within 18 months and 6 sittings. If that happened, you would need to start a new exam series (i.e. resit everything) and at that stage switch syllabi.
Differences between syllabi
The changes between the syllabi are not enormous. Some defunct topics have been removed, several have switched between subjects and some new material has been introduced. There is a new subject area called ‘100 KSA’ by EASA. This introduces the concept of pilot core competencies, which are largely the non-technical attributes that airline pilots are selected, trained, and assessed against. There is no KSA examination, but your school is required to assess you against the competencies before your final examination. Although you will not encounter these again in your flight training, pilot core competencies form the basis for multi-crew and airline training, so the background gained in ground school will be useful.
If you want any more advice, please contact us to discuss your circumstances, please also refer to the flow chart below for our recommendations.
Frequently asked questions
I have already started Module 1, but I will not be able to sit my first exam with my chosen Authority before the cut-off date.
This is not a problem. Keep your existing material for Module 1, we will publish ‘differences webinars’ for the four Module 1 subjects so that you know what you are facing – it is not a huge difference. Take the ECQB2020 exams when the time comes, and the remainder of your training will be carried out to the ECQB2020 syllabus. Your copy of ATPdigital will be updated for Modules 2 and 3. Make sure you specify the correct syllabus when you purchase the later modules, if you have already purchased them contact firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for them to be upgraded.
I have bought the material, but I haven’t really started Module 1. I won’t be able to sit my first exam with my chosen Authority before the cut-off date.
If you have done very little in ATPdigital it may be worthwhile updating your Module 1 content as well to match the new syllabus. The disadvantage is that when we do this you will lose any results you have recorded and need to do those lessons/tests again. Contact email@example.com
Will you have different revision weeks for pre-2020 and BGS2020 based courses?
No, the differences are not huge, we will point them out in advance in ‘differences webinars’ and also on the revision course.
What about the Webinars – will they cover both syllabi too?
It depends on the subject; the majority will apply to both syllabi but, when a webinar is specific to a pre-2020 or BGS2020 course, we will make that quite clear.
My State of Licence Issue (SOLI) and Exam Authority have different cut-off dates. Which applies to me?
We believe that it is the cut-off date applied by your Exam Authority; obviously, you will only be able to sit the exams they will allow you to. However, if you intend starting a series of pre-2020 exams with your chosen Exam Authority after your SOLI’s cut-off date, it may be prudent to check with your SOLI that they will accept the results before you commit. It is quite likely to be a question they have not considered.
If I want to switch mid-series, what happens?
Austro Control will allow candidates to switch to the new syllabus mid-series, perhaps when Module 1 or Module 2 is completed. We recommend this path because we anticipate the new exams will be better. The UK CAA do not allow switching mid-series.
How does Brexit affect this?
The UK Government has announced that the UK will leave EASA at midnight on 31st December 2020. We understand that the UK licensing rules and theoretical knowledge exams will be based, at least initially, on the EASA regulations and question banks, although it is fair to say that the UK CAA have not shared the detail of their plans. If you want a UK-issued CPL, and plan your first exams to be after 31st March 2021, you can expect to have to sit exams based on the BGS2020 course.
If you want an EASA-issued licence, then you will need to sit examinations set by an EASA National Authority such as Austro Control. Bristol Groundschool has obtained EASA approvals to offer training from the Irish Aviation Authority and is an Austro Control examination centre, so will be able to continue to offer both EASA training and examinations after the UK leaves EASA. You are not restricted to Austro Control though; you could train with us then sit your exams with any of the EASA National Authorities.
You say the cut-off dates keep slipping – are they likely to continue doing so?
The dates were slipping to the right even before the COVID-19 crisis. Whether that is the reason or excuse for further slippage is speculation, as is the likelihood of any further slippage. It would not be wise to base your plans on the assumption that the cut-off dates will move further right, but that might happen. However, do also bear in mind that the date for withdrawal of the old exams for some Authorities has currently not changed, effectively shrinking the period available to complete the exams series if you commence it close to the cut-off date. There comes a point where you might consider it better to sit the new exams anyway.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us for further information.