Aban­don hope…?

Pilot - - Airmail -

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

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