learning to fly

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Learning to fly guide

PPL Mania’s guide on getting your PPL licence
Added: 03 July 2005

If you have never looked in to about learning to fly and you have just started today or you are in the early stages of your PPL or perhaps you are just curious about flying, you have come to the right place to find out more. PPL Mania has put together valuable information to prepare you for what to expect when obtaining your PPL licence. We discuss what you need to do to take you from your first trial flight to becoming a fully fledged Private Pilot Licence holder.

Let’s start be looking at the cost as it is probably one of the most important factors people consider when deciding on embarking on getting a private pilot licence. You can expect to pay from between £4500 to £6000 to do your PPL (in the UK that is). Each flying school offers different services in their quoted PPL price. We do encourage you to find out exactly what you get for your money and to compare this to say 3 other flying schools within the area.

About the PPL training

If you have never flown before in a light aircraft, it is a good idea to experience a taster of what to expect before committing to lessons. Nearly all flight schools offer trial lessons lasting for either 30 minutes, or one hour. You can also carry out a ‘Land Away’ option consisting of a lesson with a landing at another airfield, followed by a further lesson on your return trip back to your initial departing airfield. These costs will depend on the destination of your ‘land away’. Obviously, the further away the other airfield is, the more expensive it will become.

The purpose of your trial lesson is to introduce you to the joy of flying. On the day you will be given a pre-flight talk on how the airplane works and how you will be able to control it. You will then go out to the aircraft with your instructor who will show you around the outside and inside of the aircraft, before starting up the airplane to taxy.

During your first lesson, the instructor will start to teach you how to fly, and you will be able to see if learning to fly is what you would like to do. At the end of the lesson, you will usually be issued a certificate, with all the details of your flight. Do ensure that you keep a hold of this.

If after the trial lesson you catch the ‘flying bug’ then the training for your PPL will follow a structured progressive path. The course is based upon the Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) program, which is divided into two parts. One part concerns the theoretical knowledge required (ground exams) and the other is the actual flight training. The good news here is that your trial lesson will count towards the course requirements and it will be the very first entry in your PPL logbook.

You can expect the whole PPL course duration (weather and personal circumstances permitting) to be between 4 to 18 months.

The PPL Flying Syllabus

Everyone who studies for their PPL finds the flight training part of the course the most exciting; you should be aware that you will need a great deal of determination, motivation and patience, particularly in the early stages.
During your flying training you will have to complete a minimum flight time of 45 hours. Of this 45 hours, a minimum of 25 hours will be under dual instruction, and at least 10 hours of solo flying must be carried out including at least 5 hours solo ‘cross country’ time; this will include a qualifying ‘cross country’ flight of at least 270 km (150 nm), during which you will land at two aerodromes other than your home airfield
The minimum dual and minimum solo hours equal 35 hours, which leaves 10 hours to be completed as either dual or solo flight, or partly of each.
Prior to each flight throughout the course, whether dual or solo, you will have a detailed pre-flight brief with your instructor, who will go through each element of the exercise. After the flight, there will be a thorough debrief, when you will be encouraged to discuss the flight with your instructor and when he/she will answer any questions you may have.
The early parts of your training will be spent in local areas around your home airfield, when you will learn how to handle the airplane is a safe fashion. This is followed by ‘circuit training’, this is where you learn how to take-off and land the airplane safely. When you have confidently flown your first solo circuit, you will then progress learning how to navigate your aircraft from point to point. A description of the air exercises that you will be instructed in to meet the JAA requirements are listed below.

 Exercise Exercise Topic
 1 Familiarisation with the aeroplane
 1E Emergency drills
 2 Preparation for and action after flight
 3 Air experience
 4 Effects of controls
 5 Taxiing
 5E Taxiing emergencies
 6 Straight and level flight
 7 Climbing
 8 Descending
 9 Turning
 10A Slow flight
 10B Stalling
 11 Spin avoidance
 12 Take-off and climb to down-wind position
 13 Circuit, approach and landing
 12/13E Emergencies (on take-off/landing)
 14 First solo
 15 Advanced turning
 16 Forced landing without power
 17 Precautionary landings
 18A Navigation
 18B Navigation at lower levels and reduced visibility
 18C Radio navigation
 19 Basic instrument flight

There are no real age limits in learning to fly. Providing you are 14 years old or over, you can log all your flying towards the PPL course, although you must be at least 16 years old to be able to fly solo. The minimum age for the issue of a PPL is 17 years. But you can never be too old! All pilots must undergo an aviation medical (Class 2 for PPLs) conducted by a CAA authorised medical practitioner – You can see a current list of names and addresses of AME’s (authorised medical examiners) at the CAA’s Safety Regulation Group website under the section ‘personnel licensing’. Check out the web links page on our site for the address. Providing you meet the JAR (Joint Aviation Rules) medical requirements, there is no upper age limit at all.

Theory Ground Exams

Learning how to fly the airplane is only one part of the course. There are a number of theory subjects, which you will need to know in some detail in order to pass seven written exams. The subject matter is not difficult, although at first glance there may seem to be quite a lot of it!

Nevertheless, having a good solid understanding of all aspects of aviation will make you a safe and competent pilot, as well as adding to the richness of a fascinating and fulfilling pastime.

Once you have taken your first written exam, you will need to complete the other six written exams within a 12 month period. However, you do have 24 months from the date of that first pass in which to complete your flight training.

You will need to take each exam at a JAA registered examination centre; generally you will take the exams at the flight school or at other JAA registered examination centres. The exam topics are:

• Air Law (Must be passed before doing your first solo flight).
• Human Performance and Limitations
• Meteorology
• Navigation
• Flight Performance and Planning
• Aircraft General and Principles of Flight
• Radio Telephony

All written examinations are in a multiple-choice format, with a pass mark of 75%. Most students choose to work towards the written exams under a programme of self-study, with guidance from their instructor. You can, however, use the ground school at your flight school for brushing up on those areas where you may wish for a little extra knowledge. There is also a practical Radio Telephony exam, which must be carried out at an authorised R/T Examination centre.

Completing your PPL licence

Once you have completed your flight training and all the written exams, and you have reached a safe and competent standard, your instructor will put you forward for the final test – the Skills test. This is conducted by an authorised CAA examiner. If you have completed the course and prepared yourself well, you will have no problem with this final test. Once you pass, your flight school will provide you with test certificate which you will send to the CAA for your PPL licence application. After approximately 2 to 3 weeks your PPL license should arrive.

Subject to certain conditions (which will be covered during your course of training), your privileges as a PPL holder will be to act, but not for remuneration (that is you can’t get paid), as pilot-in-command or co-pilot of any airplane engaged in non revenue flights, in weather conditions called Visual Meteorological Conditions, (also known as VMC).

Maintaining your PPL licence

Once you have your licence there are a number of things you will need to do to keep your licence valid and therefore legal. As a general rule, you will need to have completed a minimum of 12 hours flying within a 2 year period, with at least 12 hours being flown in the last 12 months of that period. You will also require a check out with an instructor every six months to ensure you haven’t acquired any bad habits. Your medical must also remain valid in order to keep your PPL licence current.

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