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Home > Blog > Flying To Europe After Brexit For Private Pilots

Flying to Europe after Brexit for private pilots

Posted 07 Jul 2022

Brexit & Private Flying

For those private pilots who wish to travel to Europe but are unsure of the steps they should take prior to making the flight.

The past few years have seen a massive shift in the way the aviation industry operates in the United Kingdom. The change is in large part due to Brexit, which led to the UK exiting the European Union, effectively bringing an end to the freedom to fly unchecked from the UK to other countries in Europe with ease.

This end of free passage between the two regions has led to many new rules being put in place for UK nationals travelling into Europe. It is important for pilots to be aware of these new developments in order to avoid any delays or unfortunate incidents at the border that may result in them having to head back home and put a damper on their travel plans.

While flying to Europe from the UK is not nearly as simple and easy as it used to be, it is still fairly straightforward. As long as the pilots flying into Europe are aware of the new rules and regulations and are carrying the correct documentation, there should be no issue in crossing over the border into EU territory.

For those private pilots who wish to travel to Europe but are unsure of the steps they should take prior to making the flight, here is a comprehensive breakdown of what you should know in order to ensure a smooth, fun and safe flight.



Brexit is the shortened version of the phrase “British Exit”, which refers to the UK’s decision via a public vote to exit the European Union in 2016. The monumental decision to sever ties with the EU came after a referendum in which over 30 million British citizens cast their vote. The European Union is an alliance of 28 European countries which are tied together under a political alliance which results in them being governed by similar rules and policies.

With the UK’s exit from the EU, the country is no longer under the jurisdiction of the EU, resulting in a shift in governing bodies of several types, including the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom.



There are many things that have changed when it comes to general aviation following Brexit. The first and foremost is the stop on free and unchecked exit and entry of UK nationals to and from EU territories and vice versa. This means that while previously UK nationals could travel to France as easily as a person living in London could travel to Leeds, this is no longer the case.

There are now different document requirements, as well as the need for the pilot to carry their passport since the UK is now considered a third country by the EU. Apart from this, there has been a massive impact on which licences can be used to travel to Europe and which are now only UK-specific. Many licences, such as the LAPL, which could previously be used across the EU territory before, are now only valid within the borders of the UK.



The aforementioned changes are the result of the split between the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of the United Kingdom and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Prior to Brexit, the CAA was under the jurisdiction of EASA, which meant all of the CAA-issued licences were EASA-compliant. This meant that these licences could be used to travel across Europe. The medical certifications were also approved by EASA. After the UK’s exit from the EU, the CAA became independent and the sole authority on aviation in the United Kingdom. Licences issued by the UK’s CAA were now national licences which could only be used within the country.

While many of the rules and regulations remain the same, the split in governing bodies means there is twice the approval needed. UK licence holders can also not fly aircraft registered under EASA, and vice versa.



 While this all may sound a tad bit bleak, and even though it is true that your basic PPL is not enough to get you across the UK border into EU territory, it is also true that the PPL, as well as commercial licences such as the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), can easily be upgraded to make them valid in across Europe as well.



The PPL is an entry-level licence, and it requires several different ratings in order to unlock its full potential. These include ratings such as the Night Rating, which allows a pilot to fly after dark, and the Instrument Rating, which gives the pilot the ability to fly in conditions of reduced visibility such as when the weather is rainy, hazy, or foggy. 

 Similarly, the PPL can be upgraded with a Part-FCL (Flight Crew Licence) rating which allows the pilot to fly an aeroplane registered under EASA. The Part-FCL PPL holder can also just as easily fly UK-registered aircraft, given they have the needed documentation and clearances.



 In order to upgrade a PPL to Part-FCL, the pilot must log in a total of 45 hours of flight time, ten hours out of which must be dedicated to solo flight. The rest of the hours logged in can be via dual instruction with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI).

Five hours out of the 10 solo flight hours must be dedicated to a cross-country flight totalling at least 270km. In addition to the practical requirement, the pilot must also pass a series of nine theoretical exams with a score of at least 75% on each test.

The subjects tested include Air Law, Operational Procedures, Meteorology, Navigation, Flight Performance and Planning, Human Performance and Limitations, Principles of Flight, Aircraft General Knowledge, and Communications.

Apart from this, the pilot must also hold a valid EASA medical certificate (which is different from the one issued by the CAA in the UK). Also, the pilot must have a valid Flight Radiotelephony Operator Licence (FROTL).


The main reason a pilot should upgrade their basic PPL to one with a Part-FCL rating is that it really allows for a broadening of their horizons when it comes to where they can travel. While there is much beauty and a great sense of community amongst aviation lovers in the UK, the country has benefited from long years of close contact with people from across Europe.

It is recommended to continue upholding this sense of community, with there being several different aero clubs in countries such as Germany, France, Scotland, Ireland and the Netherlands that UK pilots can fly to. Europe is also very diverse in terms of beauty, offering vast breathtaking mountain ranges and beautiful coasts, as well as sprawling, cosmopolitan cities positively teeming with life and culture.



While travelling to Europe may seem intimidating to the uninitiated, it is actually pretty easy, even with all the new rules and regulations being implemented after Brexit. Here’s everything you need to know about documentation and other requirements when flying into EU territory!

Don’t forget your licence

This is perhaps the most important document you will need to carry with you when flying. Since a licence is something all pilots have on them regardless of where they are travelling, it does not come as a shock that it will need to be carried when travelling to Europe as well.

As previously discussed, there are certain licences that are not valid outside of the UK, and if you attempt to cross into EU territory on a licence such as the LAPL, NPPL, or the basic PPL, you may land in some trouble. Make sure you’ve done your research and that your licence is up to date when taking off to save yourself any kind of trouble later on.


Keep your passport on hand


Just as you would carry your passport when travelling to America or any country in Asia, you will need your passport when travelling to other countries in the EU. While there were no customs requirements prior to Brexit for UK nationals travelling to areas such as Scotland or Germany, with the UK now being a third country, it is necessary to have a passport, not your national ID, as a valid identification document.

Make sure your passport is not expired and keep it on hand since it will be checked at the border and you may need to present it as ID at other places as well.  The passport should have been issued no more than ten years ago and it should have a validity of at least the next six months at the time of travel. If it does not meet these requirements, the pilot will not be allowed to enter EU territory.


Certificate of Airworthiness

 Apart from your personal documents, you will also need to carry with you a certificate of airworthiness guaranteeing that your aircraft is fit for flight. Airworthiness is a measure of whether an aeroplane is safe to fly or not.

The certificate of airworthiness is issued by the CAA after inspection by a licenced aircraft maintenance engineer. This certificate is valid in most countries outside of the UK as well since it is compliant with international standards and the regulation set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

You will not need to get additional EASA approval on your airworthiness certificate when flying into other countries across Europe. 


EASA-approved medical certificate


While the certificate of airworthiness is internationally recognised, the CAA-issued medical certificate is not. For those pilots who wish to travel to Europe, an EASA-approved medical certificate is necessary.

However, if you have upgraded your PPL to Part-FCL, you will not have to worry about this requirement before your flight since you will already have an EASA-approved medical certificate issued in your name when applying for the Part-FCL rating. The pilot will need a Class 2 medical certificate when applying for a PPL, which is relatively easier to obtain when compared to the Class 1 medical certificate needed when applying for commercial licences such as the CPL.

The medical certificate is issued after a thorough check-up of the pilot is performed by a licenced medical examiner, who is responsible for assessing whether a pilot is physically and mentally fit to take to the skies or not.


Emergency survival kit

While this is necessary for every flight, it becomes all the more important when flying greater distances and into international territory, especially when it's over water or beyond glide range.

A survival kit should contain everything you may need in case of an emergency landing. These include supplies to build a fire, such as fuel and matches, as well as water and dried and non-perishable food that can help sustain you in case help takes a while to reach you.

You should also carry in your kit equipment for a tent as well as sleeping bags. While it is highly unlikely that you may have to put these items to use, it is always best to be prepared.

Be sure to check the weather forecast before flying out so as to not fly into bad weather. In case there is an accident due to sudden weather changes, it is best to have survival equipment on hand.



 On the brighter side of things, UK nationals still do not require a visa when travelling to other countries in Europe! This saves pilots from the hassle of applying for a visa and waiting for its approval. While private pilots flying from the UK can stay in EU territory for up to 90 days without a visa, longer stays have a different set of rules and requirements.


Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs. It is one of the largest flying clubs in the North of England and also one of the largest in the country.

With a large fleet of new aircraft and an airfield refurbishment with new runways, hangars, and an extended clubhouse, we cater to brand new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades.

If you wish to begin your career in aviation or wish to take to the skies as a hobby, Sherburn’s flight training school offers private and commercial licences, along with pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward.

Sherburn also offers a dedicated day-long Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) course for those wishing to get the certification, running the first Sunday of every month. For those who wish to experience the thrill of a flight for fun or to help fuel their aviation dreams, Sherburn offers experience flights for the newbie, as well as the veteran.

The flight experience option is also available for people who wish to take to the skies for special occasions, even if they aren’t into aviation for the long run. Sherburn also offers pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward. You are required to take medical exams to prove you are fit enough to take to the skies when applying for a licence, and the facility at Sherburn allows you to start your aviation journey on the right foot.

Our in-house AME, Dr Mark Bellamy, is rated to perform EASA Class 2 and LAPL. He also holds a fixed-wing PPL. Appointments are available every Monday and Tuesday, as well as on occasional Saturdays.

In addition to that, if you are looking for a hangarage for your own aircraft, need servicing or repairs, want to buy a new aircraft or aviation equipment, or are just looking to enjoy and watch the aircraft, Sherburn Aero Club is the place to be.

Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on flying to Europe after Brexit and upgrading your Private Pilot Licence.


Photo by Simon Fitall on Unsplash 



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