I appreciate that this is EuroGA but the reason for the thread title will become apparent
Like maybe a few other Europeans on this forum, I have an FAA/IR but nothing from EASA land. So I’m thinking about what action to take when the licensing rules change in April 2014. At the moment I’m resolutely against getting and then maintaining a second set of medicals/licences/ratings – partly because I cannot stand the politically motivated garbage coming out of EASA, and partly because I would prefer to spend the quite large cost of doing so on flying or upgrading my aircraft rather than jumping through EASA’s hoops.
I really enjoyed flying in the USA when training – it seemed a much more ‘joined up’ system than in Europe, ATC even at larger airports (in C and B airspace) seemed very relaxed with GA in their airspace and the much higher levels of GA activity made for a more interesting aviation scene.
Admittedly drastic, one way of avoiding EASA altogether is actually to do the bulk of my flying in the USA. A friend of mine does this, going out to Florida for a few weeks at a time. I might have my N reg TB20 (which I love) ferried across (which would be a great experience in itself) and then base it somewhere on the East coast (maybe in the South Carolina/Georgia region to get (mostly) better weather than in the UK). I’d probably get a share in a permit type syndicate, such as an RV, to keep some currency in the UK.
My next step will be to check out the practicalities to see how viable a possibility this is and where I might make a base. So I’d appreciate if anyone has any information/suggestions on:
• Whether hangarage is generally easy or difficult to come by (and rough idea of likely cost)
• Airfields that might make a suitable base (ideally at least 2500’ hard runway with instrument approach and reasonably accessible from an international airport). I’d been thinking of South Carolina or Georgia for accessibility/weather but open to suggestions.
I would never be satisfied being able to fly only two or three times a year, when in the USA. Flying in Europe does have lots of restrictions and troubles, but it can alo be very rewarding.
I am just as frustrated as you are with this crap, with Europe basically declaring an ICAO license not sufficient for flying in Europe...but still, I will do all I can to maintain my IFR privileges in the future (I do have an EASA PPL already).
Please consider the real additional burden of maintaining Euro papers on top of your FAA papers:
-license: once you have it, your Euro license will not expire (just as the FAA one)
-sep rating: 12 hours in two years (which should not be the slightest problem for you if you have your own Trinidad) plus one hour every two years with an instructor (which really isn't a big deal)
-medical: find a doctor that can do both your FAA and your EASA medical in one go
-instrument rating: this is the only real PITA in this whole thing. You will have to do an IFR check flight every year. Plus, you may not be able to do it in your own N-reg. airplane. So, you need to budget about 500 Euros (flight school sep aircraft, examiner, fees) each year for that.
Again, it is crap, but probably not bad enough to stop one's regular flying activities, IMHO.
I can only give you generalities (because I'm not in that part of the US) but will try to make a contribution...
My first thought would be to base somewhere where the winter weather is good (why not!?) and where you can get a non-stop commercial flight. It's not the distance that's the issue for traveling back and forth, its the plane change that can double the time en route. The good news is that you can get non-stop flights to a fair number of places. To me, this would be the most important issue other than making sure I really did have time and resources to be away several times per year.
Hangars used to be hard to get in the US, but less so now. You'll find something if you look. In less populated areas, T-hangars can be as cheap as $250/month, but are more in populated places - up to $500/month in high income cities.
Maintenance would have to be organized carefully - you don't want to waste all your time on site getting an annual inspection done. It would be best to base near a mechanic or shop you can trust 100%, who is also an expert on your aircraft type.
FWIW I've done the same thing in reverse with a (now old) motorcycle for many years, typically using it twice a year. The issues are similar: storage, insurance, and maintenance when I'm not there. I found that hooking up with others facing the same problems generates ideas and solutions, and over time its become a 'finely tuned machine' with known suppliers.
If you are going to fly less than 100 hours per year in the US, renting is a cheaper alternative.
First, the trip over to the US is a really fun adventure. And not to be feared. It is done pretty routinely by every size airplane from Long EZ to as big as you like. Lots of airplanes in the C172/ C182 class make the trip.
There are some problems with renting. The first is finding an airplane is the condition you want, with the equipment you need, and availability when you have traveled so far to use it. A hangar on a good, instrument airport with a reputable shop is pretty easy to find. At Bend, Oregon a TB 20 would be about $400 US/month for a heated hangar with things like an office, bathroom, internet access, etc. The Bend airport has 4 instrument approaches and is located in vacation resort country. Lots of activities. Beautiful weather. Fuel, maintenance, radio support, oxygen, TKS, flight instruction/checkout are all available. Commercial flight into and out of Bend is available at Redmond, with one connection to the UK at Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.
There are lots of other places with similar capabilities.
Oregon has a "slightly" different climate to SC!
I think there is loads of really great flying to be done in Europe.
Europe presents a great deal of low level crap - mainly aimed at generating rules for the fun of it, keeping useless people doing something that looks productive - but there are straightforward ways to deal with that, and once you are airborne flying is the same everywhere.
IFR in Europe is especially easy. I have not flown VFR out of the UK since 2006 - except for trivia like Le Touquet.
It's not hard to get the EASA IR. It just feels such a waste of one's time, especially the exams which are so utterly banal to an existing IFR pilot.
My trip writeups possibly make a bigger meal of it than other peoples' (and some "personalities" have criticised that) but that's because I write them to be informative, and I know from the vast amount of email I get that this is valued.
Maintaining both FAA and EASA pilot papers, and keeping an N-reg plane, is not an issue.
If I flew only when abroad a few times a year, my currency on type would be crap and I would not enjoy the flying very much. A large % of people who give up flying do so because other pressures have eroded their "flying slots" to the point where they have to work too hard to fly, due to lack of currency.
If you are going to fly less than 100 hours per year in the US, renting is a cheaper alternative
That's true everywhere I am sure, strictly financially, and many would put the figure even higher. But owning your plane 100% is absolutely priceless, for all the usual reasons.
However in this case it's not a good idea to have a plane sitting in a hangar for a few months at a time, because the engine is going to get trashed by corrosion. The avionics will follow soon afterwards...