Working as a Pilot in Europe: Expert Advice on How to Get Your EASA License

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We interviewed long-time BizJetJobs.com Member, Falcon pilot, French national and U.S. permanent resident Victor Raimbault to get his thoughts on the European EASA, and working as an international contract pilot. He gave us his expert advice on pilots crossing the pond – for both Americans who want to work in Europe and Europeans who want to work in the U.S. Today, Victor’s contract pilot work takes him from his home base in Florida to Moscow, Paris, Asia and the Middle East. He loves his job, and he has answered many questions for dozens of friends and friends-of-friends as they transition from continent to continent. We asked him to provide some insight into the relative ease – or difficulty – as he sees it in working as a pilot in different places around the globe, and his opinion of the opportunity that exists in different countries.

“Getting cleared to work in different countries for different flight departments is a long, complex and costly journey, but it can be worth it,” says Raimbault.

Getting Your EASA

A pilot who wants to work in Europe needs to get the right to live and work in the EU, or get a European work Visa. This can be quite difficult and time consuming depending on how you go about it. Next, the pilot either enrolls in flight training in Europe, or converts his current license to an EASA license. This is a very expensive thing to do as flight schools are more limited and costly in Europe and the EASA fees themselves can be quite high.

The training process consists of these main parts:

  • Theoretical part (you have to do the EASA-Theory training and pass the 13 (CPL) or 14 (ATPL) exams.
  • ATPL examinations in Aviation Authorities.
  • Practical part, which takes place in EASA approved simulator centers in Europe.
  • Application for the Radio Operator License.
  • Application for EASA license to Aviation Authorities.

In order to prepare for the mandatory 14 module certificate, you need to attend an approved school. This can take a full year or more. Oxford Flight Training Academy in the U.K. and the National Academy in France (ENAC), where all Air France Ab-Initio (Latin for “from the beginning”) cadets get their training, are two well-known and respected European schools.

“If you go to a good school, you’ll save time, because EASA is not an open book type exam. There’s lots of mathematics and engineering – basically, they teach you how to make the airplane before you can fly it,” says Victor. “You need to pass all 13 or 14 modules within 6 months. If you you’re missing one within timeframe they give you, you have to start all over again. You have to study hard. Most people need to sit in a classroom and take additional time with their teacher in order to pass.”

To work in Europe, you also need a European passport.

“Having a French passport and being a European citizen has been huge for me. The Swiss, Belgian and Dutch flight departments give me priority simply because I’m European,” says Raimbault. “It’s also a lot easier to fly in Africa, other French speaking countries or the Middle East as a French pilot. More doors are open, and I don’t need a Visa. As an American passport holder, the number of countries you can go without a Visa is about half.”

EASA Pilots Looking for U.S. Work

Those who hold an EASA and wish to work in the U.S need a green card or a U.S. Passport. This was Victor’s situation several years ago, and he got his greencard prior to 9-11 and more stringent TSA requirements. “These days, you better have clean records to apply to an American flying school. Flight training school is a little less costly in the U.S. than in Europe. If you have the flying time requirements, in the U.S. it costs about $20-30K to get your type rating and your ATP. Also, you don’t have to become a private pilot like you do in Europe. You can sit for the ATP exam, do the check on the SIM and be good to go.”

If you’ve done the EASA ATPL exams, you already have most of the knowledge required for the FAA ATP exam. According to Raimbault, it’s more work the other way simply because of the difference between the ATP, which is just one exam and a checkride, and the ATPL, which is fourteen exams and mandatory four week ground school. “As an EASA ATPL holder, you can sit for the ATP theory exam and take the check ride.”

The Opportunity: Why Cross the Pond?

“Europe brings a lot of benefits for pilots,” says Victor. “When you’re based in France for example, you get 7 weeks paid holiday, free health insurance and health care. If you’re raising a family and want them to be in great schools with free healthcare, this is a great opportunity for you.”

The other side of the coin are the barriers to entry in Europe. Employers have no choice but to pass on their costs of doing business (taxes charged by the government to provide all of these great social programs) to you as a pilot. “A 12,000 Euro salary costs about 20-22K in taxes and withholding for the French employer. If you’re not raising any kids and don’t have any deductions, these taxes equate to about half your paycheck.”

Airline vs. corporate or biz jet for charter company or private owner: what job is best in Europe

“There are corporate flight departments in Europe with great working conditions. Falcon Captains doing freelance (contract) work can make 1,000-1,200 € per day. The European airlines (British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa, Air Italia) all hire from their own countries, so this is not an option for anyone from outside the country where the airline is based, and even then you won’t become a Captain unless you start at age 25 and put in 15 years. But pilots from Air France, British Airways and KLM get very good wages. A 20 year veteran from Air France can top 250,000 € per year.”

The Benefit of BizJetJobs.com to International Contract Pilots

“I recommend BizJetJobs to other pilots I know looking for work, no matter where they’re based,” says Victor. “It’s a very nice tool with a great layout, and it helps me get an idea of who’s looking so I can send my credentials. My job leads for contract work come from BizJetJobs.”

If you have questions about EASA or crossing the pond in either direction (from the U.S. to Europe, or from Europe to the U.S.), we’d love to hear from you! Please contact BizJetJobs.com today.