MPL – From “competency” to “wallet” based training
Conveniently flying under most radars (in this time of holidays), this 3rd of December, an amendment to Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011 was drafted by DG MOVE Petrova Irina (on behalf of the Commission) and fast-tracked to vote today by Member States within the ‘EASA Committee’.
If approved, part of it could be detrimental to the job market as follows.
Context and motives
Adopted in 2006, Multicrew Pilot Licence (MPL) credit could be given to now-retired Lufthansa's (LH) Capt. Dieter Harms notably, known as the "father of the MPL".
Aimed at answering inhouse airline-oriented pilot needs, as of nov. 2012, Capt. Harms assessed:
"Be assured, MPL will continuously grow.
The recovery from the current crisis will augment this trend, provided that the international airline training and regulating community is able to facilitate a globally harmonised and standardised implementation."_source
Comes today, LH got more "MPL growth" than they bargained for, unwilling to process or complete its 800 MPL pilots conversion course from its training school (both ATO & TRTO) with no recovery in sight.
EASA to the rescue
First, lest we forget, MPL programs are at pilots' expense.
Air Arabia case in point, pilots fund their training like regular ATPL... except for €142,5k including TR to which is added a €27,5k LT (Line Training - p2f here) "security" cheque given back upon successful completion, tantamount to a down payment refunded with equivalent provided labour (the airline would reimburse only the netted sum hadn't a pilot finished LT).
As far back as 2008, the AAIB itself suggested something was off since "training organisation[s] pa[y] the airline[s] for [their] involvement in the training, enabling [them] to generate revenue through their training department" (incident report we shall detail another time).
"the [MPL] licence [holder] shall be restricted to that specific operator until completion of the airline operator’s conversion course"
...which is why they decided it was decided to assume HR mismanagement responsibility, rationalize recruitment policies and bear resulting financial burden to hastily help airlines stuck with pilots help unfortunate pilots stranded with airlines worldwide by amending regulation
(blessed by ‘light’ EASA impact assessment rating).
A thorough look at the amendment draft and annex reveals:
"(6) [...] There are cases where, due to the fault of the operator, some MPL holders cannot complete that operator’s conversion course and are consequently not able to work neither for that operator nor for another operator. The restriction on exercising MPL privileges elsewhere puts those MPL holders at a disadvantage without it being justified by safety reasons. Pilots who change operator are required to complete the new operator’s conversion course despite the fact that they have taken a conversion course on the previous operator. Moreover, any operator’s conversion course must take full account of the level of experience of the pilots joining that operator. It is therefore necessary to remove that restriction. MPL requirements are thus also aligned with the ICAO standards".
MPLs were built on the link between pilots and operators, giving tacit guarantee to the former they would later join the latter. That "restriction" will be waived. Even though:
- operators turned their training dpt. from investment to cash cow,
- operators weren't forced to queue MPLs beyond their needs,
- "operators' fault" ensued, having failed duty to uphold and enforce regulation,
...pilots will foot the bill again, not working for the airline they paid and having to complete (fund?) the conversion course from whatever other operator will accept them at their discretion. Worst :
- Lifting this restriction will incentivize ATOs to work with airlines that purposefuly have no job to offer, with the sole intention to generate profit.
- Unblocking the operator-link restriction will flood the already saturated list of unemployed pilots, putting on the same footing the unemployed MPL pilots who followed the “fast track” and the ATPL pilots that followed the “normal track.”
Under the pretense of helping the few (stranded pilots) at the expense of the many (future MPLs and pilots at large), the EASA proposed to pervert regulation to ease operator's accountability and feed pilots' job insecurity. Glad no one noticed... yet.