• How licences are categorised

    EASA and national licences

    Pilot licensing regulations are being standardised across all member states of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), including the UK. The EASA regulations have introduced a number of new pilot licences which are replacing licences issued by national authorities across Europe.

    These licences are known as EASA licences or Part-FCL licences. Part-FCL is the main piece of European legislation introducing the changes.

    In many cases, an EASA licence is already required to fly types of aircraft that fall under EASA regulations.

    Some licences, mainly for flying vintage, home-made or experimental aircraft, are still issued by national aviation authorities like the CAA, who follow different rules in each country. These licences are known as national licences or non-EASA licences.

    Which type of licence you need depends on what type of aircraft you want to fly. Aircraft are also classified as EASA and non-EASA, depending on what system of regulation they fall under. In the UK, all aircraft can be flown with an appropriate EASA licence; however, for some aircraft you do not need an EASA licence and can have a national licence instead. In the case of non-EASA aircraft that require a type rating, a UK national licence must be held since non-EASA type ratings cannot be added to EASA licences.

    More information about EASA and non-EASA aircraft

    Professional licences and general aviation licences

    Licences can either be for professional flying or for general aviation. If you have a professional licence, you can be paid for flying and fly in commercial operations (such as an airline flight). General aviation licences are for recreational flying only and you aren't allowed to be paid for any flying you do using one, apart from some flight instructor work.

    In the EASA system, the general aviation licences are the light aircraft pilot licence (LAPL), the private pilot licence (PPL), the sailplane pilot licence (SPL) and balloon pilot licence (BPL). The professional licences are the commercial pilot licence (CPL) and airline pilot licence (ATPL).

    Aircraft category

    Each type of licence is available in different aircraft categories. The categories of aircraft are:

    • aeroplanes
    • helicopters
    • airships
    • sailplanes
    • balloons

    For instance, the LAPL (A) is available for flying aeroplanes and the LAPL (H) is available for flying helicopters; the LAPL (As) is for airships, the LAPL (S) is for sailplanes and the LAPL (B) is for balloons.

    ICAO and non-ICAO licences

    Licences can be categorised by whether or note they comply with international rules from ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Licences which do comply are known as ICAO licences and those which do not are known as non-ICAO licences. Non-ICAO licences are not fully recognised internationally, and therefore are only valid for use within certain states or Europe; for example, the LAPL is only valid in Europe.

    Source of EASA licence requirements

    The Basic Regulation defines what aircraft and aerial activities fall within the remit of EASA legislation. The Aircrew Regulation sets out the detailed requirements for applying for EASA pilot licences, and contains the requirements for EASA flight crew licensing as well as Part FCL, which is an annex to the Aircrew Regulation.

    What is a rating?

    A rating is an official authorisation you can add to your licence. A rating can give you extra privileges or allow you to do something you can't do without it, like flying at night or flying a different class of aircraft.