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A system of standards, processes and procedures aimed to ensure that personnel undertaking safety related tasks in civil aviation (pilots, air traffic controllers, aircraft maintenance engineers, etc.) are competent to perform their tasks to the prescribed standard.
The framework for licensing of all personnel is provided by Annex 1 “Personnel Licensing” to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, known as The Chicago Convention. Article 37 of the Convention deals with Personnel Licensing and authorises ICAO to adopt and amend as appropriate international Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) which for Personnel Licensing were first adopted in 1948. Since then, more than 170 amendments to Annex 1 have been adopted by the ICAO Council.
Exceptionally, licensing of flight crew had been in existence prior to 1948 but until then had been carried out on the basis of national schemes which were not harmonised.
ICAO SARPS are applicable to all applicants for, and holders of, licences, however, the assessment and examination of the knowledge, experience and proficiency of individual applicants for and holders of a licence, and the issue of the licence, is left to the discretion of Contracting States. Also, States may decide not to follow all ICAO SARPS in which case they are required to notify the differences to ICAO.
Personnel Subject to Licensing
International SARPS are established for licensing the following personnel:
- Flight Navigator
- Flight Engineer
- Aircraft Maintenance Engineer / Technician / Mechanic
- Air traffic controller
- Flight Operations Officer / Flight Dispatcher
- Aeronautical Station Operator
Some States have decided to require licensing for other categories of personnel in their national regulatory scheme, such as Air Traffic Flow Managers, Flight Information Service Officers, Cabin Crew, etc. For example, in the United States, air carrier flight attendants are required to hold a Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency.
Of note is that some States have decided not to licence Flight Dispatchers and other Flight Operations support staff.
Military flight crews, air traffic controllers and aircraft engineering personnel operate in accordance with State requirements and military staff orders which are outwith the emit of ICAO Annex 1 and their qualifications are not interchangeable.
Validity of Licences
In the majority of cases the right to exercise the privileges given by the licence requires that the licence holder meets certain appropriate medical requirements which are specified as three classes of medical assessment. The period of validity of the medical assessment may differ for the different licence types and is likely to differ according to the age of the holder as well.
Any State, having issued a licence, must ensure that the privileges granted by it, or by attached ratings, are not exercised unless the holder maintains competency and meets the requirements for recent experience established by that State. To renew a licence, the holder must have exercised the privileges to specified minima during the period prior to intended renewal and/or pass appropriate proficiency examinations conducted by or under the authority of the licemce issuing authority.
English Language Proficiency
In recognition that intelligible air-ground communication is essential for safety, ICAO in 2003 notified the intention to introduce English language proficiency requirements for radiotelephony communications. The new scheme has since been introduced for pilots and controllers who are required to meet level 4 of the 6-level rating scheme.
- ICAO Annex 1 - Personnel licensing
- ICAO Doc 9379 - Manual of Procedures for Establishment and Management of a State's Personnel Licensing System
- ICAO Doc 8984 Manual of Civil Aviation Medicine - Third Edition, 2012
- Personnel Licensing FAQs, ICAO website
- EASA Certification Directorate website
- ATCO Licensing and Certification Implementing Rules, AMC and GM - Consolidated Version
- Airmen Certification, FAA website