To achieve its goals, PPL/IR Europe has to meet at least 5 objectives:
- To be a source of Continuous Professional Development for Private IFR pilots
- To provide the Private IFR pilot the information that a professional gets from the airline Ops Department
- To represent the needs of the Private IFR pilot to the Authorities
- To assist the Authorities in the framing and modification of regulation
- To provide a mutually supportive community of Private IFR pilots
1. To be a source of Continuous Professional Development for Private IFR pilots
A professional pilot develops continuously, for thousands of hours, between getting his IR and taking command…the recently qualified PPL/IR is expected to jump from the training machine directly to single pilot command.
Flight schools train towards requirements.
If the requirements are that the candidate should be able to fly a departure, airways sector, arrival, hold and approach within certain tolerances, then the school will train the candidate to do those exact things.
Similarly, if a certain level of Theoretical Knowledge is required, that is the level which will be taught.
The flight schools are acutely aware of the costs of training flights and thus do not usually include extra, real world knowledge and experience; that is supposed to come later, and quite rightly so – regulation is there to mandate the fundamentals, but Continuous Professional Development is there to cover the practicalities.
When a fresh CPL or Frozen ATPL emerges from the school and is absorbed into an airline, he will be treated as an absolute beginner. For the next many thousands of hours he will be sitting next to an experienced Captain getting experience. He will have to do Line Training as well as Base Training before he is even qualified for the right hand seat, and will have to undergo Command Training and many more Line Training sectors before being allowed to command an aircraft. This whole process will be repeated if he changes aircraft type.
Compare this to the PPL/IR. He walks out of the flight school, holding on to his new IR, having little idea how to actually plan and execute an IFR flight which lands somewhere different from where he took off…something which, in all his IFR training, he is unlikely to have actually done. He is expected to jump in and be Captain from day one, with almost no training, briefing or experience.
PPL/IR Europe fills that gap. We offer advice, training, guidance, even informal mentoring, to pilots who need helping over that knowledge gap. Our books, magazine, website and forum are all dedicated to helping the PPL/IR develop his skills and knowledge.
The range of the advice and guidance we give is too great to list, but examples include:
- How to develop Standard Operating Procedures which keep you safe, even under pressure.
- How to deal practically with icing
- The realities of depressurisation
- How to transition safely between VFR airfields and the IFR en-route system.
Getting the job done:
- Light aircraft operation is different to CAT
- How to step outside CAT procedures and stay safe (non CDFA NPAs, for example)
- Flying in the modern regulatory environment
- Risk management
Working in Lower Airspace:
- How to fly en-route within TMAs
- Flying in and around weather, not above it
- Pop-up clearances
Working with weather:
- Where to get information
- How to interpret it
- How to determine what real effect it will have.
These are just a very small sample of the ways that PPL/IR Europe members help each other develop from new rating holders to professionally competent pilots.
2. To provide the Private IFR pilot the information that a professional gets from the airline Ops Department
Once the professional pilot is out in the real world he tends to be looked after by the airline Ops Dept.
They will make sure that changing rules and regulations are adhered to, and keep up with changes to laws and procedures. Routes, alternates and minima will be planned, flight plans will be filed, documentation sourced, Customs, handling and fuelling will be organised, hotels will be booked – all the pilot has to do is to manipulate the controls.
The PPL/IR is at the opposite end of the spectrum. If he doesn’t do it himself, it doesn’t get done. He has to know everything that is going on at government level and plan every detail of every flight to be sure that the flight will be successful and legal.
PPL/IR Europe strives to make sure that he knows how to do that and has the information available. We track regulations about maintenance, flight crew licencing, medical requirements, operations, equipment and so on and make sure that you know what affects you.
We help you by sourcing flight planning software which will create a route acceptable to Eurocontrol, by providing information from members about airports throughout Europe, by working with charts providers and discussing different ways of sourcing information.
We help you source and interpret weather information and NOTAMs and help you find schools and examiners when you need them.
We make sure that you are not on your own. Someone at PPL/IR Europe will know the answer to your questions, or who to get the answer from.
3. To represent the needs of the Private IFR pilot to the Authorities
Aviation is a big, tough commercial world, full of big, tough players who want and need to gain every small edge and advantage.
The main issue for European aviation is to improve the gate to gate efficiency of its CAT system – in terms of time, money, and environmental impact. The risks for GA is mostly that they are simply forgotten about, but also that solutions identified are suited to the small numbers of large aircraft that are CAT.
Among all the other pressures on them, such as taxation, environmentalists, planners, curfews, military airspace, slot allocations, bizjets, to name but a few, the last thing the airlines or air traffic service providers want or need is amateur, leisure pilots, as they see them, standing in the way of their maximising their operational efficiency. Light aircraft occupy resources, space and time which could otherwise be dedicated to commercial air transport and military aircraft.
We, as private IFR pilots, have a right to fair access to the resources and space the professionals would dearly love to take for themselves. This right is enshrined in EU law.
But to stake our claim, we have to be around the table, explaining our needs and rights, and defending our position against a well organised and well funded lobby.
The regulators do not want to regulate us out of existence, but they are so pre-occupied by CAT and the Military that they sometimes do not stop to think what will be the effect of the regulations they create. Mandating a $50k, 40Kg bit of equipment in every aircraft will have marginal impact on a 757, but would ground the private fleet. The regulators need to be constantly reminded to think GA before they regulate.
PPL/IR Europe gets to sit round those tables and quietly, but persuasively, make our points. The list of regulatory fora where we have an influence is far too long to describe in full, but it covers every aspect, from European general aviation regulatory strategy, to airspace change processes for individual pieces of airspace. At EASA we work on Safety Standards, Operations, Licensing and Airworthiness tasks, and we work in the SESAR project on ATM development. We also work in the UK especially with agencies such as CAA, NATS, Border Agency on Policy, Strategy, Airspace, Safety and Operations.
4. To assist the Authorities in the framing and modification of regulation
Although it may seem similar to the section above, we also take a step back from that essentially reactive role to pro-actively assist the rule making bodies to completely rethink how they regulate GA, particularly IFR related regulation.
EASA and the other rule making bodies are well aware that if they make regulation too onerous, they will simply drive aviation either abroad or underground. They are also very open to changing regulations when they are shown not to be working.
It is against this background that PPL/IR Europe conceived and presented the idea of the Competence Based Modular Instrument Rating and the En-Route Instrument Rating. Those two concepts were dreamt up in a London hotel room by members of PPL/IR, and have survived all through the process towards becoming law, virtually unscathed.
We have already seen that many people will turn their back on European oversight and turn to the US authorities to regulate them. This is overwhelmingly necessary for IFR pilots, as the route to the JAA IR was made so tough and obscure.
EASA is on a mission to reclaim European aviation for European regulation. It veers between persuasion, by making the regulations easier to comply with, and compulsion, by making life hard for FAA license holders and Foreign Registered Aircraft.
But if the FAA route were to be closed and if then people could not fly wholly within the law, there is a risk that they will argue “in for a penny, in for a pound” and will fly wholly outside the law. They will cease officially maintaining their aircraft, having medicals or renewing their qualifications, because the regulators have just made it too hard or too expensive.
There is no question that some European nationalities are more prone to that approach than others, but it is seen as a real risk in some parts of Europe.
We have the impression that EASA like to have the weight of thinking these things through lifted from their shoulders and we are more than willing to help them if it means that practical, workable regulation is the result.
We seek to close the gap between the rulemaker and practicality.
5. To provide a mutually supportive community of Private IFR pilots
Finally, we have another important role to play for European IFR pilots. In the USA, being an IFR qualified pilot is nothing special. An IFR pilot is just a pilot and there is big community of like-minded people.
But in Europe, decades of making the IR too burdensome in a number of small but cumulative ways and the placing of unnecessary hurdles has made the private IFR pilot very much the exception rather than the rule. If we wander down to the flying club, or sit on pilots’ online forums, we tend to be in a very small minority. People don’t want to discuss instrument approaches or icing, nor do they engage in discussions about 600nm flights. They have their own interest in aerobatics, or going to farm strips, or mountain flying and we IFR pilots are seen to be somewhat cliquey and apart.
So PPL/IR Europe, as well as providing a community of knowledge, also provides a social community, organising trips to interesting places – like a grand tour of Europe for ten aircraft, or a visit to the Airbus factory – as well as dinners and meetings which have both a technical and social agenda. And of course the forum is a meeting place as well.
So that is the manifesto of what we do. We have had to leave out much of the detail from this short description, but we hope that it’s enough to give the general idea!