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Learning To Fly
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Ever since I was a young boy I had wanted to learn to fly. I was a bit of a plane spotting nerd and could name almost any aeroplane on sight. While at school, I also enrolled in subjects which I didn’t particularly like, such as maths and physics, so that I could hopefully one day fulfil my ambition of being an airline pilot. Unfortunately that ambition didn’t materialise, but a few years back I was able to take some flying lessons and got my Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL).

To the layman, learning to fly a light aircraft might seem like something which is beyond their capabilities. However, if you are able to pass the required medical examination, can speak English, do simple arithmetic in your head, have the money and most importantly a passion for aviation, a Private Pilot’s Licence shouldn’t be out of your reach.

Your journey to becoming the holder of a PPL can be divided into seven steps:

1. Medical Examination If you don’t pass the Medical, there is no way you will be allowed to fly solo. The Medical Examination for PPL holders is not as stringent as that required of a Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL) holder. The doctors who carry out these examinations are approved by the Civil Aviation Authority in the country you wish to fly in, so you will have to do a bit of research to find approved doctors in your area.

2. Choose a Flying School I think it is important to choose a flying school which has a club attached to it, as there is nothing like sharing tales of your flying experiences with fellow pilots in the club’s bar afterwards. A flying school with a club is a great community to feel part of and will be a place to meet many like-minded people.

3. Ground School There is a lot of theory which aspiring pilots need to grasp. You have to know how to make radio calls correctly, have a basic understanding of how planes fly and know how to navigate an aircraft cross country. All these subjects and more are tested in a theory exam (usually multi-choice) which must be passed in order to be issued with a PPL.

4. Flying Manoeuvres It’s not all boring ground school! Before you are permitted to fly your first solo, you need to be able to control the aircraft in a safe manner. Some of the manoeuvres you need to master are

• Straight and level flight • Climbing and descending • Stalls • Banking/steep turns • Take offs and landings • Plenty of circuits!

This is by no means an exhaustive list. For example, there are a few landing techniques to learn such as flapless approaches and cross-wind landings which you will have to get to grips with, before you are permitted to fly your first solo.

5. The First Solo No pilot ever forgets their first solo and it will leave you feeling that you have truly accomplished something very special. When I was learning to fly it was certainly the moment when I started to have more confidence in my ability to fly an aircraft and gave me the belief that I had the skills required to get my PPL.

6. Cross Country Flying Trainee pilots normally fly their first solo after around 10-15 hours of flying time. After this momentous occasion, it will be time to build up your flying hours in the run up to your flying test. There will be much cross country flying, learning how to navigate with your flying instructor. There will also be the opportunity to fly some solo cross country trips to get your confidence up in preparation for the final step in your training.

7. The Flying Test The number of hours you will need to have flown in order to be considered for your PPL test, will vary from country to country, and it is ultimately up to your flying instructor to decide whether you are ready or not for your test. However, 40 hours flight time is the average for most countries. The flying test will be a cross country navigational exercise coupled with a test of the various flight manoeuvres you learnt in your training. The test will be with a flying instructor who is authorised to issue licences and should last around 60-90 minutes.

Once you have been awarded your PPL, you will be able to fly anywhere in the territory or country which issued your licence, under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). This means the weather has to meet certain minimum criteria. The weather has to be good enough to enable you to navigate with reference to the ground. Under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), the weather restrictions are less rigid and navigation is with reference to the flight instruments. In order to fly IFR, a pilot needs to undergo more training to get an instrument rating which is quite expensive and puts this type of flying out of the financial reach of your average private pilot.

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