An kind reader sent us this update in 2016. Please use it, as the rest of this (considerably older) page at your own risk.
In my personal circumstances, I wanted to verify my UK SEP PPL in order to fly with the same privilidges in the US this coming summer.
It's relatively straightforward, but the information is contained on the CAA and FAA websites, rather than as one guide.
First of all :-
Complete the CAA form SRG1160. When completed you email it back to the CAA along with the fee (currently £43)
At the same time as completing the above, you must send a similar form to the FAA (Form 8060-71) to make the official request to the CAA for verification. There is no fee for this and it has links to templates, but is self explainatory and is simply email back to them. All the details are on the form.
There is then an email of acknowledgement from the CAA telling you to do the above with the CAA and It's then a waiting game. The CAA processed my payment after about 3 weeks, so I knew the process was moving forward.
Another week later (today) my letter arrived from the Airmen Certification Branch AFS-760 confirming the verification of my UK PPL and Class 2 medical certificate. The letter of certification is valid for 6 months.
You just then contact the FSDO (Flight Standards District Office) in the area that suits. I am flying into Boston, although will be flying in New Hampshire, so for me, it's the Burlington, Massachusettes FSDO. I rang them and made an appointment for the day after I arrive in the US, only as my flight will land too late for a realistic chance of making the appointment. It's a case of taking my licence, medical, letter of certification and passport to their office for the attention of their duty inspector. It takes 20 minutes and there is no charge. My licence will be issued on the spot and they said they look forward to making me a coffee. The full list of FSDO offices by state can be found below.
The only fly in the ointment is that once you have nominated an FSDO, then that's the one you must attend, so don't nominate Florida if you are planning on flying in Alaska!
You can bypass the appointment in person with the FSDO of your nomination and complete this part of the process in UK.
I've been I contact with Mr. Andrew House who has the ability to verify whilst still in the UK to expedite the process (please scroll to the bottom of the email for his details, for your records - [email protected]) who replied straight away and could not have been more helpful. Unfortunately however, the fee for his assistance is £385. It would be cheaper for me to fly to Boston for the day outside of my planned visit and have my licence issued early.
To confirm - the only charge is the £43 to the CAA. That's it.
I hope the above is of some assistance and if nothing else, may be of benefit to a future enquiry within your office?
A Word of Warning
of this guide is probably wrong and now outdated since I wrote this first in the early 2000s and haven't updated it much or at all since. I write it from what I have
understood and what I have experienced in helping several people do transitions
each way. Don't take this guide as a bible - rather, consider it a living
document. If you discover that something isn't quite so, please send me
an email and I will be happy to correct it. Oftentimes, the powers that
be, be that FAA officials in US FSDOs or UK officials from the EASA
or MoT make changes or ad hoc policy that it's hard to keep on top of.
Let's work together to make this site a resource for all pilots. Please
direct your suggestions to:
Why not two guides?
first, it might seem that in order to tackle this issue, I should write
two guides - one for US pilots interested in the UK, and one for the other
way around. Well, there's only one guide, and this only partially is due
to laziness on my part. The main reason that there's only one guide, however,
is because to really understand what's going on, it's helpful to see the
interaction of the two systems. You can, of course, skip over the parts
that really don't pertain to you.
Tale of Two Systems
crucial to understand from the outset that the American and UK systems
of pilot certification/licensing are not parallel. The US has what we
can broadly refer to as a "linear" system, and the UK (as Europe
and much of the rest of the world) has what I'll call a "dual"
US system is overseen by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).
includes oversight of airplanes, helicopters, gyroplanes, and gliders.
the most part, the FAA does not oversee "ultralights" and "microlights",
but if you are a microlight pilot from the UK wishing to fly lawnmowers
in the US, I suggest that you find some other source of information than
this web page, as I know little about this. The EAA
might be a good place to start. Also, there are a few Ultralight
FAQs on the web which discuss licensing and certification.
primary regulatory text of the FAA are what used to be officially called
the "Federal Aviation Regulations" (FARs), but are now officially
called the "Code
of Federal Regulations, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space" (aka
"CFR 14"). In practice, most people still refer to the regulatons
as the "FARs" (eff-ay-arr[s]). The FARs are broken down into
chapters, called Parts. A very useful part is Part
61, whcih deals with certification of pilots and flight instructors.
The full text of the FARs can be read online.
FAA has published guidance in the past with regards to getting a US license
based on a foreign certificate. However, much of what they have written
on the topic is "pre-9/11" or otherwise out of date. This
web page is an example of probably-out-of-date information from the USA.
In today's world, your plight to get a US certificate will be somewhat
contact with the FAA will likely be through one of the many Flight Standards
District Offices (FSDOs). Here's
a list of them, USA-wide. Note that you can't just show up at a FSDO:
you will need to make an appointment. Be sure to bring copious photo ID
the US system, a pilot (and here as in the whole document, I'm referring
to airplane pilots primarily) can reasonably expect to progress as such:
is to say, a Private Pilot flying Cessnas at the local airport can, with
sufficient hours, hope to "build up" to a commercial pilot certificate
or even an ATP certificate! In fact, it's possible (and not even particularly
uncommon) to get any certificate up to and including ATP without ever
stepping foot in a formal training facility of any sort - just working
with an independent flight instructor working out of his car. Of course,
it's also possible to go through an established training school, but,
except for the slight hiccup that some training sources are certified
under Part 61 and some under Part 141 of the Federal Aviation Regulations,
all training is more or less the same, and, in general, a pilot would
face little administrative difficulty in "jumping around." That
is to say, it's not difficult for somebody to do their private pilot certificate
at a local airport's flight school, then their instrument rating at a
very professional outfit such as FlightSafety Academy, and then their
commercial certificate with an independent CFI.
Update! The requirements for an FAA ATP have changed significantly since this document was originally written. There is now a required classroom component for new FAA ATPs. If you are
thinking to convert your EASA ATPL into an FAA ATP and wonder about things like whether you need to do a clasroom component, please CONTACT THE FAA IFO (International Field Office) in Jamaica, NY
and ask. Don't just google randomly. We strongly suggset that you likewise don't pester random companies for free advice about this and don't rely on articles or hearsay unless you are 100%
sure the source is both trustworhy and up to date.
Contact the good people at the FAA IFO who are paid to be knowledgeable and answer questions from people like you and can give you an answer based on YOUR specific flight and training experience,
since this varies from pilot to pilot.
how I'm calling the US things "certificates" - there is no ppL
in the US - pilots are CERTIFICATED, not licensed. I don't mean to
sound righteous about this -- despite all the nitpickers who will correct
you if you call it a license, at the end of the day, it doesn't really
matter. But when you say "PPL" or "CPL" or "ATPL"
in the USA, you're basically giving yourself away as some sort of foreigner.
basic types of certificates in the USA are STUDENT, RECREATIONAL, PRIVATE,
COMMERCIAL, and AIRLINE TRANSPORT (ATP).
- You get
a STUDENT certificate basically by passing a Class 3 Medical Exam at
a FAA Authorized Medical Examiner (AME) and requesting a student pilot
here to search for an AME near you. There are approximately 20 FAA
AMEs in the UK and dozens more throughout the rest of Europe. If you
were an ab-initio US pilot, you'd need a student certificate before
you could solo.
- The RECREATIONAL
pilot certificate is a mostly abortive attempt by the FAA to make a
certificate with pretty stringent limitations that's easier to get than
the PRIVATE certificate. In practice, few people have bothered getting
this certificate, and I encourage every reader to pretty much ignore
the fact that it exists. It's useless and stupid. That said, in 2003,
there has been talk of the FAA instituting a new SPORT PILOT certificate
which, frankly, sounds a whole lot like the RECREATIONAL fiasco all
over again. I don't really understand why the SPORT PILOT certificate
would be desirable, but the EAA seems to be excited about it.
- The PRIVATE
pilot certificate is the realistic basic unit of certification in the
FAA world. If you know what a UK PPL is, then you basically know what
a US PP certificate is. However, there are some important differences
that will be gone into in some depth later in this document.
- The COMMERCIAL
and AIRLINE TRANSPORT certificates are, similarly, essentially analogues
of their UK counterparts, with several differences.
also FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR, GROUND INSTRUCTOR, and a bunch of other less common
certificates (FLIGHT ENGINEER, anyone?) but I won't discuss them now.
If you are a flight engineer or (gasp) flight navigator and want to convert
these to US equivalents, click
has RATINGS associated with it. Except for the STUDENT pilot certificate,
which is, like the early universe, void of form, each pilot certificate
type has one or more aircraft category/classes associated with it.
can have a PRIVATE PILOT certificate with an AIRPLANE-SINGLE-ENGINE-LAND
rating. This is commonly abbreviated as PP-ASEL. One can SIMULTANEOUSLY
hold a COMMERCIAL PILOT-AIRPLANE-MULTI-ENGINE-SEA (CP-AMES) certificate/rating.
So, you can have commercial (private, recreational, ATP) priviliges as
far as one aircraft type is concerned, but only PRIVATE priviliges for
another aircraft type. Not all certificate types apply to all aircraft
type - there is, for example, no AIRLINE TRANSPORT Glider certificate/rating.
Airplane Multi-Engine Sea Rating
you were living in the USA and had no internalization issues, the way
to get a certificate and/or rating would be to (in general):
the necessary aeronautical experience (with an instructor or what have
you). The necessary aeronautical experience for most FAA certificates
and ratings can be found in CFR
14 Part 61. (The exception to this is if you are training under
part 141 or Part 142, which most of you reading this document will not
be). TREAT CFR PART 61 as a BIBLE. The requirements for FAA certificates
and ratings are very clearly spelled out there - go through your
logbook to carefully figure out what you need vis a vis these requirements.
the required knowledge (written) test. BLATANT AD: my GroundSchool
software can prepare you for any FAA written test in the comfort
of your own home in no time flat! Please download it today!
- In general,
have the appropriate medical certificate (issued by an AME)
- get bits
and pieces of paper (often in the back of your logbook) signed off by
a certified flight instructor (CFI) (note: the ATP certificate requires
no such signoffs). Some certificates and/or ratings require you to get
signed off by a CFI-I (Instrument Instructor) or MCFI (Multiengine Certified
Flight Instructor). Some percentage of instructors, myself included,
hold all three instructor ratings.
and pass a combination flight and oral test with either an FAA Pilot
Examiner or, more likely, an FAA Designated Examiner. In the UK, this
test is known as a "flight test." In the USA, the official
term for this is "PRACTICAL TEST", though most people simply
call it a "CHECKRIDE." If you say "flight test",
people will get confused, maybe thinking that you mean some test where
you're testing an airplane or something a la Chuck Yeager.
Pilot Examiners and FAA Designated Pilot Examiners
FAA Pilot Examiner is an experienced pilot and employee
of the FAA whose job includes giving practical tests. FAA
Pilot examiners charge no fee, as they already get a salary
from the FAA. FAA pilot examiners typically do several jobs
at the local FSDO (Flight Standards District Office - more
about this later) than simply giving practical tests. In fact,
in practice, FAA Pilot Examiners are typically so occupied
with other tasks (this is not a knock on them - our FAA FSDO
people work very hard) that they don't actually give very
many (if any) practical tests at all (except for initial Flight
Instructor tests - this is a special case). Rather, they will
likely hand you over to ...
FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE, often just "DE")
is an experienced pilot who has been designated by the FAA
to give practical tests. FAA DPEs receive recurrent training
from the FAA in Oklahoma city such that the practical tests
should pretty much be the same no matter what DPE you take
the test from. Certainly, the universe of tasks that a pilot
applicant may be asked on a practical test is clearly defined
by a series of documents known as the "Practical
Test Standards" (PTS), but, well, you guessed it--more
about this later. A "checkride" with a DPE costs
money - I don't want to put hard numbers down as these things
tend to change, but as of 2004 my students paid a good Continental
Airlines Pilot and DPE $300 for the privilige.
is a good time as any for me to suggest to any FAA people
who might be reading this - the UK really could use a new
DPE. How abot this experienced pilot?
if you're reading this, you might already be a certified UK pilot. And,
you may therefore have heard something about how you don't need to take
a flight test, but rather just need to do a bit of paperwork and, voila!
you're an american pilot, lucky strikes, bomber jacket, cocky attitute,
true. Or rather, it might be true. Like all good things in life, this
is covered in more detail later in this document. So, you can quickly
search for that section, or you can feast on the informative goodness
of that which is before that. Hey, it's your call.
(Including Instrument Rating)
So we know
that each certificate can have aircraft ratings associated with it. You
basically get a rating when you take a checkride. Let's say you wanted
to add muti-engine airplane priviliges to your private pilot certificate.
No problemo - you just need to get the appropriate training and then take
another checkride! Fortunately, for the most part when you add an aircraft
category/class rating to an existing certificate, such as a multiengine
rating to an existing PP-ASEL certificate/rating, you don't need to take
the private pilot knowledge (written) knowledge test over again. Yippee!
there are other kinds of ratings. The most important of these is the Instrument
Rating (IR), which allows you to fly under IFR (Instrument Flight Rules).
An IR can be added to any pilot certificate, PRIVATE pilot or higher,
for appropriate aircraft (you can't fly a hot air balloon IFR, or rather,
if you can, you're a far better pilot than I).
only one IFR rating... there's none of this IMC/IR stuff like there is
in the UK. IR ratings are per category/class, but once you have your first
one (typically an IR add-on to a PP-ASEL), it's relatively easy to get
them for additional aircraft types. The difference between a PP-AMEL checkride
and an PP-AMEL with Multiengine-Instrument priviliges checkride ONCE YOU
ALREADY HAVE A PP-ASEL is likely to be as simple as one approach and maybe
the basic IR is tough - many consider it the toughest rating that the
FAA gives. It's no weak-kneed UK IMC rating (which, franky, frightens
me--it's good for perhaps emergency letdowns, but not for going to Switzerland,
as I've seen some people effectively use it for). In the USA, there is
no "gradiated" IR - either you have it or you don't. Either
you are on an IFR flight plan so you can and will fly the same routes,
procedures, and airspace as the airliners (aircraft performance and common
sense notwithstanding), or you don't.
include type ratings: these are necessary for bigger / faster airplanes
(generally > 12,500 lbs). I won't go into those here, but suffice it
to say that if you have CAA/EASA issued type ratings, you probably won't
have too much trouble getting them transferred relatively painlessly to
whatever FAA certificate you might get.
are add-on priviliges that you get basically by the pen of an instructor.
No checkride with an examiner required, though you will have to show the
instructor that you can safely do what he's signing you off for, or you
won't get it. Endorsements include:
- to fly airplanes with the little wheel or skid on the back. Because
we know how silly it would be to just let a tricycle gear Cessna-only
pilot loose on a Tiger Moth or a Piper Cub without any additional training.
Airplane - a complex airplane is one that has flaps, a controllable
pitch propeller, and retractable landing gear. Is a Diamond Katana such
an aircraft? Let's see. Flaps? Check. Controllable Pitch Propeller?
Check. Retractable Landing Gear? Bzzzt. It doesn't have all three, therefore
no complex endorsement is required. Flying a Piper Arrow or Cessna 210
will require one, as will flying most twins.
Performance - a high performance airplane is one whose powerplant
generates more than 200HP (there are some normalizing assumptions to
this, but that's the gist of it).
Altitude - if you go above some altitude, you need an endorsement.
Sorry - i don't know what the altitude is off the top of my head, but
it may be 14500 or 18000 or something like that well up there. I suppose
I could look this up.
- this is a special endorsement primarily of interest to Flight Instructor
- basically an endorsement to a student pilot certificate to let a non-certified
pilot solo under specified conditions.
I have made no mention of a "night" rating. Night flying is
a standard part of the FAA Private Pilot certificate for most aircraft
types (read: airplane, helicopter). However, the FAA can issue restrictions
on any certificate for a number of reasons - for example, one against
night flight due to medical reasons.
CAA / EASA System
The CAA/EASA (EASA was, practically speaking, formerly known as JAA and you may see it still referred to as such occasionally)
system is a "dual track" system. Either you are in the "professional
pilot" track or you are in the "private/recreational" pilot
In the professional track there are formalized schools with uniforms
and classroom instruction and so forth.
but how and whether should I get an FAA pilot certificate?
If you want
to fly an N-registered airplane in the USA, for all practical purposes
you need an FAA certificate of some sort. If you want to fly an N-registered
airplane in the UK, then while for all practical purposes you need an
FAA certificate, there might not be anything in the UK regulations preventing
you from legally flying such an aircraft in the UK on your UK license
(please do check the UK regs on this--I am not 100% sure of this, but
this seems to be the consensus amongst those with whom I have spoken).
If you want to fly an N-registered aircraft from the UK to, say, Europe,
then, you will have a difficult time of it and possibly be operating illegally
if you do not have an FAA certificate. Things in this realm are not entirely
clear-cut by regulation, and there are places where even if there is regulation
on one side of the argument or another, it's not entirely clear which
regulatory or lawmaking body has standing, precendence, or jurisdiction.in
each situation. Do you want to be the one that gets it settled through
If you want
to fly a G-registered aircraft in the USA, you can do so on your UK certificate.
Finding a G-registered aircraft in the USA is essentially impossible.
The exception to this tend to be "warm climate" flight schools
in the southern and western US that lure Brits with promises of UK ratings
at US prices. I don't want to make a blanket statement about such places,
but I strongly, strongly, strongly encourage anybody who might be interested
in such a place to do considerable research before choosing to invest
their time and money in such a place. If possible, get MULTIPLE recommendations
from past students for every place that you consider. To say that I've
met people with negative experiences at such places would be an understatement,
though I'm sure that legitimate, safe, and inexpensive places for CAA/EASA
training exist in the US. Probably.
yourself this question: "do I really need an FAA pilot certificate?"
If the answer is "no", then really leave it at that. Having
a pilot certificate from another country has some novelty value, but it's
not clear that it has real value for many UK pilots.
If, on the
other hand, you've heard about how great America is to fly in (it's true),
and you think there's a real reason that you might want to get a US certificate,
Way: "Restricted" Certificates aka "On the Basis of"
When I hear
UK pilots talk about US certification, they tend to talk about "restricted"
certificates. I've seldom come accross this term in official FAA terminology;
I think it's better to think of these as "on the basis of" (OTBO,
for the purposes of this document) certificates, as "on the basis
of a foreign certificate or license" is the box that you need to
tick on that ubiquitous FAA form 8710-1 ("Application for an Airman
Certificate or Rating"). OTBO certificates are essentially free for
holders of value UK PPLs and better. If "OTBO" confuses you,
just think that "OTBO" = "restricted."
scoop on getting an "on the basis of" certificate:
you can get a US PP certificate. Even if you have an EASA ATPL, you
can get at most a US PP Certificate. As far as anybody knows, this can
include whatever ratings that you have under your "foreign"
(read: UK) certificate.
If you have
an EASA IR (NOT IMC), you can get an OTBO FAA IR added to your OTBO
PP cert with a simple tick of a checkbox on Form 8710-1. For this OTBO
IR to be valid, you must take the IR "add on rating" knowledge
test within 24 months of getting your OTBO IR. Sound odd? It sure is.
Unless you have SIGNIFICANT experience flying in US Airspace under IFR
through some other means, flying IFR in the US on the basis of essentially
your EASA paperwork is ASKING FOR TROUBLE. IFR in the USA, especially
for small planes, is in many ways significantly different than it is in
Europe. I am pretty confident that this stupid rule will be reversed once
a few European pilots, pockets full of OTBO ratings, damage themselves
with extreme prejudice. I'd like to see a mandatory conversion training
experience: 5 hours for EASA CPL-IR or ATPL-IR holders, and 30 (!)
hours for CAA/JPL PP-IMC holders MINIMUM before they can fly legally in
the USA under IFR. (Don't think I'm being one sided here - I want the
same for US Pilots in Europe as far as IFR is concerned).
thing about the FAA IR: even if your PP is "OTBO", you can get
a "real" ("full") FAA IR on top of this. If you're
in the UK (or in the US, while I'm there), I can even train you towards
this! The FAA IR is a much better rating than the UK IMC rating, and it's
good fun, too.
get an OTBO certificate
to be that you'd send some paperwork to a random (and I mean that quite
literally--you'd just picked one that sounded nice) FSDO and a few weeks
later a shiny new FAA OTBO certificate would come back to you. September
11th changed that.
is a far more rigorous and time-consuming verification process. In fact,
it's such a pain, I'd like you to seriously consider whether a "full"
FAA certificate might not be a better choice for you. But, I'll get to
that later. This
document contains the FAA's technical mumbojumbo on the verification
I was going
to write a few paragraphs here telling what this means in plain English,
but just now I found a
website that does just that!
of Foreign Pilot Licenses
Ole Henriksen at www.PPLIR.com
issuing a certificate based on a foreign pilot license, the
FAA needs to verify that the foreign license is authentic
and valid. Prior to applying for the certificate, applicants
must therefore send a verification form accompanied by a copy
of their license, medical, ratings (if applicable) and a copy
of a photo ID (driving license or passport) to the FAA Airmen
Certification Branch in Oklahoma City. The FAA will then contact
the Civil Aviation Authority of the issuing country to verify
required "Verification of Authenticity of Foreign License,
Rating, and Medical Certification" form is available
It should be sent to:
Airmen Certification Branch,
PO Box 25082
verification, which should take 3-4 weeks, the Airmen Certification
Branch sends the applicant a letter verifying the authenticity
of his or her national license (plus a copy to the designated
FSDO - see below). The applicant then has 6 months to take
this letter, together with his or her license and other required
paperwork, to that FSDO and get an FAA certificate issued.
The applicant must present him or herself in person to an
FAA Operations Inspector - this process cannot be done by
there are a few caveats. One is that many national aviation
authorities (the UK CAA being one) require either written
authorization or a fee or both before issuing this confirmation
to the FAA. You must therefore contact your local aviation
authority to make any necessary arrangements before sending
the form to the FAA because there is no feedback from the
FAA if their request is being held up by your own aviation
authority. It is probably a process which needs some hand
holding by the applicant to make sure the paperwork doesn't
get stuck somewhere.
next problem is that on the verification form the applicant
must designate the FSDO where the FAA certificate is to be
issued. This is so that the FSDO in question will receive
the required verification from the Airmen Certification Branch
before the applicant turns up on their doorstep. So if you
are going to, say, Vero Beach to do some training anyway,
you would designate the Orlando FSDO. The list of FSDOs at
www1.faa.gov/avr/afs/fsdo will let you locate the most convenient
office. You should also be aware that many FSDOs these days
only allow visitors with a prior appointment and many will
also demand a photo ID before entry.
brings us to the final hurdle. There are three European International
Field Offices ("IFOs" - not FSDOs) - in London,
Frankfurt and Brussels. However, these offices no longer deal
with operational matters, only with maintenance. But there
is a way to get your FAA license issued without going to the
States. You can ring the New York IFO (not the New York FSDO
which only deals with US domestic matters) on +1 718 553 0986
and talk to an Operations Inspector. You can then arrange
to meet a travelling FAA Ops Inspector on his or her next
visit to the IFO nearest you (i.e. London, Frankfurt or Brussels).
Note that the verification process described above must be
in place before you make this arrangement, and you should
designate the "New York IFO" as the issuing office.
This is a potential Catch-22, of course. By designating the
NY IFO, you lock yourself into that avenue before knowing
when an Ops Inspector is next passing through a city near
you. So it could be worth ringing them just to check their
travel plans before you start the ball rolling.
website that the above came from, www.pplir.com,
is an invaluable resource for European pilots and people interested
in General Aviation in europe and the world in general.
license depends on the travel plans of somebody at the FAA! Still want
to get an "OTBO" certificate?
If you didn't
answer "no" to the above, consider this:
FAA OTBO PP certificate will expire at the same time as your EASA
certificate. Time to renew EASA? Therefore it's time to do the whole
paperwork fandango again! (umm, in theory anyway - some people just
don't do this and some people disagree that it needs to be done - that
is to say, there is some confusion with regards to this.)
if your EASA license number changes, your FAA OTBO PP becomes invalid.
A FAA you go a-calling! Hope you can take a day off to go down to London
(or is that Frankfurt?) to mee the FAA guy, whenever that might be!
FAA OTBO PP certificate is in effect subject to the MORE CONSERVATIVE
of the union of applicable regulations. So, while in the USA: have no
EASA night rating? No night for you! VFR distance from clouds and
visibility requirements? In the UK, you're often restricted to "sight
of ground." - in the US you therefore are too! In the UK, however,
you may be allowed to go right up to clouds but not into them - the
US cloud clearance requirements are more varied and conservative - you
are therefore bound by the US rules, even though you've never been tested
on them or maybe even heard of them!
- Ok, you
have an FAA OTBO PP. Congratulations! However, nobody will rent you
an airplane without significant additional training, because you still
really know nothing about US airspace, procedures, regulations, weather,
and the like. Every US student pilot knows what a 45 degree entry to
downwind is just like every UK student pilot knows what "deadside
descending" means. Do you?
leads us to a short interlude:
- If you've
heard that flying over New York City (San Fransisco, Grand Canyon, Florida
Keys, you name it) is a nice thing to do while in the USA, it's probably
not worth all the hassle to get ANY FAA certificate if all you want
to do is < 10 hours of sightseeing. An instructor can be hired who
will keep you safe, legal, and not-lost PLUS you won't have to waste
time and money on aircraft check-outs and the like. Don't forget you
have that option.
is also that other option: the FULL US PP certificate.
front-loaded cost and effort. Requires flight test ("checkride").
Also perhaps you need a BFR (Biannual Flight Review) with a regular instructor.
Both of these can be done (refreshed) at any time - you don't always have
to be current with these if you're not flying - your certificate remains
never expires, limitation free, recognized without hesitation at
FBOs/aircraft rental places, puts you through your paces so that you are
sure you are maximally safe and legal. Can use existing flight experience
to meet pre-requirements. If you have the experience [CFR
Part 61], you can get a FAA CP cert or even FAA ATP certificate without
too much additional effort. No additional medical examination requirement
if you have a medical examination and are certified with an equivalent
UK/European license. See the chart below:
I need an FAA Medical?
Medical for PPLs
PPL + IMC
Medical for PPLs/IMC
PP + IR
(does IR=IMC? does anybody have an FAA ruling on this?)
Medical for CPLs
Medical for PPLs
PP + IR
Because even though the FAA medical is the same, your UK medical
was for you as a PPL only, not as a PPL+IMC. Don't blame the
messenger on this one!
Medical for CPLs/IR
PP+IR or CP+IR
Medical for PPL
but it might be worth getting an FAA Medical just to eliminate
potential paperwork hassles.
Medical for ATPLs
the upsides are pretty signficant. It's not for everybody, but I think
far too many people don't give it the consideration they should.
Between the US and the UK
is clearly partial, but it should give you a good start...
in the USA tends to be frontal. By this, I mean that it can be characterized
by warm and cold fronts often hundreds of miles long whose general movement
can be more or less predicted days in advance. As a result, weather forecasts
have meaning and, all cynicism aside, are usually pretty accurate. You
can safely say "it looks like we'll have good flying weather for
the next few days" and actually mean it.
In the UK,
weather tends to be, umm, random. Sure, there are fronts, but the frontal
patterns tend to be far more complex. Throughout much of South England,
the Midlands, and East Anglia, weather tends to be fast moving to the
point where you will have rain, sun, low clouds, more rain, overcast,
calm, strong wind, etc---all within a few hours. And, I don't mean this
as an isolated occurence - it's a regular thing!
to the very very real possibility of "VFR into IMC" by any pilot
who attempts to fly VFR "American Style" in England. (This is
why, despite everything else I've said, the UK IMC rating is a good idea
for the average UK IMC pilot). There are plenty of stereotypes of English
weather - most of them are true! I find it next to impossible to schedule
flights with my students out of Cambridge (EGSC) for much of the year-
we just agree "let's see how it's doing at 10, 12, 2, and 3, and
we'll just go when we can."
Random Weather. Roll the dice several times per day.
is a wonderful place. In most of the country, you can pretty much decide
where you want to go after you're already airborne. Not that you'd necessarily
want to do this, but you could, if you wanted to. I'd be lying if I said
I haven't done this before.
pretty much none of that in the UK. Flying from airport to airport involves
"PPR" - Prior Permission Required. This means phoning up airports,
telling them when they could expect you, and figuring out how you're going
to pay them to land. The PPR system is non-centralized and non-standardized,
leading to general overall systemic inefficiency.
Oh yes -
those landing fees - they can be, well, quite a shock to the American
used to the good life of few, if any landing fees.
In an extreme case, but our local airport at Cambridge (EGSC) began charging
light aircraft GBP 14.95 per landing. That's around $27 - and they would
charge this for EACH TOUCH AND GO "in the circuit" - even to
students based there! EGSC is no busier than an average US "Class
all US pilots are certified to fly at night. A great number of airports
are equipped for night operations, and flying at night is pretty much
a normal thing. Of course, there's more risk involved, but the rewards
are many. Flying at night requires regular practice and so forth.
In the UK,
a "night rating" is required to fly at night. This is an add-on
to a basic PPL just like a tailwheel endorsement is added to a US PP certificate.
This, coupled with the fact that few airports provide light inexpensively
(EGSC Cambridge charges something like GBP 200 (!!!!!) to turn the lights
on (actually you're paying for the emergency services, but it's all the
same)) means that in effect few weekend UK pilots really fly much at night.
A pity, that.
refer to radio communications as "RT" (Radio Telephony), a phrase
that we don't really use in the USA. UK and US RT has many differences,
though a reasonably competent US pilot should be able to "fake it"
pretty well after having perhaps read the RT booklet published by the
EASA. For UK pilots, there are a number of US books about aviation
communications, and I am working on a piece of softwar that will help
pilots learn this in a more interactive way as well.
tends to vary in the UK more than it does in the USA. While many of the
UK controllers (especially in positively controlled airspace) are very
professional and excellent, at many airports, the phrase "see and
avoid" really is important, even in a radar environment. I can't
tell you how many times I was "in the circuit" talking to a
controller with radar who advised me to turn a base leg or whatever without
mentioning the helicopter that was hovering at base at about my altitude
or whatever. Maybe my experiences have been outliers, but I must say that
I'm quite happy that the airplane I've been flying the most in the UK
has a TCAD (Terminal Collision Avoidance Device) built-in. I've never
really had such issues in the USA.
is essentially divided into .. (unfinished)
section is incomplete, here are some really useful PDFs that you can use
to learn about UK airspace:
a few random notes about flying VFR in UK airspace:
- In the
USA, we tend to be fastidious, or, at least we know that we should be
fastidious about flying with up-to-date charts. In the UK, this seems
to be less of a concern. But, on balance, the chart-makers reciprocate--a
typical "current" UK VFR chart will likely show many airports
as open that have actually closed some time ago and otherwise incorrectly
show a number of airports. Now, please understand that this is not entirely
their fault - flying VFR in the South And east, you will quickly see
that the wartime term "Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier" is no
exaggeration, given the large number of fighter and other ex-airfields
that dot the landscape.
relatively few VORs (VORTACs, VOR/DMEs) in the UK. I'm not sure of the
exact number, but it might even be around 20. However, there are copious
numbers of NDBs.
like most american pilots, you have been trained that an NDB is an object
of inaccuracy that should be relegated to the scrap heap of history along
with A-N ranges and airplanes that look like this
is especially true when said NDBs are near water, as water can interfere
with NDB signals to produce errors of 30 degrees or even larger at times!
British, who, legend has it, live on an island, never really got the message.
They go on using NDBs happily. How do they get away with it? One, but
engaging in that quintissential British pasttime, shared by everybody
who has heard of RailTrack, which is by complaining about the decrepid
state of the UK's infrastructure in general. But, more to the point, NDBs
are still useful because they are often based on airfields and are used,
in effect, as homiing beacons. While it's a stretch to say that UK pilots
won't fly NDB radials for general navigation, the fact is that UK pilots
tend to fly random NDB radials less for this sort of thing that US pilots
have traditionally relied on VOR radials. If you bring your airplane over
to the UK from the USA, you might want to install an NDB. The Cirrus SR22
I fly here in the UK doesn't have an NDB, despite the really fancy multiple
moving map GPSs. HSI, and so forth. This becomes a pain, as the IAF (or
IP) for many ILS approaches is an on-field NDB. In practice I approximate
this with GPS coordinates, but this is never really satisfying.
the USA, VORs are copious. Even in this age of GPS, this is quite nice.
If you don't really have that much experience with VORs, consider practicing
a bit before you come to the USA with a PC-based flight sim such as Microsoft
Flight Simulator or with something like Tim's
NavSim provided by dauntless-soft.com. Learn to fly the ABC 324 radial
inbound to intercet the DEF 041 radial outbound and so on.
In the USA,
altimeter settings are given in inches of mercury - 29.92" ["altimeter
twenty-niner, niner-two"] = standard sea level pressure. ATC routinely
reads out the current altimeter setting, which is set by pilots in the
Kollsman window of their altimter to see the true altitude (altitude above
sea level). Above 18,000' (with very little exception), each pilot shall
set his altimeter to a standard setting of 29.92. When a typical US pilot
lands at an airport, his altimeter will indicate the elevation of the
In the UK,
altimeter settings are given in millibars or hectopascals (the two units
are equivalent). 1013hp = standard sea level pressure. The UK is divided
into a number of ASRs - altimeter setting regions. At any time, each ASR
is assigned one altimeter setting. Pilots are expected to reset their
altimeters when transitioning through ASR boundaries.
In the UK,
altitudes are read as "QNH" or "QFE." While this is
at first a bit confusing to USA pilots, it's a standard that all pilots
should learn, as it is a worldwide standard and, as afar as these things
go, not a bad one. Although "QNH" rubbed this yank's ears the
wrong way (attention Brits! follow this
link and count the number of "i"s in the word! You see,
we Americans are right about some things!), I'd be happy if we started
hearing "QNH 30.22" in the US.
essentially is the same as the US altimeter setting. So, if ATC mentions
that "QNH One Zero One Five Milibars" then they're essentially
saying "altimeter twenty-niner, niner-two". If your airplane's
Kollsman window doesn't indicate in hp/mbar, it's a good idea to keep
a paper conversion table handy.
is the altimeter setting used where field elevation is zero - ie, it results
in AGL (above ground level) elevation being shown on the altimter. Oftentimes,
training airplanes who are not leaving the local area and gliders use
things further in the UK is the notion of "transition altitudes."
In the USA, we've already discussed that the transition altitude to where
a standard reference setting is dialed in to the Kollsman window is 18000'
nearly everywhere. In the UK, transition altitudes are much lower - generally
between 3000' and 4500'. In theory, the transition altitude is simple:
3000'. In practice, figuring out where a proper UK transition altitude
is appears to require a PhD at minimum. Check
out this document from the CAA with the specifics (also contains a
nice map of the ASRs). I bet that fewer than one UK PPL in three really
understands the transition rules and follow them as required. The low
transition altitudes coupled with the popular uncertainty about them coupled
again with the varied and rapidly changing atmospheric conditions even
wthin an ASR lead me to only one conclusion: it's a stupid system (many
UK aircraft fly with two altimeters in part because of this system). Someday,
somebody will lose their life because of this stupid system. I hope the
powers that be have the foresight to simplify and reform it before this
happens. Sorry about my harsh words - I've heard too many stories of close
calls caused by altimeter confusion in the UK to make me believe that
it's anything but a bad system (please - no emails saying that "the
system is just fine - it's just that people don't follow it!" - to
me that's the same as basically admitting that it's a bad system).
CAA Altimeter Setting Primer (PDF)
|(Current) Altimeter (Setting)
|"Engine Out Emergency Practice"
||PFL (Practice forced landing)