I do get a lot of questions from readers like you on the below procedure so I have built up a considerable experience and have become kind of a reference in this domain in Europe. Mail me with your relevant question so I can help you further!
License validation in the USA as per FAR
If you want to fly N-registered airplanes inside or outside the USA with a foreign license, you can easily validate your foreign private pilot license into an American one issued by the FAA. I followed the following procedure for the last time in 2008, so check out its current validity with the FAA.
As compared to the European validation procedure, the American is simple. It’s only a matter of paperwork. See the respective 14 CFR 61.75 regulation (Private pilot certificate issued on the basis of a foreign pilot license).
The simplicity sits in the fact that you do not need any extra flight tests, paper or exams, you do not need an extra medical certificate and the procedure is for free. All restrictions applicable on your foreign license do apply of course.
First, you should submit your data to the FAA via their website (Oklahoma!). Then you get a letter stating that the FAA is investigating the validity of your foreign pilot license. They therefore contact the foreign CAA. Once they get confirmation, you get an invitation letter for you to go to an FSDO (Flight Standards District Office). I believe that you must visit one in the USA, although I know of an official in the UK who can do it for a fee in Europe (mail me for his references). At the FSDO (you need an appointment), you just show up with all relevant paperwork, and if all goes well you get a temporary FAA pilot certificate (valid for 6 months) on the spot!
Before you can go flying, you must do a biannual flight review (BFR), and if you rent in a club of FBO, they will probably require a flight test and some recent currency. Important: you also need a FCC Restricted Radio Telephone Operator’s Permit when flying with an N-reg outside the USA. It can be obtained for $60 at the website of the FCC.
Your temporally pilot certificate is later replaced by a real credit-card sized license and mailed to your home. With the validation done, you can have these kind of experiences in the US. Also, you can fly N-registered airplanes wherever in the world … and there are many spread around. I keep track of the N-reg airplanes for rent in and near Belgium.
Of course, you do need to keep your foreign license and medical valid whenever you use your FAA pilot license.
Don’t forget to add your English Proficiency notice on your license, even if on a validated license.
Validation in Belgium as per JAR / EASA
Upon returning to Belgium after my assignment in Malaysia, I wanted to pick up flying again as soon as I could. To my surprise (not really …), I found out that flying in Belgium is considerably more expensive. The fuel and instructor costs are really high as compared to Malaysia.
In order to fly with low number of hours in a JAR /EASA country (like Belgium), the JAA / EASA has set out a rule that is being reflected by the Belgian CAA in Circular FCL 26. Check out the latest version at “het Bestuur der Luchtvaart“. It basically comes down that you can use your foreign ICAO private pilot license to fly with a Belgian (or other JAA / EASA country for that matter) aircraft (this is OO-xxx registered craft). You do need to keep two licenses valid: the foreign one (my Malaysian license) and the validation. The validation needs to be renewed yearly, and oh yeah: you need to pay up every year!
These are the requirements straight from the JAR-FCL circular:
“A private pilot licence issued in accordance with ICAO annex 1 by a non-JAA State may be validated according to article 6 of the Royal Decree of 10 January 2000 in order to permit private flights in aeroplanes registered in Belgium. To validate such licenses, the holder shall:
(a) complete, as a skill test, the class rating revalidation requirements of article 57 of the Royal Decree of 10 January 2000 (see circular FCL 21);
(b) demonstrate to the satisfaction of a FE that a knowledge of the relevant parts of JAR-FCL has been acquired as set out in annex 2 below;
(c) hold a valid JAR-FCL Class 2 medical certificate;
(d) hold R/T privileges acceptable to the Authority. “
As you see there are no minimum flight time requirements, but you do need to do a JAR Medical and a flight test. For the medical you need to do the initial JAA / EASA medical class 2 in Brussels, and that already sets you back 310€. Next you need to get some practice with the Belgium airspace and ATC. You need to have an airplane (rent?), an instructor and a student license (again €€€). After about 5 hours of additional training, you are ready to do your practical test (again 185€). Then you can get your validation issued (again €€€), which is valid for one year. Every year you need to pay up for the validation.
This way, you can fly VFR with Belgium registered airplanes, but you do need to keep your foreign license valid. It is not an economic thing, but who said flying was economic anyway??? I believe that I paid about €1500 for the whole validation. If you want to have a decent final arrangement, you need a license conversion.
Conversion in Belgium as per JAR / EASA
First of all, check out Belgium’s CAA Circular FCL 29. It describes the requirements to convert your foreign ICAO license into a JAR / EASA license. This is a different process as compared to validation (described above). The main difference is that you do not have to keep your foreign license valid. The converted license stands completely on its own.
You could expect that a conversion is a more demanding process as compared to the validation. These are the requirements for conversion of a Private Pilot License (PPL):
a) hold at least a valid JAR-FCL class 2 medical certificate (initial issue);
b) hold a R/T certificate in the English language;
c) have a flight experience of at least 100 hrs as pilot of SEP aeroplanes;
d) pass the PPL(A) theoretical knowledge examination in Air Law and Human Performance and Limitations (CIR/FCL 8);
e) pass the PPL(A) skill test on a SEP aeroplane (CIR/FCL 8);
f) pledge himself in a written and signed declaration to hold only one JAR-FCL licence (aeroplane) and only one JAR-medical certificate at any time.
So first, you must obtain 100 hrs PIC (‘Pilot in command’) time. You also need an expensive class 2 medical. Then you need to study and sit for two theory exams. I did that in Brussels after studying my Trevor Thorn airlaw book again, complementing it with the respective JAR / EASA regulation and the relevant sections of the Belgian AIP (now available online for free at Belgocontrol after registration). For the Human Performance part, I got an older studybook on the topic from my flight instructor. I am sure that more modern works are available now (from Jeppesen or Oxford Aviation or so). Check out my written test result letter. Finally, you need to make an appointment with a flight examinar appointed by the Belgian CAA to undergo a classic PPL flight test … this was my third in a row, and I was pretty relaxed about it.
This process cost you money of course, it will cost you time, but it will give you a full JAR PPL which allows you to fly with all memberstate’s aircraft anywhere in the world !
Conversion of my FAA Instrument Rating to an EASA Instrument Rating following the CB route
Read the way I did it here.