The FAA’s Office of Chief Counsel recently issued a Legal Interpretation answering this question in response to an inquiry requesting a clarification of FAR 61.75 (Private pilot certificate issued on the basis of a foreign pilot license). The inquiry arose out of an accident in the United Kingdom involving a U.S. registered Cirrus aircraft. The pilot operating the Cirrus was doing so using his U.S. private pilot certificate, which was issued under FAR 61.75 based upon the pilot’s underlying license from the UK.
The U.K. pilot license apparently requires “differences training” before a pilot may operate a Cirrus aircraft, while the FARs governing the U.S. private pilot certificate contain no such requirement. The issue before the Chief Counsel’s office then was “whether the pilot was in violation of his US certificate for flying an aircraft, on his US certificate, for which he would have needed specialized training if flying on his UK certificate.”
The Legal Interpretation initially observed that a notice issued by the Aviation Accident Investigations Board (AAIB) in August 2008 draws the conclusion from FAR 61.75 “that any and all limitations and restrictions that a pilot would be subject to under his foreign pilot certificate are incorporated in his US certificate, and apply equally under his US certificate.” However, it then goes on to state that the AAIB notice’s conclusion is mistaken.
The Legal Interpretation clarified that FAR 61.75 incorporates the limitations and restriction ON the pilot’s airman certificate and foreign pilot license. That is, “the pilot is subject to the restrictions and limitations that appear on the face of the US certificate or foreign pilot license.”
Since the holder of the FAR 61.75 certificate is bound by the U.S. regulations governing the airman’s exercise of privileges under his or her U.S. airman certificate, the Interpretation states that the language of FAR 61.75 “does not include the entirety of regulatory requirements of the foreign State.” Thus, “the FAA views that [FAR 61.75] language as addressing the limitations of the sort FAA uses, e.g., ‘not valid for night operation,’ where the individual has not completed the night training requirements.”
The Interpretation then observed that the FARs do not impose a “differences training” requirement for Cirrus aircraft operated by an individual with a U.S. airman certificate. As a result, operation of a Cirrus aircraft pursuant to a U.S. airman certificate when the airman has not received “differences training” would not be a violation of the FARs even though the airman would have needed specialized training if flying on his UK certificate.
Interesting situation/question. As is often the case, this situation/question arose in the aftermath of an accident. Fortunately for the airman, the less restrictive requirements of the FARs, at least in this case, prevailed.