Pilots in Europe will likely have to go through costly and lengthy processes to convert their FAA-issued pilot certificates and aircraft registrations. According to new regulations put forth by EASA, the European equivalent of the FAA, all pilots that live in Europe must obtain EASA licenses in order to fly in Europe.
Prior to now, many European pilots have come to the US and obtained FAA certificates. The only major limitation until now has been that these pilots were required to fly N-registered aircraft. Unfortunately, under the new regulations, this practice would be illegal.
The biggest motivator for pilots in Europe to obtain FAA certificates was cost. Many JAA or EASA licenses cost significantly more than the equivalent FAA certificate. According to estimates, there are more than 10,000 pilots in Europe with FAA Instrument Ratings. These pilots, who likely saved thousands by coming to the US and obtaining the rating, will be required to convert to the EASA rating. Unfortunately, there is the potential that these pilots would have to undertake all seven examinations and additional medical examinations in order to qualify for the conversion thereby erasing any cost-savings.
According to the IAOPA, the most concerning issue is that the regulations appear to have very little to do with safety. They said that there have been no indications of safety issues with the current system.
While this may not directly affect pilots outside Europe, it will likely have a very detrimental effect on US flight schools. These regulations effectively destroy a significant market segment for many schools that primarily serve international students. These students will no longer realize a cost savings by coming to the US, so they will no longer come. In a time when many schools in the US are trying to cope with the struggling economy, it is likely some schools will be forced to close.
Additionally, since the regulations will also affect the operation N-registered aircraft in Europe, many US aircraft manufacturers could see a drop in demand. Most notably, certain modified aircraft, which are legal in the US under STCs, would not qualify under the new regulations rendering them virtually useless. This could lead US companies like Cessna and Cirrus to see a drop in European demand as pilots shift to European manufacturers like Diamond or DAHER-SOCATA. Given the current depressed state of the aircraft market, this can only lead to further cut-backs at production facilities in the US.