The choice of NPPL and LAPL
One of the potential upsides of the transition to EASA pilot licensing is the new LAPL or Light Aircraft Pilot Licence.
A LAPL (Light Aircraft Pilot Licence) confers most of the privileges of a full PPL (Private Pilot Licence), but is less costly and slightly easier to obtain (30 vs 45 flight training hours required). The medical requirements are less restrictive, so that many former PPL pilots have “downgraded” to a LAPL and retained their right to fly. The introduction of Personal Medical Declarations for EASA (now called Part 21) aircraft in 2018 made that downgrade unnecessary for PPLs not wanting to fly abroad and happy being restricted to the LAPL privileges listed below.
It’s remarkably similar to the UK’s NPPL (National Private Pilot Licence) although since Jan 2021 cannot be used abroad. Newly qualified pilots require a further 10 hours solo experience before being allowed to carry passengers.
There are different variants of this licence for each of aeroplanes, helicopters, sailplanes (gliders) and balloons.
The UK NPPL will continue alongside the LAPL for the foreseeable future. Whether existing NPPL licence holders need to convert to a LAPL depends on what aircraft they fly and where they want to fly to.
Broadly speaking, Permit Aircraft pilots can happily continue flying with their NPPL as now. Pilots with NPPLs issued before 7 April 2018 who want to fly a Part 21 aircraft (see below) can still convert this to a LAPL licence as a paperwork exercise. Any NPPL licences issued after April 2018 can’t be converted and will require the pilot to take the full LAPL or PPL course and skill test. It is hoped this rule will be relaxed in the near future.
A new LAPL licence doesn’t expire, is valid for both Part 21 and Permit aircraft, provides similar privileges, similar medical requirements and has a few extras.
These notes below apply to pre-April 2018 NPPL(SSEA) holders who can easily convert and to any new student pilot who may want to train for one.
Some important terminology
Part 21 Aircraft has replaced the term EASA Aircraft now that we have left EASA.
Part 21 aircraft vs non-Part 21 aircraft: Most common aeroplane trainers are classified as Part 21, including Piper PA28, Cessna 152/172, Grumman AA5, Socata etc. Non-Part 21 aircraft include so-called Permit or Annex I such as amateur-built and microlights. You can verify which category any UK aircraft is registered to by looking up the aircraft registration on the G-INFO database.
SEP vs SSEA: Single Engine Piston vs Simple Single Engine Aircraft. These are pretty much the same, it’s just that SEP is used with full PPL licences, whereas SSEA is used with NPPL. There are limits to the Simple Single Engine class, which is defined as up to 2,000kg MTOW (Max Take-off Weight) and excludes microlights and self-launching motor gliders.
What does a LAPL licence permit?
- Fly a single engine aeroplane VFR with MTOW (Max TakeOff Weight) up to 2,000kg with no more than 4 people on board. With suitable differences training, this includes a variety of landing gear types (fixed, tailwheel, floats or skis) and/or variable pitch propellers. In theory, the aircraft could have more than 4 seats (such as a Piper PA32 Cherokee Six), but only 4 (including the pilot) can be occupied.
- Fly SEP (Single Engine Piston) or TMG (Touring Motor Glider) aircraft. A pilot would typically qualify in one class and require additional differences training and a further skill test to qualify in the other.
- Fly anywhere in UK, Channel Islands and Isle-of-Man. UK LAPLs are no longer valid in EASA countries.
- Carry passengers, including cost sharing of direct costs but not for profit, provided they have made 3 take-offs and landings within the last 90 days. The cost sharing doesn’t need to be split equally (e.g. pilot might contribute 10% while 3 passengers contribute 30% each).
- Train and qualify for additional ratings:
- Night, permitting Night VFR. If passengers are taken, then at least one of the three recent take-off and landings must have been at night.
- Aerobatic. The new EASA Aerobatic Rating comes into force in June 2018.
- Sailplane (i.e. glider) towing
- Banner towing
- Mountain. This new EASA Mountain Rating comes into force in June 2018.
- Fly a non-EASA aircraft (e.g. Annex II) in the UK. Hopefully this will be extended to other countries too, but this needs to be approved by each country’s CAA and that hasn’t happened yet.
- Fly without paying or receiving payment within the confines and oversight of a UK flying club, school or ATO (on the basis that the organisation operates the aircraft, doesn’t disperse profits outside the club and these are “marginal” activities rather than the majority of flights) one of the following types of flight
- “Introductory Flights” for potential new members
- Sailplane (ie Glider) towing (requires additional Sailplane towing rating)
- Parachute dropping
- Aerobatics (requires additional Aerobatics rating), including flight displays
What can’t a LAPL pilot do?
- Fly abroad. It is a sub-ICAO licence. UK LAPLs are not recognised elsewhere, even in Europe.
- Fly in cloud (IMC) or under IFR
- Fly a larger aircraft, heavier than 2000kg
- Fly a multi-engined aircraft
- Carry more than 3 passengers (4 total onboard)
- Fly with a current pilot as passenger when out of 90 day passenger currency (This is permitted for NPPL holders but not LAPL).
One of the main reasons that some PPL pilots choose the NPPL was because they could not meet the stricter medical requirements of the PPL. Another factor is the higher cost of a full PPL medical, which must be done by a registered Aircraft Medical Examiner (AME).
In 2016, the UK CAA replaced NPPL medical declarations that required a visit to a medical practitioner with a new self-declaration scheme which would apply to both NPPL. Existing pilots have no need to visit your GP or AME unless you suffer from one of the listed conditions. This is a considerable relaxation, and based on historic data that virtually no accidents have been caused by medical problems. The reality is that pilots are responsible enough to ground themselves if they know they are unfit to fly. Thousands of UK pilots have signed up to this scheme.
The LAPL requires a LAPL medical certificate, which can in theory be issued by your local GP. In most cases, pilots visit an AME but find it a bit quicker, simpler and lower cost than for a full Class 2 PPL medical. Medical checks are less frequent than for full Class 2 PPLs, for example no regular ECG tests (the ones where they wire you up with lots of electrical probes). CAA guidance can be found here.
In April 2018, the UK CAA extended the self-declaration scheme to cover FCL licence holders. Those who satisfy the requirements can fly with LAPL privileges in the UK only. Self-declared LAPL medicals (ie from the your local GP) are no longer available although existing ones remain valid until expiry.
In both cases (LAPL medical or self-declared), the medical requirements are very similar, lower than those for the full EASA PPL and comparable to those for professional HGV truck drivers.
It’s important not to confuse the medical self-declaration with a medical certificate (for a LAPL). These are different documents. A LAPL Medical certificate can be used with an NPPL licence.
The main reason I would expect pilots to seek a LAPL medical rather than Personal Medical Declaration is for student training – you can’t fly solo as a student without at least a LAPL medical certificate.
A full Class 1 or 2 PPL medical certificate can also be used to support a LAPL licence.
A LAPL medical is valid with a PPL licence as long as the SEP rating is valid. Surprisingly, this wasn’t always the case but become possible with regulatory updates during 2020.
Confused as to which combinations are permitted? This handy LAA table provides the answers.
Who issues these licences?
All are issued directly by the CAA. These can now be applied for entirely online and there is no need to send off your logbook. The process involves some additional checks (eg that you aren’t a terrorist or wanted criminal etc.) and takes a few days longer than just adding a rating.
Part of the NPPL licence issue process is handled by the LAA (Light Aircraft Association), who check each application, query any discrepancies, and forward recommendations to issue NPPL licences to the CAA. The NPPL website is regularly updated (usually daily) to show receipt of, and progress for, each NPPL licence application.
Pre-April 2018 NPPL holders don’t need to take any further flight training or pass any theory exams to convert their licence to a LAPL – it’s purely a paperwork exercise. You just need to pass a LAPL Medical examination (obtain a LAPL Medical Certificate) or hold a personal medical declaration and apply to the CAA.
You can apply online via the CAA website to convert your NPPL licence into an EASA LAPL. Alternatively, you can print out, fill in and send off the forms by post.
• SRG1104: The LAPL licence application form, which can also be used for any EASA licence. It includes a section to complete payment details.
• Just to be sure the CAA know you can speak English, I’d recommend including form SRG 1199 signed by a friendly flight examiner. EASA require English Language proficiency and natives should expect to be assessed at maximum Level 6 with minimum fuss.
Meanwhile the current NPPL training and licensing scheme also remains in force. After June 2018 it won’t be valid for (and can’t be conducted on) EASA aircraft. (Deferred from original deadline of 2015).
I would recommend that anyone with an NPPL(SSEA) licence issued before April 2018 who ever plans to fly EASA aircraft seriously and urgently consider upgrading to the LAPL licence. This will be a one-off cost for your licence application and you won’t need to speak with or fly with an examiner or have your LAPL licence revalidated bi-annually to keep current.
Who can provide training for LAPLs?
Any flying school or club that can train towards a PPL can now also train for the LAPL.
Initially, only ATOs (Approved Training Organisations – note the big capital letters) had been allowed to train directly for the LAPL. Their LAPL training course must itself also be approved by the national CAA. In October 2014, EASA announced it had decided to relax this requirement and allow any flying school already instructing PPLs to teach for the LAPL too. The UK CAA confirmed this took effect in the UK from 8 April 2015.
Training can be conducted by qualified flight instructors (FI). FI’s don’t need to have passed the CPL (Commercial Pilot Licence) theory exams to train LAPL pilots and be paid for it – whereas they do to teach for the PPL.
Most private pilot (PPL and NPPL) training is given by Declared Training Organisations (DTOs) while Commercial pilot (CPL and ATPL) training is given by Approved Training Organisations (ATOs).
The conversion route from a microlight licence NPPL(M) to NPPL(SSEA) and then LAPL is no longer available (unless your NPPL(SSEA) was issued before April 2018). Microlight hours aren’t recognised towards a LAPL or PPL course so you’ll have to sit all the exams, fly for 30 hours of instruction and take the LAPL skill test.
Apart from having a current medical certificate or personal medical declaration, there is a rolling currency requirement:
Within the previous 24 months of any solo flight:
- To have flown 12 hours as PIC AND
- To have made 12 take-offs and landings AND
- 1 hour dual instruction with an FI or CRI
This is subtly different from the two yearly EASA PPL revalidation process, where only the hours flown every second year count. On renewal of a PPL, you are effectively cleared for a further two years and could still be legally current up to 24 months later despite not having flown for perhaps more than 2 years.
A straightforward way to resolve lapsed LAPL currency is by taking a flight test with an examiner, possibly after some refresher training. An alternative is to fly solo under the supervision of an instructor (similar to when first learning or flying a solo cross country) until you have regained the 12 hours/12 take-offs/12 landings. An FI or CRI (Class Rating Instructor) can supervise these flights. You couldn’t fly with passengers during this time. Dual instruction doesn’t count either although might be required.
Unlike a PPL or NPPL licence, an instructor or examiner should never sign a new entry in a LAPL licence every two years. All evidence that you are current (including flight proficiency tests) is recorded only in your logbook. The CAA is not notified that a LAPL has revalidated or renewed and so cannot easily track the number of active LAPL pilots as for PPL.
Another “gotcha” is that when a LAPL is first issued, pilots may not fly solo with passengers until they have completed 10 hours solo. However, this limitation doesn’t apply to NPPL holders upgrading their licence provided they already have 6 hours PIC (reference CAP 804 Section 4 Part P Section 3.3 point 5).
Night flying with passengers is the same as for PPLs:
- You don’t need to have flown at night to retain night flying currency to fly solo, but do need to have made one take-off and landing at night in the last 90 days (out of at least 3 of each) if carrying passengers at night.
Hours flown on a microlight do count towards LAPL currency. This is now the same as with an NPPL, you could retain both microlight and SSEA currency by flying just one hour of SEP every two years and the rest on a microlight. Some do this by taking their instructor hour in a SEP once every 24 months. A signed logbook entry by the instructor should suffice.
Any Flight Instructor or Class Rating Instructor can provide training to extend your LAPL privileges to another class or variant of aeroplane (for which they themselves are qualified to instruct in).
Differences training is available for:
- Retractable Gear
- Variable Pitch Prop
- Single Power Lever (i.e. Diesel Engine)
- EFIS (Glass Cockpit Instruments)
EASA Part-FCL consolidated version (replaced CAP 804 bible on Flight Crew Licencing)
CAP 804 – The now outdated CAA bible on Flight Crew Licencing (replaced LASORS)
CAA website section on the LAPL
Forum topic: Can a LAPL pilot fly Annex II?
CAA information notice 2014/093 explaining easement on cost sharing (including advertising of private flights) together with introductory flights, sailplane towing, parachute dropping, aerobatics within a club or ATO oversight.
LAA interpretation of EASA deferment until 2018
CAA information notice 2014/188 explaining EASA deferment and other proposed changes due on April 2015
ORS4 1087 90 Day Rule for Private Pilots – Issued 13 Feb 2015
The LAPL licence scheme is quite a complex topic and the specific procedures for these new rules continue to evolve. Double check anything written above, and feel free to correct or clarify any errors/omissions I might have inadvertently included by commenting below.
Last updated 10 Feb 2021
Nice article; very informative. Thanks. And kudos for keeping it up to date!
One thing I would mention is the paragraph on Medical Requirements
“The medical requirements for a LAPL are very similar to those for the NPPL, […]. Medical checks continue to be less frequent than for full Class 2 PPLs, for example every 5 years rather than annually for over 50s.”
reads slightly misleadingly – it suggests (to me) the *LAPL* medical is valid for 5 years for the over 50s, whereas in fact it is 2 years (for the over 40s). (5 years is for the NPPL)
Thanks Geoff – it’s through helpful feedback like this that I can ensure it avoids misleading statements. I’ve updated the article and changed the example to no ECG tests instead.
David, as my Pilot’s Log book doesn’t record landings or whether I was solo or with passengers, who’s going to know what solo hours I’ve flown and how many landings I have done?
EASA regulation FCL.050 requires all pilots to maintain a logbook which includes those details.
However, a logbook can take many forms – this can be a simple Excel spreadsheet, one of those nice hardback books with specially printed forms, or any other recognisable written log. There are even several online services (some free of charge for the basic level) which capture this information. Your logbook is an important document so I would recommend you do invest in a standard logbook, but it doesn’t have to be a large commercial format. I do this and also maintain a spreadsheet. In both cases, these do log hours flown and landings, and can easily be shown to justify/prove the experience gained.
In the USA, pilots are only required to log those flights which prove they have enough hours etc. for currency to be legal (e.g. a VFR pilot need only log 12 hours and 1 hour Flight Review every 2 years, all other flights can be ignored). Most do maintain a full log for their own benefit – its nice to total up how many you’ve done over the years and where you’ve been. Here in Europe, EASA regulations mandate this for all flights – even for sailplane (glider) and balloons.
The specifics are extensively detailed in the AMC (Acceptable Means of Compliance) for Aircrew FCL which can be found here http://www.easa.europa.eu/regulations/flight-standards-implementing-rules.php
Good luck with your flying Jamie.
Thanks for your very detailed response David. Also, in you article you also referred to a change to the LAPL Regs coming in April 2015: Do you know if there are any other changes to any of those regs this month?
The big change this month (April 2015) is that ANY UK flight training school (so-called RTF = Registered Training Facility) can now train for the LAPL. They no longer need to upgrade to become a full ATO to do so. I’m not aware of any other country where this applies. The other big regulatory change which affects all VFR pilots is the introduction of SERA (Single European Rules of the Air). This harmonises the various different limits across Europe, such as how much to keep clear of clouds. Lots of detail about that on the UK CAA website.
David, an excellent article and you are to be commended for the work you’ve put into it. A minor point but in the interests of accuracy, in the second bullet point under the paragraph,”What does a LAPL licence permit?” you’ve defined an SEP as a Single Engine Propellor when it should be Piston. It is correct elsewhere in the article and once again, an informative and enjoyable read.
Thanks for the positive feedback and also the minor correction, which I’ve now updated. I appreciate you (and any other readers) taking the time to point out errors (minor and major) so I can keep this up to date in what remains a complex and rapidly changing field, with plenty of acronyms ready to confuse the unwary.
So can a pilot with nppl fly a 4 seater ??
Short answer is yes, NPPL can fly a four seater weighing up to 2 tons with up to four people on board. A LAPL pilot can fly an aircraft with more than 4 seats as long as there as no more than 4 on board (e.g. a PA28 Cherokee 6, with six seats but only pilot and three passengers is OK).
Hi David, can a former UK PPL holder and soon to be LAPL holder convert to microlights with just differences training? Thanks.
Leonard. Yes, I believe so. The principles are the same, just the low inertia of lighterweight aircraft takes a bit of getting used to. Enjoy!
Re LAPL revalidation…
Can revalidation be completed using hours logged in non EASA aircraft (ie microlight) ?
I currently have two licences (Irish national NPPL and JAR PPL (A) .
I normally fly a non EASA microlight but have to revalidate in Group A aircraft, flying 12 hours as PIC in the 12 months prior to renewal.
I therefore have been required to rent 12 hours in group A aircraft, every two years in order to maintain JAR group A licence.
This is an expense i could do without !
It’s not a simple question but here is my understanding of the current legal situation as of March 2017.
Firstly, LAPL doesn’t have a revalidation. Instead, there is a rolling currency requirement whereby each LAPL pilot is required to check before each flight that they have within the previous 24 months:
(a) flown 12 hours as PIC AND
(b) have made 12 take-offs and landings AND
(c) enjoyed 1 hour dual instruction with an FI or CRI
Alternatively, you can take a mini skill test (a proficiency check) with an examiner at any time.
Microlight hours flown don’t count towards this LAPL currency. Hours flown in non-EASA Annex II aircraft do count (ie. Jodel, RV, Cub etc.).
A proposal to change the EASA regulations was submitted by AOPA late last year but who knows if that will be accepted or how long it will take to be implemented.
Meanwhile, the UK CAA, who have powers to decide such things where non-EASA aircraft and licences are concerned, DO allow 3-axis microlight hours to count towards SEP or SSEA rating renewal for UK PPL and NPPL licences but have no direct powers for the LAPL. So if all you ever wanted to fly is microlights or Annex II aircraft and you have no plans to fly abroad, then an NPPL or UK PPL may be a lower cost option for you. (You can also self-declare your medical in that case too.)
Hope this answers your question even if you don’t like the answer.
Regarding the requirements in A, B & C: So I haven’t been flying a qualifying aircraft for a while & I’m out of hours so I must do the Proficiency Check with an Examiner. Where does that leave me? Does this Proficiency Check last for 2 years? E.g. Say I didn’t fly again for 23 months, am I still covered?
You would think a proficiency check should last for 2 years but there was some poor wording in the initial LAPL regulations (Part FCL.140.LAPL) which does not yet appear to have been updated and clarified (I know AOPA was working on that). There would be no benefit of taking the proficiency check if you also then had to fly enough solo hours to regain currency that way. The latest edition of Part-FCL that I can find on the EASA website (June 2016) has the same original text as on the CAA website, with neither stating the validity period of a proficiency check.
The following is a quote from Jon Cooke from the LAA in response to a question in January 2016 regarding the Rolling Revalidation:
“There have been suggestions from some NAAs that the system could do with changing – I would favour a return to a fixed validity period for simplicity. We trialled rolling revalidation for class ratings in 2000 when the NPPL was introduced; the use of rolling revalidation requirements was deemed unsuccessful so we reverted back to a fixed validity period for class ratings.”
Very helpful and clear article!
You say that an NPPL with both M and SSEA can be kept valid for both by flying 12 hours M and the 1 hour flight with instructor in an SSEA or SEP in the 2 year period.
However it seems unavoidable that the latter will be in an EASA aircraft unless you own a suitable non-EASA one. I’m not aware of anywhere offering instruction on non-EASA aircraft other than M’s, are you? After April 2018, flying an EASA aircraft even in UK will require an EASA license and medical. Will that apply even to a flight under instruction? If so that will block this useful quirk of the regs.
I can’t see any restriction in the current ANO (CAP393) which prevents a school or independent instructor performing a revalidation in non-EASA/Annex II aircraft, so there may be possibilities even if you don’t own one.
As you say, after April 2018 the situation will be different and may encourage more pilots to transition to EASA licences.
Yes the current situation is clear, it’s after April that interests me as I don’t want to bother with an EASA license and medical (it’s not that I have a problem, it’s just more nuisance and cost as all I want to fly is LAA permit aircraft and microlights).
My guess is that if the instructional flight is logged as P U/T it should be OK, but if it is to be logged as P1/S as at present, then you would have to have an EASA license & med if it’s an EASA aircraft, and I don’t know of anywhere that instructs on non EASA aircraft (other than microlights).
Instructional flights with an instructor are logged as PUT (Pilot under Training). Only Proficiency Checks and Skill Tests by an examiner are recorded as P1/S (Pilot under Supervision). This is regardless of whether its an EASA or permit aircraft. You do not need a current medical of any sort to take an instructional flight or even a skill test (if the examiner agrees), only to fly solo. So perhaps upgrading to an EASA licence but using self-declaration medical because you only fly permit aircraft solo would suffice.
I have a current CAA lifetime PPL that I am looking to convert to a LAPL in view of the type of flying I expect to do. If I have judged wrong and need more capability, what would I need to do to adjust to an EASA PPL?
I’d convert to a LAPL as soon as you can. The deadline of 8th April will be a busy time for everyone, since after that date you wouldn’t be permitted to fly an EASA aircraft. I strongly doubt this deadline will be extended further.
Upgrading a LAPL to a PPL licence involves:
– A Class 2 medical
– Fly a total of at least 15 hours since LAPL issue of which at least 10 are flight instruction. There will be at least 4 hours supervised solo flight including at least 2 hours solo cross-country.
– A qualifying solo cross-country flight of 150 NM or more with two full stop landings at different airports.
– Pass the standard PPL skill test
– There are no additional PPL theory exams, since the LAPL theory covers everything required.
– Send off your paperwork to the CAA (can be done online now) and expect a licence back in the post in about 2 weeks.
Reference Part-FCL – FCL.210.A PPL(A) — Experience requirements and crediting
Also UK CAA guidance on licence expiry/conversion
Note that an EASA PPL and EASA LAPL licences are completely different. You can’t chop and change, or mix with different medicals. Either you have a PPL + Class 2 or a LAPL + LAPL Medical. Changing between them requires a licence reissue by the CAA. Self-declared medicals don’t count for EASA licences. Neither does EASA PPL + LAPL medical.
Thanks David – so not too onerous if I find that I need my old PPL abilities again in an EASA wrapper. LAPL application off as soon as I can pin my CFI down to verify the required documentation!