The role of the GA licensing working group
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 Maeghan Sheehan, a newly qualified GA Pilot and a member of the working group for this project, on her experience of working with the CAA.
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.
Alex Blomley 0:00
Hello, my name is Alex Blomley, and you're listening to the CAA's General Aviation podcast. And today we're going to be talking about the recently launched licensing and training simplification consultation CAP 2-3-3-5. Now those of you who listen to our podcast will know that we have previously heard from Laurence Baxter, he is the policy lead for this project, and has very helpfully taken us through the objectives and what we're hoping to achieve. Laurence, thank you for taking some time out to join us today. And something that we have talked a lot about before and also we've had quite a few comments and queries about this in forums and from you at home, is what is the working group? How does it work? What does it do? Who's in it? So we're thrilled today to be able to invite a member of the working group who works with Laurence and his team on this consultation. And today, we're joined by Maeghan Sheehan. So Maeghan, thank you so much for joining us, we do really appreciate you taking the time and effort to come and talk to us today about the consultation. And I just wondered if you'd be able to share with everybody who you are, because obviously, you're not a CAA employee, you are an independent person in your own right. So it'd be great to learn who you are, what you do, and what your role was within the working group.
Maeghan Sheehan 1:10
Thank you for inviting me along and for that warm introduction. So I am very new to aviation, probably as new as you can be. I started my aviation journey a couple of years ago, just before the pandemic, I was due to be cabin crew that didn't work out. Long story short, I found the confidence to start doing my flying dreams, my pilot dreams there through meeting various fellow pilots and aviation staff in the pandemic. It was a slow process but I've just recently obtained my PPL, which was amazing. And I've also just recently started working in operations for a private jet company. So this year for me really has been the takeoff, if you'll excuse the pun of my aviation journey. I have my PPL, I've started working in aviation, which is amazing. And being a part of this working group as well has been such an education for me in terms of meeting more like minded people, various people in aviation, not just as you said, CAA employees, other student pilots, new pilots. And it's really been such an interesting journey for me. And I still can't believe where I'm at and how far I've come from nought to 60 in the last couple of years. Two or three years ago, I probably hadn't even had a conversation with a pilot and now I am one, which is something I'm really proud of. So that's my journey to date so far, which is really nice. And I feel like it's just beginning in so many ways. And I'm meeting so many new, interesting people along the way, which is nice.
Alex Blomley 2:31
Maeghan, thank you so much for that summary of your achievements to date. And many, many congratulations on your PPL a fantastic achievement. So Laurence, I wanted to bring you in here. So when you're putting that working group together, was someone like Megan, someone who you were hoping to have on that group, obviously, we've had lots of different GA stakeholder groups, which I know have had representation at the table as well. But I guess from your perspective, it's really great having someone like Maeghan involved too
Laurence Baxter 2:58
Absolutely Alex, Maeghan was precisely the sort of personality we wanted on the working group as part of this process. Because yes, while I really do appreciate the involvement and engagement and the expertise of some of the seasoned experts in the associations, and we really enjoy working with them. But I also wanted to get a really fresh perspective on the things we were talking about. As someone who's actually going through the pilot training. Most of us in the working group are pilots in some form or another, including myself, I've been through PPL, myself, but I wanted to get a fresh perspective, from someone who's not a regulatory guru. I wanted a pilot's perspective and can't think of a better example than Maeghan here who is a pilot, a recently qualified pilot, understands the training syllabus, understands the challenges involved in choosing an aviation career, whether it's commercial or private. It's a huge thing out there one faces at the beginning of their flying career, whether it's professional or otherwise. And so I really wanted that perspective and I think Maeghan is an excellent example. And I really look forward to working with her going forward.
Alex Blomley 4:06
Coming back to you, Maeghan, if I may, how did you find being a member of the working group? Was it from a practical point of view, lots of meetings and reviewing documentation? And how involved did you feel you were able to get in terms of the collaborative working arrangements with the CAA?
Maeghan Sheehan 4:23
What I think was great about this working group is Laurence was very good at making everyone feel involved. everyone's opinion was valued. When I first was put in touch with Laurence to be a part of the working group. I was quite honest about how nervous I was, I sometimes get an element of impostor syndrome because I'm so new to aviation, I think, Oh, I'm a bit intimidated by my lack of experience, maybe. But, as Laurence said, I think that, in a way, is important to have a mixture of people because the regular GA pilot isn't a policy expert. And so to have someone new to GA and aviation and piloting, and I know there was a few of us in the working group, hopefully that is beneficial in terms of understanding how we work as well. In terms of the meetings themselves, again, very informative. And I started to feel more comfortable asking questions, I had some conversations with other members offline who were really helpful in terms of helping my understanding, I had catch ups with Laurence in between, which, again, was amazing. Sometimes even if I wasn't saying much, it was still really good to listen in, hear what everyone had to say, because, obviously, within the working group, all kinds of different people different kinds of pilots. I know that's one thing that often can be forgotten that the GA community isn't just fixed wing pilots, there's balloon pilots, or helicopter pilots, glider pilots. But ultimately, everyone had that shared end goal of simplifying the licensing process. And it was interesting seeing how everyone envisioned how it could be, and maybe also the issues they've had in the past what they'd like to change. So for me, it was, and still is a complete learning curve. But so interesting, and a real honour to be a part of it. Something again, I was initially a little bit intimidated, just because I'm so new to it. But everyone was so welcoming, and helpful in terms of my involvement and my opinion and views, which was lovely.
Alex Blomley 6:11
So do you feel that the ambitions of the working group was achieved in terms of what they were hoping to get from the actual consultation paper?
Maeghan Sheehan 6:20
I think so. I think there's probably an element that, of course, you can't please everyone. But I think having read the initial draft of the CAP 2-3-3-5 document, and an initial feedback from seeing it on social media and other members of the GA community talking about it, I think, from what I've seen and heard so far, I think the goal has been achieved and that things are changing, they will change. Also, it's not a quick fix at all but I think in terms of taking advantage of the situation, and that we are no longer part of EASA I think, as Laurence said on last week's podcast, it is a once in a generation opportunity to make changes for the better. And I think the general consensus from the working group, and also people I've spoken to on social media and just general chatting within the aviation community is that this is a brilliant thing. And it's exciting to have that change.
Alex Blomley 7:05
And can I ask how you came to be a member of the working group?
Maeghan Sheehan 7:09
I was approached by the CFI at my flying club, and said that they formed this working group, they're looking for student pilots, would you be interested. And for me, I'm very passionate about aviation not being an elitist hobby. I think it's really important to showcase that it is accessible, it is a really welcoming, inclusive community. And so that's why I wanted to take a part in this group to a for my own learning, it's obviously an incredibly beneficial and interesting and to meet other GA community members as well. But I do believe that aviation is for everyone. And that's something that I'm really happy to talk to people about when I've said, I've just gained my private license. So many people have said, Oh, I'd love to do that. But it's X,Y, Z too expensive, too complicated, I haven't got the time. And I think these kinds of projects can help highlight that, if you've got the passion, the love, the interest in flying in aviation, it's possible. Don't get me wrong, there are cheaper hobbies, but it's not restricted. There are so many options. And this is something that Laurence and his team are highlighting with this project, there are so many options if you want to get into flying. Getting into general aviation is such a good start, whether you're looking to pursue it as a career to become a commercial pilot, or you just want to fly and enjoy being part of aviation, there are so many options, which is really nice. I think this is really highlights that and appreciates that pilots do come in different shapes and sizes, it captures all the types of people that are interested in it.
Alex Blomley 8:28
It's great to hear your enthusiasm, Maeghan, not just for general aviation as a general topic, but as you said, accessibility to it and highlighting to those people who may be unsure as to whether they can or cannot get involved in GA that there are opportunities in whatever form that may take. So I think it's great that you came into this working group with that viewpoint, and also that you've been able to learn and grow along the process. And if you are able to share with fellow GA members, what your experience, not just of being in the working group, but of working pretty closely with the CAA on this project has been, what would you say to them?
Maeghan Sheehan 9:05
It's been rewarding. It really has. And as I've said, it's something that I was, that's very much a personal thing, I was a bit nervous about joining initially, because I was so new, but I think it's really important to stress as if anyone else had the opportunity to be involved in it. And a similar thing, everyone I've dealt with at the CAA, super welcoming, helpful, as you said, there is sometimes the stereotype that the CAA is just this anonymous body that sends out your licence and make rules and that's kind of it but like you said, you are all human. As Laurence mentioned, a lot of you are pilots or have a real interest in aviation, even if you don't fly. So I think the CAA for me and my experience with the working group, it's been spending time with fellow aviation nerds basically. And it has been really it's been enjoyable. It's been a learning experience. And the fact I'm here today is such a nice opportunity as well to talk about my experience because I think I've met all kinds of pilots and some of have been born and bred into it, they've got family who are pilots or in aviation, whereas I, as I said, I literally hadn't even had a conversation with a pilot until I started getting involved in it. So I think if I can convince even one person that's maybe on the fence about, oh, I'd like to fly, but they're worried about maybe not having the time, knowledge, money, etc, it's totally possible. And the CAA are there to support everyone who's interested in aviation and who wants to fly. And that's something I've really seen from this working group. Everyone has that shared core passion, even though there are differences, and as I say, different types of pilots, different people can have different views on how they want to achieve things around regulation. But my experience has been very positive. Everyone's been so welcoming, and helpful. And I've learned so much. And if anyone was ever in the position where they had maybe a similar opportunity to be involved with the working group, or to work with the CAA, I would encourage it. Absolutely. It's been a really rewarding experience.Alex Blomley:
Maeghan, thank you for those words, and not wanting to put you on the spot. But have you completed your submission to the consultation thus far?Maeghan Sheehan:
So I actually haven't yet, I'm very conscious that I don't want to rush it. And my defence is because I've just started a new job in the last month, I've been sort of on the road or sleeping for a month, so no, it's very much at the forefront of my mind, and I want to do it properly, it's a very important thing to do. And I want to make sure that particularly as well, because I have been a part of the working group that I fill out the survey properly. But I have seen so many people on social media who have already done it, everyone's been sharing it, which is great and talking about their views. And it is really important to fill it out. So you can't rush a good thing is my defence.Alex Blomley:
Well, good luck, when you do we have heard anecdotally that it's very slick. Once you've read the full document paper, the actual process of completing all of the questions online is very straightforward. So I hope it'll go well for you when you tackle that. And as a reminder to everybody, we do have until 16 December to submit responses to the consultation, we have had a good response level so far. And thank you to all of those who have taken the time to submit your responses. But we are keen to hear from a very wide breadth that is the GA community in the UK. And as Laurence has said, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to put forward your views, and to really make a significant change to the licensing regime that we currently have. And as we previously talked about, as well, this is a great time to share all your thoughts and ideas on licensing things that we should be considering too in the phase two part of the consultation. So don't be shy, please submit those responses to us. And we'll be reading all of them, as we talked about in our last podcast. So Lawrence, I don't know if you've got any last words that you'd like to share at this point?Laurence Baxter:
Yes, absolutely. This is really, really nice to talk to this member of the GA community, a new pilot to be a part of this amazing thing that is the joy of flight. What Maeghan describes, is very much an underlying theme in this whole endeavour of ours, is to make general aviation to widen the joy of flight to as many people as possible. The proposals in our paper, quite radical, some of them, not everyone's gonna like them. But what we're trying to do, actually, is get people in the air as quickly as possible, safe as possible. We've taken for example, something they're already doing in the microlight community in which people can get in the air quicker, but also subject to certain safety limitations in particular, this idea of operational limitations. I think that's a great idea. And I think it's an opportunity to make that mainstream so that people can get in the air and fly locally. That could be the secret to opening the doors, to a wider range of people, allowing a wider range of people to enjoy the joy of flight.Alex Blomley:
Thank you to both of you. Thank you Megan for taking the time to share with us your experience of being in the working group. And as I said, you do have until 16 December, and we will include all of the links that you will need to complete your submission in the accompanying notes to this podcast. Thanks for listening.Voiceover:
Thanks for listening. This is the CAA General Aviation podcast.