Which Licence, EASA or UK CAA?

EASA or UK CAA Pilot LicenceSince the UK CAA left EASA, students have had to decide what licence or licences they would like to aim for. This decision needs to be made when it comes to the ATPL theory stage of your training.

It would be recommended that a UK citizen gains a UK licence at a minimum to be able to operate G registered aircraft.

A UK Citizen can obtain an EASA licence too if they would like to, it is uncertain at this stage how useful an EASA licence will be to a UK citizen due to residency and rights to work in the EU.


Which licence might I need?

If you have the right to live and work in both the UK and the EU, then the question is quite simple: you should consider getting both licences to give yourself the greatest choice of where to work unless you are certain that you will only want to work for an EU airline, in which case you could get just an EASA licence.

If you do not have the right to live and work in the UK there is no point in getting a UK licence.

However, if you do have the right to live and work in the UK but not the EU, you might want to consider getting both licences. This is because Ryanair employs UK citizens, based in the UK, but flying EU-registered aircraft.  Therefore, if you want the opportunity to work for Ryanair you must have an EASA licence.

Similarly, there are some business jet operators who operate EU-registered aircraft from the UK and so you would need an EASA licence to be able to work for them.  However, all UK airlines require you to have a UK licence, and several non-UK airlines, for example, Norwegian, have a UK Air Operator Certificate (AOC) for their UK bases and so you would need a UK licence to fly their UK-based aircraft.


How can I get both EASA and UK licences?

If you are considering an integrated course, some UK integrated providers offer one licence or the other, so you must make your decision before training.  In theory, there would be nothing to stop them from getting EASA and UK CAA approval for the same course, in which case you could graduate with both licences.  There would be some additional training and testing, but the bulk of the course would be common.

If you are following the modular route, either on a packaged modular course, or a bespoke arrangement, this is much more straightforward.  These are the elements of a modular course:

  1. PPL theory and practical.  Neither EASA nor the UK CAA requires that your PPL is regulated by them; any ICAO licence is acceptable, so basically almost any PPL issued in any country.
  2. ATPL theory.    If you do your theory with Bristol Groundschool you will automatically be registered with both our EASA and UK CAA schools, so you will be eligible to sit either or both exams.  Therefore, other than the cost and annoyance of sitting each exam twice, it is a simple process.
  3. Hours Building.  As you know by the time you start your CPL course you’ll need a minimum of 150 hours, and by the time you apply for your licence 200 hours including 100 as pilot in command.  It is usual to log the bulk of these hours before starting the CPL or IR course.  However, just as the PPL does not have to be overseen by the UK CAA or EASA, nor do these hours.
  4. CPL Approved Course and CPL Skills Test.  Until 31 December 2022 the UK CAA will recognise some EASA training for the purposes of issue of a UK licence.  However, EASA will not reciprocate and this recognition period will not be extended, so you will need to do a course approved by the authority you want to issue your licence.  To avoid doing the training twice, you would therefore need to train with a flight school that has joint recognition from the UK CAA and EASA.  This limits your choice considerably.  However, there are a couple of good schools that either already have joint approval or intend to have before the end of the UK recognition period:  Stapleford in the UK and Smart Aviation in Poland.  You will either have to do two flight tests, or the examiner will have to have approval to conduct the CPL Skills test from each authority, so the test will count for both licences.  Otherwise, all the training should count for both licences and there should be little if any additional cost.  Note, however, that the UK CAA will not accept CPL Skills tests that are combined with an IR Skills test, which is permitted by some EASA authorities.
  5. IR Approved Course and IR Skills Test.  Much of the same considerations apply to Instrument Rating courses, with the added complication that the IR skills test must be conducted in one of the Member States in the case of EASA or in the UK in the case of the UK CAA.  The regulation is ORA.ATO.150 and reads (EASA/UK version in brackets):

When the ATO is approved to provide training for the instrument rating (IR) in third countries:

(a) the training programme shall include acclimatisation flying in (one of the Member States/the United Kingdom) before the IR skill test is taken; and

(b) the IR skill test shall be taken in (one of the Member States/the United Kingdom).

In practice, this inevitably means some additional training and two IR Skills Tests.  However, the additional flying and testing will come at a cost (and take more time).

  1. MCC.  Whether you choose to do an APS-MCC course or the minimum necessary (an MCC course), there are several UK providers, who have dual EASA and UK CAA approval and therefore are able to offer courses that satisfy the requirements of both licences without additional cost or training.


How much extra will it cost?

Taking the steps from the list above:

  1. PPL – no additional cost.
  2. ATPL Theory – no additional training cost.  An extra set of exams, £962 for UK exams (2022 prices), £975 for Austro Control EASA exams.  Other EASA authorities may be cheaper.  Neither of these prices allows for any resits.
  3. Hours building – no additional cost.
  4. CPL Course – potentially no additional cost.  If an additional flight test is required, budget for up to 2½ hours of aircraft hire and a flight test fee, so about £2100 maximum, or less for single engine aircraft.
  5. IR Course – it is difficult to be precise, but it may be necessary to repeat most of the aircraft training and an additional flights test, so the worst case would be 15 hours of training, 2½ hours of aircraft hire and a test fee for the flight test, so about £9,600 maximum
  6. APS-MCC or MCC – no additional cost.

So your total additional training and testing costs would be up to about £12,700.

Other fees

You will need a Class 1 Medical certificate from each licensing authority (up to about £600), you will pay two licence issue fees (up to about £270) and may need to budget for additional food, accommodation and travel between training centres.


What about alternatives?

You could get one or other of the licences and then apply to convert to the other.  However, conversion in either direction is not straightforward and will inevitably take longer and cost considerably more than getting both licences at the same time.

You could avoid the most expensive element and get a CPL issued by both authorities but an IR by only one, and then do your IR later only if you need the other licence.  This might be a good option if you are unsure you will actually use the second licence but want to keep your options open.  You could still do a dual IR course, but not do the second flight test and associated acclimatisation flying.  You would have to complete the training and second flight test within 18 months of the initial course.  If you exceed this time limit you could do a CB-IR course at a later date which will allow you to be credited for the training already completed but is likely to cost about £1500 more than the budget mentioned above, as you will need about an additional 10 hours of simulator training.


Ground School Training and Exams

If you wish to sit both exams, it is important to choose a school that holds both UK and EASA approvals like Bristol Groundschool.

Bristol Groundschool students can sit both UK CAA and EASA exams while studying our courses. The course content, ground school and question bank are relevant to both sets of exams.

Most students following this route will complete the computer-based training, attend the revision course, and then sit the associated exams a week or so later.  They will sit the UK CAA exams during a particular week and then duplicate those subjects with an EASA state of their choice during another week, or vice versa. This process is then repeated for the final two modules of the course.

Students will then hold both UK CAA and EASA theory passes, allowing them to move on to the practical training with a school of their choice.


Practical Flight Training

It does become a little more complicated when you get to your practical training. The UK CAA have said they will recognise EASA training until 31st December 2022, there are several caveats here.

Because of these complications, we would recommend contacting your chosen school and the UK CAA if you plan to complete your training during this time.

If you plan to train in 2023 and beyond you will need to select a school that holds the appropriate approvals for the licence, you are looking to achieve. UK licence = UK CAA approval, EASA licence = EASA approval.

If you are planning to go down the dual licence route your school will need to hold both UK CAA and EASA approvals and have arrangements in place to conduct both skills tests.

There are also some complications with the IR skills test, the UK CAA has said this needs to be conducted in UK airspace. For this reason, it could cause complications if you train with a UK approved school in Europe.


Is it worth it?

As you can see, this is not a difficult proposition, but it does come at a cost.  We have tried to be realistic about the additional costs – you may well find it is a little less.  However, it is not going to be cheap.  If you are unsure, the option to do everything but the IR may be the best bet for you.  Is it worth it?  Well, only you can answer that question.  If you can afford it and want to keep all employment doors open, you may conclude that it is worth the additional expense and time.  If you are on a tight budget, you may have to accept that some employers will be beyond your reach.


To summarise, if you wish to achieve both UK and EASA licences, Bristol Groundschool theory courses are relevant to both sets of exams. You will need to duplicate your exams with an EASA state as well as sitting them with the UK CAA.  When it comes to your practical training you will need to ensure your chosen school holds the appropriate approvals for the licence you are aiming for and ensure you check the arrangements for the IR skills test.


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