During my trip to Munich, Germany for the International Ninety-Nines Conference over the summer I was able to meet female pilots from all over the world. I met women from Russia, New Zealand, Canada, China, and Jordan to name a few. All of these accomplished women had similar goals and dreams in the world of general and commercial aviation.
One of the excursions available during the tip was to fly around the Alps in Bavaria. The day that it was offered I ended up being on a tour of Neuschswanstein Castle, but I found it fascinating that in Germany you have the ability to hop in a small airplane and go flying, just like America. This led me to an interest in how the process of earning your license differs between countries. The FAA doesn’t control air traffic outside of America, so who is in charge in other parts of the world? Is it more difficult to become licensed there? I did some research into the regulations of 5 countries and will share what I found here.
1. The United States
To earn your private pilot license in America you have to obtain a student pilot certificate and third class medical, which are often the same document. An informal pre-solo written exam, which you cover with your instructor, is all that is additionally required to solo. You must then pass an FAA written exam that consists of 60 questions, and earn a minimum of 40 flight hours in accordance to the requirements in 14 CFR 61.109(a) for different types of aeronautical experience. After all this training you must take a "check-ride" with an FAA-certified examiner based on a document called the Practical Test Standards. Student pilots in America can solo at age 16 and earn their full license at age 17.
Canada has similar requirements for private pilots. However, in order to earn your student pilot certificate to solo you must sit and pass a PSTAR examination. This is a multiple-choice test with 50 questions covering most areas in the FAA written exam, with the exception of it being over the Canadian Aviation Regulations.
Pilots seeking their private license in Germany have a few more hoops to jump through than other countries. Candidates must have a certificate of having taken a first aid course of immediate life saving measures, as well as a Radio Telephony Certificate. The "check-ride" process appears to be similar to the U.S, with a multiple-choice test and practical flight with a designated examiner. More information can be found here.
Based on what information I could find online, Japan is one of the most expensive places to earn your pilot license. With rates estimated around $500 an hour, most aspiring pilots will travel abroad to a less expensive country for their training. They also have a ranked medical certificate process, and a "B" Aviation Medical Certificate is required to a private license. Most airports have a strict curfew, so pilots in Japan have to be especially careful to not fly into these airports after-hours.
5. New Zealand
Famous for its beautiful scenery and the Lord of the Rings movies, New Zealand is one of the most popular countries for pilots from other parts of the world to visit and fly at. The rolling hills and striking landscapes make for an extremely general aviation flight. As far as I can tell, the licensing process is very similar to the U.S. The major difference is that you have six examinations over subjects relating to New Zealand aviation. These subjects are radio, human factors, meteorology, air technical knowledge, navigation and law. These exams are mainly multiple choice and require a 70% pass rate.
English is the universal language of aviation, and I was surprised to find that the regulations regarding earning your first license are pretty standard around the world. Despite a few small changes, the typical process has most of the same steps. The most dramatic difference is the availability of aircraft to rent.
In the future I would like to research more heavily into the history and current climate of general aviation in different countries. It is an interesting topic, especially when contrasting it with our rules in America. We really have it easy when compared to other countries as far as aircraft availability and the sheer amount of airports we have across the country.
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