In the past few weeks I have been exploring options for completing the theory and knowledge portion of the airline transport pilot license/certificate. While I teach most of the material on these exams during my full-time job, I have not yet taken the exams for my own pilot credentials. I've come across many organizations that offer the "distance learning" option, but they require the student to be in a classroom for at least 10% of the learning time. For the schools I've explored, this would mean flying from Dubai to the UK just to sit the course - not really an option to someone supporting a family!
So, I asked one of the schools to cite me the EASA regulation on this and they were kind enough to provide the following:
(a) An element of classroom instruction shall be included in all subjects of
modular distance learning courses.
(b) The amount of time spent in actual classroom instruction shall not be less
than 10% of the total duration of the course.
(c) To this effect, classroom accommodation shall be available either at the
principal place of business of the ATO or within a suitable facility elsewhere.
I have read this and I understand the importance of forming a professional, face-to-face relationship with a student. However, this can also be accomplished through modern means of the Internet and video conference programs like Adobe Connect and others.
I have therefore challenged EASA on this and sent the following email to them today:
I would like to pose this question regarding distance learning courses for an ATPL certificate.
Many organizations offer distance learning courses to students wishing to learn the required knowledge to pass the 14 ATPL EASA exams.
However, under these courses they require a student to be "present in a classroom" for at least 10% of the study time. One specific school sent me a copy of regulation entitled:
ORA.ATO.305 Classroom Instruction
(c) To this effect,
classroom accommodation shall be available either at the principal place of
business of the ATO or within a suitable facility elsewhere.
I have asked that specific school (who's name I will withhold for now) if the 10% rule could be met by means of video conference into the classroom over the Internet. As I live in the United Arab Emirates, I am an American
private pilot working towards my ATP licenses. I am taking the FAA ATP online ground school, and would like to pursue the EASA ATPL with a distance learning course. I cannot quit my daytime job which supports my family in order to attend full-time courses during the day.
When I inquired to the school about attending the 10% of classroom time via video conference, they replied saying it was not allowed. However, the regulation they cited says "or within a suitable facility elsewhere". Taken for a literal meaning this can be very vague. Who should deem the facility chosen is suitable? Do he or she or they have to inspect the chosen facility before it is used? If a facility is chosen that is different than the place of business for the ATO, wouldn't that be of a lesser quality than the intent of the rule? Would an ATO be meeting the requirements of the rule to a higher standard if both parties (ATO and student) are able to meet face-to-face
over video conference where identifications can be verified, and the instructor is working out of the place of business of the ATO?
I would like answers to these questions as I am an honest person intending to achieve this goal in my training. I'm willing to pay the money for an ATO to provide this training, but I'm not able to fly from my home in Dubai
to a European country just to sit in a classroom for a few days when the exact same level of training an instruction can be completed by modern technological means. In fact, I am currently using video conference to deliver lectures to my own air traffic control trainees here in the UAE whenever I'm on leave and a
substitute instructor is not available.
I am very much looking forward to a reply and wish EASA all the best in future endeavors.
Well, let us see what they say in a reply... and I will definitely post the reply on a future blog post!