Instruction in an N-Reg aircraft in the UK

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What qualifications are required to instruct a pilot in an N registered aircraft based in the UK?

TLDR; Any UK flight instructor can instruct towards UK licences/ratings on an N-Reg aircraft in UK airspace. There is no longer any requirement to obtain a special permit because it is a “non-commercial” operation[1]. Training can count towards FAA licences/ratings but an FAA Flight Review or Instrument Proficiency Check can only be conducted by an FAA instructor. N-Reg aircraft where the operator resides in the UK must be flown by pilots holding a current UK licence since December 2021.

Foreign aircraft based in the UK

Some UK private pilots have chosen to buy a foreign registered aircraft, especially American N-Reg, that are IFR capable and used for touring around Europe. The benefits are considered to be lower maintenance costs (due to the more flexible maintenance regulations) and more accessible Instrument Ratings (due to a simpler written knowledge exam, more pragmatic flight training/test and no requirement for annual revalidation with an examiner).

If flying only within the UK, then a UK licence is valid[2] and there is no need to obtain an FAA one. This includes sub-ICAO licences including the NPPL[3], LAPL and ratings including the IRR[4].

For those more adventurous pilots wanting to fly abroad especially IFR, they must obtain a FAA Airman Certificate either on the basis of their UK (or any ICAO compliant) licence (known as a 61.75 piggyback) or as a standalone PPL. In either case, it must be current with a recent FAA Flight Review. An FAA Instrument Rating can be added (again either on the basis of a valid UK IR or as a standalone FAA IR) and exercise this on their own aircraft worldwide outside the UK.

While their regular biennial Flight Review and any Instrument Proficiency Check must be conducted by an FAA instructor, flight training towards UK ratings and skill tests/proficiency checks can be flown with a UK Instructor.

Rule changes require UK resident operators to hold a UK licence

In recent years, EASA had been warning that an EASA licence and instrument rating would be required for operators and aircraft owners resident in EASA countries. The deadline slipped regularly but after a BASA (Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement) was signed in 2020, the derogation on the acceptance of third-country licences expired in June 2022.

A similar ruling for foreign aircraft owners resident in the UK applied in the UK from 21 December 2021. Where the operator of a foreign registered aircraft is resident in the UK, the pilot must have at least a UK PPL (and optionally UK IR or IRR) to fly the aircraft within UK sovereign airspace.

This will lead to many N-Reg private pilots needing to hold both sets of licences and ratings, and specifically those with an FAA IR may consider taking the UK IR skill test if they want to retain privileges to fly IFR in airways within the UK. A valid FAA airmen certificate is required when outside UK sovereign airspace[5].

A valid combination would be:

  • A UK licence (with UK IR to fly airways) within UK airspace, with UK Class 2 Medical[6].

AND either

  • A Standalone FAA airman certificate (with FAA IR to fly airways) outside UK airspace, with FAA Class 3 Medical
  • A Piggyback FAA airman certificate (with FAA IR to fly airways) outside UK airspace, with either FAA Class 3 or UK Class 2 Medical[7]

Alternatively, a UK PPL with IRR (which should be much easier to obtain) may provide adequate flexibility within UK airspace, especially for those living in the south.

Where the operator of an N-Reg aircraft is resident in the UK, the pilot will not require an EASA licence to fly N-Reg in EASA countries but must have a valid FAA licence.

Medical Certificates

A UK Part-FCL licence requires at least a UK LAPL medical certificate

An FAA piggyback airman certificate is valid with either at least a UK Class 2 or FAA Class 3

An FAA standalone airman certificate requires at least an FAA Class 3. The FAA Basic Med is not valid outside the United States.

UK Flight Instructor Privileges

While within UK airspace, the UK Air Navigation Order 2016 (amended 2022) allows UK licensed pilots to exercise their privileges for non-commercial operations on any aircraft regardless of the country of registration. Meanwhile the FAA explicitly authorise foreign licences in their state of issue. That’s particularly handy for those on the N-Reg (American) register.

The following UK and US legislation grant these privileges.

A person must not act as a member of the flight crew which must by or under this Order be carried in an aircraft to which this article applies unless

in the case of an aircraft on a non-commercial flight, where the operator of the aircraft is resident or established in the United Kingdom, that person is the holder of the appropriate licence granted or rendered valid under the Aircrew Regulation.

UK Air Navigation Order 2016 Article 148.3(c)

(vii) When operating an aircraft within a foreign country, a pilot license issued by that country may be used

FAA CFR 61.3 (a) 1 (vii)

During the ANO revision in 2016, the definition of commercial operation was aligned with EASA and excludes flight instruction.

Part 136 of the ANO enables instructors to send their students solo only in UK registered aircraft.

So, in short, yes I believe it can be done without further reference to the regulations providing the instructor/examiner pilot has a UK licence, it’s dual training or testing within the privileges of their UK licence, rating, or certificate, conducted in UK airspace, and it’s with the owner or part-owner.

Although not essential, it is recommended that the instructor/examiner should be familiar with FAA regulations beforehand since they will be operating in accordance with both FAA and UK regulations for the training/test/check.

FAA Flight Instruction

There are several FAA CFI and CFI-I (Certificated Flight Instructors, including those with Instrument privileges) offering instruction in the UK. It is a requirement to gain both an FAA CPL and IR to qualify as an FAA CFI, so all are by definition already commercial pilots. Unlike the UK/EASA system, they do not need to fly with an examiner to remain current as an instructor provided they satisfy one of the other renewal criteria[8] although they do need to undergo a Flight Review with another FAA instructor every two years.

Many are also qualified UK Flight Instructors, although some with only UK PPL rather than CPL privileges.

For those with dual papers, FAA CFI and UK CPL/FI, there would appear to be no problem instructing towards any FAA rating or indeed any other general instruction and receiving remuneration. The FAA recognises instruction by given non-FAA instructors (in N-Reg or G-Reg aircraft) towards many ratings, but there are specific points where candidates must be signed-off only by an FAA CFI. For example, to complete the CPL, ME or IR training course, foreign pilots must register and be approved for training through the Flight Training Security Program (FTSP) (formerly called the Alien Flight Student Program) which involves a background check and fingerprinting but if done outside then USA no visa is required.

For those without a UK licence, it should be legally possible to conduct an FAA Flight Review with a resident FAA instructor that has no UK papers on the basis that the candidate is acting as PIC throughout. In this scenario, the instructor is acting as a passenger (from a UK regulatory perspective) while performing the duties of an FAA instructor. The question is what happens when the instructor needs to manually intervene either for flight safety or to demonstrate a particular point, although arguably the candidate can remain PIC for that too. Clarity of who has control at any time would be critical.

FAA Checkrides

This is a currently somewhat academic, since at the time of writing, the FAA has suspended all DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner) activities outside the USA for non-US citizens in June 2022 without notice. See below for more detail.

Traditionally, US examiners do not act as pilot-in-command.  This means the requirement for a licence to be converted granted or validated under UK domestic legislation does not apply.  The examiner may nevertheless apply for a validation under article 8(3) of Commission Delegated Regulation(EU) 2020/723, as retained and amended by the UK, which only requires one (or more!) acclimatisation flights with a UK FI/CRI.

The art 8(3) validation is limited to non-commercial operations and it is valid for 28 days (not necessarily contiguous days) in a calendar year. There’s no limit to the number of subsequent such validations that may be sought. It is therefore suited to this particular activity. Note that the non-commercial operations limitation does not simply mean that the operation shall be conducted pursuant to Part-NCO.

As discussed above, article 7 in the ANO defines a commercial operation, when unavailable to the public and not Commercial Air Transport (CAT), as a flight made in return for remuneration (etc) that is “performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the operator.”  Normal ATO operations come within this meaning. Instruction and examining on an owner’s aircraft does not.  The test candidate must have operational control for the time being in order for the US examiner to make use of an art 8(3) validation.
 
If the US examiner has operational control and is not ordinarily resident in the UK then art 148 in the ANO enables the examiner to act as a pilot under a licence issued or rendered valid by the state of aircraft registry, subject to a power vested in the CAA to give a direction to the contrary. Were this the case, the flight need not be operated in accordance with UK Part-NCO.

Alternatively, a US-registered aircraft based outside the UK, eg in the Islands, could be temporarily used in UK sovereign airspace for the test.

Certified vs Experimental Aircraft

In the UK, we distinguish between two main categories of general aviation aircraft regarding their approval and ongoing certification regulations:

  • Certified Aircraft (formerly called EASA aircraft, now referred to as Part 21)
  • Permit Aircraft (now referred to as non-Part 21 and which include homebuilt, kit and vintage aircraft)

In the US, there is a broadly similar distinction:

  • Part 91 Aircraft (used for private operations only)
  • Experimental Aircraft

Most of the FAA aircraft based in Europe are certified but a few experimental aircraft are in circulation. Slightly different rules may apply, so do your own research if flying or instructing in an experimental FAA aircraft outside the USA.

Foreign Ownership of N-Reg Aircraft

US registered aircraft must be legally owned by a US citizen. The common solution to this is for the foreign pilot to place the ownership of the aircraft in a US trust. There are several companies offering this service and to all intents and purposes the beneficial use, operation and costs are met by the pilot or small group of co-owners.

It is the residency of the aircraft operator, not pilot, that applies to the recent UK residency restrictions.

The regulations above apply when using private pilot privileges (ie not CPL or ATPL) regardless of whether the pilot owns the aircraft directly or indirectly, or where they live.

Withdrawal of FAA checkrides and other DPE services outside the USA for non-US citizens

In June 2022, the FAA withdrew authorisation that allowed you could sit an FAA Checkride (e.g. for PPL, CPL, IR etc.) outside the USA. You must now sit all theory exams and any checkride in the USA. Part 61.75 piggyback licences can only be issued within the USA. It is still permitted to receive instruction including Flight Reviews and Instrument Proficiency Checks from a qualified FAA instructor.

See this EuroGA forum thread for more details, discussion and further updates.

I am indebted to both Jon Cooke of OnTrack Aviation and Barry Martin for clarifying which specific UK and US regulations apply in the above cases, but the wording and analysis written is my own.

References

[1] UK Air Navigation Order Article 252. Permission is required for commercial operations in foreign registered aircraft, whereas flight instruction and examination are classed as non-commercial.

[2] UK Air Navigation Order … grants permission to fly any foreign registered aircraft within UK sovereign airspace. Furthermore, the FAA also permits this.

[3] UK Air Navigation Order Schedule 8 Part 1 Chapter 1 does not constrain NPPL holders to fly only G-Reg aircraft.

[4] FAA Letter of Interpretation sent to Cliff Whittaker, UK CAA on 15 June 2015:

when operating an aircraft within a foreign country, a pilot license issued by that country may be used.” A “sub-ICAO” pilot license, as you describe it, is a pilot license issued by the UK and therefore meets the FAA’s regulatory requirement. Under§ 61.3(a)(l)(v), it is immaterial whether the pilot license of the foreign country where the US registered aircraft is operated meets ICAO standards, provided it is only operated within that country. To determine whether the specific UK pilot license held by the operator permits the operation of a particular aircraft, whether registered in the US or not, one must look to the applicable regulations of the UK

[5] FAA Legal Interpretation to Luc Audoore (09 Feb 2015), which clarified that in 1966 a rule was introduced that permits a person to use a pilot license issued by a foreign country when operating a U.S.-registered aircraft within that country.

This letter responds to your request for a legal interpretation dated October 1, 2014. You have asked about the use of a foreign pilot license when operating a U.S.-registered civil aircraft within a foreign country.

Section 6 l.3(a) of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations permits a pilot, when operating a U.S.-registered aircraft within a foreign country, to use a pilot license issued by that country.

Prior to 1966, FAA regulations stated that, within the United States, no person was permitted.to act as pilot in command of a U.S.-registered aircraft unless the pilot held a current pilot certificate with the appropriate ratings issued under 14 C.F.R. part 61. In a 1966 final rule, the FAA removed the words “within the United States,” thereby requiring a pilot to hold a U.S. pilot certificate when operating a U.S.-registered aircraft outside the United States. 31FR8354 (June 15, 1966). The FAA explained that the rule change was to assure that operations ofU.S.-registered aircraft outside the United States conformed to U.S. obligations under the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation (the “Chicago Convention”). Specifically, Article 32 of the Chicago Convention requires that the flightcrew members of every aircraft engaged in international navigation must hold a certificate of competency and licenses issued or rendered valid by the State in which the aircraft is registered. In addition to requiring a U.S. pilot certificate when operating a U.S.-registered aircraft outside the United States, the 1966 final rule introduced the current provision that permits a person to use a pilot license issued by a foreign country when operating a U.S.-registered aircraft within that country.

You have asked whether “within a foreign country” refers to the legal borders of a country (i.e. landmass and territorial waters) or the Flight Information Region that would include the sea outside the territorial waters

2 The FAA is required to act consistently with U.S. obligations under international agreements. 49 U.S.C. § 40105 (b). The Chicago Convention uses the term “State” rather than “country” when addressing a contracting State’s responsibilities. Under Article 2 of the Chicago Convention, a State’s territory is “deemed to be the land areas and territorial waters adjacent thereto under the sovereignty, suzerainty, protection, or mandate of such State.” As such, the FAA considers operation “within a foreign country” to be operation within the territory of a State. Although a country may be responsible for providing navigation services outside its territory, the FAA would not consider operations of a U.S-registered airplane in_ those areas to be an operation “within that country” for the purpose of§ 61.3. Thus, the operation described in your request would require the pilot to hold a pilot certificate issued by the FAA.

https://drs.faa.gov/ Regulation Related Documents and Reports, Legal Interpretations, search for Audoore

[6] An audiogram is required when exercising an Instrument Rating but not for an IRR. You can fly IFR with a failed audiogram, provided you get the FHA (functional hearing assessment) form filled in.

[7] Valid with FAA 61.75 certificates issued on the basis of a UK licence.

[8] 14 CFR Section 61.197 states that FAA Instructor ratings are valid for 24 months and can be renewed before or after expiry if any one of the following is true:

  • endorsed 5 students for any ratings, of which 80% pass
  • served as a company check pilot, chief flight instructor, company check airman, or flight instructor in a part 121 or part 135 operation, or in a position involving the regular evaluation of pilots
  • within the preceding 3 calendar months, the person has successfully completed an approved flight instructor refresher course consisting of ground training or flight training, or a combination of both
  • within the preceding 24 months from the month of application, the flight instructor passed an official U.S. Armed Forces military instructor pilot or pilot examiner proficiency check in an aircraft for which the military instructor already holds a rating or in an aircraft for an additional rating.

Last updated 19 July 2022

5 comments

  1. You use the term ” foreign aircraft owners resident in the UK ” to define those pilots that need a UK-PPL to operate an N-reg aircraft. However, US-registered aircraft must be owned by a US citizen, or a US corporation …..

    Therefore most N-reg are owned by trusts / corporations in USA (eg Delaware). Therefore, does this requirement only apply to a US citizen resident in the UK who wants to fly their own N-reg?

    1. It’s a good point and worth addressing and I have added an extra paragraph to clarify that at the end. These UK regulations apply to residents of the UK (regardless of nationality) using the private pilot privileges of an FAA Airman Certificate within UK airspace, regardless of ownership. They exclude those exercising commercial pilot privileges (e.g. airliner crew). My understanding is that that those who already have a UK PPL should be relatively unaffected, while those flying exclusively on an FAA certificate or making use of an FAA IR in UK airspace will no longer be able to do so.

  2. Thank you for the great insight flyerdaviduk. In your above response, and the addition of your final paragraph you explain that “These UK regulations apply to residents of the UK (regardless of nationality) using the private pilot privileges of an FAA Airman Certificate within UK airspace, regardless of ownership. They exclude those exercising commercial pilot privileges (e.g. airliner crew).” Can you point me to the text that excludes commercial privileges?

    I totally understand the answer and the minefield it would create if it affected commercial privileges. But for example, can a FAA Commercial Helicopter pilot operate an N-Reg helicopter (Not Part-NCC) in UK airspace?

    1. Yes it is a bit of a minefield and the following is to the best of my knowledge. For UK residents (ie not those pilots visiting temporarily from other countries), FAA certificates have not been recognised for non-private operations since June 2021. Private operations under Part-NCO were permitted until 21 Dec 2021, thereafter you must have a UK Part FCL licence but can fly any registration within UK airspace. To add complexity, the UK does recognise EASA licences including for commercial operations until end 2022. ORS4 1490 is the official UK CAA notification and explanation. While flight instruction discussed above is not considered to be a commercial operation, carrying fare-paying passengers would be.

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