For over 65 years, I have experienced the joys of flight in the military, private and commercial (airline) spheres but, with advancing years, I − in company with many others − have found it increasingly difficult to meet the varying medical requirements to achieve the necessary licence certification. I have had a PPL, Flight Instructor rating, PPL Examiner rating, CPL and ATPL and, on retiring from airline flying aged 65 I became a Flight Simulator Instructor whilst reverting to a PPL in order to continue flying in a PA28 Piper Cherokee.
Whilst airline flying, I was diagnosed with a heart condition, atrial fibrillation, and was grounded for investigation, after which the CAA allowed me to resume airline flying provided I was part of a two-crew operation, which of course was no problem. After continued monitoring of my medical condition, in 1998 the CAA informed me that I would not be considered for further licence certification, and this continued until the wonderful advent of the NPPL, with selfcertification supported by the GP. This pragmatic view was that, for recreational flying in VMC by day in a light aircraft, a pilot and his (or her) GP were best placed to decide that the pilot was fit to fly and, more importantly, if s/he should become at any time unfit to fly.
This I have enjoyed for the last sixteen years and, by mutual agreement with my GP, I always now fly with a safety pilot who is current and qualified on type. However, this happy state of affairs is about to come to an end as the aviation ‘Powers That Be’ have decided to replace the NPPL for pilots flying EASA aircraft with a similar Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL), which allows a pilot to EASA light aircraft (under 2,000kg) in day VMC but has a caveat on medical requirements. A pilot may continue to self-certify fitness to fly but only if s/he has not at any time experienced a medical problem on a list exhibited on the CAA website. Otherwise s/he must submit to an examination by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) on initial application for the LAPL and only if s/he passes such an examination can selfcertification be used for future medical renewals.
So earlier this year I went for examination by an AME. This was extremely thorough, reminiscent of the higher classes of medical exam I had throughout my aviation career. Unsurprisingly I failed to pass the exam in my advanced years and for the AME to reconsider my application, I would have to:
obtain medical reports from every consultant concerned with my various conditions (e.g. cataract, hip replacement, atrial fibrillation) undertake an exercise ECG have further medical opinion re vision improvement (I’m due another cataract operation
but ‘not yet’) although I meet driving standards and so can still fly on my NPPL
undergo a medical flight to assess weakness in neck and leg muscles, and ability to exit the aircraft in an emergency − although in a PA28, being in the left-hand seat, I would be the last person out anyway and surely the ability to exit is solely at my risk!
I feel the requirements for another LAPL medical application are unnecessary and unduly onerous and, if applied across the board to applicants who have experienced a specified medical
problem in the past ( surely the reason they changed to
an NPPL – Ed), will prove too great a hurdle physically and financially, with no guarantee of success. Once again this will be the cause of a reduction in private pilots enjoying recreational flying in the UK.
It is ironic that, in the above circumstances, I can still legally fly on my NPPL until 7 April 2019, and even after that still fly NON-EASA aircraft on my NPPL with continued self-certification. It seems that the main casualty after 7 April 2019 will be common sense! After we leave the EU, I wonder if we will still be subject to EASA requirements or can we make our own rules – and will they be more permissive to older/less able pilots flying recreationally? I am not holding my breath… Norman Sutton, Neston, Cheshire