ABOVE: Anecdotal evidence and complaints from flights schools about slow licensing were confirmed by data released by the CAA under a Freedom of Information request.

Figures released to Pilot under a Freedom of Information request show that the backlog of CAA pilot licence applications has grown steadily in 2021, reaching more than one thousand items outstanding in August.

The backlog numbers were estimated by comparing, for each month, the number of licences issued with the number of licence applications received by the CAA. Data show that the backlog remained fairly stable at about 140 applications outstanding until March 2021, and then started a steep growth.

Part of the problem seems to be a large surge in ATPL applications, which virtually doubled in numbers between 2020 and 2021. Those types of licences were in fact the most affected by the slowdown, with less than 50% of ATPL applications processed promptly with the issue of a licence for two consecutive months (April and May 2021).

Interestingly, NPPL applications (which were not affected by EASA rules even before the CAA left the European agency at the end of 2020) were not affected by the slowdown, as almost 100% of those applications were processed by the CAA the same month they were received.

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