An EASA official (EASA is taking over from JAA) has recently (2006) gone on the record as aiming towards a straight exchange from a FAA IR to a JAA IR. Together with acceptance of FAA certifications (which they are on their way to doing already but their requirement for the US STC holder to apply for certification is stupid; most American manufacturers can't be bothered to apply to EASA when most of their market is right on their doorstep) this will pave the way to kicking out foreign reg planes from Europe which is also their stated longer term objective.

But some EU members will never agree to this "watering down"; UK and Germany being the likely ones with the most elitist attitudes in the regulatory bodies. The committees are stuffed with old ATPLs, IR examiners, etc, and many of these people think that a "private pilot" cannot handle flying in the airways. This is rubbish of course but these people have not flown a modern light aircraft in decades. So political deals will have to be made, which means some meat will have to be thrown to some dog to keep him quiet. If this happens, one likely outcome is a restriction on the lowest category (PPL/IR). This could take the form of a limit to say FL195, or an exclusion from certain terminal areas. Or, quite likely, any handing out of JAA IRs (EASA IRs by then) could be limited to ICAO "professional pilots" i.e. ICAO CPL/ATPL holders. The situation is highly complex and the outcome will not be seen before about 2010.

It might pay to not be at the very bottom of the licensing "food chain" i.e. a mere "private pilot".

Paradoxically, a pilot with a JAA PPL/IR may also be stranded one day with limited privileges, if some of the most pessimistic predictions on the European IFR regulatory scene were to come true.

This is the scenario where a CPL holder might have an advantage. For the amount of work involved in getting an FAA IR, the FAA CPL may be worth doing as an insurance policy. A CPL holder is a "professional pilot" and they have historically always been better treated by the European regulatory authorities. Most business jets are flown not by the owner but by a paid crew, and the pilots can be either ATPLs or CPL/IRs, or an ATPL in the left seat with a CPL/IR in the right seat. Business jets are by far the most politically powerful sector of general aviation and messing with their pilots is the most difficult thing to do.

A CPL can fly with the FAA Class 3 medical; it is only for exercising the commercial privileges where a Class 1 medical is required, and exercising FAA commercial privileges (non-AOC) is in most cases illegal within Europe anyway.

The ATPL is the final step but this requires 1500 hours and some other stuff like 75/100 hours at night. In my view, it's insurance value in the above context is minimal. It may be of interest if the pilot has ambitions to fly business jets but there are not many jobs in the purely N-reg business jet scene; most jet jobs involve flying a mixture of registrations and require a JAA ATPL.


15th November 2007