From 1 January 2023, the UK will no longer be able to recognise various EASA-issued certificates, approvals and licences for the operation or maintenance of UK-registered aircraft. The UK Civil Aviation Authority has been encouraging holders of EASA approvals and personnel licences to ensure that they obtain their UK equivalent licences in good time.
On 25 May 2022 we held a webinar to brief industry participants on the changes. From the CAA, David Kendrick, Head, Airline Licensing, Consumer & Markets Group, Barry Mooney, Flight Operations Manager and Christopher Street, Legal Adviser, took part. Simon Phippard, Of Counsel in Bird & Bird’s aviation practice in London, introduced the session.
Saving provisions come to an end in January 2023
The CAA outlined the changes that will take place at the end of 2022 and the reasons for these changes. The EU Withdrawal Act included a number of exemptions and saving provisions, allowing the CAA to continue to recognise EASA licences seamlessly. However there is no prospect that, between now and the end of the year, additional annexes will be implemented under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement to allow more mutual recognition. This is therefore the final call for organisational approvals and individual licences. The following personnel and organisations will need UK-issued licences and approvals to continue working and operating UK-registered aircraft from 1 January 2023:
- Pilots with EASA licences operating UK-registered aircraft;
- Engineers with EASA licences, maintaining UK-registered aircraft;
- Maintenance organisations with EASA approvals maintaining UK-registered aircraft, including maintenance training (i.e. Part 145 and Part 147); and
- Part CAMO/CAO organisations supporting maintenance of UK-registered aircraft.
In addition, EU carriers operating to the UK now require a UK Third Country Operator (TCO) certificate. Non-EU carriers operating on the basis of an EASA Part TCO approval will need to apply also for a UK Part TCO certificate to continue operating to the UK after 1 January 2023.
The CAA has launched simplified application processes for those who previously held UK licences to regain them. The process also allows for EASA licence holders to gain UK licences. However the streamlined process will no longer be available after 31 December 2022. After this date, pilots with European licences wishing to gain their UK licence will be required to go through the full conversion process, including examinations.
While there is no direct impact on the aviation finance community, covenants in finance and leasing documents that require an operator to hold appropriate approvals and employ suitably licensed crews will require a slightly different interpretation in 2023. There is no change to the wet leasing rules at the end of 2022, but the post-COVID market has seen significant demand for wet lease services, which the UK approaches on a case by case basis. The CAA has discretion in this area but also a policy objective to encourage operators to use the UK register.
Various other steps have been taken to ease the process. Pilots have been contacted individually and existing limitations on holding multiple licences have fallen away. While there may yet be dual compliance requirements, individuals wishing to improve their marketability by holding both UK and EASA licences may do so and the streamlined process may facilitate this step. The CAA has been reaching out to scheduled airlines and, for instance, known air ambulance operators. The block permit process, which facilitates multiple operations by some GA operators, remains in place.
The focus is very much on operations and continuing airworthiness. Initial airworthiness is of course covered under the TCA Annex on Airworthiness and Environmental Certification and with the agreement on Technical Implementation Procedures signed in May 2021, but progress on other areas of mutual recognition, and on nationality-based ownership and control of operators, remains slow. The meetings of the Specialised Committees on Air Transport and Aviation Safety continue once a year with more frequent working level meetings on safety. The UK is working with the US to agree a replacement process for mutual recognition of Repair Station approvals to apply for the benefit of UK operators from the end of 2022.
Although the end of the saving provisions has been known about for some time, there is still some way to go. For instance some 350 UK Part-TCO certificates are being processed, and only about 3,500 UK Part-FCL licences have been issued, compared with about 8,000 which transferred to EASA.
Further information is available on the following pages on the CAA’s website.
Otherwise, please watch the recording of the entire webinar or get in touch with your usual contact at Bird & Bird.
For further information, please contact:
Simon Phippard, Bird & Bird