License Privileges, Aircraft Registers, Etc

This page contains random notes on the weird world of license privileges, aircraft registers, and different countries.

Some of these can be expected to be affected when EASA gets involved in FCL (flight crew licensing) from 2012 onwards. Some notes on EASA's current impact on N-reg aircraft and FAA licensing are here.


IMC Rating and N-reg Aircraft

The IMC Rating (full name: Instrument Meteorological Conditions Rating) is a UK-only "instrument rating" which gives IFR privileges for airspace classes D,E,F,G only, and these privileges are explicitly limited to UK airspace (plus some UK dependent territories). The question: is it valid in an N-reg aircraft?

I already have it in writing from the UK CAA (May 2003) that as far as they are concerned it would be up to the FAA to decide:

Question 1 - does the holder of a UK-issued JAR PPL and the CAA IMC Rating retain ALL his privileges (i.e. those he would have flying a G-registered aircraft) when flying an N-registered aircraft, in UK airspace? If not, which privileges remain? If there is any reduction in privileges, what are they and what section of the ANO supports the reduction?

Q1 You must ask the FAA. It is for the State of Registry to decide if [and if so to what extent] aircraft registered in that State can be flown by pilots licensed elsewhere.

So, let's look at the FAA regulations:

FAR $61.3 (e) says: "no person may act as a PIC under IFR unless that person holds" ... "an instrument rating on that person's pilot certificate".

The above paragraph has been used by some commentators in the UK press to categorically state that an ICAO IR is required to fly an N-reg aircraft under IFR. Where do they get this "ICAO IR" from? FAR1.1 (the Definitions section) does not define the term "instrument rating". This could mean different things.

At its most restrictive, it could mean that only an FAA IR is valid for IFR. The supporting case for that is that the FARs define the training requirements for the "instrument rating"; this is quite obviously describing the FAA IR, and since the FAA IR is not wholly a subset of the JAA IR (there are bits in the FAA IR training which are not in the JAA IR training), somebody with e.g. a JAA IR, or some other ICAO IR, would not meet the requirements!

At its least restrictive, it could mean that any instrument qualification, valid in the relevant airspace, is OK. The supporting case for that is:

a) $61.3 (a) (1) says: "when operated within a foreign country, a current pilot license issued by the country in which the aircraft is operated may be used". What is the legal difference between a privilege conferred by a License, and a privilege conferred by a Rating? None, I would say. The context of this paragraph does not appear to be restricted to VFR. Would the FAA have intended to permit pilots to use a foreign License (as its explicitly does permit in this paragraph), while preventing them using a foreign Rating? 61.3(e) supports this one further by allowing IFR flight provided the IR is on the pilot's certificate, and a UK issued PPL with a UK issued IMC Rating meets this.

b) There isn't to my knowledge any case law supporting a more restrictive position. One would have expected the CAA, for example, to be aware of something if it existed.

c) The FARs were written for U.S. airspace and pay little more than lip service to flight outside of that. A lot of the stuff just doesn't make sense when flying in non-US airspace. What isn't expressly prohibited should be permitted.

d) It is reasonable to interpret the FAA's intention here as allowing a pilot to fly an N-reg aircraft in any foreign airspace provided he possesses the same papers as he would need to fly a locally registered aircraft.

This "is the IMC Rating valid in an N-reg aircraft" argument is relevant to UK night flight also. In the UK, night flight is generally IFR, and while one can fly an N-reg in UK airspace on a UK PPL, one's Night Qualification would be worthless if an IR was really required!

So, on 5th July 2005 I wrote to the FAA, with this question

Can one use the UK IMC Rating in a U.S. registered aircraft?

The IMC Rating (full name: Instrument Meteorological Conditions Rating) is a UK-only "instrument rating" which gives IFR privileges for airspace classes D,E,F,G only.

I already have it in writing from the UK CAA that as far as they are concerned the IMC Rating is valid in any aircraft and it would be up to the FAA to make the decision.

FAR $61.3 (a) (1) says: "when operated within a foreign country, a current pilot license issued by the country in which the aircraft is operated may be used"

$61.3 (e) says: "no person may act as a PIC under IFR unless that person holds" "an instrument rating"

However, FAR1.1 (definitions) does not define the term "instrument rating". Therefore, an instrument rating issued by a foreign country should be valid, even if it limits the pilot to exercising his IFR privileges only in that country's airspace.

and their answer (received 6th July 2005) was

Response (FAA Expert) - 07/06/2005 10:27 AM
The U.K. IMC rating is the equivalent of a U.S. instrument rating.

To some, this is suprising and controversial, as it superficially suggests that an IMC Rating is the same as an FAA IR. This is nonsense since the IFR privileges of the IMC-R are limited by the ANO to UK airspace and below Class A, etc. So, the correct interpretation of the FAA reply would be that the two are equivalent within the limits of the privileges of the IMC-R.

Update 10/2016: the above view is confirmed by the FAA here


Flying an N-reg around Europe, using a JAA/EASA license, VFR

FAR 61.3 (a) (1) says: "when operated within a foreign country, a current pilot license issued by the country in which the aircraft is operated may be used".

This enables an N-reg to be flown worldwide, without the pilot having any FAA license, provided the pilot has a license issued by the country in question. Unless of course prohibited by the local authorities, but such a prohibition appears to be very rare.

So, one can fly an N-reg in the UK with a UK issued PPL (which can be the old CAA PPL, or a UK issued JAA PPL). One can fly an N-reg in Germany with a German issued PPL. Etc.

However, the JAA license is still issued by the one country only. It is automatically validated by the other JAA members. Issue and Validation are not the same thing! The result is that the holder of a UK issued JAA PPL cannot fly an N-reg in Germany, for example.

It is up to the FAA to determine whether they are willing to accept the JAA validation as meeting the requirements of FAR 61.3 (a) (1). In October 2007, someone (I have his details) wrote to them

I am the holder of a Joint Aviation Authorities Private Pilot's Licence with Instrument Rating issued by the UK CAA.
My enquiry related to the interpretation of FAR 61.3(a)(i) which states "when the aircraft is operated within a foreign country, a current pilot license issued by the country in which the aircraft is operated may be used".
Specifically I enquired whether by holding a JAA licence I might (from the FAA's perspective) exercise the privileges of my licence to operate an N-registered aircraft in any JAA member state.

The FAA reply was:

From: <john.d.lynch[email removed to avoid spam]>
Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2007 19:07:30 +0100
Ref. § 61.3(a)(1); Yes, it is my understanding that EASU recognizes the JAA pilot license for use in all the member states that are in the European Union. A JAA pilot license would be the appropriate pilot license for flying a U.S. registered aircraft within the member states that are in the European Union and would be in compliance with § 61.3(a)(1).
John D. Lynch
(202) 267-3844

The above seems quite clear! John Lynch is the writer of a lot of FAA public material, as well as the well known FAQ which used to be on their website.

However, another European pilot got this from the NY office of the FAA on 8th November 2007

Dear Sir,

FAR 61.3 allows a pilot to fly a "N" registered aircraft using his foreign license in accordance with the privileges of that license. The original
intent of the regulation applied to the issuance of national (or country) licenses by individual CAA's. The regulation has not been revised to
include the multi-country privileges of JAA issued licenses.

A valid JAA license does not meet the requirements in FAR 61.3 to fly "N" registered aircraft in different European states. If you have a British
issued JAA pilot license, you may use it to fly "N" registered aircraft only within Britain. If you wish to fly "N" registered aircraft in other
European states you must have a FAA pilot license. The FAA license can be issued as a validation of the JAA license, or by taking the FAA written and
flight test.

Best Regards
[name removed]
Aviation Safety Inspector

which directly contradicts the reply from John Lynch........

France has a curious statement here (local copy) which says "FAR 61.3(a,1) states that "when the aircraft is operated within a foreign country, a current pilot license issued by the country in which the aircraft is operated may be used ". Under the FAR's an aircraft (helicopter) can be used for private flying, commercial operations, or flight instruction as long as the pilot has the appropriate authorization on his French pilot license and flies in France. As FAR 61.3 does not specifically prohibit these operations they are considered to be allowed." This is rather amazing as it suggests that commercial operations are allowed in France in an N-reg aircraft provided the pilot holds the appropriate French license - this cannot be the whole story otherwise all of France would soon be on the N register!

Update 19/2/2010: It turns out that the FAA Chief Counsel has ruled on this matter in 2004 here (local copy). Another similar ruling from 2009 is here (local copy). Another from 2014 is here.

So, a JAA validation does not comply with FAR 61.3. This is a definitive FAA website for this kind of stuff.

EASA licenses will not be any different from JAA ones in this respect because both JAA and EASA are "mutual validation" systems. The actual licenses are still issued by a specific country.


Flying an N-reg around Europe, using a JAA/EASA license, IFR

FAR $61.3 (e) says: "no person may act as a PIC under IFR unless that person holds" ... "an instrument rating on that person's pilot certificate". [my bold]

This means that if you are flying on the privileges of a particular license ("certificate" in FAA-speak), the IR must be on that license. This means it is OK to fly an N-reg IFR in the UK, on a UK issued license with a UK/JAA IR. But if you fly to e.g. France then you need one of the following

a) a French issued PPL and a French/JAA IR, or

b) an FAA PPL (piggyback or standalone) with an FAA IR.

Obviously, option a) is impractical because you would need a matching license+IR pair corresponding to every airspace you fly in.

The wording of $61.3 (e) means cannot fly around Europe IFR on an FAA PPL with a JAA IR because the JAA IR is not on the pilot's certificate!


UK/JAA PPL & Night Qualification valid in an N-reg at night?

In the UK, night flight is under IFR (exception: SVFR flight in a CTR) but FAR 61.3 (e) requires an IR for any IFR flight. This appears to prohibit such operation unless the pilot also holds an IR (or perhaps, see above, an IMC Rating).

This question is currently unresolved and is likely to remain so. However, as described above, FAR 61.3 (a) allows the use of foreign license privileges which could be argued applies to this also. A well-known UK aviation journalist, Nigel Webb, wrote in 2005 a brief account of a meeting with an FAA lawyer where he was advised that this would be permitted. Logically (not that logic comes into law very much) this is what one would expect given that the actual flight is the same as would be in a G-reg; the FAA would be unlikely to have intended to prohibit this.


Flying an N-reg around Europe, on a JAA license, with "missing" JAA TR or Differences Training

There is a long standing question as to whether it is legal to e.g. fly an N-reg PA46, using the FAR 61.3 concession of a non-US license, where the non-US license requires a Type Rating (as is required for a PA46 under JAR-FCL) but no Type Rating is required under the FAA regime. Another example is e.g. flying an N-reg SR22 on a JAA PPL which did not include the JAA Differences Training.

In 2012, this appears to be settled favourably, with this (local copy) ruling from the FAA Chief Counsel. This ruling in effect states that the only restrictions of the pilot's license that carry through FAR 61.3 are restrictions actually on his license.


IMC Rating valid when abroad?

This is another old one, not related to N-reg aircraft in particular. In 2003, I wrote to the CAA:

Question 2 - can a holder of a UK issued JAR PPL fly above the clouds (NOT in sight of the surface) in France, the way French PPLs are reportedly allowed to? While I appreciate the CAA cannot comment in French law, is there anything in the ANO which makes a pilot flying outside UK airspace subject to the requirement to remain in sight of the surface?

Q2 Article 123 of the current ANO sets out the extra territorial effect of the ANO. In the simplest of terms what it says is that what you cannot do here in the UK, you cannot do elsewhere. That said, the holder of a valid IMC Rating is not bound by the condition that requires the holder of a licence without an IMC Rating to remain in sight of the surface. However, because the IMC Rating is not an internationally recognised rating you ought to ask the DGAC [the French equivalent of the CAA] about what you can and cannot do in French airspace in UK registered aircraft or aircraft registered elsewhere.

The general idea is that while the IFR privileges of the IMC Rating are explicitly limited to the UK (and certain dependent territories), the fact that having it removes the requirement to be in sight of the surface is in a different part of the ANO and has no territorial restriction. The ICAO PPL has no "in sight of surface" requirement, and France (to give just one example) has not added such a requirement to a French issued PPL.

As far as I am aware, several people have written to the DGAC and the only meaningful reply anybody ever got was "ask the CAA". Technically, that reply appears to be correct for a G-reg since the UK CAA determines the privileges in a G-reg, unless otherwise restricted in the local airspace, and the DGAC has no say in the matter. Whether the IMC Rating is valid in say an F-reg is something else; the DGAC has control over that and one would need to examine the French law to get an answer.


Using FAA licenses in a G-reg

It is up to the state of aircraft registry to determine what privileges (if any) the holder of an FAA license/rating will have in the state's aircraft.

The UK ANO (Article 26) automatically validates ICAO licenses so a G-reg can be flown on an FAA PPL, worldwide. This validation will end in 2014 (due to EASA FCL) but will continue for "non EASA" aircraft (basically the "permit" types).

If flying a G-reg on an ICAO (non-JAA) IR, the UK ANO prohibits IFR in controlled airspace. Ref: ANO article 26 (4) (a) (ii): (ii) in the case of a pilot's licence, to act as pilot of any aircraft flying in controlled airspace in circumstances requiring compliance with the Instrument Flight Rules

Since everything not prohibited is permitted, this means you can fly a G-reg on an FAA PPL/IR worldwide VFR in Class B,C,D,E,F,G, and worldwide IFR in Class F,G.

To be practical about it, IFR in Class F/G is not useful outside the UK since most airspace in which IFR is authorised (or one can get an IFR routing in) is at least Class E. It's usable in the UK but only partially: you could fly IFR to say Biggin Hill (Class G) but not to Bournemouth (Class D). This is why getting the IMC Rating is desirable since it extends IFR to Class D; however you then also need a UK PPL, UK medical, etc....


Using FAA licenses in European aircraft other than G-reg

It is up to the state of aircraft registry to determine what privileges (if any) the holder of an FAA license/rating will have in the state's aircraft. Furthermore, ICAO permits each member state to prohibit its own national (I have lost the ICAO reference for this, unfortunately) from exercising the privilege of a foreign license in its own airspace, and rumour has it that a few have indeed done this.

It's very hard to find out good information on this area, presumably because this kind of privilege is not openly advertised.

France (F-reg) allows it for pilots who can prove they are resident outside the EU; this rather badly worded DGAC document describes the process. I believe they may be acting illegally here, since under ICAO the authority for the restriction can be applied only against French citizens, but hey this is France after all!

Czech Republic (OK-reg) absolutely prohibits it (I contacted them in 2006) and they incidentally also prohibit the UK IMC Rating for IFR in an OK-reg. Only JAA stuff is acceptable.

There is a general restriction on JAA member States validating non-JAA IRs, stated in this JAA document (local copy), section 1.015 (b) (2) limiting validations to a maximum of one year - this is clearly aimed at preventing the widespread use of the FAA IR in EU-reg aircraft. The only exception I am aware of is the UK which - by the permissive wording of ANO article 26 (4) (a) (ii) - accepts all ICAO IRs for a G-reg, without a time limit but only outside "controlled airspace" (though this too is ending in 2014 except for "non EASA" aircraft). It is possible that some of the new JAA members (former Iron Curtain states, etc) may offer useful concessions but I will leave it to a dedicated reader of their regs to dig that out This kind of stuff is not in the published AIP; it is buried in the country's aviation laws. Anyway, much of this stuff will end under EASA FCL.


Is UK IMC Rating instrument training acceptable towards the FAA IR?

The practice is that the training is accepted at all known U.S. training establishments. There is a view to be found in some places in Europe that this is wrong unless the original instructor had a valid ICAO IR. Some notes on the matter are here.


Is it possible to do a JAA/EASA IR in an N-reg aircraft?

Yes, but the choice of countries where it can be done is very small.

In 2011/2012 I did the FAA IR to JAA IR conversion in my own N-reg aircraft. The process is described here. I have since heard that one can also do it in the Netherlands.


Is it possible to get a JAA IR without a Colour Vision test pass?

It is definitely possible to get an IMC Rating in such a case, and it is then restricted to day only.

This thread confirms that one can do a similarly restricted IR too - in the UK at least.


Are FAA papers required for an aircraft flown in Europe but one which would need them in the USA?

This question was posted on EuroGA: Has anyone come up with a definitive answer whether one could fly complex and HP aircraft (as per FAA definitions) on EASA papers (within the country of issue)? Had a case today where we needed to test a Baron 58, and the pilot did not have a HP endorsement on his FAA multi, but he holds a current EASA MEP (with VP/RU/T).

The FAA have the view here.


Update 5/2010: UK ANO Article 26 has been renumbered to Article 62... and again a bit later...


This page last edited 31st October 2016

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