There are several types of pilot licences and medical certificates available for deaf pilots, depending on what you want to fly.
Pilot licensing is going through a transition phase at the moment, as we change to European (EASA) licensing. There are also several legacy licenses and medicals still available, which makes things complicated and confusing.
In effort to keep this simple, this article tries to outline relevant licensing and medicals used for recreational flying that deaf pilots are likely to use.
Before you can fly as a commander of an aircraft you will need a medical certificate.
There are four medical types:
- EASA Class 1 for ATPL and CPL (unlikely to be granted to deaf people)
- EASA Class 2 for Private Pilots Licence (PPL) and Sailplane Pilots Licence (SPL)
- EASA LAPL for Light Aircraft Pilots Licence (LAPL) [Aeroplanes and Sailplanes]
- DVLA for NPPL and BGA Gliding Certificate
There are deaf pilots in the UK whom hold EASA Class 2, LAPL and DVLA medical certificates. We are not aware of any deaf pilots with a Class 1 (commercial) medical and it is very unlikely that deaf people will be able to obtain one.
The type of licence depends on the type of aircraft you fly. Some licences allow you to obtain ratings to fly more than one type of aircraft on the same licence. Deaf people in the UK are most likely to have one of the following:
- LAPL (light aircraft pilots licence)
- SPL (sailplane pilots licence)
- PPL (private pilots licence)
- NPPL (national private pilots licence for UK)
LAPL (Light Aircraft Pilots Licence)
This is a recreational licence for flying light aircraft and gliders within Europe. It requires a LAPL medical, which is less stringent than the Class 2 medical.
SPL (Sailplane Pilots Licence)
This is a recreational/professional licence for flying gliders internationally but requires a Class 2 medical.
PPL (Private Pilots Licence)
This is a recreational licence for flying aircraft like the LAPL(A) but with some differences, including:
- flying outside of Europe
- flying of complex aircraft (e.g. multi-engine)
- flying at night
NPPL (National Private Pilots Licence)
This is a national recreational licence for use in the United Kingdom only. In future, this licence is only likely to be used for flying microlights and some aircraft known as Annex II. The NPPL requires a DVLA medical.
BGA Gliding Certificate
The BGA Gliding Certificate is for flying Annex II gliders (that don’t have a European airworthiness certificate) in the UK. For example vintage gliders like the Slingsby T21.
How do I get a medical?
LAPL medical certificates can be issued by your General Practitioner (GP), however this depends on two things:
- if s/he is approved by the CAA and,
- provided you have no serious medical conditions
Unfortunately deafness is a serious condition and the GP will have to refer to you to an AME. Our advice is to skip the GP and visit an AME.
To obtain a Class 2 medical certificate you must visit an AeroMedical Examiner (AME). An AME is a specially trained medical examiner and approved by the CAA. You can find your nearest AME using the CAA search facility here.
The process to apply for a Class 2 medical is outlined here.
DVLA medical certificate (for Microlights) can only be obtained from your GP.
Medical and Licence Restrictions
If you are deaf or hard of hearing, it is possible that you may have a restriction on your medical and/or flying licence. Depending on how well you can hear and communicate using the radio, will determine if you can fly at some airfields and within controlled airspace where radio is required.
You may have the following restriction on your licence:
‘no flights to or from airfields where ATC is provided by radio and remain outside controlled airspace’.
This is very similar to what the FAA (the Aviation Authority in the USA) do for deaf pilots in the USA.
Some hard of hearing people may be able to obtain an unrestricted medical, provided they can demonstrate to the CAA they can communicate effectively. This involves undertaking a functional hearing test with a flight examiner. More information can be found here.
Summary & Key Points
- Deaf pilots are most likely to have either LAPL(A) or LAPL(S)
- to obtain a LAPL or Class 2 medical you must visit an AME
- to obtain a DVLA medical you must visit your GP