Learning To Fly - All Your Questions Answered
The No Nonsense, Up Front, In-Detail Truth About Learning To Fly - And How To Keep Costs Down!
What Licences Can I Train For?
There are two versions of the Private Pilot’s Licence in the UK. The PPL(A), which requires a minimum of 45 hours flight training, and the LAPL(A), which requires a minimum of 30 hours training.
There are subtle differences between the privileges of the two, but both cover you to fly almost all single engine light aircraft (up to four seats) throughout the UK, and you can go on to add things like a Night Flying Rating, Aerobatic Rating, Seaplane or Mountain Flying ratings, and differences training for vintage tailwheel aircraft etc.
In simple terms, you will need a PPL(A) if you intend to go on to commercial training, fly larger aircraft with more than four seats or more than one engine, or fly elsewhere in the world.
However, a LAPL(A) can be converted to a PPL(A) at any point by simply completing the additional 15 hours of flying (there is virtually no difference between the two in terms of the training syllabus). It’s all bureaucracy gone mad...
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How Long Will It Take?
Be wary of anyone who tells you, for example, that you can get your PPL(A) in 45 hours. That is a minimum time. It all depends on personal experience, aptitude, and the frequency of training. Whilst we have had many students that have achieved either Licence in the minimum time, the UK average for a PPL(A) seems to 50-60 hours. And 35-40 for a LAPL(A).
Your flight training can fit around your lifestyle. We are open seven days a week. Some students come for 2-4 hours flying a few days a week, some once a month. Most have a lesson once a week or once a fortnight.
Do bear in mind however that you will be indulging in your new passion from day one, and the course includes a number of hours flying all on your own both locally and to other airfields (where endless chat with other pilots and fantastic breakfasts/cakes are aplenty).
It’s not like learning to drive where it is simply a means to an end. Often, we have to give students a gentle “kick up the backside” to get on with taking the flight test for a licence! How many hours training it takes is never as important to you once you are well into the course as it normally seems to be at the beginning.
We do find that flying any less than once a week (with the caveat that it never works out that way with weather etc – so really 2-4 times each month), then the total time to get your licence may increase, as you may have to spend part of a lesson recapping what you did last time – especially if you’re booking once a month or less.
You'll Need One Of These...
How Much Will It Cost?
As far as costs go, we have followed the time-honoured aviation tradition of making it as confusing as possible 😉. Whilst a typical lesson – especially during the first half of the course, demands a two-hour slot, there will be about an hour of flying each time (the rest for relaxing, looking cool in RayBans, eating biscuits, briefing and debriefing). “Pay as you go” rates are around £195 per hour. You only pay for time in the aircraft. The meter is ticking only whilst the engine is running.
There are substantially discounted rates (down to £153 per hour) available for a higher level of commitment or for paying for blocks of lessons in advance. Take a look at our Fleet & Rates page for more details, and the Learn To Fly Offers page for the latest special deals.
What About Those Extra Little Costs No-One Has Told Me About?
You will need to budget around £900 over the course for materials, navigation equipment, licencing fees, medical fees and test fees etc. That's pretty standard wherever you go, although a lot of this is included in the aforementioned packages dependent on how you decide to pay for your training.
If you look around a few schools and airfields, you will notice many other little additional costs come up like landing fees, fuel surcharges, informal ground school, and even car parking!
At Coventry Airport, for example, a number of operators charge £10-£15 per landing on top of dual training rates. This can get expensive - especially in the "Circuit" (5-7 take-offs and landings in an hour to practice these procedures). And because of noise and air traffic restrictions there, many students have to transit to (and pay for) other arfields to undertake circuit work.
We do not charge our students for coffee, snacks, home airfield landing/circuit fees, temporary memberships, barbecues, nor any of the other little “gotcha’s” you may come across.
What Aircraft Do I Get To Fly?
You can choose between very stable and classic Piper PA-28's or Cessna 172’s which are both four seaters, or brand-new state of the art composite two-seater trainers with full glass cockpit - the Pipistrel Virus SW121. Again, details on our Fleet & Rates page.
Because the rates are the same for all aircraft at Flightpath, you can try each type and settle on your favorite - consistency of aircraft type is one of the keys to keeping costs down and progress up.
What About Theory Tests?
There are theory tests to complete. They cover subjects such as Air Law, Meteorology, Flight Planning etc., and students tend to take them at the appropriate time during the course, rather than all at once.
There are a couple of excellent publishers of books on each subject, which flying schools usually carry a stock of (and are included in the current package offers – did I mention those?!). There are also excellent online resources such as the app PPL Tutor, which provide both easy to digest reference cards and mock tests based on the actual exam questions.
With these resources, and a bit of ad-hoc assistance from your instructor on bad weather days for any area you don’t quite understand, these are not complicated tests (typically 12-16 multiple choice questions for each subject), and do not take a lot of time to study for.
So you won’t need to put aside hours of study time, just read through the material as you would any book in your spare time. It’s unusual to not pass each exam at the first attempt.
I've Heard You Need To Have A Medical To Fly?
A CAA Class Two Medical is required before first solo, and is no more onerous than a typical life insurance medical, and there is generally nothing invasive involved. Further information can be found via https://www.caa.co.uk/General-aviation/Pilot-licences/Applications/Medical/Apply-for-a-Class-2-medical-certificate/. For the LAPL(A), you can now “self-certify” if you prefer, avoiding the need for any medical exam but restricting your flying to UK airspace only.
How Do I Choose The Right School For Me?
Always remember that you are doing this for your enjoyment, and it’s your money you are spending.
What a licence actually costs (despite variations of maybe £5-£10 per hour between schools' PAYG rates), how long a licence takes to achieve, and how much fun you have getting there, depends rather a lot on how well you get on with your instructor, like the aeroplane, and how much you enjoy being around the school you are learning with - and consistency with all of it.
Many schools will not talk to you about a LAPL(A), for example. Certainly not at the outset - for one simple reason. They make more money from you teaching the PPL(A). That kind of short-term money-grabbing attitude should tell you all you need to know about such a school…
Look out for those little hidden costs discussed earlier. Or schools that book you only an hour and a half slot to try to get an hour's flight in (rushed "sausage factories" as we like to call them...). Or schools that cannot guarantee continuity of an instructor you get on well with.
Websites are great, but nothing beats visiting a few schools and talking to staff and students alike. If you get ignored, made to feel like you’re intruding, get charged for coffee, or generally get an uncomfortable feeling, you’ll know it’s not the place for you! Admittedly that’s a little difficult to do these days – but common sense and gut feel should prevail.
There’s a lot to think about and maybe longer answers to “how do I learn to fly?” than you may have been expecting. However, this can be an expensive hobby or route to a new career, and we like to think we should cover all the information you need to know.
You are welcome to visit Flightpath anytime and discuss the options in detail, or get in touch if you have any further questions.
Whatever you decide, we hope you take up flying and we see you around the sky. Best of luck!
....To Do This.
Anyone Can Do It!
First Time Solo Is Life-Changing - And Time Honoured Traditions Are Observed...
Nobody Is Happier Than A Newly Licenced Pilot!
You Never Know Where Life Will Take You At Flightpath!