RYR – waiting for the other shoe to drop

Not gone unnoticed, Europe's favourite airline announced last week Sept. 16th the cancellation of up to 50 flights per day until October 31th, affecting 315,000 passengers and its own wallet for up to €20m in compensation bill. Admittedly, this brilliant move was a last-ditch effort to comply with a 4-year-coming piece of regulation improve punctuality (!).

The distraction

Scrambling to mitigate the hurdle, Ryanair's notorious COO Michael Hickey offered his pilots the following:

Whether any incentive is left to be found to this "bonus" remains to be proven: in essence, provisions are such that the grant is paid multiple times over with the extra labour required to unlock it! Also, let's not forget to not leave the airline before November 2018...

The real deal

Two days prior (Sept. 14th), the EU Court of Justice published its judgement on the Home Base issue; Ryanair's claim that the nationality of the aircraft should determine the jurisdiction and the applicable law. At long last, the argument “Irish plane, Irish worker” is no more:

  • The Court set the presumption that the Home Base is the habitual place of work for air crews, and thereby the determinant for which national Court has jurisdiction.
  • It allows to challenge the presumption if the base is a bogus one.
  • It states that ‘jurisdiction clauses’ in contracts that limit the employee right to bring proceedings to a court that has jurisdiction under EU law are not enforceable.

Setting a precedent, this judgement will impact all other airlines and brokers with contractual set-ups that use jurisdiction clauses to limit the employees’ rights: from now on, they have clearly been ruled as not enforceable. With more than 70% of pilots flying as 'Irish' self-employed contractors, Ryanair might look at its multi-million-euro roster blunder with nostalgia by comparison.

CEO Mr O'Leary conveniently sold €72m worth Ryanair shares 2 months earlier.


  • Oct.5th: Mr O'Leary pleaded with his pilots to remain at Ryanair.
  • Oct.6th: Michael Hickey announced his resignation, effective at the end of this month.
  • Oct.11th: Ryanair Captain Imelda Comer stepped forward in a missive adressed to Mr. O'Leary and relayed to the members of the European Parliament for fair bargain.
  • Oct.18th: Flight operation manager Elaine Griffin appealed to former staff to return to the airline for improved incentives.
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From the inside: CEO perspective

From P2F enabler Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS). Source: internal.

Words from the CEO: Safe Summer Operations
Published:22.06.2016 By:Helene Løken

We are moving into peak season for our operations. As our May traffic figures show we continue to have a record number of customers on our flights.Norwegian is now the world’s sixth largest low-cost airline and with our global expansion plans, we will continue to climb that ladder.

20 years ago we started flying a tiny fleet of Fokker aircraft on a few domestic routes in Norway. In just four years from now, we will have a long-haul fleet of more than 40 Dreamliners and a solid fleet of 737s. This creates opportunities not only for the customers, but also for us working for Norwegian. We have a growing number of dedicated and competent crew operating from 19 bases in 10 countries, as well as competent and dedicated technical personnel, ground handlers and administration staff ensuring that our more than 26 million customers get a high quality experience.

As you are aware of, we are facing some challenges in our summer operations well explained on Red Nose by our Chief Operating Officer Geir Steiro. The top management team and I are doing everything we can to reduce the impact on our vacation-ready passengers.

Our battle to open the U.S. skies for one of our two EU air carriers (NUK or NAI) continues and I am confident that we will get our lawful permit. We got the provisional approval for our Irish carrier (NAI) in mid-April, and we are waiting for an answer for a permit to fly to the U.S. on our UK carrier (NUK). We continue to meet massive support on both sides of the Atlantic. Even Boeing, which normally does not take a public position on political issues, came out supporting us. The EU has stated that they share our impatience, and has encouraged the U.S. Department of Transportation to approve our application without further delay, arguing that declining to do so violates the Open Skies Agreement, an agreement set up to enable more competition in transatlantic travel. When our EU carrier receives its U.S. foreign air carrier permit, we are closer to fulfilling our vision of offering affordable fares to all by connecting our transatlantic routes with future Asian, African and South American routes. By seamlessly connecting the continents, we are able to build a strong and competitive global operation, in line with our strategy.

In Norway we had an important win in our overall battle to secure fair and equal competition. The Norwegian government has finally confirmed that the national rules will be harmonized with EU rules and practices. Our opponents have argued that following EU rules allowing our Thai and US colleagues to work on Norwegian-registered aircraft is a safety issue. This is of course absolute nonsense. Fortunately, the Norwegian government has made its ruling based on facts, which for us specifically means that our U.S. based and Thailand based crew can stay overnight in Norway when flying on Norwegian registered aircraft. In addition, the current restrictions on wet leasing foreign-registered aircraft will be repealed. Through this law amendment, the Norwegian government finally gives a green light for fair competition, which is what we truly believe in.

On another note, I am also very pleased that our UK pilots now have a collective labour agreement in place. At Norwegian, we respect the right to third party representation and work towards establishing local agreements in all markets we operate – if our staff so desire.

Going into peak season, I would like to ask you all to think of what you can do to reduce risk and improve quality in all our operations be it in the office, our technical halls or up in the air. We have strengthened our Group emergency response preparedness by placing it as a Group function. I would like to underscore that all crisis communication and management is based on Norwegian as onebrand. This is important as we have an obligation for the care of our passengers as well as our co-workers and all of us have an important stake in making sure that happens.

I wish you all safe summer operations be it in the air, or on the ground, working together to make sure we together continue to deliver award-winning service to our customers!

Best regards,


The Words from the CEO is open for questions and comments. Comments and questions will be read and answered in a separate questions and answers document in due time.

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Pilot training: Ryanair’s APCC

Following the pending MPL gutting (only the Spanish & French DGAC were against), and showcased only once in specialized media so far, another plan for the future of pilot training is emerging subsequently to a May 2015 meeting of the EASA Pilot Training Advisory Group, led by Ryanair's Head of Training Andy O'Shea :
the Approved Pilot Certificate Course (APCC).

APCC - premises & caveats

With official presentation having occured during last EASA Annual Safety Conference Training in Aviation, and echoing his 2014 EATS Conference keynote speech, Cpt. O'Shea's confidential paper reveals the APCC adresses :

"the product of current regulation and training practice [...] many young pilots legally qualified as professional pilots but deficient in the competencies required for them to advance to the standard required to be employed by an EU operator"

Data relevance...
"Ryanair assesses over one thousand different CPL ME/IR MCC qualified pilots every year".

Discarding the inconsistencies that
• cadets are assessed through CAE
• and data sample shows discrepancy (385 vs 387),

Let's put in perspective
RYR's claimed annual assessment number with only 4 out of 32 EASA pilot unemployment figures :

...or lack thereof :
"This is a reasonable sample of the young pilot population in Europe".

We'd be less categorical.

Shall Mr O'Shea agree unemployed pilots are mostly the young ones and including the 32 other countries' data would at least double our established total, it would take 10 years for Ryanair to process the combined unemployed part of the "young pilot population in Europe" alone.

Either the young pilot population is staggering... or the unemployment ratio is, reason why 13,807 people deem Europe has a more legitimate concern than weak training asumptions.

Yet, even considering Ryanair had cornered the employment market (thanks to practices other airlines wouldn't go down to, like questionnable micromanagement, p2f, outsourcing, subsidies... ) in such an extent that 450 pilots/year below their criteria became a sound base for a European training proposal, numbers point towards high turnover and poor attraction from pilots that'd rather stay unemployed for which "Europe’s favourite airline" has no one to blame but itself.

APCC - the incentive

Pursuing with pilots "deficient in [...] competencies", competency based MPL was specifically designed to "bridge [that] gap", alas :

"[it] is encumbered with some disadvantages that have led to [its] low uptake by Operators and ATOs. It is very complex, heavily regulated and cumbersome. Its structures and processes require very significant long term management and resource investment by the Operator. It is a rigid path that, once set out upon, provides little flexibility for the student or the Operators".

In other words, Ryanair discovered personnel required investment and long term thinking, reason why instead of fixing the MPL (that can only drop in support from a pilot perspective), Ryanair wants its way to save costs help the "50% of EU pilots not capable of passing a very straightforward assessment of their piloting skills [...] to be [...] safe professional pilot[s]".

APCC - the recipe

To produce a profitable "flexible, efficient and effective [way] to educate our young pilots", Ryanair wishes to bundle together:

  • Aircraft Systems Technical Training (new)
  • Operator Standard Initial CRM (cost ?)
  • MCC (from 2300 to 5,500€)
  • JOC (from 974 to 8,800€)
  • Airline Oriented Theoretical Training (new)
  • Operator Standard LOFT (new)

Except that, contrary to the MCC which is an ATPL(A) requirement (FCL.510.A(a)(2)), all other items have no regulatory existence, institutionalized by airlines and paid for by candidates, not for convenience but only as more and more of them enforce those items as recruitment requirement minima.

Incidentally, here is part of the origin of young pilots' stress no amount of long or "long[er] assessment" will offset :

  • increasing gamble stakes (+€150k) to reach assessment stage alone.

They do "it" already

Occulting (after 12 pages) the data that mattered to them, namely the price of the course and who was going to foot the bill, we leave the guessing to our readers with O'Shea's "three ATOs in Europe currently offer[ing], or hav[ing] offered, training products such as [...] detailed" :

"We deeply regret the latest developments in the fields of aviation that young pilots with no or low hours have to pay their way into the right hand seat instead of being rewarded for their efforts and commitments. But we would like to state that we only cooperate with trusted agencies that have proven to be able to deliver what has been promised"._Kay Wachtelborn, CEO @SKY4u

MPL, APCC & unintended consequences

Based on clumsy grounds, altruistic Ryanair is pushing into obsolescence part of existing regulation almost tailored to them while blindly deflecting Europe from the very root of the problem they're about to worsen for cost's sake, only to discover they're reaping what they sowed : not necessarily the best, but the pilots willing and able to pay (in the meantime, the anti-p2f proposal is being finalized)...

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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).

Too busy reaping profits, EU AOC holders should have deemed deterrent enough to comply with regulation stipulating:

"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)

The proposal

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.

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School demise to drag students in limbo

The list could go on, :

  • Dutch Stella Aviation in a series of bankruptcies ending in april 2014;
  • in the UK amidst CAA warnings, Cabair in february 2012, formerly bankrupt as Cabair College of Air Training
  • in France, the EPAG (Ecole de Pilotage Amaury de La-Grange) in april 2013,
  • the ESMA (École supérieure des métiers de l’aéronautique) -or rather ESMA-HNA- twice bankrupt if not for Chinese investors, De Heerd Investments Limited (in 2006) then Hainan Group (in august 2013, also 48% Aigle Azur shareholder);
  • and in a lesser extent the SEFA (Service de la formation aéronautique) that merged into the ENAC (French Civil Aviation University) in january 2011 which currently operates "at industrial minimum".

This 6th of november, Sud Aviation Training (SAT) confirmed the trend in France, entering a one month receivership period at the end of which either a settlement or bankruptcy will seal the fate of the 49 students pilot group... and their estimated joint €500k.

Accountability - the 500,000€ question

With the student group willing to recoup their stakes (should SAT go out of business), the question arose: who is liable to refund its members?

Before answering "the school", let's consider the audit report that sanctioned SAT's first fiscal year : fullscreen

Out of 20 items (of which 3 were not applicable at the time of the report), one learns SAT failed to display compliance of 14 of them with regulation !

While some ORA (Organisation Requirements applicable) violations appear mild at first glance (like ORA ATO 120 and flight time not being logged in hundredth of hour), all of them fell under level 2 findings, reportedly:

"[...] established by the DGAC when any non-compliance is detected by the applicable requirements of Regulation (EC) No 216 2008 and its implementing rules, procedures and manuals in the organization or in the terms of the license or certificate, which could lower safety or hazard flight safety"_ref

DGAC - Paved with good intentions

Following this audit, the French Aviation Authority decided to revoke ATO accreditation give SAT a 3 months probation period to change its ways, concluding :

"Numerous discrepancies were found during the audit, asserting a lack of both professional maturity and enforcement in established procedures. The multiplicity of aforementioned discrepancies would be such as to put ATO certification into question. However [...] new Head of Training [...] firm will to improve [!]".

Changes must have been conclusive since SAT still operated to this day EXCEPT ORA.GEN.210 (a), financial viability, that proved non-existent.
Sources close to another ongoing legal dispute involving SAT confirmed:

"[...] SAT had a negative balance sheet of 140,000€ by the end of its first year [...]"

In other words, the DGAC tolerated deviations to rescue a business when ultimately said business was bound to leave its "clients" on the hook in what probably ended up as a ponzi scheme (a money sink, new entrants' money covering other participant's liabilities).

What scenario will unfold? Will DGAC bureaucrats man up should SAT bankruptcy occur? Will the students be offered a solution/recover their investment provided it hasn't vaporized? We're not holding our breath.

edit Dec 6th: and sure enough...

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AGEPAC: cartes sur table

  • "M. le Secrétaire d'État, auprès de la ministre de l'écologie [...], quelles mesures [entendez-vous] prendre pour résoudre [le] problème [de l'emploi pilote] et [vous] assurer que l'offre de formation est bien en adéquation avec les besoins dans ce secteur d'activité?"

C'est à la suite de cette question posée à l'Assemblée Nationale, publiée au JO (Journal Officiel) le 18 novembre dernier, par le député UMP Damien Meslot, maire de Belfort, pour l'instant sans réponse officielle, que l'AGEPAC (Association Générale des Elèves Pilotes de l'Aviation Civile) a pris les devants en publiant fin novembre ses "STATISTIQUES DES ELEVES PILOTES DE LIGNE, PROMOTIONS 2006 - 2011".

Cependant, dans un environnement où "on manquera de pilotes d'ici quelques années" (ou non d'ailleurs), la vraie question à traiter ne serait-elle pas:

  • "N'existe t'il pas des distorsions de concurrence entre les compagnies Européennes que nous pourrions gommer et qui piégeraient les pilotes hors de l'emplois?"

Qu'il nous soit permis de citer le fameux "rapport Grassineau" (de juillet 2012, commissionné par le ministre des transports de l'époque) qui proposait des réponses nationales mais resté confidentiel car... ne plaisant pas!


Edit 28 Oct. 2015: La question ministérielle a trouvé réponse le 9 Juin.

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Amine Haddad, 1986-2014


Airbus: Votez!

Quel que soit le résultat du vote aux élections européennes (que nous ne commenterons pas), pour la postérité, nous archivons ici le mémo du Président d’Airbus qui avait appelé ses salariés à aller voter ce dimanche...

...avec consigne pro européenne. L'Europe a ses avantages effectivement, rappelons factuellement que pour des raisons fiscales, le siège d’Airbus Group est aux Pays-Bas.

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