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Getting up to speed for flying in the USA

I just received my 61.75 verification letter (2 week turnaround!), and am now in the process of organising a week in New York area (familiar with it from work trips) next February to collect my license from an FSDO, do a day at a flight school for local familiarisation incl. BFR, then two-three days of touring (Long Island, Cape Cod, Maine … love to fly the Hudson River Corridor). I’m a recent GB PPL(A) with ~40h post license XC PIC (incl. cross channel and over 20 airfields visited) — averaging 5-10hrs a month. I’m aware of FAA handbooks (PDF format, very nice) and various online tutorials (e.g. PilotWorkshops). I’d be interested in any recommendations on (a) materials to get up to speed; (b) tips/hints, especially on flight schools in Long Island. A google search found a couple of blogs of people’s 61.75/VFR touring, which have helped, but I also wanted to draw on the collective wisdom here. Couldn’t find any posts from searching, please point me to them if I missed! Much appreciated, and good flying!

Last Edited by msgr at 01 Oct 15:50
EG.., United Kingdom

Some of the most obvious things you won’t read in the books, off the top of my head:

  • You don’t need to call for PPR anywhere, just fly in (except private strips, marked “R” on the chart). In fact you’ll probably confuse the airport staff if you try to phone before flying in.
  • You don’t need a yellow jacket anywhere.
  • Airports don’t close for operations. If the FBO (office) closes, you can still fly in. With very very few exceptions all public use airports are available 24/7/365 (yes, including Xmas day).
  • Few airfields have fees aside from overnight parking. There’s usually no reason to visit the FBO office if there’s self-serve fuel.
  • Look up about flight following: it’s more useful than basic service as it comes with radar advisories. The US effectively has blanket radar coverage (except in mountainous areas).
  • ATC doesn’t need to know where you came from, you can omit your departure point from your initial radio call.
  • No booking out. You will confuse ATC if you try to phone them to book out. The nearest thing to booking out is at some airfields at the centre of class C airspace and class B airspace will expect you to call them on the clearance delivery frequency before you switch to ground to request taxi. For any other airfield with ATC, just tell them what you’re doing on your initial call to ground (or tower, if they don’t have a ground frequency). For non-towered airfields you don’t have to tell anyone anything. No one wants to know “POB” either (or “souls on board” in the USA) unless you’re calling mayday. (And on the subject of mayday, pan-pan does exist in the US and is listed in the AIM, but no one ever uses it).
  • VFR flight plans are purely for S&R purposes. No ATC facility will ever get a VFR flight plan. Not many people bother with VFR flight plans.
  • ATC phraseology can be rather looser than it is in the UK.

The BFR ground part should cover pretty much most of everything else.

Last Edited by alioth at 02 Oct 10:41
Andreas IOM

OK, here’s a few practical pointers:

  • Get Foreflight (If you don’t have an iPad to run it on, buy one!!).
  • Look up the airports in Airnav www.airnav.com and pay particular attention to the user comments section when planning your next desination.
  • Use the free 1-800-wx-brief number to file a VFR flightplan and request a ‘Standard’ briefing. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from the briefers, who are often pilots themselves.
  • I bother with VFR flightplans because I fly in remote areas and often no-one knows where I am (he’s in America) or where I’m going. However, in populated areas Flight Following is a better option because it’s difficult to take off, change to departure, contact FSS to activate an FPL and get Flight Following all at the same time. VFR FPL’s remain in the system all day and there’s no Euro nonsense about 30 mins expiry etc. But you do have to close them yourself – an excellent discipline!
  • Make sure your hotel gets the Weather Channel and watch it in the morning (Nothing about weather in the evenings)!
  • Always pay a bit more and use the FBO for gas and tie down. Beats waking up at 2am with the wind rattling the hotel windows and getting dressed to go to the airport because you’re worried about the plane. FBO’s are part of the great pleasure (for a European) of flying in America. (Usually).
  • Never book hotels in advance. That’s just a ‘get there-itus’ factor. Instead, ask the FBO for hotel deals and get them to make a reservation for you, no credit card guarantee.
  • Speaking of credit cards, get a Halifax Clarity or similar that has a ‘perfect’ exchange rate and only lists one line per transaction on the statement for easy reading.
  • Visit Wal-Mart and get a $20 throw away phone with a local area code. That way, Americans (like the FBO) will call you back, as will FSS when you forget to close that FPL!
    Beware the wonderful courtesy cars because they might not be insured for a foreign driver. Most FBO’s have a rental car sitting outside.

Finally… I started flying in the US with very similar hours to yours. Now, with more than 2000 Hours of VFR touring, I have to say that was the best decision of my life. The hassle free affordable US environment makes flying an utter delight, bereft of the constant aggro of Euro rules, regulations and belligerence. Enjoy!

EGBW / KPRC, United Kingdom

Aveling, great post, thanks!
I dare to hijack this thread a little. I would be grateful for recommendations where I could rent a plane. (Areas: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, New York). If I have the FAA validation, do I need a separate checkout in the US if I want to fly high performance/retractable gear planes even if I fly these in europe on my easa license?
Would it be possible to buy an aircraft in the US as a foreigner and keep it hangared there?

Airline/Mentor/Safety/Instructor - Pilot
Based Austria | Operating Worldwide

Thank you @alioth and @aveling for the replies so far, those are very useful tips and insights, will certainly be drawing from them, as I’m sure others will to.

@snoopy, I’ve found in my due diligence so far that, just as with rentals here, whoever you will rent from will have a set of currency/minimum criteria and a checkout. I looked at Mid Island Air, and you can see their rental requirements here, and I saw elsewhere (I can’t remember the place) that, for a complex type, wanted either 10 hours on exact same type, or 50 hours on a comparable complex type. They’re largely going to be PA28Rs or C182s. I’m on a PA28 and about to do a conversion and 15 hours on an PA28R (Arrow) here before going over.

EG.., United Kingdom
Airline/Mentor/Safety/Instructor - Pilot
Based Austria | Operating Worldwide

It’s a pattern, not a circuit!

Last Edited by AdamFrisch at 03 Oct 22:05

Aveling and Alioth have pretty much covered it, nothing much to add there. However, if you want to rent in the SF Bay Area and/or L.A., it might be a good idea to look at airports that are a little inland, not on the coast. The coastal airports very often are fogged in and if you are on a (tight)ish schedule that can ruin our plans. Complex and high power (inxs of 200hp) a/c need a logbook endorsement in FAA land, not sure if your EASA one works on a 61.75 ticket.

As for flight plans: personally I only file when going out over the deserts here, as at typical SEP non-O2 altitudes, you are out of radar coverage out there. Otherwise, get flight following. The latter especially in SF and LA airspace. Tell the controllers you’re unfamiliar and they’ll take care of you. If you do decide to file a flight plan, then open it with estimated off time on the ground over the phone. Saves a lot of frantic switching in the air. And don’t forget to close it !!

The complex endorsement is small formality, if I’ve got my research correct.

There is no formality in EASA land around non high-performance complex: in theory you could fly such an aircraft tomorrow without having any prior experience of doing so and it would be legal under Part-FCL. Of course there would probably be insurance issues and it’s unlikely anyone would loan or rent you an aircraft for such a case. Normally its competence based, by proxy of the number of hours in your logbook on such an aircraft.

In FAA land, there is a requirement that you are complex endorsed by a CFI, but there are no specified time requirements.

So in practice, this just means that when you go to the US and fly using your 61.75 PPL allowance, you need to do a flight with a CFI who would sign you off pretty quickly once you demonstrated your competence.

Presumably you do this in the same flight that gets you your BFR (to meet FAA currency requirements) and check-ride (to meet rental requirements). Three birds with one stone.

Last Edited by msgr at 03 Oct 23:02
EG.., United Kingdom

Msgr,
I went flying in the US at about the 160hrs total time, and about 30h of XC. I had maybe 300hrs of YouTube armchair US flying though :) helped me a lot with phraseology.
Aveling is quite the expert here in long range VFR trips in the US and he quite said it all.
My advice would be :
- buy a cheap ads-b receiver. Having weather data inflight is quite invaluable.
- always ask for flight following. Ask it to the ground controller, it will save you workload in the air. Sometimes they decline, but better ask anyway.
- be aware that working hours end early, often at 5 pm, even at 4 pm sometimes. So wake up early, fly early, stop early. I would try to stop at small uncontrolled fields for lunch, and staying at bigger fields with FBOs for the night. Airnav.com is your friend, FF has a quite big FBO reviews tool too.
- as long as you are honest and do your best, you’ll never be in trouble. Big difference with Europe :)

Enjoy !!

Last Edited by Jujupilote at 04 Oct 06:41
LFPT, LFEH
33 Posts
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