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Advice for US pilot moving to Europe, and noise certificates

I’m moving to Barcelona in August with my N-reg Mooney Encore. Instrument rated. I feel like I’m pretty prepared thanks in large part to the posts on this forum. I plan to use SkyDemon for VFR and Garmin Pilot for IFR. Any advice on differences from the US system? Procedures, PPR, EFBs, language barriers? I must admit VFR flying in Europe scares me a bit. What’s going on with Noise Certificates?

Any and all thoughts are greatly appreciated!

EHLE, Netherlands

Ill give you an earful since I m from KHTO but running out right now. Do you have an email address?


You can create your own noise certificate for N-reg aircraft.

Be careful how you move your airplane to avoid having to pay EU VAT. If it is part of your household, it is exempt when relocating as far as I know but you need the proper documentation. N-reg aircraft are checked frequently for import papers, especially in France. Whatever your story is, you will have to present acceptable documentation.

VFR flying in Europe is not difficult. Just keep in mind that we have many countries here with their own history and customs and flying from Spain to Italy is not the same as flying from Texas to Arizona. That is both an advantage and a disadvantage.

This is a big topic…

A search for
noise certificate
will dig out some threads on this, and for an N-reg you generate your own.

You have to pay EU import VAT eventually, even as a non EU passport holder – 6 months is one period I vaguely recall. There may be a concession for someone relocating; I also vaguely recall from many years ago a UK friend who went to the USA for a few years and when he came back he was given a big VAT-free import allowance, enough to import a car. However this may create an issue in that you do need to end up with a bit of paper from Customs which says import VAT (as due) has been satisfied, for future ramp checks. You need to talk to a specialist. I wonder if @howard might know someone? On my website I have some detailed trip writeups, plus a link to a VAT consultant.

Some past VAT threads are here here and here. This whole issue remains largely unresolved in Europe because over past decades it was normal to import a plane from the USA and not pay import VAT (deliberately, or due to ignorance) and consequently the GA community is vulnerable to some authority deciding to hit it one day… I get perhaps 100 emails a year from people with a plane or looking to buy a particular plane and they don’t have the paperwork or have ancient barely readable photocopies of documents etc…

IFR is the same everywhere but European airspace is different from the US airspace structure and also every country has a different airspace structure. In IFR (an IFR flight plan filed to Eurocontrol, not ad-hod IFR where you just drill a hole in a cloud) this becomes almost totally irrelevant but if your flight involves portions outside CAS (OCAS) then the procedure is different to the US one (basically you are treated as VFR, especially if the tower is unmanned, but this varies).

Language barriers are there for sure, but again this varies. In the “old” southern Europe belt (i.e. Portugal – Spain – France – Italy) English is not an immediate second language especially among older people and you can spend an hour after landing, even at a sizeable airport, looking for someone who speaks English, if you are unlucky. Generally speaking any handling business will be fine though (English = more business = more €€€ ) but GA pilots prefer to avoid handlers because they charge, sometimes a lot. This issue is rather central to GA ops in Europe because many airports are not run to attract traffic, so dealing with the airport directly is more difficult than turning up in a bizjet and chucking €500 at a handler who will pump out your externally serviceable toilet and generally ensure everything runs very smoothly This is a big factor in why most European GA sticks to the same old watering holes… My total of different European airports is currently about 150 so I have seen a few…

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

No EU VAT is due for the import of personal goods (including cars, boats & planes) to Spain as part of a cross-border relocation. As far as vehicles (including planes) are concerned, the six – month ownership rule applies.

VAT-compliance status will be certified by Spanish customs stamping your “Franquicia de Importación”.

The only goods subject to customs & VAT on a CIF basis are those used to furnish / equip a secondary / holiday residence (cf. CE Nº 274/2008).

Be well prepared – the Spanish authorities request a lot of paperwork for a XB move.

Last Edited by Shorrick_Mk2 at 18 Jul 09:36

You often do NOT have to pay VAT if you are relocating to the EU from outside the EU. I believe this is what achimha alluded to. There are provisions for people returning to the EU from a long (above 12 months IIRC) stay abroad to bring everything and the kitchen sink free of taxes (both VAT and excise, which can be a significant thing with e.g. cars) and any import tariffs as long as it is their own private (ie. not owned by a corporation / business) property; I think you have to own it for at least 6 months prior to moving. I have experienced these firsthand (although what I saved on taxes I spent on crazy exchange rates, but I digress). I believe there are similar provisions for people moving into the EU (as in, not returning to, but moving to) and this is what the OP should pursue. As Peter stressed, a clean VAT status is a REALLY important, and potentially expensive, issue.

Of course, and this is the important part, the process has to be done by the book; it usually starts at a consulate / embassy of the country you will be returning to/arriving at, where you find out what proof of ownership will be required and what are the necessary steps. They usually involve preparing a detailed list of your belongings which you want exempt; most people limit this to high value items such as cars (or planes, or boats), jewelery, art, etc, etc; no one really cares about your used clothes but it probably doesn’t hurt to list them either.

There are specialized moving companies that will help out with all this for a fee that is well worth paying, IME.

The downside of this route is that you have to retain ownership of the stuff you got exempt for 12 months; this is usually not a problem, but means that you cannot legally let your friend fly your plane (or drive your car) without you present. The penalties for not following this can be significant (all taxes become due, automatically, plus late fees, plus a little something for trying to game the system).

Of course the specifics might be different in other countries, but the general idea remains the same throughout the EU.

EPKP - Kraków, Poland

Wow, glad I started this thread. The VAT issue had not been on my mind and now it’s clear I have some research to do. I’m not certain I’ll be making this a permanent relocation, as I’ll be back and forth to the States quite a bit. So that may give me more flexibility with the VAT status.

I’ve read a few noise certificate threads here and remain pretty confused but I’ll keep at it. Are authorities often asking for a noise cert these days? Are they checking docs often?

Great links, thanks @Peter.

I have my FCC radio licenses already since I fly abroad to Canada, Bahamas, and Central America and figured I’d need them.

Definitely aware I need to check ahead on airport fees and stick to the ones I know. It seems less daunting than I originally thought now that I’ve been lurking and posting here a while.

Regarding languages fortunately I speak a good deal of Spanish and passable French, Italian, and Portuguese so on the ground at least I should get by ok. Good way to enhance those skills will be to use them :)

EHLE, Netherlands

W regards to relocation, you have to be very careful what you declare, as if you do not clearly state you come to establish your primary residence (incl. supporting documentation, work contract, house rental etc) then your entire household moving will be liable to Spanish VAT.

Aircraft (and any vehicle) VAT is very straightforward in the context of a (Spanish) move. It’s part of the household effects that can be imported free of charge. I do not know why it is being muddled. It is one of the most easy-to-comply with parts of the XB move.

Show proof of >6Month ownership. Fill a Petición de Franquicia de Importación. Stamp to certify EU VAT compliance. Done.

Re noise certificates: usually, nobody really checks it. It’s just that you get lower landing fees if you have one. The applies to Germany, Switzerland, and to a lesser degree, the Netherlands. In other countries, the fees are usually the same, irrespective of noise.

In Germany, there a lot of flying restrictions if you don’t have one, so be sure you have it if you fly there.

Re other documents, make sure you have: pilot license & medical, airworthiness, registrations, noise certificate, release to service, and proof of VAT payment. That should cover you for the eventuality. You also need a journey log, which is a book where you log all flights for a particular aircraft.

Last Edited by boscomantico at 18 Jul 14:48
Mainz (EDFZ) & Egelsbach (EDFE), Germany

With these languages you will hardly have a problem. For IFR English is fine everywhere, VFR in France it’s good to know some French. In Italy you can get around VFR in English, and especially all the Eastern Countries there’s no problems with English. Same for Germany.

Get an account at “” for your IFR flying. This internet service makes IFR flying through Europe almost a no brainer. And also install the TELEGRAM messaging app on your smartphone, you can use that as a “remote control” of autoroter: Type the airport to get the latest weather, type “EOBT hhmm” to change the time of departure (works in seconds, even 5 minutes before takeoff), type “tops” to get a satellite picture with cloud tops information. Or type “arrival hhmm” to close the flight plan after landing. (“Achimha”, see post above, is repsonsible for this great FREE (!) service. autorouter has some interesting VFR features too. For the rest you simply use SkyDemon. You don’t need more than that.

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