Completing an EASA license conversion is a major achievement. I remember how relieved I felt the day after my final skills test when all my paperwork was finalized and I was finally free to enjoy my time in Greece. Treating myself to some sightseeing for a couple of days was my only concern- I had studied ancient Greek Architecture at University and now I was finally in a position to see it.
I’m sure most pilots feel this way after finally completing the lengthy and expensive conversion process. If you’re thinking of starting this journey, you’re probably longing to reach this milestone. So, I wish you the best of luck and hope you found my previous article (5 steps for an EASA conversion) informative to make your conversion process as smooth as possible.
After realizing how many readers benefited from my previous post, since I was regularly contacted for more information about the EASA conversion, I decided to add some more information that pilots should know about this journey. I’d rather give you all the facts before you start your EASA conversion so you can make an informed decision as to whether this is truly the right path for you, and to budget accordingly for it if you decide to do it.
An EASA license is actually just one part of the process to work in Europe. Here is a list of everything else that you need to do or have before you can start working. As you will see, there are a lot of extra expenses that you should be aware of.
1) The right to live and work in Europe
Having an EASA license won’t help much if you don’t have the right to live and work in Europe. This could mean you need citizenship, residency or a work visa. Unfortunately I do not have any information on how to get this.
2) MCC (Multi Crew Cooperation)/JOC (Jet Orientation Course)
After completing the EASA license conversion you will need at least an MCC to apply for jobs. Some airlines require an MCC and JOC.
I would recommend doing both to give yourself the chance to apply to as many airlines as possible. Some schools offer the MCC/JOC course as a package so you can complete both courses at the same time over approximately 20 days.
The options vary from around 3000€ to 10 000€ for this step. Prices listed on a schools website generally don’t include accommodation, so make sure to plan for this as well as other expenses such as your own transport and food.
What is the reason for the large price range? It depends on 2 factors:
A) Are you only doing the MCC or are you also doing the JOC course?
Of course the price will be more if you do the 2 courses combined.
B) Is the training performed on a fixed based simulator or a full flight simulator?
(The full flight simulator gives the feeling and movements of flying the real aircraft). The final decision is up to you but I do not think it is necessary to pay so much money to train on a full flight simulator. I would rather use the money to help me later on in my journey start my job in Europe.
Most MCC courses are completed on a B737 or A320 simulator. It is possible to find a cheaper option on aircraft such as a King Air, but I wouldn’t recommend this if you want to keep your options open.
After completing the course you are finally in a position to send out your CV and apply for jobs.
(In the future I will write an article explaining the MCC/JOC course in detail. I have not completed this course since it will be combined with my type rating when I join my airline in 2020).
3) Airline Assessment Day
Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far it means you’ve caught an airline’s eye and they think you have the potential to be hired. Now you just need to show them that they are not wrong.
Each airline conducts their assessment process in a different way. Some complete all their tests in 1 day. Others invite you for different rounds and the entire recruitment process can spread out over months. I will cover this topic in more detail in the future (like what to wear and how to prepare), but it is important to note that most airlines do not cover your expenses to participate in their assessment days.
So, what happens if you’re in South Africa (for example) and the assessment day is in Germany? You need to pay for your own flight ticket, accommodation and meals to try to get this job. As you can imagine, this is rather expensive, especially since there is no guarantee that you will get the job and you might even have to attend several assessments for different airlines before you are finally successful.
I was fortunate because I was already in Belgium when I received my invitation to attend an assessment day. Although I still had to make my own way to another European country, it was more affordable than having to fly in from another continent, especially since my selection day was during the peak travel period when flight prices are at their highest.
4) Simulator Rental
Most airlines perform the simulator assessment in either a Boeing or Airbus full flight simulator. I have never met someone that did not go to a simulator to practice before their assessment, because energy management and anticipation in a large jet is very different than in a small piston twin aircraft. Some airlines also give you a profile to prepare to fly at the assessment day so it is beneficial to practice this in the sim beforehand.
Yes, it is expensive, but it is a small price to pay to land your dream job and pull you out of unemployment.
The airline that invites you will let you know beforehand which model aircraft you will fly at your assessment. Pay close attention to this since there are some differences that can really throw you off. For example, my sim assessment was in a B737 Classic Simulator but I could only find a B737 NG sim in my area to practice on. As you can imagine (compare the photo of the simulator above with the simulator below) your scan is very different on each so it took me some time to figure it out in my assessment. Believe me, figuring out a new scan while under pressure in a sim assessment when flying IF procedures is the last thing you want.
Luckily I coped well enough to get the job, but if I could go back I would have practiced on the B737 Classic to make my sim session as smooth as possible.
Should you pay extra to practice beforehand on a full flight simulator if you will be flying one at your assessment day? This is a tricky question. If you have the money and you find one to rent, I think the full flight simulator will definitely be to your advantage. I did not practice on the full flight simulator so my first experience in one was during my assessment (it’s truly amazing to fly!) Some people have said the motion threw them off and they didn’t perform well since they had never experienced it before. From my memories I was so focused on flying my procedures and doing my scan that I didn’t find the extra movement to be distracting. But, if I ever had to attend another assessment day I would definitely make an effort to prepare in a full flight simulator to be as prepared as possible.
5) License and Medical transfer
Just when you think it’s all over and it's time to finally celebrate this achievement (you did get your dream job after all), you might find another 'hidden' expense. So resist your urge to pop the most expensive bottle of champagne because you might still have to pay a few-hundred euros to start your new job, since each airline requires a Flight Crew License and Class 1 Medical from a certain country.
For example, if the airline you will work for is based in Belgium, they could require you to have a Belgian EASA license and Medical. If you currently hold a Greek EASA license then you will have to convert it to Belgian.
The transfer process is fairly simple- fill out some forms, wait for a certain period of time (this ranges from a few days to a few months) and then make a payment. I paid 500€ to transfer my documents for my job.
Some airlines cover this expense, others leave it up to you to pay for it. Just be aware of this and rather budget for it than have an unexpected surprise in the future since 500€ is a lot of money when we convert it to South African Rands.
6) Type Rating Fee
Sometimes pilots are lucky and apply for the right job at the right time. I fall into this category so I do not have to pay for my own type rating.
Others are not so lucky and fall into 1 of 2 categories:
A) Partial Type Rating Payment: the pilot has to pay a portion of their type rating upfront and then they are bonded for a certain amount of years afterwards. For example, it could be in the range of paying 5 000€ upfront and then being bonded for 6 years.
B) Self Funded Type Rating: this option is very expensive and the figures change, but from what I’ve heard it falls somewhere between a 30 000- 40 000€ upfront payment. It is not uncommon for pilots to take out a loan to pay for this option.
7) Type Rating Course
The last important point to take note of is that several airlines do not pay you while you are busy with your Type Rating. Again, you need to budget for this- consider your flight to get yourself to the city you need to be in to do your Type Rating as well as your accommodation, food, entertainment (yes, live a balanced life even while studying), transport etc. This is the last financial hurdle you need to cross before you finally receive an income.
As you can see, the process of successfully converting your license and finally working in Europe is lengthy and expensive. One of the main differences between local students and us coming from abroad is the fact that in Europe, pilot student loans are very accessible. It is therefore not uncommon for local students to take out loans to pay for all their training and type ratings upfront to gain employment as quickly as possible.
The competition here is fierce. Pilot training in Europe (generally speaking) is executed with a different mindset than in South Africa- from the first day as a student pilot they are trained for the airlines. It can therefore be challenging to compete with these students. However, with the right mindset and proper preparation, you can succeed.
If you use this document as a way to properly budget before you start your conversion process you will be giving yourself the funds you need to achieve your goals without any hidden expenses. Then, you can also sit back and enjoy some sightseeing in a relaxed state while you’re in Europe after completing everything you need to get a job.
The views presented in this article are solely the author's based on available information at the time of writing. The purpose of this blog is to inform readers, not to provide professional advice. Readers are advised to research further and consult relevant professionals, such as flight training schools. Readers are cautioned when acting on information provided and assume all risk from such actions.