EASA vs FAA: How difficult is it to become a commercial pilot?

How to Become a Pilot, Student Tips


Diving deeper into FAA & EASA courses

Yet another blog post by your favorite semi-international student!

Becoming a pilot can be difficult for some people, and a breeze for others. Are you up for the challenge? To really understand this question we have to know that there are a variety of different ways to become a pilot. It all depends of what country you want to fly in and where you are from. I’ll talk about the two most common types of training you can follow: EASA training – which is the European equivalent to FAA training – and the FAA training, which we do here at Wayman Aviation. I’ll even break these down for you so you can make the right decision in following the program that suits you best.

EASA training is easy… said nobody ever

Oh boy, the EASA way gives some people real nightmares. But why, and what is it? And how is the program structured?

The EASA, or European, way of becoming a pilot teaches you everything to go from zero-hours to flying a jet (probably a 737 or an Airbus A319/320) in about 15 to 18 months. It consists of 6 to 8 months of theory where you don’t fly and just study (although, there are schools where you fly and study the theory simultaneously).

The EASA theory consists of 14 different subjects divided in 3 modules ranging from air law to aerodynamics, human factors and even meteorology. After completing all of these subjects and passing 14 tests with at least 75% you have a frozen EASA ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License). Frozen basically means you have to fly 1500 hours in 5 years to earn your Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate or your exams will expire and you will have to do all them again.
Here at Wayman Aviation Academy, where I am following my training, they are currently offering an EASA theory program to combine it with your FAA training. More on that in the coming weeks though!

Under EASA after getting your ATPL theory completed you start flying and getting your ratings; private pilot certificate, instrument rating, commercial certificate and your multi-engine rating. This is basically just the same as the FAA way. When you are done flying you generally have about 160 to 190 flight hours.After this you usually follow a JOC course. This is a Jet Orientation/transition Course where you make the step from turbine engines to jet engines.

Learn: 4 reasons why I chose Wayman Aviation for my flight training

And last but not least you’ll finish of your training with a MCC-course, which stands for Multi Crew Cooperation course. The cool thing here is that you’ll probably do it in a 737 or A320 simulator, it’s not a type-rating though. You’ll learn the flows in the cockpit so you are prepared to make the jump to the right seat and it makes the transition to actually doing your type-rating much easier. During this course you’ll learn the different tasks between the co-pilot and the captain. All-in-all an EASA course will cost you a minimum of $105.000. Each school has a different price, of course.

It really is a tough course to follow and it’s not suited for everybody. Here’s a breakdown of the course in its difficulty:

What can you potentially fly with your EASA licenses?

What can you potentially fly with your EASA licenses.jpg

Even Though it is possible to start out as an FO on a widebody, this usually does not happen. It is more common to start of as a second officer in a narrow body.

FAA; the hands on way

The United States of America, the land of the free, the land of the brave, the land of opportunity and also; the country with the Federal Aviation Administration – aka the FAA. If you’re doing your flight training at Wayman Aviation and most US based schools you’ll do it the FAA way. How difficult is it to get all your ratings and how do you get from zero-hours to the right seat of that jet with your FAA licenses? We’ll explain how to get there!

In the FAA way you immediately start flying and working on your private pilot license. After the initial license you’ll have to get your instrument rating, commercial certificate and multi-engine rating just like EASA. This will take you around 8 to 12 months. Now, this is where it starts to get a little complicated for most people because… you’re done, right? Why can’t I get that job at the regionals and soar the skies while sipping on some high quality coffee? Why can’t I immediately start flying those jets!?*
*(BTW, if you’re from Panama, you are lucky because at COPA they hire low-hour pilots with FAA licenses for their 737’s. This also applies for many other countries.)

Learn: How Long Does it Takes to Enroll at a Flight School in the United States?

Well, that’s because you need a total of 1500 flight hours which are the FAA minimum to work at part 121 airline. When you complete all of your FAA ratings you’ll have about 250 flight hours. There is a reduction to 1250 or even 1000 hours if you have a an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree from an approved college with a major in Aeronautics, So, how do you build those hours?

The best way is to earn your CFI ratings and build hours as a Certified Flight Instructor. You have really mastered a subject when you can teach it. This will take you about2 years to reach 1500 hours. Some even do it in a year and a half! Then they can apply for the regionals, not for the major airlines yet. That’s after flying at the regionals for about 5 years and reaching several thousand hours.

Some pilots prefer to build hours flyinging cargo on a Cessna caravan, or a smaller multi-engine plane to make those hours or maybe even a corporate job. Charter and towing banners are an option. It takes a special personality to be an instructor. If it’s not for you then hang out at the FBO and be exceedingly friendly to everyone. It might take longer but you’ll meet a lot of characters and grow your network.

Let’s take a look at the difficulty level of the FAA ratings and the schematics of getting to the right seat of that jet:

The difficulty level is lower than getting that EASA training. Also the price: You can get everything you need here at Wayman Aviation for about -/+$50.000, but the road to the right seat of a jet can take a bit longer. However, there are thousands of EASA pilots out there who can’t get a job right now because they have just finished school and have about 180 hours when airlines are asking 500 hours. So, they end up having the same job prospects as FAA pilots when they finish the course. This is part of the cyclical economics of the aviation industry.

If you’re an EASA pilot and you’re reading this, don’t worry, you’ll be fine… just keep flying! Also the whole FAA course is structured differently which makes the road to that right seat quite different.

FAA licenses - 812 months.jpgFAA licenses (8/12 months)

Now don’t freak out! This does not mean you’ll never get to be a FO or captain on a widebody. It just (might) take a little bit longer, the FAA way is maybe just a more hands-on approach to become a pilot on a jet.