COVID-19 Blog 3: EASA & Industry

Today, I am going to concentrate on the pilot training industry and the requests it has made of EASA via the Aircrew Training Policy Group

Also, given that a giant of commercial aviation has retired from his 20-year tenure in the hardest job in aviation – Chief Pilot in Ryanair – I am going to say a few words about my friend and colleague, Captain Ray Conway.

Captain Ray Conway

I met Ray when I was 20 and it was immediately clear that he was an exceptional individual. It seems that he was born with a wrench in his hand. He was, and is, besotted with engines, cars and bikes and all things mechanical. In fact, last week I received a photo of a dismantled engine with a question about himself “is there any hope for me?” Well Ray, so long as you can strip and assemble the engine of your Morgan in the dark, as you can, there is lots of hope for you.

Irish Air Corps

Ray joined the Irish Air Corps in the 1970s and could not wait to get his hands on an aircraft. So naturally he was a bit bemused at the fact that for the first year (at least) in the Curragh Military Camp he couldn’t find any airplanes! Nothing there but badges, stickers, boots and polish with strange men shouting at him all the time.

Eventually Ray got to fly the Chipmunk and the Fouga Magister  in Baldonnel and qualify as a Pilot Officer. We met in the Irish Air Corps in 1978. I had the good fortune to fly with him in the BE 20 King Air 200 and learnt so much from those few hours because of his quiet excellence. He was an absolute pleasure to fly with. Unfortunately, I did not get to share a HS 127 700 flight with him, but I believe it when I hear people say that he was the best ever operator of that lovely aircraft in the Air Corps.


And so, our paths crossed again in Ryanair. Everyone thought we were mad to be there, every week there was a different shutdown rumour. But we got through it and Ray was very much part of the leadership team that got the early Ryanair well set on a path to high standards in Ops and Training.

Ryanair was extremely lucky to have had Ray as Chief Pilot for so long. Holding the line and maintaining the balance that is needed in a successful commercial airline operation between commercial needs and technical standards was not easy. The fact that Ryanair’s safety and technical standards were consistently praised by anyone who would take an unprejudiced look under the company’s unique veneer, is a testament to the enormous effort and workload that Ray, daily and weekly, accepted as his duty.

As I have said, Ray was born to be a Chief Pilot. But his technical excellence is not what I will remember him for during his time in Ryanair. I will remember him for his humanity and how he always brought balance and empathy into any discussion about pilots who may have not had a great day at the office and needed to be helped.

The future

I am very much looking forward to partnering with him once again in the next phase of our careers. It will be a pleasure, and I know that I will continue to learn from this amazing and unique aviator.

Thank you Ray.

Industry, ATPG & EASA

Last week I featured a lot of material from the beginner’s end of the industry – hopeful dreamers, current students and recently qualified pilots. We are still replying to all the queries that we have received, and I want to thank the Irish Aviation Student Association for helping me with researching the replies. More from the IASA next week.

At the other end of the industry – ATOs both big and small – there is a lot happening and although EASA and the NAAs have been helpful, there is always more that can be done to help us at this time.

The Aircrew Training Policy Group (ATPG) polled many organizations to find out what their concerns are so that we could advise EASA and inform the Agency’s decision-making processes

CS-FSTD Issue 2 compliance

We proposed that the entire issue of CS-FSTD Issue 2 compliance for UPRT delivery should be deferred for a further 12 months. This measure would recognize the inability of SMEs to complete CS-FSTD Issue 2 simulator evaluations and help ensure that the industry has the maximum available FSTD capacity for refamiliarization training when flight operations recommence.

Standardisation among NAAs

We acknowledged the 3 general exemption measures initiated by EASA and NAAs but pointed out that the next steps need industry input when it comes to the standardised application of the exemptions and associated measures. At all costs the EASA/NAAs must avoid creating an “Examiner Differences Document-style” patchwork of varying national requirements.

ATOs and Operators face the prospect of delivering varying packages of refresher training for flight-crew who are licensed in different European states and who undertake training on the same type but whose national requirements for extension of validity periods are different.

Virtual Classrooms and Examinations (Aviation Blended Learning Environment)

To help mitigate the pandemic crisis, industry needs unambiguous permission to use virtual classrooms and suchlike media to maintain training progress for students

Further, industry urgently requests that guidance be provided to NAAs on the acceptability of alternative secure means of conducting theoretical exams in an on-line environment. Many such exams are being cancelled at a time when Universities across Europe are adapting their examination processes to a virtual environment. These cancellations are causing distress among students and will create a backlog that will be very difficult to manage later.

Rulemaking Tasks

We urged EASA to finalize urgently needed rulemaking (such as the RMT.0599 ABLE concept) by means of virtual meetings, but not start or continue recently formed RMTs until the COVID-19 emergency has been overcome.

Advisory Bodies

The ATPG requested that the Agency include its Advisory Bodies (SAB, FS.TeC, CAS.COM, ATPG and the FCLTPG) in its discussions and prioritization of responses to the contagion affecting Flight Standards.

As always, the ATPG stands ready to help the Agency in any way that may be considered useful and appropriate.

That’s it for this week. Hope you and your families are keeping well. Just as an afterthought I am going to show a snip of a Linkedin post that I made a few weeks ago. It has received 10,000 views and lots of positive comment. No harm in repeating this message to anyone who found their way to this blog!

Keep well, stay safe,


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