In another thread, IO540 had a good tip:
For someone already going to the USA, the smartest thing is to concurrently do a JAA PPL and the standalone FAA PPL.
Very sensible advice if eventually you decide to go on with an IR, and somehow have access to an N-reg: The FAA IR is much more easily obtainable (right now) than a JAA IR. Or if you plan to do any flying in the US, either immediately after your skills test (hour building comes to mind) or later on holidays.
Obviously you've got to tell your instructor as early as possible that you want to do both the JAA and FAA PPL, so that both syllabi can be covered in the 45 hours. In addition to all the JAA stuff, this means that the instructor also needs to cover:
- Night flying (5 hours minimum)
- Some additional flying skills, such as turning around a point.
- There are some differences as to how the 45 hours should be spent, particularly with regards to the cross country time.
The details are in FAR Part 61 (specifically 61.109). Make sure you are thoroughly familiar with these requirements and plan the 45 hours accordingly. Also make sure that on cross countries you take the appropriate forms with you and have all the correct logbook entries made to prevent duplication of effort.
There are some additional costs:
- FAA PPL theory exam (about 90 USD). The contents is comparable in practical knowledge to the 7 JAA theory exams but contains far less irrelevant material. You do need to be familiar with US aviation law and US airspace though.
- FAA PPL skills test (about 300 USD). If you are lucky enough to find a dual-licensed examiner (JAA and FAA) you might be able to combine both skills tests in one flight. But there are not many of those around, so expect to do two separate flight tests with different examiners. The good news is that the time spent in the air during both flight tests also counts towards the 45 hours requirements, so the only real additional cost is the examiner/test fee.
For your skills test it is a good idea to obtain a copy of the FAA Practical Test Standards, which lists what you need to perform, and what the tolerances are.
- You need an FAA Class 3 in any case to fly solo in US airspace, so no additional costs there.
- You need a "Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit" from the FCC if you want to fly an N-reg outside the US. I understand there's no exam involved if you submit your FAA PPL to the FCC, but there is an administrative fee of about USD 150 charged.
Once you've done the FAA ground and flight tests, and have the required hours, the examiner will give you a temporary (hand-written) license, which is valid for 90 days or so. From that moment on you can exercise all the privileges of your FAA PPL. And obviously within those 90 days you can expect your permanent license to arrive in the post.
(As an aside, the FAA license is a credit-card sized thing which neatly fits in your wallet. It has your date of birth on it, so it can be used to prove your age in bars, restaurants and so forth. I've heard that this is often used to impress members of the opposite sex.
Then, you've got to maintain your FAA PPL in addition to the JAA PPL. Unlike a JAA PPL, the FAA PPL and the SEP class rating do not expire at all. So even if you don't use it for a decade, it stays valid. However, in order to use the privileges, you have to have done:
- A Biennial Flight Review (BFR) in the last 24 months. A BFR needs to be done by an FAA CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) and will consist, at minimum, of an hour groundschool/refresher and an hour in the air. Only once the instructor is satisfied with your proficiency will he/she sign you off. But you can't "fail" a BFR: the instructor will just keep on training you until he/she is satisfied.
If you find an FAA CFI who is also a JAA FI then the BFR can also count as the one hour training flight needed for the JAA license renewal. But these persons are very hard to come by.
- 3 landings in the last 90 days. This recency rule is the same as JAA, except for night:The FAA requires three night landings in order to take passengers at night, while JAA only requires one out of the three landings to be at night.
You also need a valid FAA Class 3 medical in order to exercise the FAA PPL privileges. There are several JAA Medical Examiners that can do FAA medicals too in Europe and since the tests for both medicals are the same, you usually only need to pay a small administrative fee to be issued an FAA medical in addition to a JAA medical.
And the last thing is that you've got to keep the FAA informed about a change of address.
So for an additional cost of about 400 dollars (minimum) you can be the proud owner of a "standalone" FAA PPL in addition to a JAA PPL. It is also possible to obtain a "piggyback" FAA PPL, based on your JAA PPL. This "based on" means that your FAA PPL is only valid as long as your JAA PPL is valid, and all the JAA PPL requirements (including medical) have been met. It requires a letter from the CAA to the JAA that your license is indeed valid (and the CAA charges something like 30 UKP for the effort of sending that letter) and a visit to an FAA district office plus some paperwork. If planned well in advance, this is probably good enough for the occasional holiday, but for any serious use of your FAA PPL, consider what IO540 wrote:
The problem with a piggyback FAA PPL is that you are building a house of cards. Any one of a number of factors can kill your FAA PPL: the 5 year JAA PPL renewal, the 2-year JAA flight review, the CAA medical, etc. A piggyback is OK for the occassional trip to the USA where you want to rent a spamcan and fly around a bit, but I wouldn't recommend it as a future proof document for e.g. the FAA IR route which like any IR will be a long term owner-pilot project.