View Full Version : Student pilot union

11th Jun 2002, 16:57
Anyone else fancy setting up some sort of representative body for UK-JAA student pilots?

I came into aviation (PPL so far!) after being quite into student politics, I served as VP Representation of my students union, on the exec of the NPC (Nat'l Postgrad Council) and as an observer on the NUS Exec. Gone are the days of loony left politics, it's all sensible consumerist type stuff that students have issues with.

Anyhow so like most of us I'm finding issues with medical certification, costs, taxes, dodgy outfits, etc etc -- I've had a sniff around to see who represents my interests in all of this mess (mostly gov't created!) and didn't find very much! OK some pilot associations do have student membership but it's expensive and I don't see that they have much of a student perspective when lobbying gov't and regulators. I've also worked briefly at the House of Commons for an MP on the Transport brief and saw literally no communications lobbying politicians about the issues in UK aviation, just piles of glossy stuff from big business and environmentalists.

If others would also like to see something dedicated to student/wannabe pilots set up, to lobby, campaign, provide advice and formulate submissions to consultations, then we could discuss a plan and I know from experience it can be done, and become very effective!

At first thought my guess would be: heavily web-based; with individual affiliations only (as each flight school doesn't have a local student association); no fee to ensure a rapid mass membership; work done mostly by an elected committee, with oversight by a council made up of all members. Could have social, networking, and even safety functions aswell. Comments?

11th Jun 2002, 17:06
Would we get student union cards?

11th Jun 2002, 17:09
Hi Carb,

Good idea me thinks. As a student ATPL I have seen some of the issues of training in this industry that would benefit from a collective student representation.

Would be glad to help you in this venture. Early days I know but I think it could be very advantageous for other wannabes on here to give the idea the nod too.
I know that once employed in the industry that unions can be frowned upon in some quarters but I cannot see that a union for student pilots could be viewed in any other way as constructive and a bonus for the industry. What do others think?

Contact me via email if you wish Carb.


11th Jun 2002, 17:12
Student union cards -- well that'd need some funds! But yeah it'd be possible to issue wannabe ID cards, and even potentially possible to issue NUS cards -- several professional representative bodies for law and accountancy affiliate to NUS (I would not commend it though...!).

11th Jun 2002, 20:17
Sounds like a great idea to me. An NUS collaboration would be v.useful for low or no income student pilots. Count me in.

Cheers Tri

Send Clowns
11th Jun 2002, 20:26
Good idea - now BALPA no longer give free student associate membership (24 since about 3 months ago) you may get some interest. I am no longer a student, but as a member of a groundschool staff if there is anything I can do to help let me know.

11th Jun 2002, 21:32
Good good, that's a few of us on board already!

What should be the definition of "student pilot"? -- for the association to be a registered charity it would probably need to be strictly: anyone currently on a recognised course of UK JAA instruction... otherwise, it could be more flexible: anyone up to fATPL (or until employment in a flying job?) whether working, slowly building hours or actually in training/study, or, basically anyone who self-defines as a student pilot, thus including those who are between courses or whose training is stalled or not even started. Some rules on membership eligibility would be good for credibility though...

11th Jun 2002, 22:41
Sounds like a worthwhile proposal to me. Perhaps criteria for membership should be anyone from just starting PPL to fATPL.

There must be lots of people out there who have no choice but to put up or shut up when it comes to issues as have been mentioned on this thread so far.

Perhaps causes that could be pursued are:

1) Having to pay for interviews/selection procedures.
2) The extortionate cost of fuel in the UK - perhaps some kind of tax relief for training flights.
3) Paying for license issues - it is free in the USA for the PPL, it costs 150 here. Is there a charge for license issue in other JAA members states? How does the cost of a medical/medical renewal in the UK compare with other JAA states?

Lets take the 150 for a PPL license for a start. What do you get for your money. A few scrawney bits of paper and an awfully coloured wallet to put them in. No useful leaflet on how to avoid killing yourself in the dangerous first 30 hours or so after getting your PPL, no advice on enhancements to your licence, (ie night or IMC).
Medical renewal - last year cost me 85 plus an afternoon of work and petrol costs, for the pleasure of urinating in a plastic cup and reading the letters at 20 feet. This is all in my humble opinion just money laundering.

Have a look at the "future of commercial aviation" post on the wannabe's forum. Some interesting stuff there that could be pursued.

Be warned though - if you wish to take on the powers that be, expect your political stance and sexual history to be investigated, allegedly.

Send Clowns
11th Jun 2002, 22:49
How about full membership if currently signed up on a course, associate membership for all others (like me) up to first flying job?

11th Jun 2002, 23:11
I would be interested in helping out if this plan got off the ground (excuse the pun). If it is to be heavily web based I would gladly help out with design and maintenance as I will have a good deal of spare time over the coming months, and it's always nice to be involved in a project...

Let me know if I can help....

MS :cool:

11th Jun 2002, 23:23
Membership categories is a good idea -- full membership perhaps to run over for the subsequent year after being on a course, so as not to be chucking out modular folk who have reasonable gaps between stages.

timzsta -- indeed, those issues and all the rest! Political flak no problem as we presumably aren't after any scalps.

All the well-informed stuff that people post in this forum is a huge untapped research resource for putting together briefing papers and picking up on particular winnable issues on which to lobby or campaign. The problem I see at the moment is we're all talking amongst ourselves, and not interfacing with the political and regulatory processes.

If individuals wrote in to their MPs that's a start but even better is establishing a credible "National Student Pilot Association" (working title?!) then, ta da, everything we agree on becomes "policy" and the representative view of "the student pilot lobby". We can send submissions to Gov't consultations which get proper consideration, get invited to give evidence to Select Committees, eventually maybe win a place on two on the CAA Board and so on.

Can also find independant-minded Peers, MPs and MEPs with an aviation interest to table questions, motions and hold debates for us.

Mike -- outstanding! I can provide free webhosting for the website and help out with the development aswell if need be. Need to think of a good domain name! Personally I think nspa.org.uk looks posh if that was a name we agreed on.

Send Clowns
11th Jun 2002, 23:34
On the subject of peers with aviation interest - how about inviting Lord Tebbit to be honorary president? He was once an airline pilot, so must have achieved his licence somehow.

Wee Weasley Welshman
11th Jun 2002, 23:40
I would talk to the IPA about this. They seem to be the natural body able to give advice. You won't actually be able to form a union legally. A charitable organisation maybe.

Good luck,


11th Jun 2002, 23:55
Personally I think Lord Tebbit is cool but surely a bit of a turn off for some potential members! I tihnk he was a BOAC pilot and held office in BALPA, though, so worth involving, can see if he can lobby for us in the Lords. But there's actually quite a few middle of the road type politicians we could adopt. I was checking biogs of a few Tory MEPs for some other reason recently and found two keen pilots and one ex-cabin crew. I think also that Labour could be just as helpful as opposition politicians certainly in under-regulation, pilot welfare and CAA user-charges type issues if not taxation and over-regulation -- Glenda Jackson was a reasonably approachable Transport Minister and is now on the lose on the backbenches, and of course there's that independently minded lot on the Transport Select Committee!

12th Jun 2002, 00:08
WWW, thanks, what's the web address for IPA?

Can't form a trades union no, but as we probably don't want to strike or bargain that's cool! Should have used the word "association" really. As this falls outwith both Employment legislation and the 1994 Education Act, there's scope to adopt whatever type of organisation best suits resources -- a charity means compliance with red tape and publishing accounts but saves VAT, a private organisation is effortless and less restrictive, and probably best option for so long as there's little cashflow.

12th Jun 2002, 08:37
This sounds like a very good idea deserving of full support from our Wannabes.

The best of luck in getting it going!

12th Jun 2002, 09:46
Sounds like a great idea!

I think alot of people would be interested.

12th Jun 2002, 09:58
I think its a top idea and one I have been bashing around my friends for a while now, so count me in.
Issues ranging from extortionate initial exam costs to 50 a resit now.......where exactly does that money end up, because it certainly isn't on the invigilating staff or classroom air conditioning!
As for changing rules and shifting goal posts as they see fit, without any consultation or prior warning to the masses is just sly. (see Flight Instrustors forum on changing reval requirements!)
Each one of us have our own little bug bares, but many will overlap and these are the ones that we can all rally together for. Good luck and keep at it,

Wee Weasley Welshman
12th Jun 2002, 11:02

12th Jun 2002, 13:30
Count me in!

Having just resigned from a stable job to focus on getting the groundschool out of the way I'm definitely interested.

However, does it mean that my fellow ex-Uni mates can now start hurling abuse at me for becoming 'an effing stooodent' again?

"Are you a stoodent?"

Paul Calfe - Quality!


12th Jun 2002, 16:40
This 'ere is a good idea. Congrats.

12th Jun 2002, 19:47

A nice idea, but pointless I think.

Join IPA (not a union) or join BALPA and pay your 24.00.

It is cheap insurance and has an employment assistance arm for when you get your licences.

A gang of students up in arms about issues will not frighten any FTO's. However, if you are in BALPA and are messed about, then they will help you. That is worth more.

Perhaps you can raise the idea of a Student pilot Council within the BALPA umbrella? You could have elected reps and access to BALPA assistance and Legal maybe?

I am a keen BALPA member, and would not quite frankly recommend anything else. No offence to other organisations, just BALPA has worked for me.

Send Clowns
12th Jun 2002, 20:55

I think you will find that an organisation independent of BALPA may be a good idea. BALPA quite naturally looks after the interest of its members, most of whom are airline pilots. There may well be times when the interests of the airlines, and thus their employees, is not in line with those of students. It has been said that BALPA works very closely with certain airlines' management. Good labour relations are very good for business, so I think that is entirely in line with what the union should be doing. There are other times when the student side of the union is just not big enough to force the issue - I never heard a squeak from BALPA when the farce of JAA exams began, yet since they had free student membership I assume many students had joined.

A student group could also become international, representing members from all JAA states. This is not within the scope of existing unions, and would make sure the student voice really is heard.

I would therefore advocate a separate group, thuogh one that should develop close relationships with the IPA and BALPA.

12th Jun 2002, 21:18
Creating a BALPA student council is tempting in so far as we'd get to tap into their admin support, legal advice and other resources, and be part of a recognised and established name, but I tihnk this can be better done externally.

Take FE/HE student representation -- the NUS never has much focus on postgraduate students, hence the NPC was set up in early 1990s to represent postgrads. Most students unions, and thus students, affiliate to both. There is no conflict; NUS and NPC send people to each other's meetings, and the low-resource little-sister NPC often persuades the mega-rich NUS to collaberate and fund particular projects and campaigns. NPC enjoys greater effectiveness from being focussed on one distinct constituency. Our rapidly forming Student Pilot Association (or whatever name!) should similarily want to form constructive links with BALPA and others.

There's no threat or disrepect to BALPA -- quite the reverse. People who have positive experiences of collective representation whilst in training are more likely to want to join BALPA once in employment...

12th Jun 2002, 21:29
What're we going to call this body -- my suggestions are

- National Student Pilots' Association - NSPA
- National Student Pilot's Council (or Committee) - NSPC
- JAA Student Pilots Association (except that JAA is changing into something else soon or am I confused?!)
- European Student Pilots' Association - too ambitious to start with?! Guess it depends if we have enough European folk, also maybe some of them already have effective national representation.

Really need to sort out a name, and the constitution and articles of association etc (easy, we just nick some and customise), before things can progress.

12th Jun 2002, 21:49
Seems support is growing fast, but already there are those who seem to be discouraging. Whether this is genuinely sound advice because they know more than we do or whether that they have an interest to protect remains to be seen. All options must be examined.

The key point though is that if nobody does anything nothing changes. I wonder how much it costs to get a JAA Class 1 Initial done in Belgium, France, Holland or Germany. It was about 450 at EGKK when I did mine 2 years ago. I wonder if it is cheaper to get an Easyjet flight to EHAM and back and do it there rather than go to Gatwick. If people started doing this "en masse" someone at the CAA might take note.

13th Jun 2002, 00:17
Send Clowns:

Fair point, but I think you are missing the main jist a little bit.

BALPA in itself is the BRITISH AIRLINE PILOT'S ASSOCIATION. It has representation and agreements with many, if not most UK airlines.

In each represented line, there will be an elected Company Council who represent all pilot's within a BALPA represented company.

BALPA in itself within each airline is only as strong as it's members and therefore it's Company Council of elected Pilot's.

BALPA is not some "large dog" on a leash at it's headquarters waiting to savage management or FTO's.

My point is this:

Whilst all UK pilot's who are in BALPA are in probably to ensure decent terms and conditions, these things are set locally i.e. within their own lines. Only if things are unsatisfactory, or recognition agreements are being broken will BALPA head office become directly and vocally involved.

In my line, which is jmc Airlines, we have had several major issues to deal with over the last year or more. We have not gone into dispute with the company, because a result generally turns up that satisfies pilot aspirations eventually.

A union cannot possibly be involved directly in :

JAA exam setting standards,

Cost of exams,

Cost of training,

Resits etc...

because all students and FTO's are different!

All these things are I am afraid to say, are just far too unimportant.

Let's say you had 1000 student pilot members:

900 at some point of training would be p?ssed off about something. These problems are generally minor and can be sorted easily.

The other 100 would be either too good at everything to care, or they would be too rich to care!

How can any union get involved if there are so many different gripes and agendas?

A better idea within each FTO may be for the students to have a student body of perhaps 3 members to address gripes and issues with management, CAA etc on a monthly basis?

They could be elected .......I am thinking back to my time at OATS now. I do know it would not work everywhere.

This would cost nothing, and it could be a charitable organisation with a National commitee of trustees to oversee fair practice.....

Perhaps that could be 3 Airline Pilots of varying experience and rank to ensure equality..

If you set up a student union, you will need full time staff. And that costs wages. Seeing as most student pilots are skint, that is not good.

My advice remains to think wider, and perhaps pay the 24 to join BALPA. It is all there for you already and you could arrange a proper student arm. Ask to have an interview with Chris Darke the BALPA General Secretary.

And yes, I joined BALPA before going to OATS. I went to free conferences and got lots of help. You have to ask, but it is worth it.

And BALPA (my colleagues) have helped keep me in my 757 seat for a lot longer than I thought possible post September.

However, only because we as a PILOT community in jmc were resolute in the face of the threats put on us.

Can you guarantee that all students would be so resolute? Or would they even understand the politics and importance of such resolution?


13th Jun 2002, 04:08
Carb - this sounds like an extremely interesting idea, and certainly one which that I would seriously consider being part of. I am one of a number of European students training at a JAA approved flight school in the United States and, as such, a web based resource would be of great use in helping us feel more involved in the UK (and European for that matter) pilot training scene.

As for the name - well a number of my course-mates are not from the UK (yet are studying for their JAAs via the CAA route). For this reason, including the word 'National' in the title may tend to alienate other EU nationals training, or seeking to train on JAA approved courses both in the UK and around the world. I feel that with the increasingly fluid employment patterns across Europe, as many inputs as possible could only make the association more effective. So something along the lines of the European Student Pilots Association (ESPA sounds relatively catchy too!) may be more appropriate. Any other thoughts on that one???

Finally, thanks for putting the time and energy into this - with sufficient support it could really useful for all of us.


Send Clowns
13th Jun 2002, 09:34

I agree completely about BALPA, and that is really my point. In fact I would recommend wannabes to consider student/unemployed membership of BALPA or IPA.

However there are issues that affect most students. At work I encounter them frequently. Some of them are related to the FTO, and although I'd like to think we can deal with these in consultation with the individual student I think a student co-operative body would help overall. Other issues are with the CAA or JAA, and I have to say more with the JAA than the CAA at the moment (I have a lot of positive exerience with the CAA in this area in helping us to sort out the more unworkable aspects of JAA). In these cases the students are currently represented by the schools, but I think that a student body may be able to help exert more pressure.

We then have problems with the government, such as the tax scheme. While these affect the FTOs as well as students they do not really have a remit to lobby MPs on students' behalf.

On the subject of a name, how about including the term "Joint" to emphasise that it could cover the entire JAA area? Joint Association of Student Pilots, JASP? Or else "International", IASP?

13th Jun 2002, 10:53
A union cannot possibly be involved directly in [blah blah]
Well indeed! Hence the need for a student association. Although I do think it would be possible to develop BALPA to fulfil this gap we're trying to fill -- it'd take longer and more effort than simply forming a dedicated new entity.

When I was a student sabbatical officer I had a couple thousand student nurses to represent. Quite a few were also members of UNISON, but, most always they chose the university students' association route for dealing with issues relating to their studies. Anything to do with conditions & practices for their nursing placements they'd take to UNISON who had some clout, and interest, in that stuff. Nationally, again it natural for NUS to take the lead with student nursing issues, usually with backing from UNISON and others. So really there are precedents galore in other industries for the direction that most of us are steering towards.

As for staff, not necessary, I think enough student pilots find ourselves with patches of spare time on their hands to ensure the work can be shared among volunteers, and then because there are no staff, subscriptions, offices etc then the work is pure representational stuff, not admin and stuff. Most of what is needed -- people articulating the issues and quoting personal experiences -- is already available right here. Just needs to be communicated onwards to the right people.

Yup worth speaking to them asap just incase anything revolutionary is on offer -- for example would they consider trainee pilots as "members" and not just "associates" -- if not then just to say hello and I hope they'll be keen to support us and see the benefits to everyone including themselves. Anyone know the IPA or BALPA people and want to have a word or shall I?

One other point that just occured to me is that not all student pilots want to be airline flight crew...

Re name -- good ideas, what we settle on may have to depend on what web domain names are available to match though!

Wibbly P
13th Jun 2002, 12:38
Pilot Learning Objectives Platform

Trainee's Union Regional Department

"Whilst training in London, I was having problems with my school, I used PLOP to raise my concerns, people said I should also try to make use of the nearest TURD as it was bigger."

15th Jun 2002, 11:45
Back to the top.....

15th Jun 2002, 14:57
An observation from an Australian instructor (and until very very very recently, a student).

I'm not too sure what it is like in the UK/Europe but over here if any student has a problem with their training provider, they should vote with their wallet. You are paying thousands (I repeat THOUSANDS) of dollars/pounds/euros/whatever to get training in a rich mans field. At any flying school (with the exception of sponsored colleges), you are a CUSTOMER therefore you have customers rights. If the school its self is doing something you don't like, Tell them.

You are their income. If you like a school that has given good training, then you will pass on good comments to potential customers either via pprune or other such media. If however you don't like the training or other issues related to the school, you are just as (if not more) likely to pass on your feelings and information to other wannabes. Great for a flying schools bottom line.

As far as the JAA/CAA/whatever is concerned. Perhaps an internet (perhaps PPRUNE, though is probably a little out of the scope of the creators) based forum, in which members can centre some form of advocacy from which lobbying action can take place may be a good idea.

In Australia we have just experienced a hike in CPL theory (and ATPL) exams from less than $100 to over $500 simply for having the privilege of sitting essentially the same exam through a private company (which has exclusive rights to conduct these exams if I'm not mistaken). An internet based forum in which Australian students could get together may have a chance to lobby CASA to change the situation.

(Also, if you want a student card, get your co-students and yourself to convince your flying school to make their own. If they are approved as a tertiary education provider this couldn't be out of the scope of possibility)

A late thought for those in cadet programs with guaranteed employment. If you are in one of these schemes then surely it would make sense to join the BALPA (forgive misspelling) as wouldn't you now be considered to be a professional pilot (albiet "in training") and therefore fall under their umbrella for any of your concerns?

15th Jun 2002, 16:37
Interesting thoughts. Voting with your feet is good for sorting out FTOs but people need information for that to work. Other things like student cards that can also be done on local levels still benefit from national, collective, efforts -- in higher education, the introduction of anoymous marking over the past few years is one of many examples of that, where a national campaign helps local students push for something by giving them information, confidence and the ability to argue "well look, it's being introduced everywhere else so why not here...".

I've got hold of the domain name studentpilots.org -- seemed quite good and besides, little choice, whatever name and acronym we adopt, the corresponding domain names were all already taken in some form! PPRUNE probably remains the best place for online discussions as there are so many people, and good quality moderation, but we'll still need a website for the public front -- the press releases, briefings, the mission/objectives, etc.

I will seek to meet BALPA and IPA soon myself if nobody else can...

Is it feasible to have physical meetings say 2 - 4 times a year? Could be interesting, and innovative, to attempt an entirely web-based association but I think it a democratic structure is really necessary in order to make credible representations, and that definitely needs real people gathered in a room (and going for a meal!) once in a while!

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