Australians Flying in the USA



Looking west towards Cortez not far from Albuquerque


Bored with flying in Australia? Been there done that? Want something really special and different? Why not put your flying experiences in Australia to use in the USA and explore fantastic new territory. What about starting at Albuquerque in a new fuel injected 172 and doing the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell and Monument Valley?


I am an Australian private pilot. I have flown twice in the States. My last trip was in a turbo 210. I fly not in any pre organised group, but flying where and when I want to. Flying in the States is much cheaper. It’s different, but different in an easy way. The 210 was $127 an hour dry plus taxes (everything is plus taxes) which was about $145 US an hour. Fuel varies.


In very brief form below is what you should consider:

Obtain your FAA Licence. You are required to give 3 months notice of your application for a licence. You will need to contact CASA to send to the FAA your verification of licence details. You need to make an appointment with the FAA to be interviewed in the States at one of the set locations. I gained the impression this interview was to establish you were who you said you were. It is done under a very strict security environment. A temporary licence is then issued - valid for 90 days. This licence is issued based on your Australian standard of licence and is conditional on your Australian licence being current. The FAA licence will permit you to fly the same equipment as you can in Australia. The permanent licence is sent back to Australia.


See these links for FAA info


See this link for the CASA Form


Book an American Flight Review with the organisation you are hiring a plane from. You will need to search the net for an organisation in the area you want to start from. 182s and 172s are a dime a dozen. Sorry I have not searched low winged single engined aircraft. You will be required to do two hours a day and maybe 3 on the weekends. This is something you can negotiate depending on your intended flying hours. The Review should show you the differences in flying in the States. Generally it is an easy place to fly particularly if you stay away from the major airports. Almost all airports are a “D” tower and are very friendly and helpful. There are also lots of “C” airports. These are more like our “D” towers. Their “B” towers are our “C” towers but at least four times busier.



Albuquerque - note the 10,000 foot mountain but the airfield is at 5,837.


Buy your maps and airports diagrams. When you see an American WAC map for the first time you might like to immediately find a seat. The detail of information is amazing. That is why the VFR pilot in the States uses a Sectional map. I prefer to navigate on the WAC maps and have the Sectional map with me and studied before the flight. The Military Operation Areas (MOAs) and restricted areas are there but are generally not too inconvenient to avoid. One can fly through an MOA however I decided not to as it was not difficult to plan around them. I have flown through one, closer to an F16 or perhaps it was an F14, I don’t need to come again. I bought my materials from the link below. It’s very easy and automatically gives you the required materials. Allow a month for delivery!


The site is fantastic to look at for airport information.


Obtain Insurance. It is wise to take out a policy to protect you as the pilot of the rented aircraft. AOPA US offer a rental policy as do Avemco Insurance Co. These enquires should be made once over there and when you know the tail number of your plane. It can be done on the phone with a credit card and is not expensive.


All flight planning for weather and Notams can be done by phoning a so called ‘briefer’ on 18009927433. Know your States rather than just the cities. VFR flights are treated very differently to those in Australia. You can put a VFR plan into the system via the briefer but don’t expect the towers and controllers to have it. The plan sits to one side and is not activated unless you activate it by phone or call on a different frequency to the airport frequency, or have an assumed activation time. The VFR plan being activated is only for the purposes of having a SAR. Frankly, radio communications are so good in the States that unless you are flying remotely you might not consider a plan as necessary. The real trick in flying VFR in the States is to always request ‘flight following’ on your first departure frequency. You will be asked your destination, height and aircraft type. You might also be asked your way points. This service is generally outstanding! You are handed over to the next controller as required and all clearances are obtained for you. For example I recently flew right over the top of Pittsburgh, a Class “B” airport at 6,500.


Bode Aviation Albuquerque

Bode Aviation Albuquerque Double Eagle base


A suggestion; get your aircraft from Albuquerque, then go to Winslow (painted desert), Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Lake Powell area, Monument Valley and back to Albuquerque.


See for an operator at Albuquerque at the secondary airport (new 172s, a 182RG and turbo 210). As at October 2011 these were the wet rates without the cents inclusive of taxes; 172 $162.00, 182RG $190, T210 $241.00.


Chris McKeown