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How to obtain an FAA pilots certificate as a European citizen, flight training in America and EASA / FAA license conversion.
We constantly get asked by potential aircraft buyers about pilot training and the best way to get their private pilots license and following that an instrument rating. Time after time I sit down and explain the benefits of the American FAA over the European EASA system. Everything in the USA just seams to be geared up to general aviation and the process involved in getting a pilots license and following that additional ratings such as the instrument and multi engine just makes total sense.
Now as of May 2021 there was a new bi-lateral agreement put in place between the FAA and EASA. This means that once you have your American FAA pilots license you can then go to any Civil Aviation Authority that is part of EASA and get a private PPL license without having to take all the European written theory exams. This includes the instrument rating as well, so as a private pilot instead of having to study for all the EASA IR theory exams you can just go to an examiner and make a skills test where you demonstrate your knowledge of the European regulations and you will walk away with a EASA PPL(A) with all your FAA ratings, this could be SEP, MEP, NVFR and Instrument.
The European EASA license you would be issued with would be standalone so you would of course require a European medical as well, but the huge benefit is not having to complete all the EASA written exams.
It is also possible if you already have a EASA license such as a PPL to get a FAA license on the back of it so that you can fly N registered aircraft. There are two possibilities here the first and simplest is the FAA 61.75 this is a license issued on the back of your EASA one, so as long as the EASA license is kept valid then the FAA one will be as well. The second option is to use the bilateral agreement and get a stand alone FAA private license issued, you will need an FAA medical but that part is easy then once you have the stand alone license you can add an FAA instrument rating and after that you can convert the instrument back to your European license. So you see there are many different options and for more information from the source then check out the TIP-L agreement May 2021 https://www.easa.europa.eu/downloads/120969/en and https://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/Advisory_Circular/AC_61-143.pdf
If you are considering going to the USA to complete pilot training be it for an initial private pilots license, an instrument or multi engine rating or even your commercial license then we can highly recommend Paris Air Inc in Vero Beach Florida. Paris Air have a large fleet of over fifty aircraft the core of there training fleet is made up of Piper PA28 Warrior and Piper Seneca aircraft that have proven time and time again to be a very stable training platform, the majority of the fleet are fitted with the latest Garmin avionics that include the 500Txi touch screen primary flight display and GTN650 & GTN750 gps/com/nav. All the aircraft are extremely well maintained by in house technicians and in impeccable condition.
I would recommend studying for the written exams in advance of traveling to the USA, this way you can start immediately online with King Schools who provide fantastic online video courses on all FAA subjects. There is only one written exam for each license or type rating so unlike EASA where you need nine written exams for the PPL and then another long list of exams for an instrument rating or commercial license it really is so much easier in the USA. King Schools have been established since 1975 and John and Martha have a wealth of knowledge on all subjects. It is highly enjoyable and I find their online video course to be far easier then sitting and reading books all day. You can check out there website at www.kingschools.com for the private pilots license i would sign up for https://kingschools.com/private-pilot-ground-school-test-prep at $279 or for the instrument https://kingschools.com/instrument-rating-ground-school-test-prep again $279. Once you have completed the online course you will get the logbook endorsement that allows you to go to a test centre in the USA and complete the written exam, this can be done at Paris Air in Vero Beach,FL.
For the private pilot written exam there is 60 multiple choice questions in the FAA test, you have 2.5 hours to complete the test and the pass mark is 70%. The instrument written exam is again 60 multiple choice question with 2.5 hours and 70% pass mark. If you decide to do the commercial exam then it is a little more, 100 questions again 70% pass mark. It is a lot easier to study for the FAA written exams than it is for the EASA ones, also you will find that the questions make more sense as they are talking about general aviation more rather than the air conditioning packs on a B737 as they do in Europe. In the US they leave this level of training up to the type ratings that you may decide to do after gaining your license.
Once you have got your FAA license if you are a European resident then EASA are making it a requirement that you also hold a EASA license in order to fly in Europe. This is not a problem as of course as soon as you have your FAA certificate you can get a EASA one without having to complete the written exams under the bilateral TIP-L agreement.
You can decide if you would like to study in the USA or in Europe. If you have your own aircraft and would like to train in Europe then I can highly recommend Marc Oetterli who is a FAA CFII flight instructor based out of Worms, Germany https://oetterli.de/pilot/ firstname.lastname@example.org
You need to apply to the flight school and get a I-20 form, this is used as part of the visa application to prove what course you will be studying. You will find the form one the Paris Air website at https://www.parisair.com/flight_training/admission_application/ there is a initial fee of $350 to the school along with the official SEVIS fee to the US government of $350 and a small shipping charge to send the I-20 document to you in Europe as you will need it for the visa interview.
Once you have the I-20 document you will need to apply online for a DS-160 Nonimmigrant visa this is at https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/.
After you have completed the DS-160 then you can apply for a visa interview at the US embassy in your home country at https://cgifederal.secure.force.com/ It is also possible to arrange an interview in another country and sometimes it can be a lot quicker so if you find there is a long wait then do try in other countries as well it is well worth calling around and find out who has the shortest wait time, it has been known to be possible to get an appointment within a week or two. Also at the moment if you are a citizen of a visa waver country then you may be offered a mail in application and not have to attend an interview in person. There is a fee of $160 for this application.
Once your passport is back in your hand complete with the M1 visa inside your next step is going to be to complete the TSA (Transport Security Administration) flight training security program application this is online at https://fts.tsa.dhs.gov/ you will be applying for a Category 3 event, you need to put your visa information in along with other details and the name of the flight school, you can select Florida and Paris Air Inc. There is a $130 fee for TSA. After this has been processed you will need to have your finger prints taken, it is possible in Europe but it is far easier to do this when you arrive in the USA and Paris Air will arrange this for you locally.
You will need an FAA medical, you can of course complete this in the US and Paris Air can arrange it for you or if you felt like doing it before hand and of course also for any future renewals back in Europe I can highly recommend Dr Hardicsay Gabor email@example.com tel +36302113749 he is a senior AME for the FAA and Transport Canada based in Budapest, Hungary. I am sure there are also other AME’s in Europe but I always go back to Dr Hardicsay. He can also arrange your EASA medical renewal at the same time as his colleague works from the same office.
If you have already studied under Kings Schools for your written exam and completed there online course then you will have been able to print out the course completion certificate with this you can take the written exam. You will need to apply online at https://candidate.psiexams.com/ to take the exam and you can choose the exam centre you would like to use, Paris Air is one of these centres so I strongly recommend you select them. There is a fee of $175 for the written exam. If you have not completed the King Schools online study then you can of course attend classroom lessons and self study at Paris Air as well.
At some point you will need to setup an account on IACRA https://iacra.faa.gov/ this is the FAA’s online portal for licensing, you will apply for your student pilots certificate here as well as further applications when you come to take your flight tests etc. But once you are at the flight school they will talk you through all of these process as and when you need them.
With regards to accommodation I can recommend Staybridge Suites in Vero Beach although it can get a little expensive if you are planning on an extended stay, do call them in advance though and negotiate some discount as a pilot it is possible to save around $100 a night from the published rates. If you are planning on staying a little longer or coming back on a number of occasions then it may be worth renting an apartment on a more permanent basis, there are lots of complex’s around one is www.aquapalmbayapts.com and for around $1600 per month you can rent a two bedroom apartment with a contract of around 6 or 12 months depending, normally it is a small application fee of around $200 and one months deposit on moving in. This can work out a lot cheaper than living out of a hotel room. Paris Air also offer accommodation for around $700 per month for a room in a shared house so this may also be an option if you are traveling alone.
Personally I would look at renting an apartment, I am sure you will fall in love with Florida and want to go back again, plus if you have an apartment then friends and family can always come and stay.
As for transport it is possible to rent a car from any of the major car rental companies at the airport and deals can be had. If you are going to be there for a while then it is worth checking out the used car market, there are plenty of cars for sale on Facebook marketplace and it can work out a lot cheaper than renting.
Flying into both Orlando or Miami is an option, Orlando is the closest airport to Vero Beach but Miami is not too much further in the other direction. If you are planning on going to Vero Beach then feel free to reach out and we will help out where ever we can, perhaps we have some additional options for renting a house or apartment privately for your stay. ASI Aviation Sales International has our US office in Vero Beach so we know the area well and have plenty of contacts.
Once your training is completed and you are back in Europe complete with your fresh FAA pilots certificate then you can start the application to get your EASA flight crew license based on the TIP-L agreement. Each country has a slightly different procedure to this process, the information for the German LBA can be found here https://www.lba.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Formulare/L4/Lizenzierung/Antrag_Erteilung_Lizenz_Berechtigung_US-EU_TIP-L.html?nn=2091000 but in general you can refer to the EASA website https://www.easa.europa.eu/easafaa-technical-implementation-procedures-licensing-tip-l That is about it, it is fairly simple you just need to follow the steps as laid out above in order to get the visa and TSA clearance after that everything else should just make sense.
Now onto the next subject, if you already hold a EASA license and just want to fly a N registered aircraft than it is possible to do this with an FAA 61.75 private pilots certificate based on the foreign pilots license. This is the simplest way to be able to fly an N registered aircraft but you do need to maintain your European license. For this you do not need an FAA medical the EASA one is sufficient. If you just want VFR privileges then there is no requirement for any written exams, if you have an EASA instrument rating then there is one written exam consisting of 50 questions with 70% pass rate.
In order to get the 61.75 you need to first of all create an account with IACRA the FAA licensing portal https://iacra.faa.gov/ once logged in you select “start foreign license verification process” complete the online forms and then the FAA will request confirmation of your EASA license from your CAA, once they have this information back you will get a verification letter this is valid for 180 days and during this time you need to make an appointment with a DPE pilot examiner or FSDO (flight standards district office) you will find a list of them on the FAA website but they are in most major cities. If you go to the FSDO then there is no charge for the process if you make it with a DPE then they normally charge around $200 for there time. Paris Air can arrange a DPE for you in Vero Beach. It is also possible to complete this process via a video call via Skype with a DPE based in the USA, I recommend emailing Erich Bryant DPE who will be able to assist with the process remotely firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have an instrument rating in Europe then you can carry this across as well but you will need to take the written exam, I would recommend the online course from King School https://kingschools.com/instrument-rating-ground-school-test-prep prior to taking the exam. Then you can book the written exam online at https://candidate.psiexams.com/ you can select Paris Air at Vero Beach, Florida as the test centre or any other location in the US. It is not possible to take any written exam outside of the US.
One option would be to use all of your flight time in Europe under EASA as credit towards completing a private or commercial license in the US. This way depending on your experience you would require a minimum of 3 hours of flight training with an FAA instructor prior to taking the check flight with the examiner. You would also need to pass the private or commercial FAA written exam before hand.
If you went down this route of getting a stand alone FAA license then you could then transfer your ratings to EASA under the TIP-L agreement.
I hope everything kind of makes sense, if you wish to ask any questions then feel free to call our office at ASI Aviation Sales International GmbH any time or drop in at our showroom at Neustadt Aisch EDQN any time and we would be happy to sit down and help out where we can.
Please note that this site is in no way official and this is just our view of the FAA and EASA systems and process, some of the information above could have changed might be incorrect, I take no responsibility if something is wrong. Please by all means correct me if you notice something that is not right.
Over more than 40 years, King Schools has delivered many millions of courses to pilots in training. Through intimate video instruction, John and Martha King have taught more pilots than anyone in the history of aviation—for many years teaching more than half the pilots in the United States learning to fly. It's no surprise that pilots throughout the world know John and Martha and regard them as their personal aviation mentors. Kings Schools - John and Martha King
Below you can see some preview videos on a number of subjects that are covered in the online courses from Kings Schools, I think you will agree the presentation is superb and for sure the best way to study for your writen exams.