Published on July 17th, 2020 | by Mark Dwyer0
New Private Pilot Licences for General Aviation Pilots in Ireland
In the last 15 years most new light sport aeroplanes coming into the Irish market have been designed and developed as so called “Annex I” aircraft. This means that they are outside the scope of EU aviation legislation and have not been certified through the EASA Airworthiness system. Therefore, these increasingly sophisticated aeroplanes cannot be used for flight training towards the grant of an EASA Private Pilot licence (EASA PPL(A) or LAPL(A)). Although not certified to EASA certification standards, many of these aircraft are still designed to a recognised airworthiness standard (CS-VLA, BCAR Section S, LFT-UL, LAA UL-2 etc.).
Until recently, there were limited options when it came to flight training in Annex I aeroplanes. They best option in Ireland was to join a flying club providing training for the national 3 Axis Microlight PPL(M). The PPL(M) limits pilots to flying aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight (mass) of 450kg with a maximum of 2 seats. The PPL(M) flight training syllabus, while comprehensive, was developed many years ago and is not linked to the evolving standards required by EU regulations when training for an EASA PPL(A) or LAPL(A).
In November 2018 the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) published Aeronautical Notice P.26. This document, although only five pages, marked the culmination of months of work behind the scenes in the Authority developing a new Irish National Private Pilot Licence designed to meet the needs of pilots of Annex I aeroplanes in Ireland today. The publication of this Notice created two new licence regimes, 1) a National ICAO compliant PPL(A) that is equivalent in knowledge, skill, and medical standards to the EASA PPL(A), and 2) the National PPL(A) with restricted privileges, that is equivalent in knowledge, skill, and medical standards to the EASA LAPL(A). Notice P.26 also contains details of a National Flight Instructor Rating that can be added to a national licence to instruct for these licences.
The development work for these new licence regimes required input from numerous departments within the IAA including; certification, airworthiness, licensing, aerodromes, and flight operations. This work resulted in the publication of legal and guidance materials set out in the aforementioned Aeronautical Notice “AN P.26” and also Personnel Licensing Advisory Memorandum “PLAM 029” and “Aerodrome Notice T.15” which are all available on the IAA website.
What Does this Mean for Flying Clubs?
For Flying Clubs offering flight training around the country, these new rules mean that we can deliver the same level of LAPL and PPL training, to the same standards but using more efficient and modern aircraft. Benchmarking the course against the EASA syllabi means that recreational flying can immediately take advantage of any safety improvements to the training programme that are developed at EASA. Not all Annex I aeroplanes will be eligible for use as training aeroplanes. Flying Clubs who wish to set up a training course for the National PPL(A) will need to apply to the IAA and have their aeroplanes specifically approved and assessed as suitable for use to safely and effectively deliver PPL(A) or LAPL(A) training as detailed in the equivalent EASA flight training requirements. Not only does this give them an enhanced level of safety, but by using efficient Annex I aircraft, it allows clubs to keep recreational aviation as affordable as possible.
Flying Clubs offering flight training for national licences will also need to meet the organisation standards of an EASA Declared Training Organisation (EASA DTO). These are quite straightforward to comply with and are very similar to the old RTF rules under which most flight training has been conducted in the past.
The Authority also developed a declaration process for aerodromes (IAA Notice T.15) allowing unlicensed airfields to be used for flight training once minimum safety standards are achieved. These standards include the provision of an Aerodrome Emergency Plan, firefighting, and first aid equipment.
The new national licences do not replace any existing licences (e.g. PPL(M)) which will remain untouched and available to pilots and Flying Clubs. However, the new National PPL(A) with restricted privileges – known more commonly as the National LAPL(A) – will offer many more privileges. The National LAPL(A) privileges are to act as PIC on single-engine piston aeroplanes-land with a maximum certificated take-off mass of 2,000 kg or less, carrying a maximum of 3 passengers. The National PPL(A) with an SEP(LAND) rating will be an ICAO compliant licence providing similar privileges to the EASA PPL(A). In both cases these privileges may be exercised in Irish registered Annex I aeroplanes – i.e. aeroplanes issued with an IAA issued Flight Permit or National Certificate of Airworthiness.
The IAA are currently working with stakeholders to develop a conversion course that will allow pilots to convert their existing 3 axis PPL(M) licences to a National LAPL(A) or PPL(A) to take advantage of these extra privileges. These details are still being worked out but will most likely includes elements of ground school, flight training, and a Licence Skills Test. There may also be an opportunity in the future to convert national licences to EASA licences.
In June 2020, the Ormand Flying Club in Birr became the first club in the country to gain approval for this new national licence. FunFly Aerosports at Limetree airfield is currently awaiting approval and It is expected that a number of Flying Clubs around the country will be approved by the end of the summer to offer these new National Private Pilot Licences.
As a community we all look forward to being able to welcome new pilots into our Flying Clubs and have the ability to offer safe and affordable PPL (A) flight training that complies with industry best practices and international standards.