The Caribbean is considered one of the most beautiful and diverse regions on the globe. Likewise, flying in the Caribbean is an unforgettable, fun and rewarding experience that many aviators have longed for.
There are many island nations with many airports offering a wealth of flying opportunities. Some pilots wish to fly in the Caribbean from the U.S. strictly for fun or business. For those pilots it is recommended to visit AOPA’s article on private flying in the Caribbean - https://www.aopa.org/travel/international-travel/caribbean. On the other hand, some pilots wish to work commercially in the Caribbean either being a native of the Caribbean or entering as an expat. Here are 5 detailed steps on becoming a Caribbean commercial pilot.
- If you are an expat it will be important to ensure you have the appropriate visa or work permit to begin legally working as a caribbean pilot. If you are hired by a company they will usually go through the steps to apply to immigration for a work visa or permit for you. Also, if you are a native it is important to have a valid passport.
- You will have to get an appropriate medical from an approved Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) in whichever caribbean country you will be flying in. This is usually needed regardless if you already possess an FAA medical. This new medical is needed in order for the country you will be flying in to convert your license.
- After the medical is obtained you must convert your license via the civil aviation authority in the caribbean country you will be flying in. Different countries have different steps to do this. Some just require filling out an application form and paying a small fee, while others may require an aeronautical knowledge test. A converted license is required because you may be flying an aircraft registered in that country. However, if the aircraft you’ll be flying is registered in the U.S. (N registration) then converting your license may not be necessary but still desired by your employer. Additionally, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) radio license may be required if flying a U.S. registered aircraft outside of the U.S.. This can be applied for via the FCC website.
- Become familiar with the regulations regarding operating in that particular Caribbean country. Most Caribbean countries follow ICAO rules and standards which may be slightly different than the Federal Air Regulations (FARs). Also, it would be wise to speak to other aviators from that particular country to learn about the nuances in the regulations and operating there.
- Always ensure that the aircraft you will be flying is properly equipped for flying in the Caribbean by ensuring life vests and or flotation devices are on board for all occupants. Furthermore, if piloting a single engine aircraft it is imperative to have a life raft on board that can accomodate all occupants. Caribbean flying is mostly over water, therefore it is crucial to have the appropriate safety equipment for flight.
Flying in the caribbean is very unique but it is important to be aware that this environment presents new maintenance challenges. Salt water is very corrosive. Even the clouds over the caribbean have salt water in them due to the sea water being evaporated and condensed into clouds. Therefore, it is imperative to preflight thoroughly and be extra vigilant for any corrosion.
All in all, caribbean flying can be very rewarding. The views are amazing and unforgettable with turquoise waters and the all too common dolphin and shark sightings. Short field landings will become common practice and if you fly seaplanes the flying will be even more fascinating!