Published on:

16th Jun 2023

Project update on private pilot licensing and training in the UK

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) 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 provide an update on the findings of that initial consultation, shared in the Consultation Response Document and provides an update on the next steps in the project.

GA Pilot Licensing & Training Simplification Phase 1 Strategic Direction - Consultation Response Document

Further information on this project is available on the CAA website:

Licensing & Training Simplification | Civil Aviation Authority (


Alex Blomley 0:00

Hello, and welcome to a special bonus edition of the CAA's general aviation podcast. My name is Alex Blomley, and today we're going to be talking about the licencing and training simplification project. And you may remember, we ran a consultation on this last year. And in April, we published what we call the consultation response document, which is basically a summary of all of the responses and feedback that we gathered through that consultation process. And we thought, as you've now completed that stage of the project, it'd be a really good time to welcome back Laurence Baxter. Laurence is the policy lead for this project. And we've been fortunate enough to be able to talk to Laurence a few times before about the consultation, and what his team had been up to. So we thought we'd invite him back and discuss what is happening next. So hello, Laurence, lovely to see you again, and have you back with us. And thank you for taking the time to chat with us today.

Laurence Baxter 0:49

Hi, Alex, thank you for having me, it's real pleasure to be able to take part in these sort of discussions,

Alex Blomley 0:55

no problem at all. So a lot has happened since we last spoke. And just as a recap, for those listening, the consultation for the licencing and training simplification project ran from October to December last year. And we did have a chat at that time about the structure of the project and timescales. And I can see from reading that consultation response document that we published that over 12 hundred, members of the UK GA community provided a response to that consultation, which is really good. And I'm sure will help influence the work that you're now doing. And also, I guess it's great from your perspective, because you now have lots of data to go through and to understand. And the first thing I wanted to cover off is How do you tackle all of that data? What do you do with all of those responses? How do you make sense of it all? Well,

Laurence Baxter 1:46

this is a really important question because this is the first phase of his project. And we're going now into the detailed technical phase. So the results we got on this broad framework or direction of travel for this project really important. Now, in terms of the the consultation. First thing I want to emphasise is this is very much the work of the community involved GAA community in developing this constitution in the first place. We formed a working group of various parts of the GA community to help shape this consultation and its overall approach, and even helped draft the specific questions we asked in the Constitution. nother thing, important thing to raise is this is a public consultation, which means it's not just for the GA community. Now, I guess a lot of people have a lot of difficulty understanding this, but the CAA has a Public Law obligation to consult the broad public on our policy proposals before we introduce them. So it's not just the effected community, in this case, general aviation pilots. But everybody who has a view on genuine aviation pilot licencing is invited, submit submit a response, and we have to analyse those all those responses equally with equal weight. And this is really, really important to understand is because I mean, yes, people might say, oh, what does the public know about general aviation pilot licencing? Or even what is specific pilots know about the nuances in the details of licencing requirements? What have you, but the fact is, everybody has a view, and everyone deserves to be listened to as not just pilots. There are a wide range of interested stakeholders over and above GA pilots that will have something to say about GA pilot licencing requirements, and the requirement to undertake a full public consultation and analyse the results equally. Now that said, Because GA pilots are the most affected by these things, we give GA pilots every possible advantage in that process. First, as I said, we involve GA representative bodies of pilots in the development of those consultation questions. We actually draft those consultation questions in cooperation with the community in a working group. And that working group reflected all parts of the GA community. Then when we publish the consultation, we make sure that GA pilots are fully aware, the consultation is running. And we actually encourage people to respond. We do podcasts like this one. And we did skywise announcements, and we encouraged the associations to promote the consultation in their respective communities. So basically to make GA pilots aware of the Constitution, so there's many people will submit responses as possible. But obviously, there are other stakeholders as well and they will give their responses to them. Everything from people involved in GA operations in another way. Passengers, people who fly GA aircraft not as pilots, but also bystanders on the ground, and a range of other interested parties, other airspace users, for example, or even just concerned citizens, all of them deserve a view. And this is why we analyse the results very carefully, to take into account all those views when we actually get the results of the consultation. Now, when we get an overwhelming response in support of something we've suggested, or for that matter, overwhelming response against something we've suggested, obviously, that's going to be very critical in shaping the result of that and the decisions we take as a result of the consultation. Now fortunately, this case for cap 2-3-3-5, vast majority of the questions we asked the proposals we made, did result in an overwhelming support in favour of our proposals. And I'm very pleased to be able to say that the details of those responses are set out in our consultation response document. But sometimes, if we don't get such an overwhelming response, that's where there was freehand comments come in, to help us understand what the actual best direction to travel to take. This is often very challenging. We've take into account our own views within the CAA, and those are colleagues in DFT. But we have to draw a conclusion that best suits the community, but also takes into account some of the people who were against the views we took. So for example, we take a view on something, we might say, Okay, we're going to take that decision, take that direction going forward. However, there were the points against our view, we're going to take that into consideration when we develop the details in the next phase. I hope that's helpful in trying to understand make some sense about this process.

So you mentioned the consultation response document that we published in April. And to be fair, it is a pretty weighty document, it's 30 plus pages or so. But it does really go into the nitty gritty of The views presented within the consultation. And you mentioned at the beginning there about how the consultation is designed for all, but obviously, that there's a focus on the general aviation community at large, because of course, they're the most effective party but in terms of everyone else, and anyone who could in theory respond to something like this, when you're going through that analytical process, how do you balance out the needs of all of the various different GA sectors that we have within the UK? I mean, obviously, this project doesn't affect just one kind of GA pilot, it would affect all GA pilots or GA associated roles across all different types of GA aircraft. So how do you ensure all of those groups are very dealt with in terms of the responses that have come through?

That's a very important question. And that's part of the thing that makes processes like this so challenging. Because there are so many different viewpoints. The main way to do that is two ways. One is by asking specific questions aimed at specific policy issues that we're dealing with, we tried to provide as much information in the consultation documents to help people form an opinion about the direction of travel we want to take, and then ask specifically what they think some of those specific questions reflect maybe views that were raised in the working group, by community associations. So we tried to ask questions that might be in opposition to what we're proposing, like what are some of the challenges do you recognise around this area, and we ask them to give specific results. And then we analyse those things that way. The second way we do things is by asking freehand comments. So we asked for general views about a position we've taken. We analyse those to provide extra colour and sort of depth to the more specific questions we ask. And this will help us analyse certainly the views of the community and of the public more generally, I guess what's important to know about the specific questions we look at? I mean, the ones where we ask for specific questions we ask people's views for and against, for example, this is not a referendum. This is not an election 51% Doesn't necessarily mean that's the view we're going to take going forward. What is important is to look at the overall trends. What is the broad opinion towards our proposal we made? If there is an overwhelming response, as is the case for quite a few of our proposals in the Constitution, then we have a pretty strong confidence that we enjoy a strike On mandates from the public on the proposal we made. On the other hand, if the proposal if the response is more nuanced, then we look at the specific comments left by the respondents to help understand what the feelings are. We take that into account when we arrive at our overall decision. One of the reasons why our consultation response document was so long is because it covered a wide range of areas. But also, we wanted to set out not just the results of the consultation, but specific decisions we've taken on the back of the consultation, this is phase one, we need to progress to phase two. And in order to progress to phase two, we need to take decisions about the results of phase one, so that we draw the line under it and move forward. So we are now in the detail phase, we can't keep going back and looking at the overall direction of travel again, this thing would take ages if we did that. So we have to draw lines, the right decision we've taken is this. And this is what we're going to do in phase two. I hope that makes sense.

Alex Blomley:

And for those listening at home, you may remember that we did actually talk to a member of the working group for this project, Meaghan Sheehan. And it was great to talk to Meaghan, on her views of what it was like to be a member of the working group for this particular activity and the sorts of discussions that they had. And I suppose from your point of view, the working group at that time had a very critical role in helping shape the content of the consultation. And I was interested to know, what sort of role do they have now? I mean, are the working groups still engaged with you and your team? And how this project is moving going forward?

Laurence Baxter:

Yes, in a very big way. Phase two is really where the rubber meets the road on this project is the details. Phase one looked at the overall picture, the overall framework, ICAO, licence, sub ICAO licence, and so on. Now, we're looking into the details specific details, what will these licences ratings and the training behind them? And what will it look like? So, and in this case, we are more reliant on our working groups than ever before. Because these people are the experts, they've been dealing with these matters. For years, many people have been working on subjects around this area for a long time, the training organisations involved, the associations, training officers within the representative associations, they are really have a good understanding of some of the nuances here, we also bring our own experts and CAA to bear in a much, much bigger way. And that is where the real proposals are going to be made, which is why the consultation next year, we think cap 2-3-3-5 is weighty wait till you see what we come up with next year is going to be quite detailed. And it's going to be quite specific to so we're going to be looking at very, very specific proposals. And we're going to be publishing a full consultation on these just the same way we did before. And so I really encourage, in the strongest possible way, the community to be actively involved in this consultation when we publish it next year, because it's gonna be really, really important. Mean, another thing we're looking at are safety recommendations arising from general aviation accidents, something we cannot ignore, very critical to what the CAA does, is to try to understand what went wrong, and look at ways in which we can prevent that from happening again. And this licencing project provides an once in a generation opportunity to really look at the what we're requiring GA pilots to do in order to get a GA punch licence, and how to go about maintaining it. This is a very critical safety project, of which analysis of GA accidents and taking forward safety recommendations is an absolutely crucial part of the process.

Alex Blomley:

So a lot more to come then. And I guess you would encourage all of you listening at home to read that consultation response document, particularly if you did respond to the original consultation. And thank you for doing so because as we've heard from Laurence today, it's vital that we understand your views. And it's an opportunity to put your views forward. So we have included a link in the podcast notes to that consultation response document that we've published, as well as our updated webpage on this topic. So you should have everything you need to be up to date with where we are. And Laurence, thank you for taking us through all of that. So you mentioned the next consultation for phase two, which is obviously sounds like it's going to be the big one as it were. Have you got any timescales that is yet that you're able to share? I know you mentioned next year but I don't know if you've got any more details that you're able to tell us about at the moment.

Laurence Baxter:

Well, we do we've got a really big big piece of work underway right now in this phase two technical details across the full range of aircraft categories in scope of this consultation. So quite a lot of work, we got technical working groups in progress, some of which have already met, others are about start meeting. And so there's a quite a lot of work being going on right now. And this is across all the aircraft categories. So then we will aim to publish a public consultation. Again, probably early in the new year, we're hoping this might be one big consultation, but I think it'll be more like a suite of consultations across the various aircraft categories. And then we might have one a couple of overarching ones. By all means, if you have some questions to us specifically, we're happy to take them. While there is quite a lot of work going on. We are quite heavily involved in this process, the association is probably best placed to respond to specific queries that you might have, or maybe take views on what should be done. Thank you, again,

Alex Blomley:

Laurence. That's really, really useful and helpful insight. And again, if you have any topics that you'd like us to share with you, please feel free to get in touch with us at This is our fourth podcast on the licencing consultation project. So do please refer to listen back, if you perhaps missed those when they came out and sort of bring yourself up to speed on this project, we would encourage you all to do so because this is obviously a multi year multifaceted, multi phased project that we're undertaking here. So we're really keen that the GA community in the UK really understand what's going on. And if you've got further queries or questions, obviously feel free to come to us. But as Laurence mentioned there, it is worthwhile going to your membership associations. If you are a member to share any thoughts or questions concerns that you may have. We are talking with them extensively as part of this project. And so they are probably your first helpful point of call if you have comments that you'd like to make. So thank you again for listening today. And yeah, please feel free to get in touch and we will speak to you all again soon. Thanks 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