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US Pilot Moving To The UK

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US Pilot Moving To The UK

Old 3rd Jan 2022, 17:57
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US Pilot Moving To The UK

Hello! I currently live in the US, and have an FAA PPL with IR. Later this year, I will be moving to London (likely for at least 3 years) and I am trying to understand my options to keep flying, and would appreciate any pointers as to the best way to do that. I will of course want to fly with an instructor to understand the differences in flying, but for now I'm focused on what my options are to legally fly.

As I understand it, if I could find an N-reg plane, I could legally fly with my FAA privileges, but these seem hard to come by (and I've only seen Cirrus planes, which are a bit on the expensive end).

I've seen some old references to being able to fly day domestic VFR with just an FAA license; is that still true?

Finally, if I did want to fly internationally, at night, or IFR, would I need to get a license from the CAA? Does anyone know what that process would look like?

Thanks!

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Old 3rd Jan 2022, 18:37
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Hi MD, good to meet you.

London is surrounded by flying clubs, and it helps to know what part of London you'll be in to make recommendations - but I can promise there'll be options.

You can get a briefing by an instructor (we call then FIs, "CFI" means Chief Flying Instructor here) and an examiner sign off that you understand how to fly in the UK - that will do you for a year. After that you need a UK licence. However if you have an FAA PPL and over 100hrs, you can do a quick conversion, quoting the current guidance material (Part Q Subpart 2 of CAP804, technically obsolete and pre-Brexit but still widely used as guidance material for issue of UK licences and largely still valid)...

B. CONVERSION OF LICENCES to Part-FCL Private Pilots Licence
(1) A PPL/BPL/SPL, a CPL or an ATPL licence issued in compliance with the
requirements of Annex 1 to the Chicago Convention by a third country may be
converted into a Part-FCL PPL/BPL/SPL with a single-pilot class or type rating
by the competent authority of a Member State.
The pilot shall apply to the competent authority of the Member State where he/
she resides or is established.
(2) The holder of the licence shall comply with the following minimum
requirements, for the relevant aircraft category:
(a) pass a written examination in Air Law and Human Performance;
(b) pass the PPL, BPL or SPL skill test, as relevant, in accordance with Part-FCL;
(c) fulfil the requirements for the issue of the relevant class or type rating, in
accordance with Subpart H;
(d) hold at least a Class 2 medical certificate, issued in accordance with Part-
Medical;
(e) demonstrate that he/she has acquired language proficiency in accordance with
FCL.055;
(f) have completed at least 100 hours of flight time as a pilot.
Realistically, you'll need a day or two on the ground and half a dozen hours flying training to come up to speed on all of this, but my advice would be to find a good flying school - there are many - let them sort the paperwork out and just dive in and do it.

The UK skill test is like the flying component of the US checkride. The written exams here are tougher than the FAA versions, but you only have to pass two, and the study material is widely available.

For the IR, if you have a current (current really matters here, which depending upon the interpretation this month may mean you've passed an IPC in the last 12 months - my recommendation would be that you play it safe by taking an IPC with a local DPE just before you come over), and at-least 50hrs PiC IFR then again you can just book a skill test (again, basically the same as the airborne part of a US checkride, although they may elect for a conversion from FAA to conduct an oral portion also: this is at the discretion of the examiner). My recommendation again would be to plan on half a dozen hours instruction with an IRI (Instrument Rating Instructor, equivalent to a US CFII) before the test - things aren't done identically here to the USA and you will need that.

And then you'll have a UK PPL/IR, and the same rights and privileges as everybody else. There are loads of opportunities to rent or buy shares in G-reg aeroplanes in the UK, N-reg aeroplanes exist, but they're largely privately owned by their sole operators, and both the UK and EU are in the process of clamping down on these operations, so frankly it's probably easier just to stick with the G-reg route.

A couple of notes - whilst the FAA are only interested in time by sole reference to instruments (under the hood or in cloud), here there is a distinction between sole reference time, and IFR time (even if the latter is in blazing sunshine, clear skies, and no hood). For eligibility to take the IR skill test, it's time PiC IFR that counts ONLY. For the record, I have both UK and FAA IRs (and CPLs) so have been through all this myself. Secondly, in the UK the "night qualification" or NQ (more often referred to by its old name of "night rating") is a separate add-on to the PPL. Frankly, don't bother, it's not worth it - night airfield lighting is so rare at UK airports you'll never use it. IFR capability is useful in the UK, night really isn't: if you do want it, it's another 5 hours of training, I don't *think* there's a dispensation for that, you just have to do it.

Currency requirements are different here to FAAland also. You're looking at a biennial "flight with an instructor" similar but less onerous to the US biennial flight review for the PPL class rating (which will be SEP, or Single Engine Piston, broadly equivalent to the US SEL), but you are also looking at an annual IPC to keep your UK IR current, we don't have anything equivalent to the FAA's rolling "6 in 6" IFR currency, it's just an annual flight test.

You may hear of a simpler UK rating called the IMC rating or Instrument Rating (Restricted). I can't think of any good reason for you as an FAA IR holder to go that route, it is less capable (UK airspace only, no class A), and still requires periodic (2 yearly) retesting. I'd go for the full IR, because you can.

Best of luck with the trip over - whilst not as user friendly as much of the US, and more expensive, the UK is nonetheless a great place to fly light aircraft, with huge numbers of choices, clubs and airfields. With a G-reg aeroplane, UK PPL/IR you can go anywhere in Europe from here.

G

Last edited by Genghis the Engineer; 3rd Jan 2022 at 19:06.
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Old 3rd Jan 2022, 22:17
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Wow, thanks, that's some really helpful info. Sounds like it shouldn't be too much trouble to get the British licenses Good info that I need to start tracking which flights were done under IFR too.

I'm not sure exactly where in London I'll wind up living, but work will be near Paddington. From my research so far, it seems like Biggin Hill and Denham are the easiest airports to access via trains and public transit (I likely won't have a car), but any other suggestions are more than welcome!
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Old 4th Jan 2022, 15:06
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Paddington's not a bad spot to live if you like city living - I'm a country dweller myself and jump on the train if I have to go into London, but have friends in Paddington and it's not unpleasant.

By public transport, Denham (small friendly spot, but surrounded by controlled airspace), Wycombe Air Park (great airport facilities, no social side), White Waltham (great social side, lots of interesting aeroplanes, all grass runways), Stapleford, (busy training airfield), Elstree (even busier training airfield) all spring to mind for relatively easy travel by public transport. I wouldn't recommend Biggin Hill - it's very much set up for business aviation, and not an affordable place to fly privately. You might also look at Popham - further afield but easy by train from central London and a great place for friendly affordable GA. All of them you're looking at a train then taxi / folding bike / long walk, but it's do-able.

G
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Old 4th Jan 2022, 15:23
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Thanks for the list! I'll be sure to look into those as I start to figure out where exactly I'll be living. Good to know about Biggin Hill
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Old 4th Jan 2022, 15:42
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Hallo @md123, welcome to this forum, and welcome to Europe! I am much less qualified to reply than people like Genghis - I am not half the aviator he is, and besides I am on the European continent, not in UK. I do have some experience though in listing aerodromes, and following forums, and should like to offer a handful of friendly small warnings, all well-meant of course:

* be aware that, contrary to the US, the vast majority of fields in Europe require prior permission - PPR - I remember some US'an pilots having great difficulty to accept the fact, but there it is... Never NEVER fly into a little field without having called before - and if you find no phone number, there might well be a reason for that. One possible explanation is that many small strips operate under very restrictive conditions, the most famous being the 28-day rule. Blundering unannounced into a field under that regime might bring trouble for the owner/operator!

* be prepared for the different units - as far as I know, the Brits express temperatures in degrees Celsius, and runway lengths in metres (just like almost all the world does). Not to mention altimeter setting in the elusive hP unit

* be prepared even for differences in vocabulary - for just one example, Denham is not an "airport" by any standard, and Biggin Hill could be called that only marginally. As I understand, the term "airport" is applied to almost all aviation terrains in North America, but in Europe and many other places it is reserved for the big fields where the airliners go.

Perhaps more relevant: for serious IFR flying, you might prefer something more than a basic C172 or PA28. But the basic SEP license will only allow you to fly a non-complex plane - no turbo, no retractable gear, fixed prop only. Any plane more sophisticated will require differences training, as I understand - again, I am not an authority. Do make sure, though, to save yourself disappointment!
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Old 4th Jan 2022, 16:08
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Originally Posted by Jan Olieslagers View Post
Hallo @md123, welcome to this forum, and welcome to Europe! I am much less qualified to reply than people like Genghis - I am not half the aviator he is, and besides I am on the European continent, not in UK. I do have some experience though in listing aerodromes, and following forums, and should like to offer a handful of friendly small warnings, all well-meant of course:
Thanks! I'm definitely aware that things are more restrictive (and more expensive!) over there, but I appreciate the specifics.

* be aware that, contrary to the US, the vast majority of fields in Europe require prior permission - PPR - I remember some US'an pilots having great difficulty to accept the fact, but there it is... Never NEVER fly into a little field without having called before - and if you find no phone number, there might well be a reason for that. One possible explanation is that many small strips operate under very restrictive conditions, the most famous being the 28-day rule. Blundering unannounced into a field under that regime might bring trouble for the owner/operator!
Noted, thanks. Does this mean that most people just do sightseeing flights and land back where they took off? Or is permission easy enough to come by that trips are possible? I've also heard that landing fees are much more common there (and apparently approach fees exist??).

* be prepared for the different units - as far as I know, the Brits express temperatures in degrees Celsius, and runway lengths in metres (just like almost all the world does). Not to mention altimeter setting in the elusive hP unit
Luckily our METARs are already in celsius, but the other units will be new At least we can all agree on nautical miles!

* be prepared even for differences in vocabulary - for just one example, Denham is not an "airport" by any standard, and Biggin Hill could be called that only marginally. As I understand, the term "airport" is applied to almost all aviation terrains in North America, but in Europe and many other places it is reserved for the big fields where the airliners go.
I've also heard that you do "circuit" instead of "pattern". As for American airports, I've always thought it silly that we have untowered fields with less than 1000m runways and no commercial traffic called "international airports" (for example, KCLM)

Perhaps more relevant: for serious IFR flying, you might prefer something more than a basic C172 or PA28. But the basic SEP license will only allow you to fly a non-complex plane - no turbo, no retractable gear, fixed prop only. Any plane more sophisticated will require differences training, as I understand - again, I am not an authority. Do make sure, though, to save yourself disappointment!
That's pretty much all I can fly in the US as well for now, so no issue. I haven't done the additional training required over here.
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Old 4th Jan 2022, 17:06
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Some valid points from Jan there.

Airfield / Airport / Aerodrome are matters of local terminology, he's right, we're more likely to call GA fields "airfields" than airports, but equally nobody's likely to get precious about it.

Indeed, height in feet, visibility in metres, wind in knots (but on the continent, m/s isn't unusual), altimeter setting (QNH, but also we often use QFE) in hPa - NOT inches, runway length usually in metres, fuel usually in litres, temperatures in Celcius - and indeed PPR for the vast majority of airfields. In the UK we have a couple of popular commercial airfield guides: "AFE" and "Pooleys", and it's pretty much essential to have one or the other, which contain all this information and actually both are much better than the standard FAA airport guides.

The concept of "differences training" is common in the UK and Europe, and pretty easy to grasp. Basically the licence gives you single engine, fixed nosegear, normally aspirated, fixed pitch prop aeroplanes for day/VFR. Everything else is an add-on. However, all this means is that for any difference from that, you need training as required and an instructor's signature in your logbook once only. It's pretty much a commonsense requirement anyhow, as in the USA you'd generally do the same, just the signature isn't necessarily required. Clearly any decent instructor will take account of your prior experience and not require any more training than you actually need.

Personally I manage serious IFR flying quite happily in a PA28 with some reasonable avionics, as the distances in the UK and northern Europe, along with lack of too many high mountains don't really make something meatier all that necessary. In winter you may not want to go IFR at-all on the other hand, due to icing risk, unless you have something rather more expensive - but plenty of parts of the USA are like that too.

G
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Old 4th Jan 2022, 17:32
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Originally Posted by md123 View Post
Thanks! I'm definitely aware that things are more restrictive (and more expensive!) over there, but I appreciate the specifics.



Noted, thanks. Does this mean that most people just do sightseeing flights and land back where they took off? Or is permission easy enough to come by that trips are possible? I've also heard that landing fees are much more common there (and apparently approach fees exist??).
Not at-all. Getting PPR is usually just a case of a quick phone call or filling out a form on the airfield's webpage. Seldom more than a couple of minutes formality, and permission is usually immediate. It mainly means you need to have decided where you're going before taking off, and have given your destination a chance to brief you on any local issues, plus they know to expect visitors.

Incidentally what you will find is a massively greater incidence of grass runways, you'll get used to that (and if you buy a share in an aeroplane, you'll get used to cleaning mud off the bottom of your aeroplane as well, nobody's favourite job!)

Yes, expect to pay approach and landing fees most places - if you budget for around £15 for a landing, and £20 for an approach, you'll be in the ballpark.

I've also heard that you do "circuit" instead of "pattern". As for American airports, I've always thought it silly that we have untowered fields with less than 1000m runways and no commercial traffic called "international airports" (for example, KCLM)
The circuit (UK) and pattern (US) are basically the same. What the US call "upwind" we call "deadside", nobody in the UK uses the 45į downwind join, but overhead joins are reasonably common. Otherwise, you'll find no important differences.

G

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Old 4th Jan 2022, 18:26
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Does this mean that most people just do sightseeing flights and land back where they took off?
Again, I cannot speak for the UK. But over here in BE, I observe most pilots flying either their usual local flight - from departure field to the same destination field, along the same usual well-known en-route waypoints - or extend on that pattern with the one usual en-route stop, often one with a good restaurant. Only a minority will take the adventure of flying to unknown destinations. Myself only tried a few times, but always found the experience lovely.

Or is permission easy enough to come by that trips are possible?
On regular "airfields" it is not an issue generally, but even then... I remember intending to fly from EBZH to EBTX, duly calling Theux for PPR, only to get for an answer that their runway had been dug up by boars the previous night, so they had to deny, much to their regret. On top of that, though, the UK is stiff with farm strips, but most of them severely restricted - the crux being that the UK, like most of Western Europe, is quite densely inhabited, leaving ever less space for recreational greenspace like aerodromes. More and more "old style" fields in the UK are under pressure of "re-development" for housing projects.

On a general note, though, @md123, you seem to be open to differences, and willing to live and learn and act up to them, and that is the main point. You make me feel sure you will have a good time in Europe, being able to cope with variance, possibly even enjoying. One nice thing about this queer globe of us is that it isn't the same everywhere

Last edited by Jan Olieslagers; 4th Jan 2022 at 21:04.
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Old 4th Jan 2022, 19:14
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Lots of good advice but one thing that hasnít been mentioned is the differences in airways, which took me by surprise when I made the opposite move from the UK to Canada many years ago.

Unlike North America where you can fly along low-level airways in VMC without talking to anyone, in the UK all airways are Class A and VFR flights are not allowed.

This is a very good guide to UK procedures:

https://www.bfgc.co.uk/VFR_Guide.pdf

PS As Genghis mentioned, flying in the UK is expensive. From a North American viewpoint, it is shockingly expensive!
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Old 4th Jan 2022, 19:31
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There's also Redhill Airport (?) to the South of London, grass runways in the Summer and a short tarmac runway for the Winter. Choice of several flying schools. Very easy by public transport, 25 minute train ride from London Victoria and a <10 min taxi for around £6 at the other end. Landing fees are reasonable by South East standards, more than you will pay at some of the places mentioned but a lot less than others. Full and friendly ATC, nice views of Gatwick.

There's plenty of land away places in the UK, some very interesting and there's nothing difficult about most of them.
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Old 4th Jan 2022, 22:12
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Originally Posted by Genghis the Engineer View Post
You can get a briefing by an instructor (we call then FIs, "CFI" means Chief Flying Instructor here) and an examiner sign off that you understand how to fly in the UK - that will do you for a year. After that you need a UK licence. However if you have an FAA PPL and over 100hrs, you can do a quick conversion, quoting the current guidance material (Part Q Subpart 2 of CAP804, technically obsolete and pre-Brexit but still widely used as guidance material for issue of UK licences and largely still valid)...
Thanks for your detailed post and to those who followed up with additional information. I'm a Brit and, although I have lived in USA for almost half my life, thoughts of returning to UK and flying there still tease me sometimes.

Back in 1982 I returned to England with an FAA PPL. My log shows more than a year between my first and last flights for that period of UK residency. Was I illegal after 12 months had elapsed or were the rules different back then?

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Old 4th Jan 2022, 22:43
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Back then you were allowed to fly private/VFR/day on a foreign PPL, without formal ratification - you were almost certainly legal EXDAC. It has only got difficult for foreign licence holders the last few years.

Regarding airspace. Yes, in the USA airspace is accessible and the system make reasonable logical sense. British, and to a similar but perhaps lesser extent, European airspace is just an awful clutter of complexity, particularly with a lot of relatively low class A. Airways exist in much the same way as in the USA, but unlike the USA are not mostly in class E - they're mostly in class D (which you can't enter here without permission) and class A (which like everywhere else, requires an IR). On the other hand we also have the ability to fly IFR, potentially not talking to anybody, in class G, of which the UK has a great deal, particularly when you get away from the crowded SE of England. This will be one of the hardest things to get your head around when touring in the UK and Europe, but in reality - you just use the chart carefully and it'll all be fine.

It isn't true that all airways are class A in the UK, that is a misunderstanding by many PPLs, albeit an understandable one.

Regarding costs - rental on a typical club 4-seater in the UK is around £150-£200/hr. In a large syndicate, flying regularly, you can probably get your flying bill down to around £100/hr. Landing fees around £15, approach fees around £20, club membership at most clubs in the range £150-£400, depending upon where it is. Some flying clubs don't charge landing fees for resident aircraft, some do.

G
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Old 4th Jan 2022, 23:07
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If you'd like a little light reading, I recommend the Skyway code - pretty much the only human-readable document that the CAA have ever produced (I might be a little harsh). Nothing to do with converting your license, just a good place to get a feel for the differences between US and UK.

https://www.caa.co.uk/General-aviati...e-Skyway-Code/

Redhill is my local airfield, so I'm glad @JollyRog recommended it.

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Old 4th Jan 2022, 23:19
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Actually it's one of two human readable documents CAA have produced, the RT guide is good too.

https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/modalap...detail&id=9857

G
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Old 5th Jan 2022, 06:22
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Don't forget the transition level is much lower (and variable) - you'll likely have never flown at a flight level in the US, in Europe you could be at FL045! Oh yeah, and the airspace is unnecessarily complicated - you can have class A airways at 7000'.
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Old 5th Jan 2022, 11:50
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Oh, and both those docs are free to view.

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Old 6th Jan 2022, 10:24
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MD !

Did you get my PM?
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Old 6th Jan 2022, 10:28
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Getting back to the original thread, i have just found SRG2140 on the internet, regarding a FAA licence holder flying in UK airspace.
Is this still a valid document?, it only seems to mention a verbal check , " confirmation of theoretical knowledge" by an examiner, rather than doing two written exams as mentioned by Ghengis.
Your knowledge gratefully appreciated.
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