Gaining a private pilot’s licence the most rewarding achievement. There is no experience in the world more exciting or satisfying than flying your first solo. The realization that you can really fly an aircraft is overwhelming and the novelty never wears off.
Under the supervision of your instructor you will gain enough experience to pass a flying test with an examiner and gain your private pilots license. There are also seven multiple choice type exams and a verbal radio test which you will take throughout your training.
At first the task may seem daunting. But you will be guided through the process one step at a time by your instructor.
There is no doubt that gaining a pilot’s license involves some hard work but the whole experience should be interesting and fun.
The PPL - How long will it take?
The minimum legal requirement for your training is forty five flying hours flying.
In short, the average student takes between between 55 and 65 hours.
The long answer is that there are a number of factors affecting how many hours it will take:
- Age – It is an irritating fact of life that age can play a part in our ability to learn. It is mostly down to the length of time you have spent since last studying. If you are at school or university then you will be used to absorbing information. If it has been thirty years since you have needed to take an exam then it will take a little longer. The rule of thumb is that four every year over the age of thirty you should add an hour to the average.
- Frequency – If you only fly once a month you will not only take longer, you will need many more hours. If you fly intensively over five to six weeks you are more likely to complete near the forty five hour target.
- The weather – In the UK especially, weather can play a major part in how quickly you gain you license. Less favourable weather may increase the number if hours you need to fly. But this is actually an advantage. Learning to fly in different conditions means you will gain valuable experience that will make you a safer pilot. It is always best to learn to fly where you intend to fly the most.
- Lastly, everybody has individual abilities and will come to flying with different existing skill sets. There is no such thing as a natural pilot. A few people learn fast, most people need to apply themselves, and there are some who will never manage. A good instructor will assess each individual and advise appropriately. Flight instructors will tell you that the most important aspect to an individual’s success is attitude and a little hard work, but it is also important that you have fun learning. You are the student and the instructor should always be in charge but your instructor should always make your learning experience enjoyable.
The flying Lessons
The order you fly the lessons will not necessarily follow the numerical order of the curriculum above but you will complete each part. You will not move onto the next lesson until your instructor is satisfied that you are ready to move on.
- 1,2 & 3 are familiarisation with the aircraft which will be covered in your initial briefings. You will cover safety, the flying controls, the parts of the aircraft, start up and taxiing.
- 4a effects of controls flight experience
- 4b effects of controls part 2
- 5 straight and level flight
- 6 straight and level flight paert 2 accelerating/decelerating
- 7 climbing
- 8 descending
- 9 turning
- 10(a) slow flight
- 10(b) stalling
- 11 spin recovery
- 12 take off and climb
- 13 the circuit and landing
- 14 first solo flight
- 15 advanced turning
- 16 practiced forced landings
- 17 Precautionary Landing
- 18(a) Navigation
- 18(b) Low level navigation
- 19 Basic Instrument Flying
- Qualifying cross country
- Flying test
Pre flight Brief
You will progress faster if you read about each lesson prior to flying.
Your instructor will brief you on each flight before you fly. This is an important stage and you must pay close attention to the pre-flight briefs. The more you understand before you fly, the better the lesson will go and you will progress more quickly and save money.
You should understand what your objectives are and how they will be achieved before you start the engine.
A good instructor shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes on the majority of your pre-flight briefs. Circuit and navigation briefs will take up to an hour. You should expect to pay for longer briefs in most good clubs. (Instructors who are only paid while flying tend to rush this important process.)
If you don’t understand something – Ask. This is really important, especially as there is so much jargon to get used to in aviation. It takes time to take it all in when you are unfamiliar with it.
The Flying Lesson
The best bit…!
You will not be expected to get it perfect in the beginning but you will progress faster if you listen to your instructor and follow instructions as accurately as possible. This requires you to listen and apply a great deal of concentration.
Your lessons will be kept short to begin with so not to overload you. Each lesson will become longer as the course progresses. It is likely that you will feel tired after your first few lessons. This will pass as you become more familiar with the flying environment.
Don’t worry if things seem daunting at first. You will eventually become familiar with the instruments and the controls. You are not expected to learn everything immediately.
In the first few flights your instructor will be assessing you for aptitude. If things go hopelessly wrong your instructor may suggest that flying is unsuitable for you. Try not to be offended if this is the case – flying isn’t for everyone.
Post flight brief should be short and sweet and cover the good and bad points of the flight. These points will be noted in your training record. They are a useful reference and can highlight where you might need to concentrate that little extra effort. Every one has a weakness that needs to be overcome. It just takes perserverence!
I was to told by my mentor that debriefs I give should be like a shit sandwich Good point-Bad point-Good point, to keep the student’s confidence up.
There are some occasions if student is very lazy or actually has no real interest in flying, this is rare but can happen especially if parents push their children too hard.
On occasion medical reasons may cause a problem or the student becomes too nervous to continue flying. A good instructor will try to overcome nerves but sometimes it is better to give up than spend a fortune trying.
Unscrupulous instructors or schools will let you carry on regardless knowing that you will spend a fortune before you give up. If you are not making progress you must change to another instructor as soon as possible. It may be the case that a different instructor is better suited to you, just better, or that your new instructor will advise you not to waste any more money.
Okay, the bit that puts some people off. There is some additional hard work involved with gaining your PPL. But don’t worry you will pass them if love flying because you will enjoy learning about them!
The course for a JAR-PPL involves seven ground examinations.
These examinations are all highly relevant and the knowledge you gain will be used in the air. The examinations are all set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and are arranged into the following subjects:
- Air Law & Operational Procedures
- Flight Performance and Planning
- Aircraft General Knowledge and Principles of Flight
- Human Performance and Limitations
These exams are nothing to worry about, 100% of my students passed them! You can either read the books or pay to have ground school – ideally both as the books alone can be a little hard going.
The Test Day.
You will probably feel like you are not ready to be examined. Nobody ever does, but your instructor will not let you take the test unless you are ready and likely to pass.
The test should be treated as another lesson. It seems like a lot to do but the examiner will lead you through every step of the way.
You will be introduced to your examiner who you may even know all ready. You will be thoroughly briefed before the test and asked to plan a short route. You will fly the first part of the route and then be asked to divert to somewhere unplanned. Once you have satisfied the examiner that you would reach the diversion destination you will be asked to demonstrate some general handling.
You will recover from three stalls, demonstrate a steep turn, practice a forced landing in a field without power (you won’t actually land) and fly using some basic instrument techniques.
The examiner will observe your use of the radio and any navigation aids you may have on board. If you successfully complete all these things you will fly back to your flying school and demonstrate two touch and goes and one landing. Each approach will have a different landing configuration; normal (with flaps), flapless (self explanatory), and a glide approach (without power).
At some point you will be asked to demonstrate what to do with an engine failure just after takeoff.
You will land taxi back, shutdown and the examiner will congratulate you on a good flight.
The rest is loads of paperwork, payment to the CAA and a long wait for the return of your shiny new licence.