Conversion to EASA License

The ICAO to EASA ATPL Conversion Process
First of all, I will write about how the aviation regulation in Europe is established. Before aviation was standardized at the European Parliament level with EASA, there was the JAA or "Joint Aviation Authorities." There were regulations agreed and established by the EU aviation authorities. The most well-known regulations and relevant to pilots being JAR-FCL for pilot certification, and EU-OPS for air operations. The JAA was disolved in 2009, when EASA remained as the agency responsible for the standarization of European aeronautical regulation. The aeronautical authorities, called National Aviation Authority (NAA) or Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are the ones responsible for adopting and applying the regulations in their countries. These are the AESA in Spain, the DGAC in France, LBA in Germany, Austrocontrol in Austria, UK CAA in the now not-so-United Kingdom, etc.

The fundamental regulation, called "Basic Regulation" is where the EASA functions are established, etc. One level below, we have the different regulations, being the Air Crew Regulation, Air Operations Regulation and SERA (Standardised European Rules of the Air) the most relevant to pilots. Each of these regulations have annexes or "Parts" as are also known. There are also "Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC)," "Guidance Material (GM)" or "Certification Specifications (CS)" in each one of these Parts, detailing even more things.

EASA publishes "Easy Access Rules" for each one of these regulations and Parts so they can be used as quick reference. It is very recommended to download these regulations and Parts, and to be familiarized with them.

The conversion process of an ICAO ATPL to an EASA ATPL is established in these regulations. There are aeronautical authorities of EASA member States that follow these regulations to the letter and there are others that have a more detailed process. More about this below.

Principally, Article 8 "Conditions for the acceptance of licences from third countries" of the Aircrew Regulation establishes the generalities of a conversion. This is: complying with the Part-FCL issuance requirements of the equivalent licence; the holders of an ICAO ATPL must not take a theoretical (ground school) course to be able to take the 14 theoretical exams, as long as the licence has a type rating for the airplane to be used in the skill test, like an Airbus A320, Boeing 737, or Embraer 190; and one has to pass a skill test in the simulator of the type rating one has in the licence, in accordance with C.1 of Annex III "Conditions for the acceptance of licences issued by or on behalf of third countries."

Annex III of the Air Crew Regulation contains three points: A. Validation of Licences, B. Conversion of Licences, and C. Acceptance of Class and Type Ratings.
The validation of licences refers to a process one can do with the aeronautical authority to obtain an equivalent licence for a limited time and restricted to operations with an air operator.
The conversion of licences specifies that an ICAO ATPL, for example, can be converted to an EASA PPL, BPL or SPL with a single-pilot class rating or type rating. The holders of an ICAO ATPL must comply with the requirements established in the second numeral, such as passing the Air Law and Human Performance theoretical exams, pass a PPL-level skill test, comply with the requirements of the issuance of the relevant class or type rating, obtain a Class 2 medical certificate, demonstrate language proficiency, and have at least 100 hours as pilot.

Did you notice something strange? Based on what's written above, one can only obtain an EASA PPL when converting an ICAO ATPL. Here's where many NAAs have different processes. Some comply them and delegate the conversion process to an ATO (Approved Training Organisation), or flight school/academy; and others do have an established process to directly convert an ICAO ATPL to an EASA ATPL. The important thing is to contact as many European NAAs as possible and identify which ones do have an established process to obtain an EASA ATPL through them.
The acceptance of class and type ratings, from point C.1 of Annex III specifies that one has to comply with the prerequisites for the issuance of the applicable class or type rating, according to Part-FCL; pass a skill test, which is normally done in a EASA-registered simulator; one has to be in current flying practice; and not have less than 100 hours in class or 500 hours in the type rating used.

So we already have the regulatory references of the conversion process. Let's say we have contacted a NAA and received an answer specifying the process, in case they have established one. It might be like this:
  • Send proof that one has an ICAO ATPL with a valid type rating and more than 500 hours in that type
  • Register for the ATPL exams
  • Study, prepare and pass the 14 ATPL exams
  • Obtain a Class 1 Medical Certificate
  • Pass a skill test in a simulator of the type rating used
  • Pass a language proficiency check
  • Get an ICAO licence verification with the NAA of issuance
  • Present all required documentation for the issuance of the EASA ATPL

It is recommended to obtain an EASA logbook format and to fill out the first lines with the total times of each single-engine, multi-engine piston and type rating airplane time, with its corresponding night, IFR, PIC/SIC time, landings, etc. Jeppesen's EASA logbook is very good.

Speaking about the 14 exams, which is the most complex in terms of dedication and study, Part-FCL establishes that one has 6 sittings to take all exams, and 18 months to pass them from the time one sat the first exams. The best is to organize them by similarity of content and in a way that one has one or two sittings available for the failed exams. This is the way I organized the exam blocks:
  • Principles of Flight
  • Performance
  • Mass and Balance
  • Meteorology
  • Air Law
  • VFR Communications
  • IFR Communications
  • Operational Procedures
  • General Navigation
  • Radio Navigation
  • Flight Planning and Monitoring
  • Aiframe, Systems, Electrics, Powerplant
  • Instrumentation
  • Human Performance

The most difficult ones for the beginning to have all time available for studying and preparation, and the less difficult for the end, when on is tired of so many exams. To study and prepare for these exams, students normally use the ATPL textbooks and videos from a ground school course, and a preparation sofware. The textbooks are not necessary since the preparation software, like Aviation Exam, contains explanations in every question, with comments from many people that further explain it. It is very important to study and be prepared just before taking the exams to have the information fresh in the "hard drive." Every person is different, but the best is to dedicate about two months of continuous studying and preparation before the exams date that one has selected. The question bank may not the exact questions that one will have in the exams, but they are very similar. It varies depending on the NAA, but one can generally find about 60-70% of the questions in the question bank software. There are no questions outside of the "Learing Objectives" content that one can get. The quantity of questions and time in each exam is established in Part-ARA.

It can be that the aeronautical authorities set the dates for the exams, or that one can simply come to the exam location without registration. There are NAAs that have approved locations or schools that can administer the ATPL exams in the Americas, specifically in the US. The best is to determine what is more economical. There are NAAs that charge a lot for every exam or sitting. This is why it is important to contact many NAAs and determine which one is the best option.

This is the material one needs for the studying and preparation, and for the exams:
  • The "General Student Pilot Route Manual (GSPRM)" from Jeppesen. Careful: Before 2017, the Student Pilot Route Manual (SPRM) was used. The GSPRM is the one you need now.
  • The Civil Aviation Publications (CAPs) from the UK CAA: CAP 698 "Aeroplane Performance Manual," CAP 698 "Mass and Banace Manual - Aeroplane," and the CAP 697 "Flight Planning Manual."
  • A (british) CRP-5W or a (german) IWA-11092 flight computer. It depends on the region one is going to take the exams and what flight computer they are used to using.
  • A non-programmable cientific calculator.
  • A notebook

Some NAAs allow the use of the complete CAP manuals for the exams. This is very good so one doesn't need to memorize some conversions and formulas. Other NAAs don't allow you to bring any material, except for the calculator and flight computer and they give you the references from the CAPs and GSPRM.

As for the Class 1 medical certificate, the most important thing to consider is that the country in which one takes the medical exam is the country that must issue the licence. In other words, if you got the medical exam in France, then the licence must be issued in France. One can request a change of SOLI (State of Licence Issue), but that is another topic.
Another important thing is the initial medical exam. The only places where you can take an initial class 1 medical exam are the AeMC (AeroMedical Centre). It's the most exhaustive and expensive, at around 450€ to 800€, depending on the country and location. It is important to emphasise that the sooner you make an appointment in the AeMC the better. Three to four months is the best. The recurrent medical exams can be taken with an AME (AeroMedical Examiner) in any EASA-member country and is less complex and expensive. Every NAA website should publish their AeMCs and AMEs. The medican requirements are established in Part-MED.

The skill test must be done in a EASA-registered simulator of the airplane type rating one has in the ICAO licence. There are few training centres and flight schools where you can take the skill test for the purpose of a conversion. The best is to contact every training centre and flight school that one finds on the internet. In my case, I wil be taking it with cockpit4u in Berlin. They use Lufthansa's simulators and the 2-hour skill test session costs 1500€. It is important to specify the NAA that will issue your licence, because the examiner (that can be of any EASA member State) must comply with the "Examiner Briefing Document" and give notice to that NAA that he/she will administer a skill test.

The language proficiency certificate can be obtained in the following ways, depending in which NAA one is doing the conversion process. There are NAAs that require the test to be done in an approved testing centre. There are NAAs that accept the grading of the Type Rating Examiner (TRE) who is also an English Language Assessor. This way the ELA grades your language proficiency in the skill test.

It is very possible that the NAA will request a verification of the ICAO ATPL. Normally, the NAA contacts the aviation authority from where the licence was issued, or one can do it by him or herself. An apostille could also be a good idea. The more the better.

With all that done, one gives the filled out the forms and documentation required for the final issuance of the EASA ATPL with type rating and language proficiency level.
The EASA licence does not expire. What expires are the class and type ratings. The time of rating vailidy is established in Part-FCL, generally 2 years for class rating (single-engine piston, for example), and 1 year for type ratings. One only has to take a proficiency check with a Class Rating or Type Rating Instructor/Examiner and the proficiency check is registered in the licence and in the logbook.

I hope this has given you a good general perspective of how a conversion process is and the steps to take in case you are interested in doing the same. Thank you for reading!

edited by dvillava on 02/04/2020
That's a lot of informations! Thank a lot Daniel!
mil gracias por la informacion danii , i've read your posts and they are by far the most helpful when it comes to the Easa conversion topic.

but i still have a few questions if you would allow me

1- i see from what you wrote that you have been in contact with AESA in spain, do they exempt the applicant for a conversation from attending any ground school for the 14 atpl exams or do they require certain ground school time ?

2- lets say i choose the AII for my conversion, what is the best ATPL study program you recommend, that is also aprroved by the AII ?

thanks man
edited by magdyg on 03/30/2020
That's priceless information, thank you very much! do any of you know about someone who already went through the practical (checkride) part of the process?
Thanks a lot bud for the information.. i currently live in vienna and have chosen austro control for my ICAO ATPL conversion.. m just confused about one thing.. as u mentioned that u have 6 sittings total for the exams.. does that mean if i want to finish them in four sittings, i have to do 4 exams per sitting on same day.. thanks heaps
Were you questions with austrocontrol multi choice?

I have heard the the CAA is not multichoice.

It's a good write up, thanks for the info!
Hello CAPTSIM, I'll also be doing my conversion through Austro-control could you please confirm if Aviation Exams was enough for studying or did you need to buy any extra books.

magdyg wrote:
Hello CAPTSIM, I'll also be doing my conversion through Austro-control could you please confirm if Aviation Exams was enough for studying or did you need to buy any extra books.


hello magdyg.. how are you.. due to corona crisis and all i was not able to commence my exams.. i am going to commence the conversion exams this year.. do you live in vienna currently.. have you also started giving the exams.. thanks heaps buddy.. we can get together sometime and discuss regarding the same also..
CaptSim wrote:
magdyg wrote:
Hello CAPTSIM, I'll also be doing my conversion through Austro-control could you please confirm if Aviation Exams was enough for studying or did you need to buy any extra books.


hello magdyg.. how are you.. due to corona crisis and all i was not able to commence my exams.. i am going to commence the conversion exams this year.. do you live in vienna currently.. have you also started giving the exams.. thanks heaps buddy.. we can get together sometime and discuss regarding the same also..

Hello My friend, I am a captain on the 737-800 and no I don’t live in Vienna, i contacted the austro control and will start doing my Conversion Soon. Please get in touch with me, my whats app number is +201008552534