Your Canadian pilot license (Private or higher) allows you fly Canadian registered aircraft anywhere in the world. Anyone that has done much travelling will tell you that if you are driving past an airport in the Caribbean or Europe chances are that you wont see very many C- aircraft but you will see many N reg aircraft.
What a FAA license allows you to do is fly any N (American) registered aircraft for which you are licensed anywhere in the world. This opens up opportunities to rent American aircraft if you are travelling. It also allows you to fly your friend's American registered aircraft in the US or in Canada. (Note: With your Canadian license you may not fly any American registered aircraft even inside Canada.)
The first thing that needs to be understood is the difference between a license conversion and a license validation.
TC/FAA License Conversion:
This is the process that you would go through to get a stand alone FAA license. This means that your FAA license would not be subject to your Canadian license. To do a conversion you need to do the same steps described below for the validation in addition to a conversion exam and a FAA class 3 medical by an FAA approved doctor every 2 years.
Foreign Based License Validation (FBLV):
We will focus on a license validation from this point forward. The FAA license foreign based license validation is as good as a FAA pilots license. As long as you hold a Canadian Private Pilot license or higher you can obtain an FAA Private Pilot license by following the steps below. The difference between a license conversion and a FBLV is that the FBLV is based on the validity and subject to the restrictions of your Canadian license. The key point here is that it requires no written exam and no FAA medical so long as you maintain your Transport Canada medical and respect American currency requirements
What is the Process?
a) Complete FAA Form 8060-71 (Available Here)
b) The form will ask for the FSDO where you are making application. Keep in mind that later on you will have to visit this FSDO in person to complete the process. (List of FSDO Locations)
c) Mail the completed 8060-71 form along with copies of your Canadian license and medical to:
Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration,
Airmen Certification Branch,
AFS-760, PO Box 25082,
Oklahoma City, OK 73125-0082
The FAA will take your application form and verify directly with Transport Canada the validity and status of your Canadian License. After 6 - 9 weeks you will receive a letter from the FAA with a copy of the report from Transport Canada verifying the validity of your Canadian License.
Once you receive your verification letter in the mail you have 6 months to complete the process. You need to call the FSDO that you listed on your 8060-71 form and make an appointment to see an inspector to finish your application. (Note: Make sure that you are very clear that you would like to make application for a FAA license based on your foreign license)
Keep in mind that they are booking appointments a month or more in advance. The inspectors only work certain days. In the case of the Seattle FSDO they only do these appointments on Tuesday and Thursday at 8am and 10am.
Attend your appointment. Ensure that you give yourself lots of time to clear security at the FAA building. The people there are very nice and very helpful. You will be escorted upstairs and you will meet with a licensing inspector that will have you fill out more forms and check your license, medical and passport. At the end of this meeting he will issue you a temporary FAA license until your card comes in the mail approximately 4 - 6 weeks later.
Before you jump in an American registered aircraft with your new FAA license you must ensure that you meet FAA recency requirements.
1. A biennial flight review (BFR) with a FAA licensed instructor (CFI). This is a requirement that every 2 years you spend an hour on the ground and an hour in the air with an American licensed instructor and he/she signs your logbook. If you have never done one, you need to make sue that you get this done before you exercise your new FAA privileges. (Note: You can do the BFR in your Canadian aircraft)
2. Takeoff and Landing Currency: FAA requirements are 3 takeoff and landings withing the preceding 90 days in the category and class that you intend to exercise the privileges of your license. This can be done in your Canadian aircraft and just like in Canada night landings count for day currency and multi landings count for single engine.
3. You must hold a valid Canadian Category 1 or 3 Medical Certificate.
What about my other ratings?
The FBLV will give you a FAA Private Pilot license even if you hold a Canadian Commercial or ATPL. Because the FAA license will be based on your Canadian license any ratings that you have on your Canadian license will be included on your new FAA license ie, Seaplane, Multi-Engine and any Type Ratings.
If you want to include you commercial license and or instrument rating on the FAA license you need to arrange to write specific conversion exams that focus on the differences between Canadian and FAA regulations and rules. In my case all I wanted was the Private License so I have the option to fly N registered aircraft for fun.
By: Ryan Van Haren