Okay, having read the Get Into Flying step by step guide to validating your EASA/CAA licence for an FAA Licence – Now what?
Well, the good news is, you’ve done the hard part (and it really isn’t that hard!) and now it is time to enjoy some General Aviation flying in the USA. Here is what you need to do and some handy tips to take with you on your trip. Much of what you are about to read is based on my own personal experience in June 2016, where I flew in New Hampshire, USA.
Make sure you have your renters insurance to hand, as your FBO will need to see that too. They’ll also advise you in advance of how much cover is required. Look no further than AOPA for all your Renters Insurance needs. I searched around and did my homework, but I do not think that the service I received from AOPA could have been better. I am sure that many people reading this article will be members or AOPA UK (If you are not, then please join – Without a doubt the finest and most influential aviation membership association), so you will already know just what superb service, advice and information this organisation provides.
AOPA arranged my US membership (free for the visiting pilot) and arranged my Renters Insurance, which began on the day that I landed in the USA. You obtain the insurance for a period of one year, but please note, if you cancel your policy within 6 months of its inception, you will receive 50% of your policy back, as this is designed to help the foreign pilot reduce costs and fly that extra hour Stateside, rather than run an insurance premium long after they have returned home. A truly outstanding service.
Airspace is categorised differently in the USA. Sectional and Terminal Charts are different from UK Charts. Many abbreviations are the same on both sides of the Atlantic, however the USA METAR and TAF facilities are more detailed than in the UK. It all makes perfect sense when you understand it, it’s just different from what we, in the UK are used to looking at.
I would strongly recommend checking out the Boldmethod study courses. For a nominal cost, you can study Airspace, Weather Reports and VFR charts from your PC, Phone or tablet. The courses are interactive and fun, with section checks and final exams at the end. You can even email your prospective FBO your results should you wish. My groundschool in the USA was significantly shorter as a result of having studied before I flew. Again, I strongly recommend you check out the website. It is a fantastic site, with lots of tips, advice and videos about all things aviation.
You will have likely considered purchasing USA Sectional Charts before you travel and its a wise decision. Sportys have everything that you will need and the cost is far less than the equivalent UK charts and Airfield Directories. You will need the Sectional Charts(s) for the areas you intend to fly and the Terminal Area Chart. The Airport Facilities Directory (AFD) is invaluable if you are looking to get a few extra airports in your log book. Crammed with information on each and every facility, this is a book you cannot do without. Two charts and the AFD will cost you no more than £20 at today’s prices.
Having arrived in Boston, I made my way to my FSDO appointment at the Burlington, Massachusetts office the following morning. Security is strict, so please make sure you have all of the relevant documentation with you. The documents you need are:-
Form AFS-760 from the Airmen Certification Branch of the FAA in Oklahoma City confirming the verification of your UK PPL and relevant medical certificate.
Valid photograph identification. Passport and driving licence is what I produced and either are suitable. You will of course need your own EASA/CAA licence, medical paperwork and logbook to hand.
Your FAA form FAA 8710-1. I wasn’t able to update the form and save as a PDF for further editing on a memory stick, as initially advised, so I printed it out and completed the relevant sections, which sufficed. This form details what licence type you are requesting and lists your experience to date, so be advised, you’ll need to do a bit of work totalling up various hours of experience. I recommend that you do this before you leave the UK.
The appointment takes between 20 and 30 minutes and the FAA gentleman that I spoke to was helpful and courteous and gave me some pointers to local flying too!
You’ll leave your appointment with an official FAA Temporary Airman Certificate, that your chosen flying school / FBO will require when you first attend. Your FAA licence will be posted to your home address within 12 weeks.
Where to fly?
It is fair to say that the choice of a suitable FBO in the USA is vast. If you want to experience flying across mountains, you can. Alaskan Glaciers, no problem. The clear blue skies of Florida, why not? Simply stunning New England, you’d be crazy not to!
From Pilots Paradise in Florida to Emerson Aviation in New Hampshire, there are hundreds of FBO’s in between. That said, Get Into Flying would advise that if in Florida, then you should utilise Pilots Paradise, for all things aviation.
Similarly, if in the New England area, you absolutely must check out Emerson Aviation, Laconia Airport, New Hampshire. Emerson Aviation is nestled amongst one of the most scenic parts of the world I have recently discovered. They have it all, from mountains to lakes and beautiful airports and airfields in abundance. I cannot wait to fly in Autumn (the Fall) on a subsequent trip!
You’ve chosen your FBO
With all the relevant documentation in place and your flight bag bristling with charts and an AFD, it’s time to get down to your FBO for your check out.
Emerson Aviation at Laconia Airport, New Hampshire were outstanding. From the moment I sent my first email, many months before my visit, until the moment I chocked N40812 for the final time, I was made to feel extremely welcome. An online scheduling system meant that my rental time was booked well in advance and I received email updates and reminders about my flying. It was effortless.
You will require a check ride before you are permitted to solo rent their aircraft. My check ride with one of their fantastically competent Flight Instructors (FI) was great fun. We departed Laconia for some upper air work, stalling, slow flight and such like over Lake Winniepausakee. Make no mistake, I was tested! We did three full stop landings at Laconia and a glide approach from the downwind. I was shattered at the end.
The following day I returned and flew 3 cross-country legs with a different FI. There was no requirement for me to do this, but it was invaluable as a first time flyer in the USA. There are no overhead joins in the US. Instead, you join at circuit height, 45 degrees on the downwind leg and join the active circuit. It isn’t a difficult procedure to get your head around, it’s just different. That second day of tuition was well worth it and I strongly recommend it. Many airports offer a CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency). Many Municipal Airports, although offering lengthy asphalt runways and approach lighting / Instrument Approach Facilities, are not towered and therefore you advise other traffic of your position and intentions. It is worth that extra instruction and I quickly became comfortable with it. Many airports use the same CTAF frequency, so it’s important to always use your airport name on each transmission.
You will also learn about the Flight Following Service. Essentially, I took off from Laconia Airport and spoke to Boston Approach. In order to request a flight Following Service, you provide them with:
- Their call sign (eg: Boston Approach).
- Your Type and tail number (eg: Archer 40812)
- Your 3 D position (position, heading and height)
- Departure point to destination point (eg: Laconia Airport, New Hampshire to Manchester Airport, New Hampshire)
- Request Flight Following
You will be given a squawk code and acknowledgement of the service and then advisories about other traffic in your area as you fly en route. I landed at Manchester, NH, taxied and took off, followed by a landing at Concord, NH, with another taxi and take off without having to request Flight Following again. A professional service indeed, but worthy of practical demonstration in company with an FI.
The biggest surprise for me was the Weather Briefings. An amazing service that is free. You dial 1800 WXBRIEF and after a short animated message are connected to a weather briefer in person, who wil provide you the most detailed and professional weather briefing I have ever known. You’ll get everything at your current location, your en route and destination airports. NOTAM’s are detailed and information on any Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR’s), such as Government Flights, natural disasters or other special / unusual events
Validate your EASA/CAA licence
Arrange your Renters Insurance through AOPA
Complete Boldmethod Online Courses on Airspace, Charts and Weather
Order your charts and Airport Facility Directory from Sportys
Ensure you have the current FAA charts for Airbox RunwayHD
Collect your Temporary Airman’s Certificate, Check Ride and FLY!
Flying in the USA is wonderful. The weather and Flight Following Services are excellent, as is the level of instruction and the abundance and quality of the airports, airfields and aerodromes.
The cost of validating your EASA/CAA Licence to an FAA one is £43.
Renters insurance is approximately £170 (in my circumstances) of which I have received £85 back)
Rental costs for an SEP are between $100 and $130 an hour.
One question remains. What are you waiting for?