Published on:

21st Oct 2022

Help simplify private pilot licensing and training in the UK

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched a once in a generation consultation on proposals to simplify General Aviation (GA) pilot licensing and training.

In this episode we speak with Laurence Baxter from our General Aviation Unit to learn more about this work.

If you are involved in GA in any capacity; we would like to hear from you. You may be a pilot, an instructor, a pilot in training, running a flying school or have any GA licence from the CAA. If so, we would ask you to read and respond to this consultation and help shape the future of UK GA flying.

Our consultation is open for comments until 16 December 2022.


Voiceover 0:12

Welcome to the general aviation podcast from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Alex Blomley 0:27

Hello, and welcome to a special edition of the CAA's general aviation podcast. From time to time, we plan on bringing you special editions where we discuss particular projects and points of interest. My name is Alex Blomley and today we're going to be talking about the recently launched licensing and training simplification consultation, CAP 2-3-3-5. And we want to take the opportunity to share with you some background to this work and have a chat with the people who were involved with it's creation. We're now going to be joined by Laurence Baxter, the GA policy officer who is the product lead for the licensing and training simplification projects. Laurence, thank you for joining us today. And for those of you who may not know who you are, are able to share with us your role and the team that you work with within the CAA.

Laurence Baxter 1:11

Hi, Alex. Sure. Basically, I deal with the team that works on strategic projects within the general aviation and remotely piloted aircraft systems unit. So I've been given the responsibility of leading one particular project and we have a couple of others.

Alex Blomley 1:24

Now, as I've mentioned, the consultation is one of the few projects I understand you're working on, are you able to give us a brief overview on that full range of strategic projects that you and your team undertaking.

Laurence Baxter 1:35

basically, our job is to focus on the high level strategic one year plus pieces of work, that allows us to take the time to think about some of these really important longer term issues, while freeing up our colleagues who are dealing with day to day stuff like licensing, operations and airworthiness in the here and now. Although we do consult them from time to time for their technical knowledge, the idea is for us to be able to think about those things while they can get on with the day jobs. So there are three major projects that deal with GA right now. There's this one on licensing and training, which I'm leading on. And then there's one on simplification, rationalisation of maintenance organisations, which sorely needed to understand, but also review of the pilot medical declaration system, which has been in place for a few years now.

Alex Blomley 2:22

Great, thank you for that Laurence. So lots happening in the background. Let's start at the beginning then for this particular consultation CAP 2-3-3-5. Are you able to run us through the objective for the licensing and training simplification consultation?

Laurence Baxter 2:36

This consultation was in direct response to another consultation, we ran back in '20, called CAP 1-9-8-5. UK general aviation opportunities after leaving EASA. And in that consultation, we will analyze the results. One of the odds on favourite areas for us to look at was the rather confusing, private pilot licensing landscape that we currently have. So there was a very clear mandate from the community to have a major sought out of that licensing landscape and make it easier not just for current pilots, but for those intending to be pilots. So our main priority is to make that licensing and training landscape simpler. That is why we're doing this consultation. And that's why we're doing this major project.

Alex Blomley 3:25

Sounds very interesting, and so nice that all of the people who submitted to that CAP 1-9-8-5 consultation, have had some of their contributions and ideas taken on board. It does all sound very complex, however. So how are you and your team planning on tackling this? Well,

Laurence Baxter 3:42

there are a number of areas we need to look at. Now that we've left EASA there's an opportunity to consolidate currently two parallel regulation regimes into a single regime, or new governing nuclear licensing. And we have the former EASA stuff, and we have the UK specific stuff, we're going to bring it together into a single regulation regime. That's one thing we need to do. But it's not just about consolidating blobs of regulation. It's also about an opportunity a once in a generation opportunity to have a real think about what sort of things private pilots need to safely operate an aeroplane or helicopter or another type of GA aircraft, what they actually use their license for, whether it's flying in the UK only, or whether they tend to go outside the UK to Europe or elsewhere in the world and therefore exercise their privileges if they have an ICAO license. So we want to create a simpler private pilot license framework. We also want to look at the sub ICAO license for those pilots are only ever wished to fly in the UK or easily to countries which allow UK only licenses to operate. We want to look at the whole sub ICAO structure because that's really confusing right now. We've got lots of different licenses just for aeroplanes alone, we've got two categories of licenses, and not to mention all the other different categories. So we have a very wide range of sub ICAO licenses, but just a very narrow range of aircraft. So we want to have a look at that and understand what can be made simpler. Then finally, there's sailplanes and balloons, we want to understand what is the best for those two communities following our departure from EASA. And so we need to look at how those different types of licenses what best practices we got from the EASA regulation, but also, are there specific things about the UK community that need to be looked at. And finally, if we're going to be going around doing a major reform of the regulation covering these licenses, we want to find a seamless approach to making sure that existing licenses are still going to be valid and honored in this new licensing framework we create. So we want to make a nice seamless transition for people, when we go about changing some of the rules governing licenses to make them simpler, we don't want to do that the cost of making someone's life really difficult to already has a license, if that makes sense.

Alex Blomley 6:18

So it does sound like you're almost starting again, to a certain extent, it's really interesting to hear that this particular consultation, we're looking at the breadth that is GA within the licensing regime, which is probably quite a big undertaking, but probably quite a good way of looking at it rather than individual factors at this stage, looking at it as a holistic regime rather than individual categories.

Laurence Baxter 6:41

Absolutely right. This is a big project, it has to be right. It has to be complete for the entire diverse community that is general aviation. In this country. We've got a wide range of different aircraft categories. And we have a wide range of the way people use those categories of aircraft. So we want to create a licensing system that is appropriate for the UK, but also honouring our ICAO responsibilities so that people can exercise their privileges in other ICAO countries. So this is very important. We want something for the UK. But there's compliance when necessary, with ICAO. Now that's going to result in a bit of a sort out, for starters a gold plating review of the existingEASA regulations that we've brought across. And it is also an opportunity to look at this once properly, and then leave it alone. Once we do what we need to do, we want to be able to leave the licensing regulation alone for several years, so that you can embed in and work best for the people in the community.

Alex Blomley 7:47

So you mentioned the breadth of general aviation in the UK, have you engaged with different sectors of GA? Not necessarily just on this project, but perhaps in the consultation document itself?

Laurence Baxter 7:57

Yes, absolutely. This project has to be collaborative from the start very much in keeping for as many of the other projects we've do in the general aviation unit, we have straightaway formed a working group of key GA community participants who brought to the fore their expertise in general aviation, training and regulation. And so we formed that group at the very start of this project back in September, this group has met several times, we've debated some of the biggest issues in it, which we're going to be talking about in the consultation, and they helped us understand some of the real complexities that we're dealing with here. We also have been working very closely with colleagues across the CAA and the DFT, you must remember that we're talking about aviation regulation which DFT primarily hold the pen on. And so we've worked very closely with our colleagues in DFT, to ensure that what we're doing is in line with their objectives as well, but also take advantage of their expertise, especially in areas of regulation. Across the CAA. It's not just a GA activity, because it affects other parts of the CAA licensing, it's civil aviation wide. And sometimes the boundaries between general aviation and other forms of aviation can be a little bit blurred. So we've had to keep them in the loop on changes that we're planning to make. So it's been a collaborative project pretty much in the

Alex Blomley 9:19

start. Fantastic. So the consultation has been published CAP 2-3-3-5 and we will be including a link to everything that our listeners need to read up about it. We've published a webpage which we will keep updated as this project continues. What do we need members of the GA community to do now that we've published this consultation?

Laurence Baxter 9:38

Well, as part of the policymaking process, we need to understand from people in the community, what their concerns are about our proposals. We made some proposals and some of them might be fairly radical, and it's required a bit of sort of out of the box thinking this project. So we want people to actually read this and tell us what they make of our proposals. And if there's a problem with them tell us and also, if you have any ideas, We're all ears. So that is really what we'd like to do not just if you're a seasoned GA pilot who spent many years yes, we want to hear from you. But also people who are fairly new to GA, we want to hear from people who are maybe just started their flight training, or thinking of becoming a GA pilot, and perhaps put it off by the licensing regime. So yes, there's a wide range of people, not just pilots, I want to hear from flying schools, I want to hear from people who may own or maintain an aircraft. So it's not just about people who fly aircraft, but who are affected by people who fly aircraft. So that is a very much a wide range of people were asking to hear from, and I would really hope to hear from those people and understand exactly how they're thinking about this.

Alex Blomley:

Great. So the consultation runs for eight weeks. That takes us up to December the 16th. So all submissions will need to be in by that date. So what happens after that, then once everyone's sent in their views and their thoughts, what will happen to that information?

Laurence Baxter:

Well, once the consultation closes, we'll then review the submissions, and look to produce what we call a consultation response document. And that will summarize the results of the consultation, and then describe our decision making going forward. So it won't look into every single response. So of course, we'll read all the responses, but we got to summarize in so many pages. So we will get the gist of the responses, and then take a view on our action going forward. And as I said, we are very open to views, we've had to think out of the box here a few times. So some of the suggestions we're making might be radical. So we're here looking forward to hearing people's opinions towards that. And we will take them on board, just in the same way as we did the consultation response document or the GA opportunities after leaving the EASA, the CAP 2-1-4-6, which was a consultation response to who will do roughly the same sort of thing for this specific subject of licensing and training.

Alex Blomley:

Okay, great. So once that document is written, the consultation response document that is we can publish that for everyone did an understanding of what the next phase will be. And with a project of this size and scale, it's not a one hit wonder, there is quite a journey to work through all of this to get to the next generation of licensing training regime.

Laurence Baxter:

Absolutely, Alex, this is a big project there is no way we'd be able to cover all the issues in one consultation. So we've decided to make this a Phase project, of which this consultation is the first phase looking at the high level strategic picture of GA licensing, and especially after our departure from the EASA system, then in phase two, we will be looking at specific licenses, ratings certificates, in accordance with this new architecture which we create. So the idea is for us to look at those specifics with regards to aeroplanes, helicopters, sail planes, balloon, the full range of aircraft categories within GA that are regulated. And the idea then is that will result in some proposals on specific licenses, reading certificates, and that will result in a consultation. And then when we finish consulting on that, then we'll focus on how to roll this out in rulemaking, then we're going to have to come up with specific regulatory proposals in phase three, looking at how best to implement these changes in a simple, straightforward, direct manner. And we'll be working very closely with people across the organization and the DFT, in helping us draft this stuff. So it does what it needs to do. But it's also understandable to people. And then another thing we're going to do in phase three, is how best to communicate these rules in plain English to people that need to know. So do our best to get those rules in a place where people can understand them and apply them. We want people to be good pilots, not regulatory experts. So that's the idea there. So it's a big project. And it lasts for more than a year, I reckon. Because as you can see, this is taking a while and it needs to be done properly. Yes, thank

Alex Blomley:

you, Lawrence. It is a big project. And clearly, there are a number of elements and chapters to work through to get to the end. I wonder if we'd be able to get in touch with you and your team. I'm sure our listeners would really enjoy hearing more about what's included in the response document in terms of the next phase of the project, and what will lead you to that second consultation that you mentioned. So if we're able to do that, that would be really good.

Laurence Baxter:

I'd be delighted to really, really it's useful for me as well.

Alex Blomley:

Great. Pleased to hear. Well. Thank you again for joining us, Laurence. And thank you everyone for joining us for this special edition podcast. This consultation and the project related to are very large and we will continue to bring you updates perhaps through the conversations Laurence, members of his team on how it's all going. Do bear with us it is monumental and clearly A potentially big change to the regulatory licensing framework that we're used to. But as Lawrence said, This is a once in a generation opportunity to really tackle something like this. And we would encourage you all to read the consultation and submit your response. The links have been included in the notes accompanying this podcast. And as mentioned, the deadline to submit your response is Friday 16 December. Do please make sure you meet that deadline. And if you have any comments to make on this podcast or have any suggestions of topics you'd like to hear about them, please do get in touch with us at Thank you for listening.


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About the Podcast

CAA on General Aviation
The General Aviation podcast brings you the latest guidance from the UK Civil Aviation Authority with information for all types of General Aviation (GA) operating in the UK. Including updates and discussions on our current projects and areas of work.

You’ll hear interviews with representatives from our GA teams, experts on their particular fields, sharing details of their work and regulatory updates as well as highlighting opportunities for members of the UK GA community to get involved.

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UK Civil Aviation Authority .

The UK's aviation regulator