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Private Pilot Licence Introduction
I remember being on the airfield in Barton in Manchester midway during my PPL getting increasingly frustrated as the autumn months approached. My PPL’s progress had stagnated as the winter months began to set in.
There were multiple issues: the airfield was waterlogged; the weather was not suitable; there were no instructors available – the list goes on.
Although I had been lucky to receive my PPL flight training completely free by winning a PPL scholarship with the Honorable Company of Air Pilots, they were now threatening to cancel my PPL scholarship because of the lack of progress.
I was apprehensive for a while as losing the scholarship would have been devastating as I could not afford the training independently. At the same time, I was trying to get settled into my graduate job as an engineer, and dealing with repaying the huge uni debt pile – quite a tough time to be honest.
In this blog post, I will do my best to share some of the critical issues to consider to get your Private Pilot Licence to try to save you the stress, worry and financial anguish in getting your PPL.
Flight training is expensive enough as it is – and I want you to avoid having the same struggles that I had during my PPL. I will share essential items to consider to increase your chances of successfully achieving your Private Pilot Licence and minimising the agro.
What is a private pilot licence?
A private pilot licence allows you to fly a small single-engine piston aircraft typically with two to four seats in good weather with your family and friends. A critical aspect of your private pilot licence is that you cannot earn any money from flying.
The PPL is a great tool to have, and you will have a lot of fun with your family and friends exploring the various places you want to visit. The freedom that a private pilot licence give is just amazing!
How do you get a PPL?
1) Book a PPL trial lesson
Before you dive in and spend loads of money on flying lessons that may not be for you, the first step is to go and complete a ‘trial flight’ first. A trial lesson will allow you to get a feel for what flight training will be like and if it is for you, i.e. do you have the aptitude for it?
2) Private pilot licence medical requirements – Book your medical
If you wish to complete an EASA PPL (European standard), you will need a CAA Class 2 medical as a minimum. If you have aspirations to fly professionally, you will eventually need an EASA Class 1 medical, but this is not immediately necessary at PPL level.
A class 2 medical will generally cost between £300-400. A class 1 medical will cost around £550-£800 depending on where you get it completed and if additional tests are needed.
I will do a separate blog post on class 1 and class 2 medicals. It is worth bearing in mind that class 2 medical are slightly more forgiving with longer validity periods. Class 1 medical revalidation is every 12 months (as a minimum).
The timeline shortens the older you get.
3) Finding a flying school – What factors do you need to consider when selecting a flying school for your private pilot licence?
Have a look online for the flying school that is closest to you. A few things to consider when choosing a flying school:
- What is instructor availability like? You do not want to enrol with a flying school that does not have any instructors on Mondays when you work shifts and your day off falls on a Monday!
- Is there a big waiting list? The good schools are usually busy, and you have to book weeks in advance. Use your common sense though. If it is taking days for the flying school to return your calls and there is no availability for 6 months, then look elsewhere!
- How high is the airfield elevation? The higher the airfield, the worse the weather tends to be, e.g. Leeds Bradford Airport!!
- Is the airfield grass strip or tarmac? Both are fine and good for training – be mindful that if doing your PPL during the winter, grass strips tend to suffer and have to close from time to time if there has been a lot of rain, e.g. Barton!
- Is the flying school located at a busy airport like Liverpool? Whilst the experience of mixing with the big jets is fun, mainstream airports will prioritise commercial jet traffic over you.
- So you may find that you are wasting your money orbiting in the sky because you keep having to get out of the way for commercial traffic. Also, the procedures at larger airports are more complex, and typically add a few extra hours (and cost) to a given PPL student.?
There is no perfect flying school; you have to find a good compromise between all the factors (distance, price, availability etc.) to suit your specific situation regarding your flight training objective.
What are the PPL requirements?
The PPL flight training consists of a minimum of 45hours of instruction of which 25 of those have to be dual (you and the instructor) and 10 hours of supervised solo.
As part of the flying, you have to complete a solo qualifying cross-country flight of 150NM (270km) round trip landing at two different airfields from the one of departure. The qualifying cross country flight is a significant milestone for any PPL student.
You have nine theoretical exams to complete in a range of subjects ranging from Air law to meteorology. There are 9 PPL Ground school theoretical knowledge exams to complete.
PPL exam list & study books:
- Air law (See it on Amazon)
- Human performance (See it on Amazon)
- Meteorology (See it on Amazon)
- Communications (See it on Amazon)
- Principles of flight (See it on Amazon)
- Operational procedures (See it on Amazon)
- Flight performance and planning (See it on Amazon)
- Aircraft general knowledge (See it on Amazon)
- Navigation (See it on Amazon)
Your flight instructors at your school will be able to point you in the right direction for ground school. The first subject that you will need to pass is air law before being allowed to fly solo.
Most schools offer PPL ground school lessons for an additional fee if you are struggling with any PPL exam subjects. Check out my PPL flight training equipment complete guide if you are wondering what you may need equipment-wise.
How long does it take to get a private pilots licence?
It took me around nine months to complete my PPL. This was the weekend flying only with a significant amount of the time spent waiting for the weather to clear in the winter! If you can enrol on a PPL course full time, it can quickly be completed over 2-3 months during the summer months if the weather behaves.
Top tip: Don’t do your PPL slowly. You will end up wasting your money as you will have to repeat lessons if you leave too much of a gap between flying.
How much does an EASA PPL cost?
An EASA PPL costs anywhere from around £7,500- £10,000 in the UK. The price depends on where you complete your PPL and what type of aircraft you complete your private pilot licence on. Interested in progressing your PPL further?
Check out my best selling Pilot Training Guide on Amazon.
What did I use to study for my PPL ground school?
I used the POOLEYS PPL books – links listed above in the ground school section. My ground school was augmented with some classroom instructor lessons for the PPL Exam subjects I was unsure about or struggled with.
Top tip as this really helped me: even if the weather was not flyable, I would still go to the flying school. I would then use the rainy days to progress my ground school.
The bonus was that if the weather suddenly improved, I could take advantage of any flying window. This may be a good way for you to progress your PPL ground school and get those PPL exams done!
Are you thinking about starting your PPL, and do you have any questions about the process? Please leave me a comment in the section below – I would love to hear from you.
Kudzi Chikohora is a B737 pilot with around 2,000 hours flying in Europe. He holds a masters degree in Aerospace Engineering and is a chartered engineer and a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Kudzi completed his pilot training via the self funded modular pilot training route and created kcthepilot.com to share pilot training and aviation content.