FAA or JAA - or a third type PDF Print E-mail

Another issue to consider is whether you want the American FAA certificate or the European JAA certificate. Or a combination of these two. Or a completely third country's certificate like Australia or South Africa and combine that with others.

Sounds confusing? - The thing is that each country’s government issues their own type or version of pilot certificates, despite that aviation is a worldwide business that knows no boundaries. For instance, each country's CPL certificate is similar to each other regarding requirements to get them issued, but often each country does not recognize the others certificates as an equal type/version.

Here I will only cover the American FAA certificates and the European JAA certificates, because they are the two major certificates. An abbreviation you also will need to know is ICAO, if you want to look into other countries certificates, because all certificates are based on ICAO's guidelines, or should be. The abbreviation ICAO will also show up if you want to convert your certificate into another country's. Often the national requirements for converting a certificate will be based on the ICAO minimums, not FAA, South African or Australian minimums.


So what to choose - the FAA way or the JAA way ?

Well - it depends where you want to fly in your future. In the USA, the EU or another country? If you plan to fly in the EU, no matter what you do, you will need to pass all the JAA ATPL exams. And these JAA ATPL exams take time and a lot of effort to pass.

There is a saying in USA : The American learns to fly, the European learns both to build and fly. And it feels somehow that way taking the JAA ATPL exams. A lot of reading.

I have listed again some pros and cons for both FAA and JAA - again, it is the way I see them, you might see things differently.

Pros Cons Pros Cons
Usually accomplished in shorter time More difficult to convert to JAA Easier to convert to FAA Usually takes longer time to finish
Less expensive education (CPL+IR) Not recognized in the EU Recognized in many other countries More expensive education (CPL+IR)
Recognized in many other countries Higher paid jobs demands many hours High paid jobs for low hour pilots Not recognized in the USA



The American certificate can only be taken in the Modular way. The recipe looks something like this:

  • Obtain a Medical certificate
  • Commence training toward the PPL certificate incl. some ground school
  • After having obtained your PPL, continue with hour building
  • Commence training toward the CPL certificate incl. some ground school
  • Commence training toward the Instrument Rating (IR) incl. some ground school. IR is not mandatory to become a commercial pilot but highly recommended


The IR can also be obtained after the PPL and having the correct amount and type of hours in your log book. For the specific amount and type of hours for each certificate or rating, look into the FAR AIM.

It is highly recommended to study the different requirements in the FAR AIM concerning types and amount of hours, before commencing the training so no unnecessary hours is flown using your own money.

Bristow Academy Schweizer 300 CBi



The European certificate can either be taken in the Modular way or the Integrated way.

The Modular way is pretty much the same procedure as on the FAA route. Going Integrated could be preferable if you have absolutely no previous flying experience. This way is geared for people with no previous knowledge of flying of any type and no knowledge about the business of aviation and is at first glance easier to overlook on what to take, what to do, how to do it and could it be quicker than the Modular way.

The Integrated way could turn out to be more expensive because you fly with an instructor or you are supervised all the time. On the Modular way you fly only with an instructor during your actual PPL and CPL training. During the hour building you only pay for the rent of the aircraft. And you end up with more hours than the Integrated pilot. The Modular way could take longer time.

There seems to be a lot of "religion" in the choice of either the Integrated or the Modular way. Choose what suits you the best. A good thing could be to list up pros and cons (again) for what seems to be the best choice for you. The shown pros and cons below are again my personal ones, yours may not look the same the way you see it.                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Integrated Modular
Pros Cons Pros Cons
Easier overview of education plan More expensive education Cheaper education Difficult overview of education plan
Often this way is finished quicker Less hours in the log book More hours in the log book Often this way takes more time
  Daily life have to fit education Education can fit your daily life  
  No changing school during course Can change school during course  
  Have to go from Zero -> All at once Possibility to take a step at the time  


Personal comment:

It is obvious my choice was Modular - I have also been on Integrated during my Fixed Wing education, so I have tried both.

Some say that the companies prefer people from the Integrated way. To my knowledge and experience, that is bull. The business works this way. In need of pilots, it all comes down to what certificates, amount of hours, type of hours and aviation experience you have plus, not at least, your personality - no matter if it is Modular or Integrated.

A Pro for Modular is that you can start with PPL, figure out if aviation is really you. Instead of starting to put a lot of money into an Integrated course and by time you may find that you don't like aviation or aviation doesn’t like you, and thereby having wasted a lot of money for nothing.

A Pro for Integrated is that you fly with an instructor all the time, so the chance of acquiring bad habits while flying alone are a lot less because you are always supervised by an experienced instructor. During hour building, it requires for you to be aware of not to become sloppy of your own flying.

But if you go Modular, during your hour building you can give your friends and family a spin in a helicopter and it will give you the first ideas and experiences of what it is like to fly with passengers and having to do so all by yourself. There is no instructor that you can say “Your controls, I can't figure it out”. Could be good learning experiences.

So which way or route to choose is entirely up to you. Do yourself that favor and make your own decision. Do not solely choose on based solely on the advice and recommendations others.


Choice of school:

Next thing is what school to choose.



CPL: Commercial Pilot License, that means the pilot who has a Commercial certificate can require a full payment for the flight and take the passengers to a destination without returning them to the departing airport. Opposite a Private certificate, where the pilot can not require a full payment for the entire flight, only request the passengers to share the actual expenses of the flight and the passengers have to return with the pilot to the departing airport and they have to be known people of the pilot. ICAO: International Civil Aviation Organization. ICAO is in short terms an organization that nearly the whole world has joined and agreed to follow their guidelines as a minimum. If a country's national laws of aviation deviates in any terms their guidelines, it has to be notified and published. Concerning an ICAO certificate, you could consider it as a basic certificate, and both the FAA and the JAA certificates are based on the ICAO certificates but modified to what FAA or JAA have decided they want to require additionally. More info on www.icao.int Convert: Converting a certificate means to take a foreign certificate and based on that obtaining another country's similarly certificate according to that country's minimum requirements for converting that specific certificates. Ground School: This is the theory lessons you will attend in a classroom to gain the proper basic knowledge for a specific course.
Hour Building: It is those hours that you fly for yourself without an instructor (you could bring a passenger if you want), to gain enough hours so you can attend the next course or rating, according to what the regulations depict. Most people rent an aircraft for this purpose. IR: Instrument Rating means the pilot who has an Instrument Rating is allowed to fly in IMC weather - Instrument Meteorological Conditions - in short, flying in non-visual weather like in the clouds or in weather below the minimums for visual weather relying solely on the aircrafts instruments. Both the pilot AND the aircraft must be certified to fly in IMC. For the aircraft it is usually referred to be IFR equipped - Instrument Flying Rules. Log Book: The Log Book is your personal book that states how many hours, what type of hours and what type of aircrafts you have flown. It is very important to keep this book up-to-date and should be done after each complete flight. Also the aircraft has a similarly book. FAR AIM: The FAR AIM stands for Federal Aviation Regulations / Aeronautical Information Manual. It is popularly named the The Blue Bible of American aviation. It contains most of the information needed to know for the different courses and ratings. All the different parts and sections of the FAR AIM book can be located on www.faa.gov