CAA ‘descending into complete chaos’ on licences

Parts of the CAA are on the verge of ‘descending into complete chaos’ according to the Pilot Licensing Advisory Group (PLAG), a not-for-profit entity representing the pilot training industry.

PLAG is calling for immediate government action to allow acceptance of all EASA certificates without qualification after a further fall in CAA service standards.

“The CAA have now unilaterally removed all time constraints on their process to issue UK licences to pilots who transferred State Of Licence Issue prior to Brexit and have publicly stated that they will not consider requests from individuals to expedite the process,” says a statement from PLAG.

“Only requests from ATOs [Approved Training Organisations] and companies are to be considered and even then will only be agreed in extreme circumstances.”

PLAG’s action follows a response to a Freedom of Information request which showed that 561 such applications had been made since 1 April and only 21 licences, less than 4% of applications, have actually been issued. The published CAA service level is 10 working days for all application types.

The CAA’s decision was greeted with shock on social media with many pilots confirming the impact of the delays.

“This is chaotic, pilots are not current, examiners are struggling to get requalified. The system is breaking down,” said one.

Flight Instructors and Examiners who transferred SOLI are potentially affected by this delay because they lose the right to instruct/examine for a UK licence/rating on G-reg aircraft on 1 July 2021. See ORS4 1469

Dr Stuart Smith, Chairman of the Advisory Group, said, “This is a completely unacceptable situation that will damage the UK aviation industry and may cause serious embarrassment to the UK Government.

“Many pilots need UK licences in order to work. Many Flight Examiners are self-employed.

“The CAA are firefighting. They can’t cope and they need time to build up their capabilities.

“It is time for Grant Shapps to step in to remedy the process. This can be done by a minor change to the law so that EASA licences and ratings are accepted without qualification for at least a couple of years.

“It is the only way to stop the licensing system descending into complete chaos and needs to be initiated immediately.”

The CAA Response

A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said: “We would like to apologise for the length of time some of the EU to UK licence conversion applications are currently taking to complete. We are working hard to resolve this where we can.

“Following the UK’s departure from the EASA system we put in place a simplified process for EASA licence holders who want to gain a UK licence to follow. This requires us to verify an applicant’s details with the relevant EASA licensing authority. As a result, we are dependent on how quickly that authority takes to process a request.

“We are still awaiting a large number of licence verifications from EASA Member States. Because of the unpredictability of this situation it is difficult to enforce a service level agreement, which is something we are normally committed to doing.

“Under the European Union Withdrawal Act the majority of flight crew can still operate for a significant time. EASA licences which were valid and in force on 31/12/2020 can continue to fly G-reg aircraft up to the end of 2022, and any previous UK licence holders who transferred their licence and had their new EASA licence issued before 31/03/21 can continue to fly G-reg aircraft until end of this year.

“We are aware that there are some exceptions and where there is an urgent operational need we will of course aim to expedite an application.”

Pilot Licensing Advisory Group

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash


  1. Brexit keeps on giving eh…losing EASA was a big big mistake..formally EASA LAPL holders can no longer fly their aeroplanes in Europe they now will have to convert their LAPLs to a UK Part FCL PPL if they can get a class two medical…

  2. The CAA are such liars. Turnaround of CAA requests for information from other NAAs is typically less than 24 hours. Just trying to blame someone else for their own incompetence.

  3. “Applied at 9am on 1st of April. IAA asked my permission (and money) to release my info on the 25th of May. This was sent to the CAA on the same day. Still awaiting the licence in the post.”
    “Applied on 7 Apr 21. Request sent to IAA on 25 May 21. IAA responded 26 May 21. Medical issued 7 Jun 21 but awaiting medical assessor sign off. Still awaiting licence issue….”
    “I sent my SOLI request to the IAA in August, they sent their request to the CAA mid August. The CAA didn’t send my licence details to IAA until December, licence was issued in January. Utterly useless.”
    ” I think the UK CAA seem to have forgotten that behind every licence application is a career/livelihood at stake alongside an awful lot of money for some people.”
    “I put a complaint in. I found this out from the result of the complaint. I applied on the 1st April. My application wasn’t processed until the 22nd May. It was then sent to Denmark who replied on the 24th May. Today 8th June I’ve just had the medical department issue a medical and it’s likely that my licence is on its way soon. Awful performance from them. ”
    All from the fb group ‘ATPL Theory Students’

    1. To be fair, the CAA have never said they wanted any of this. On the contrary they have told Govt it made no sense and they weren’t resourced for this work.

      But our ‘dear leaders’ ignored all that and told them to get on with it.

      1. Yes that’s correct the CAA were very influential in making the EASA regulations etc over the last 15 years… it was all part of BoJos ridiculous Brexit postering…

  4. I gained a CAA ‘valid-for-life’ PPL long before JAA and then EASA upset the apple cart, and a raft of new sub-PPL licences with restricted privileges were invented. I added a raft of ratings (Night, IMC, etc.) and flew around happily, both at home and abroad, for many years. I then spent a fortune gaining a CAA BCPL when it was decided that an FI rating could no longer be added to a PPL.

    Nowadays, the CAA is once again the licensing authority, and one can instruct with only a PPL, i.e. it’s back to square one. Except, of course, that I am no longer permitted to fly, let alone instruct on, the types of aircraft on which I originally trained, flew happily for many years and on which I helped train a later generation of PPL students.

    I guess it was naïve of me to suggest to the CAA that my original qualifications and subsequent experience might entitle me to the issue of one of their new-fangled PPLs, and a return to the same privileges I enjoyed before the world went mad…..!

  5. And this is before you throw in all the FAA-licensed pilots, who are now required to get involved in this mess too if they are to continue exercising flight privileges.

  6. The policy decision to invalidate UK licences when a SOLI UK to EU completed after 1 Jan 21 was non-sensical. There was no impediment to retaining the UK licence from that point. They did not even tell people they had done so!

    It would have eased their administrative burden considerably.

  7. This organisation needs a fundamental reset. Completely unfit for purpose. Now staffed by jobsworths who care more about process than the livelihoods of people working within the industry they are supposed to be serving.

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