UK Private Pilot licensing changed on 8 April 2012 when EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) FCL (Flight Crew Licence) regulations came into force. The intention has been to standardise the rules across Europe, where previously there were many national variations. After a five year transition period, the majority of European private pilots now operate on EASA PPL licences issued by their own country authority. Qualifications/ratings, training courses, exams and skill tests have been harmonised so that training may take place in any EASA member country and privileges use on any EASA registered aircraft.
However it is still permitted to fly with a non-EASA licence in specific cases.
This affects many pilots in different ways depending on their current qualifications/licences and the type of flying they want to do. This naturally leads to lengthy explanations of how this will affect a wide range of different circumstances, such as UK only licences, flying instructors and other special cases.
Before we begin – Two important distinctions
1) UK issued Private Pilot Licences
EASA PPL: From 2012, the UK CAA issued EASA licences which carry full internationally recognised privileges and can be expanded with additional ratings and other qualifications.
EASA LAPL: Introduced in 2012, this is a European-wide version of the UK NPPL, introducing a lower cost/simpler entry level option but valid only throughout EASA countries.
UK NPPL: In 2002, the UK CAA introduced a lower cost, simpler option called the NPPL (National Private Pilot Licence). This was aimed as an entry level licence for private pilots who wished only to fly within the UK in light aeroplanes of threes specific classes by day in good weather. These are for microlight and smaller single engine aircraft.
UK PPL: The UK CAA has been issuing its own licences for decades and older pilots may still operate using their original UK PPL limited with a growing set of restrictions. These are still being issued on request, typically to those also holding EASA licences, because they can hold additional UK only/non-EASA ratings.
JAR PPL: In 1970, the UK aligned with over 40 other European countries to become part of the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA). This organisation prepared a common set of regulations (JAA Regulations – JAR) and recognised the licences issued by other JAA states. The UK issued JAR-PPL licences between 1999 and 2012 and are no longer valid.
2) EASA vs non-EASA Aircraft
What can you do with an EASA PPL
Valid for most aircraft: This includes not only EASA aircraft but also so-called Annex I and Permit-to-Fly/Homebuilt aircraft. I can even fly microlights including Flexwings (some differences training isn’t legally required but strongly recommended), although the hours won’t count towards my renewal.
Valid worldwide: On any aircraft registered within EASA member states.
Supports issue of US Airman Certificates: To fly a US registered aircraft (outside the UK), foreign pilots can be issued with a US Airman’s Certificate based on their UK licence. These “piggyback” licences issued under FAR 61.75 must match exactly the EASA licence number, which will differ from JAR-PPL and UK PPL ones.
PPL Difference Qualifications
The EASA PPL has seven different qualifications related to more complex aircraft, achieved by differences training with an instructor, which continue into the EASA scheme. These are recorded in your logbook and don’t need to be renewed or revalidated.
- Variable Pitch (Propellor)
- Retractable Undercarriage
- Turbo/Super-charged (Engine)
- Cabin Pressurisation
- Electronic Flight Instrumentation System (EFIS), such as Garmin G1000 or Avidyne
- Single Power Level Control (SPLC)
Added to those are the following EASA ratings. You’ll need a formal training course and then recorded onto your licence by your national CAA.
- FCL.800 Aerobatic rating
- FCL.805 Sailplane towing and banner towing ratings
- FCL.810 Night rating (renamed from Night Qualification)
- FCL.815 Mountain rating (two separate flavours exist for wheeled and ski undercarriage)
- FCL.820 Flight test rating
To fly in cloud, private pilots can train and pass a test for IFR flight. These instrument ratings are described in more detail in a separate article:
- Instrument Rating (Restricted) – formerly known as the IMC rating
- Instrument Rating
Last but not least, there are various flight instructor ratings (CRI, FI) and flight examiner qualifications, some of which also require commercial pilot licence theory exams.
8 April 2012: EASA Basic Regulation applied. All existing JAR-PPL licences were legally EASA licences, but anyone applying for a new/replacement licence would still get a document printed with JAR-PPL and could apply for existing UK ratings (e.g. IMC). JAR-FCL medical certificates were considered to be EASA Part-Med certificates.
17th September 2012: All EASA Part-FCL Annexes apply in UK. From this date, EASA licences and EASA medical certificates are issued. The licences are lifetime documents and don’t need to be renewed after 5 years as did the JAR-PPL ones. Those renewing their JAR-PPL licences after this date received non-expiring EASA licences. IMC rating is renamed IR(Restricted). Night VFR introduced. New applications for Registered Training Facilities from this date, all new training organisations must be ATOs (Approved Training Organisations) with all the associated paperwork and CAA approvals.
30 September 2013: From this date it’s no longer possible for EASA PPL holders to fly on a medical declaration from your GP with NPPL privileges rather than a full Class 2 medical.
8 April 2014: From this date, commercial pilots must have upgraded to EASA ones. Those with older UK only licences will be limited to VFR for simple aircraft (LAPL privileges). JAR-PPL licence holders can continue as before until their licence reaches its own 5 year expiry date.
17th September 2017: The last JAR-PPL licence had been replaced by an EASA licence and these documents are no longer legally valid.
8 April 2018: The four new ratings (Aeros, Towing, Mountain Flying, Flight Test) became mandatory for those activities in EASA aircraft.
8 April 2020: UK PPL licences become invalid to fly EASA aircraft. Prior to then, they may be used but only with LAPL privileges, namely: Single Engine Piston, maximum 2000kg take off weight, maximum four persons onboard.
EASA Part-FCL is based on EC Regulation 2018/1139, known as the Basic Regulation, the contents of which and implementation rules are to be found on the EASA website
CAA personal licensing page for EASA Licensing and Training Transition contains many relevant documents explaining the changes and how they have been implemented. There’s also a specific new page for private pilot licencing.
ORS4 1309: UK PPL valid on EASA aircraft with LAPL privileges
I’ve discussed the IMC/EIR/IR changes in a separate article
Irv Lee’s helpful list of valid combinations of licences and medicals and FAQ section on EASA licence issues.
Feel free to comment below if you believe any of this information is wrong, outdated or incomplete.
Last updated: 31 Jan 2020