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Regulatory Brief -- JAA-FAA Harmonization of Flight Crew Licensing (Pilot Certification) RequirementsRegulatory Brief -- JAA-FAA Harmonization of Flight Crew Licensing (Pilot Certification) Requirements

Regulatory Brief

JAA-FAA Harmonization of Flight Crew Licensing (Pilot Certification) Requirements

The issue:

For years, the European national civil aviation authorities have worked to harmonize the existing patchwork of national aviation regulations into a single standard for all signatory nations under the European Union. This work has come under the auspices of the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) resulting in a European standard for civil aviation regulation known as the Joint Aviation Requirements (JARs). As the JARs continued to develop in Europe, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), under direction from the White House, has worked toward harmonizing US aviation regulations with the new European JARs. Preliminary efforts focussed on aircraft certification, maintenance, and operations standards. More recently the emphasis has shifted to harmonizing flight crew licensing requirements between the United States and Europe. The Flight Crew Licensing Harmonization Working Group, under the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC), was charged with developing recommendations to facilitate flight crew licensing harmonization between the JAA and FAA. AOPA has been an active participant in this group. The JAA regulations for pilot certification, included in Joint Aviation Requirements � Flight Crew Licensing (JAR-FCL), are scheduled to take effect in Europe on July 1, 1999.

The importance to our members:

The new JAR-FCL, due to take effect on July 1, 1999, does not contain any provisions for the conversion of US pilot certificates to the new European JAA certificates. This means that US pilots would not be allowed to fly aircraft registered in any European country since pilot privileges are tied to the national registry of aircraft. Similarly, because there are no provisions for the conversion of a US pilot certificate to a JAA pilot�s license, European students who come to the US to learn to fly would be unable to convert their US certificates to JAA certificates upon their return home. This would have a significant impact on the US flight training industry, which relies heavily on foreign students.

Significant provisions:

To understand the issues surrounding FCL harmonization, it is important to make the distinction between validation and conversion of airmen certificates. A validation of a foreign pilot license is a temporary authorization to fly aircraft of national registry based upon the foreign pilot�s license originally issued to the airman. For example, a US pilot planning to fly German-registered aircraft in Europe may seek out a temporary validation of a US pilot certificate from the German LBA (FAA) to fly these aircraft. This is solely an authorization and is predicated upon the currency of the underlying US pilot certificate. A conversion, on the other hand, involves actually issuing a new certificate. For example, a US pilot could approach the same German LBA to seek a permanent German pilot license. Once the conversion is complete, the two licenses are independent of one another and either can be dropped. If both are maintained, the respective currency requirements of each license or certificate must be adhered to in order to exercise the privileges of the certificate. A description of the existing U.S. and European validation and conversion provisions follows:
  • Under current FAA regulations, a JAA pilot license of any level (private, commercial, or ATP) will convert only to a FAA private pilot certificate.
  • Current JAA regulations require a bilateral agreement between the United States and the issuing country in Europe for conversion of a U.S. pilot certificate to a national license in Europe. There is no similar provision for conversion to a JAA license.
  • JAA flight crew licensing requirements permit validation of FAA pilot certificates with full privileges of the corresponding JAR-FCL license, though the process can be difficult.
  • FAA regulations technically do not allow validation of JAR-FCL licenses, but they do provide for the issuance of a special purpose authorization for flying U.S. registered aircraft in air carrier operations.

Discussions are complicated by the fact that there are two distinct approaches taken to pilot training in the United States and Europe. The JAR-FCL has two training systems for acquiring pilot licenses and ratings - an integrated training program ( ab initio), as well as a step-by-step modular training program. Both JAA training systems emphasize formal theoretical knowledge training along with skill testing. In sharp contrast, the FAA system of airmen certification emphasizes skill testing, which individualizes the training and improves theoretical knowledge. These philosophical differences make any direct comparison of the licensing programs impractical and complicate efforts to harmonization regulations.

AOPA position:

AOPA believes that United States and European licenses should be converted or validated in either direction with a minimum of additional requirements. Both United States and European pilots have comparable safety records and, though training philosophies differ significantly, the end product remains essentially the same. In the absence of specific language in the JAR-FCL permitting validation and conversion, AOPA encourages the FAA to negotiate bilateral agreements with each of the European Union countries to allow for conversion of US airmen certificates to European national certificates.


The final meeting of the FAA-JAA Flight Crew Licensing Harmonization Working Group was held in February 1999. While the group failed to reach agreement on many issues surrounding airmen validations and conversions, the groundwork was laid for further talks between the FAA and JAA. Talks continue between the JAA and the FAA on the development of bilateral agreements between the United States and individual national civil aviation authorities. Currently, there is a JAA Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA-FCL 10) out for public comment, with comments due by May 31, 1999. None of the validation or conversion issues are addressed in this document. AOPA continues to press for bilateral agreements that would enable the validation and conversion of US airmen certificates to European pilot licenses.