Saturday, December 8, 2007

Paperwork for student pilots in Australia

My friend Jacob finally decided to start his training towards a PPL at the Redcliffe Aero Club. Congratulations to him, I hope he’ll enjoy the experience as much as I did.

There’s a few tips I came across when I started my training earlier this year; I thought I would share them with other student pilots. Let’s start with paperwork. What I’m going to say applies only to Australia, apologies to overseas readers.

If there’s a name that’s going to come up a lot in your training, and in conversations with fellow pilots, that’s CASA. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is the regulatory authority for civil aviation in Australia. In that role, they’re the equivalent of the FAA in the US or the DGAC in France. Among other things, they’re the people who will eventually deliver your pilot licence, so that’s one big reason to make sure you get the paperwork right.

The first step is to obtain an ARN number. This Aviation Reference Number is a personal identification number that will be required for any future interaction with CASA. The application process is rather straightforward: just fill in the form, fax it to CASA, and a week or two later a letter will pop up in your mailbox with your ARN number. So far so good.

The next step is to apply for a Student Pilot Licence (SPL) and an ASIC (Aviation Security Identity Card). This can be done in one go using form 639. The process is a tiny bit more involved here since it requires someone official to check your identity and, for non-Australians, your proficiency in the English language.

In Redcliffe the CFI can do that and the club will then lodge the application for you. However, between Rob’s busy schedule and my own, I found it hard to get hold of him for that purpose, so I decided to lodge the application directly with the regional CASA office. The office is located in Hendra, near Brisbane airport, and is pretty much on the way for anyone who drives from Brisbane’s inner suburbs to Redcliffe.

That was a painless process. I had made sure I had all the required documentation with me, and the whole thing took less than 15 minutes. The English proficiency test took the form of a two-minute informal conversation with a CASA person who, on learning that I was French, explained to me how he used to ferry Airbuses from Toulouse in France to Malaysia.

The SPL and the ASIC card turned up in the mail about 3 weeks later. The whole thing was quick and easy, but not cheap: I left CASA with $210 less in my pocket: $65 for the SPL, and $145 for the ASIC. Next step: the medical examination.

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