UK flight training regulatory charges rise by 7.7%

The UK Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) charging scheme for the financial year 2024/2025 came into effect in April. The headline figure for the flight training industry is a 7.7% increase across all CAA safety related charges which includes licensing charges for pilots and flying schools, revised down slightly from the 8.3% increase previously proposed.

Details of the revised charges for pilots and flight schools are contained in CAA document ORS5 no.416’. The CAA explains that the 7.7% increase is based on an inflation-related 5.3% blanket increase, plus an additional 2.4% increase (down from a previously proposed 3%) for certain areas such as its safety-related charges, which has been introduced to pay for the CAA’s Future Flight programme, developed to allow integration of new airspace users, namely the drone and air taxi industries.

Rising cost

Some of the highlights include the initial grant of a PPL rising to £237 (with some variations for LAPL and gyroplane applicants), while the initial issue of a professional pilot licence will rise to £308. On the subject of flight tests, the controversial Instrument Rating (IR) flight test booking fee will not now exceed £1,000 as previously proposed, due to the revised 7.7% increase down from 8.3%, but not by much, coming in just under at £995, continuing to make it the most expensive pilot test booking fee in Europe.

According to the Independent Flight Examiners and Instructors Association (IFEIA) the CAA will continue to take the lion’s share of the booking fee and examiners will now take an even lower cut. During the financial year 23/24 flight test examiners were paid £319 to deliver an IR flight test, with the CAA pocketing a £605 booking fee.

Examiners 

This year the CAA is paying flight examiners £336 per flight test (a 5.32% increase), while it will take £659 (an 8.29% increase).

While the percentage variances aren’t dramatic, IFEIA says that it is concerned that it may signal a general change in the favour of the regulator and so have written to the CAA asking for a reconsideration. IFEIA chairman David Hoy wrote: “Whilst these additional increases are not significant at the moment,
over the years they will mount up, and, again, the examiners’ share of the test fee will reduce; equally importantly, the candidates will have to pay a higher percentage increase than justified by the CRD.

“When authorised examiners were first used, the fee was shared equally between the Authority and the examiner. “…the test fees are now approaching some three times the price for equivalent tests in Europe under EASA… IFEIA continues to assert that the amount charged by the CAA for simply taking a booking is unjustified when compared to the work required in actually ‘flying’ the flight test as an examiner… No other single examination fee in the United Kingdom matches the fees charged by the UK CAA.”

For flying schools, the cost for the initial application for a new Approved Training Organisation (ATO) delivering private pilot training courses now starts at £655 (if the school is using the CAA-approved ATO template manual, otherwise it’s £1,269), with additional scrutiny (if deemed necessary) charged at £218 per hour, capped at £3,188. The annual ATO continuation charge is then £218 (plus £164 for each additional training site).

DTO & ATO 

New Declared Training Organisations (DTOs) will meantime need to pay a more modest £218 on initial application, plus £164 every year thereafter. If the DTO wishes to use its own training syllabus, rather than one of the CAA-approved commercially available ones such as afeonline’s PPL Series, then the CAA will charge £1,091 to validate it.

For ATOs delivering professional pilot training programmes the scheme of charges is a magnitude higher, ranging from £15,000 to £19,000+ for integrated MPL and ATPL training programmes (with annual continuation charges about 15-20% lower), while modular commercial pilot training programme approvals are in the £1,600-£2,000 range.

Flight simulator approval charges meantime look to remain unaffordable for smaller schools, with basic Flight Training Device (FTD) approvals set at £10,922 if used as part of an approved training programme (or £21,844 for a Full Flight Simulator approval). The majority of PPL schools with FTDs will therefore likely continue to use these devices as training aids only, with time spent training on them not permitted to be logged and to count towards the minimum hours training requirement.

CAA comments 

Having consulted with industry on its new scheme of charges for an eight-week period between November 2023 and January 2024, the CAA says it received a total of 128 submissions from 37 stakeholders.

Commenting on its rationale for its new charges, the CAA says: “In recent years, our focus has been on addressing the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the aviation sector, helping support the industry that we regulate, and our colleagues.

“Assessing where we are in 2024, industry volumes have largely recovered to levels last seen in 2019. At the same time, we see growing consumer demands on capacity and reliability of service, alongside rapid technological change and innovation, adding new dimensions to the aerospace sector and growing the demands on the CAA as regulator and enabler.

“Welcome financial assistance from the DfT during Covid 19 allowed our charges to be frozen for two years during the peak of the pandemic, with below inflation price increases on like for like activity delivered following this period.

“The changes we now propose for FY2024/25 are necessary to ensure that we can continue to maintain a sustainable future funding structure. In parallel, the CAA is committed to delivering a 5% efficiency saving in like for like activities to generate funds to invest in our customer service programme.”

The move comes after the CAA announced National Air Traffic Services (NATS) air traffic control (ATC) price hikes

Image accredited to CAE 

Author: FTN Editor

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