Pilot Training Organsiation Approvals

Who approves and oversees pilot training in Europe?

Pilot training organisations need to hold an approval in accordance with the aircrew regulation from the appropriate ‘competent authority’. The ‘competent authority’ is usually the national aviation authority of the state where the organisation is based (e.g. the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK) but for organisations outside Europe who train pilots towards European licences and ratings the approval is granted by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Do all flying schools need an approval?

When the aircrew regulation was published in 2011 it was going to require all pilot training organisations to have an approval and meet the same organisation requirements. The implementation date for flying clubs and small flying schools was to be April 2015. After a recent U-turn by EASA and the European Commission this is no longer be the case. An amended regulation published on 17 March 2015 allows flying schools that were approved before April 2015 to continue to provide training for non-professional licences and ratings without having to comply with the organisation requirements of the aircrew regulation until 8 April 2018. There are also simplified safety management requirements for ATOs that only provide training for these non-professional licences and ratings.

Any organisation that intends to train pilots for professional licences and ratings (e.g. Commercial Pilot’s Licence, CPL and type ratings) needs to hold approval as an ‘Approved Training Organisation’ or ‘ATO’. There is one set of organisation requirements regardless of whether training is for issue of a licence or additional ratings and whether training is delivered in an aircraft, a simulator or only in the classroom.

What are the requirements for type-rating training organisations

The regulations don’t make the distinction between flight training organisations (formally ‘FTOs’) and type-rating training organisations (formally ‘TRTOs’). The organisation requirements and the approval process are the same, although there are specific additional requirements depending on the type of training delivered. They’re all referred to as ‘approved training organisations’ or ‘ATOs’.

What’s the process to obtain an ATO approval?

The application process will vary depending of the ‘competent authority’ (the national aviation authority or EASA), but will probably be longer and more complicated than you expect (especially if you already hold an approval outside Europe). The application has to be made to the correct ‘Competent Authority’ depending on the location of the ‘principle place of business’ of the organisation applying for approval.

For a detailed description of the process for organisations based outside Europe see ‘the EASA ATO approval process‘.

For some suggestions about managing a project to implement the regulatory requirements see ‘how to manage an ATO application‘.

Our consultants at McKechnie Aviation have extensive experience of dealing with ATO applications from both sides of the fence (industry and regulator). If you’re planning to make an application then it would be worth talking to us first. If we can’t talk you out of it then we can certainly make it easier.