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Can you fly an N-reg on just EASA license and medical?

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You can fly an N-reg, outside US airspace, on a license issued by the owner of the airspace. The FAA interprets the “issued by” strictly i.e. EASA etc is of no relevance.

I think this interpretation pre-dates the Lisbon Treaty.

Nowadays, so many of us identify primarily as European citizens (rather than “Irish” or “Belgian”, or whatever), that it looks less and less likely that such an interpretation could be upheld by any Court having jurisdiction in the Union.

Glenswinton, SW Scotland, United Kingdom

One could also argue that ICAO (and domestic legislation based on its provisions) is largely worthless on that basis And one could argue that the aviation medicals are discriminatory (they are obviously unreasonable in many areas), etc.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Indeed. There is a hierarchy of international and domestic law, and in the minds of many Europeans the Treaty Forming the European Union sits rather high – embodying as it does the fundamental principles of the European Project.

Let’s put it this way: if an N-reg airplane was to stray a mile or two across that most “ignorable” of all internal borders of a Union whose internal borders the Guardians of the Project have said that we can ignore (i.e. between Ireland and Ireland), who exactly is going to admonish him for doing so without an FAA certificate?

Glenswinton, SW Scotland, United Kingdom

The UK CAA seems to be able to get the FAA to remove your license without any discussion.

I get your drift, of course. In reality, “illegal flying”, unless done provocatively, or unless somebody in the CAA is out to get you (and is watching you on FR24), tends to come out in insurance cases, and then you are dealing with civil law and an adversary with very good lawyers.

I did speak to a multi-bizjet operator some 10 years ago, who got legal advice along the lines that any EASA license meets FAR 61.3 i.e. the FAA strict interpretation of “issued by” is not valid, and you could be PIC in an N-reg on any EASA license, in any EU airspace. Well, it obviously is valid as far as the FAA is concerned, and I have not heard of anybody else getting such advice. But it illustrates some potential for grey areas, for those with good funding, or perhaps ready to throw in the towel.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom


Do you know of any case in which an insurer has refused to pay on the basis of such a technicality?

My understanding, based on advice which my company sought from Counsel a couple of decades ago in relation to the Gun Barrel Proof Act 1868, is that unless the insurer can prove that some alleged breach of a regulation was a direct and principal cause of the occurrence, the insurer is bound to pay.

In this case, an insurer’s very good lawyers would have to show that the insured, by his failure to obtain a “piggy back” FAA certificate based on his EASA licence suddenly became incapable of flying safely as soon as he crossed an FIR boundary.

It is a characteristic of very good lawyers that they are reluctant to waste time and money on completely hopeless cases.

It is also a characteristic of insurers that they weigh the cost of settling a claim against the damage which disputing it would inflict on their reputation.

Glenswinton, SW Scotland, United Kingdom

It is highly relevant for me, too.

I have (standalone) FAA Commercial/Instrument SEL



I fly several N-reg aircraft in Europe, but I don‘t plan on flying in the US (or anywhere outside of Europe) in the foreseeable future.

So far, I always keep everything on the FAA side valid and current. This means:

  • BFR each 24 months
  • maintaining instrument currency by doing 6 approaches etc.
  • getting an FAA medical along with the EASA one

I could hence ignore all of that if I subscribed to the view that not having valid FAA will never bite me.

BFR is a hassle, but the smallest of the three.

Instrument currency means sometimes (particulary in spring) I have to go out and just fly approaches. Certainly not quite a bad idea anyway, but you get the point.

The biggest one is FAA medical. Whilst I can do it (EASA and FAA medical) „in one go“, it means being restricted to very few AMEs. It also means paying double the fee, as „my“ AME does just that, i.e. he charges 100% on top for issuing an additional piece of paper (the FAA one). So far, I only had to do this every 5 years, but I am 39 now, and will henceforth have to do it every two years. Ouch!

A difficult decision.

Last Edited by boscomantico at 24 Feb 12:46
Mainz (EDFZ) & Egelsbach (EDFE), Germany

It’s highly relevant to thousands of European pilots, but the prima facie interpretation is that this would be totally illegal.

To argue otherwise is arguing that the whole edifice of aircraft registries and corresponding licensing is worth nothing.

On whether I know if an insurer failed to pay out, I don’t know, but then I wouldn’t because most people who don’t get a payout are so embarrassed about it that they tell nobody. All one hears is rumours about such and such case where the insurer walked away.

I would argue it is far easier for an aircraft owner, who actually flies “a bit” to keep an FAA IR valid than to keep an EASA IR valid.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Peter wrote:

On whether I know if an insurer failed to pay out, I don’t know, but then I wouldn’t because most people who don’t get a payout are so embarrassed about it that they tell nobody

Then why not fly without an insurance? after all why one pay insurance premiums if they are not getting an insurance payout/cover (there is a good reason why car insurers pay irrespective of the legality of drivers, especially when you including payout toward their legal expenses, the only time when they refuse to pay are fraud claims )

Last Edited by Ibra at 24 Feb 13:05
Paris/Essex, France/UK, United Kingdom

I would argue it is far easier for an aircraft owner, who actually flies “a bit” to keep an FAA IR valid than to keep an EASA IR valid.

Yes; the annual EASA IR renewal is one of very few things that I really truly hate about flying.

But: one thing I know and follow religiously is: never let anything EASA lapse. Never. It will (or at least it might) later be a nightmare getting it back, for one reason or another. So that is no option for me. Also, I want to fly EASA reg aircraft as well, so I definitely need the EASA papers.

Last Edited by boscomantico at 24 Feb 15:23
Mainz (EDFZ) & Egelsbach (EDFE), Germany

Indeed. The key factor right now – UK at least – is to never let any rating drop off the license, because then the whole lot has to go to the CAA (it is no longer just a freelance-examiner reval job). Last time the CAA robbed me of 9 months on the IR, and lied I would get a fresh 12 months (I failed to record the phone call and got just 3 months, for a £500 all-day exercise).

With the FAA IR you don’t get any of this nonsense.

It would be interesting to get other views on the main subject, but I fear we won’t until somebody with deep pockets decides to test it.

And I doubt this will happen because there are much more attractive areas in the ICAO v. domestic aviation regs v. EU “individual freedom” laws which somebody would for sure have probed by now, and with really good backing. Bodies like BALPA should have deep pockets.

The airline pilot medical scene is an obvious area. The initial medical requirements are nutty in places, while the renewal requirements are much more “workable” and any half good lawyer ought to push this through the courts. But AFAIK nobody has. There are just a few stories of a CAA gratuituously refusing somebody a medical and he got it when he brought a lawyer with him. The EU disability laws ought to conflict with a lot of this…

More practically, I would expect to get some “interest” at some airport, landing an N-reg, and when asked to show your license, you don’t pull out the blue plastic card… It would be quite obvious.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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