Flight Crew Licensing explained. Licensing of flight crew has been in existence almost since the beginning of aviation. The first pilot licenses were issued in 1909 with the first international licensing standards following in 1919. Flight Crew Licencing (FCL) is usually the function of a State NAA, although the JAA-FCL system in Europe broke new ground by introducing an agreed international flight crew licensing system which could be implemented by participating NAAs.

Flight Crew Licenses

The ICAO licensing system detailed in Chapter 2 of Annex 1 covers the qualification for an issue of licenses and ratings for pilots of airplanes and helicopters, gliders, and free balloons. It also has a provision in Chapter 3 for licenses for flight engineers and flight navigators.

Regulatory activities which are a direct consequence of FCL include:

  • Approval of flight crew training provision
  • Approval of flight simulators and other synthetic training devices
  • Approval of arrangements for the certification of the medical fitness for flight crew

The particular case of medical fitness leads to the privileges of any flight crew license being conditional upon the inclusion within it of evidence of valid certification of medical fitness.

FCL in Europe

Having inherited an established a European FCL system from the former JAA which was implemented by each participating NAA, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) was given, under Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 February 2008 (also referred to as the EASA “Basic Regulation”), full legal responsibility for Flight Crew Licensing in European Union States. EASA is able to rely upon the support of the NAAs in the Member States acting as Qualified Entities to implement FCL. Initially, the JAR-FCL system has been continued almost entirely as inherited whilst EASA has consulted through the NPA system on change proposals prior to introducing Implementing Rules. That consultation is now complete and is helping to provide the basis for the new Rules which will provide for future FCL in Europe. It is currently anticipated that these will comprise two sets of requirements, one covering FCL and the other covering medical certification for all personnel licensing purposes. The requirements will be formulated so as to ensure compliance with Annex III of Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 and will take into account existing JAR-FCL 1, 2 and 3 requirements, existing requirements of individual Member States and ICAO Annex 1 Standards and Recommended Practices.

The EASA ‘Basic Regulation’

Article 7 of Regulation (EC) No 216/2008, the EASA ‘Basic Regulation’ states that:

“…Pilots involved in the operation of aircraft referred to in Article 4(1)(b) and (c), as well as flight simulation training devices, persons and organizations involved in the training, testing, checking or medical assessment of these pilots, shall comply with the relevant ‘essential requirements’ laid down in Annex III [of the Regulation]….”

Article 21 the same Regulation states that:

  1. With regard to the personnel and organizations referred to in Article 7(1), the Agency shall:(a) conduct, itself or through national aviation authorities or qualified entities, investigations and audits of the organisations it certifies and, where relevant, their personnel;(b) issue and renew the certificates of pilot training organisations and aero-medical centres located outside the territory of the Member States and, where relevant, their personnel;(c) amend, limit, suspend or revoke the relevant certificate when the conditions according to which it was issued by it are no longer fulfilled, or if the legal or natural person holding the certificate fails to fulfill the obligations imposed on it by this Regulation or its implementing rules.
  2. With regard to the flight simulation training devices referred to in Article 7(1), the Agency shall:(a) conduct, itself or through national aviation authorities or qualified entities, technical inspections of the devices it certifies;(b) issue and renew the certificates of:(i) flight simulation training devices used by training organisations certified by the Agency; or(ii) flight simulation training devices located within the territory of the Member States, if requested by the Member State concerned;

Further Reading


  • ICAO Annex 1 – Personnel licensing
  • ICAO Doc 9379 – Manual of Procedures for Establishment and Management of a State’s Personnel Licensing System
  • ICAO Doc 9841 – Manual on the Approval of Flight Crew Training Organizations
  • ICAO Doc 8984 Manual of Civil Aviation Medicine – Third Edition, 2012