U.S. groups are concerned about a new European Commission regulation that harmonizes pilot qualification and medical requirements for member states, but imposes a series of requirements for pilots who train and obtain licenses outside the European Union (EU). But general aviation groups are hoping to address those concerns through ongoing bilateral discussions between the U.S. and Europe.

The newly released rule, which takes effect April 8, will permit pilots who hold licenses in European Union member states to fly throughout the EU without having to meet other training or medical requirements -- essentially validating licenses throughout the EU.

The rule further introduces new light-aircraft pilot licenses and medical requirements, harmonizes licenses for sailplanes, hot air balloons, airships and powered-lift aircraft; harmonizes medical fitness rules; and provides common requirements for pilot and medical examiners and instructors.

“These new rules will simplify the lives of thousands of pilots across the EU while ensuring high levels of safety,” says Siim Kallas, the commissioner responsible for transport and mobility.

But outside the EU, aviation groups have been pushing for similar validation, particularly with licensing requirements in the U.S. The proposal had generated substantial opposition because it would make it harder to gain European validation – including requirements for the pilots to take additional exams, demonstrate a certain number of pilot-in-command hours in relevant aircraft and meet certain medical standards.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) had argued that the U.S. has a comparable safety record with Europe. “Though training philosophies somewhat differ, the end product remains essentially the same,” AOPA says.

Jens Hennig, vice president of operations for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), notes that the regulation will affect approximately 11,000 European pilots who trained in and obtained U.S. certification. Those pilots are under an April 2014 deadline to convert to a European license.

Also impacted by the new rule are pilots certified under the Joint Aviation Authority. They will have to convert to a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) license – but have a longer timeframe – up to 2017.

“We were opposed to the flight-crew licensing on a number of fronts, but recent revelations and a proposed solution to the instrument rating are promising,” AOPA says.

GAMA and AOPA, however, are hopeful that the U.S. validation issue can be addressed through the implementation of the U.S.-Europe bilateral aviation safety agreement (BASA).

The flight-training issue was one of the first raised once the BASA took effect, and officials are expected to discuss the issue during a meeting between U.S. and European representatives on Dec. 9, Hennig says. “We’re encouraged that authorities immediately put this on the agenda,” he says.

“We are hoping that the bilateral agreement annex will address our concerns and are working with both FAA and other AOPAs in Europe with EASA on this,” AOPA says.

EASA is planning to release acceptable means of compliance and guidance for compliance with the new rule in upcoming weeks.

The regulation is part of a larger effort to update training and qualification standards in Europe. One of the parallel efforts, which stemmed directly from the pilot training and medical standards regulation, will simplify and improve instrument-rating requirements in Europe.

EASA says that as it worked on the pilot training rule, it became apparent that the proposed instrument-rating requirements “seemed too demanding for private-pilot license holders and that a separate rulemaking task should be initiated.”

The notice of proposed amendment was released in September and comments on that proposal are due Dec. 23.

European regulators have coordinated with industry groups on the instrument-rating rule, Hennig notes, adding, “It’s certainly a step in the right direction. We’ve been a cheerleader on this one since Day One.”