Flying for the first time?
SO YOU WANT to learn to fly. What do you do? Simple - go flying! Look up a flying school and book a trial lesson. All flying schools offer these.
The flight will be with a qualified flying instructor who will brief you on what to expect, how the controls work and what to do if there is an emergency. He/she will handle the take-off and landing but you will take the controls at some point.
Flying straight and level, turning, climbing and descending are fairly easy if you have reasonably good coordination. The hard parts are landings, procedures and learning the theoretical knowledge.
If you enjoyed the trial lesson and like the school, talk to the instructor or school manager about the full PPL course. There are a few things to consider when choosing a flying school.
A big school at a busy airfield will probably have more facilities and resources but the downside could be time spent waiting to take off. Busy airfields have more procedures and stricter radiotelephony (R/T) but at least you'll quickly become accustomed to dealing with Air Traffic Control (ATC).
A smaller, less busy airfield will have simpler R/T procedures and you'll get airborne more quickly. Circuit flying is also less hectic and smaller airfields often have a more sociable atmosphere.
Whatever your choice of flying school, try to select one that not only suits you but which is conveniently located. You don't want to have to drive two hours each way for a one-hour lesson. There may be opportunities to go flying at short notice when the weather is better than forecast or when another pilot has had to cancel.
Many schools offer a complete PPL package. These offers are worth looking into but before paying upfront, satisfy yourself that you're happy to fly with the school. It may take six months - sometimes more - to complete a PPL course. If you have any doubts, don't pay a large sum up front. Take a few lessons first.
When you sign up for a PPL course, take along photo ID and a utility bill with your name and address. The police now require flying schools to identify potential pilots.
For a JAR PPL(A) you must complete a minimum of 45 flying hours, of which up to five hours can be completed on an approved flight simulator. Do not be surprised if you need more than 45 hours - most people do. It's a good idea to budget for around 55 hours.
The course contains a minimum of 25 flying hours dual instruction and ten hours supervised solo flight time. The solo flying includes one cross-country flight of at least 150nm during which you must make two landings at two different aerodromes away from your home airfield.
The minimum of 25 hours dual instruction (with the instructor sitting next to you) will take place mostly in the local training area and will be broken down into set exercises: flying straight and level, climbing and descending, circuits including take-offs and landings, stall recovery, recovery from unusual attitudes, steep turns, navigation and so on.
There are sticking points, as you might expect. The first major hurdle is to be able to land the aircraft. For all pilots, even the most experienced, landings are a cross between science and art, something to be practised. Rarely are two landings the same.
Once you are competent at landing the aircraft, the next big stage is the first solo. There is no set number of flying hours for this. It will come when your instructor has worked with you through all the elements of flying a complete circuit. He and the CFI need to be sure you could also cope with an engine failure resulting in a forced landing. They have to be sure you can perform a go-around if required, and that you can operate the radio.
Bit by bit, your flying instructor will brief you to do more challenging flying, including leaving the circuit on carefully planned cross-country flights. A good instructor will be stretching you but also thoroughly checking your pre-flight planning.
At the same time, you'll also be working your way through the theoretical knowledge. You'll need the relevant textbooks, available singly or in packages from pilot shops. Make sure the books are current; details do change.
There are seven written exams to study for and pass for the JAR PPL(A):
Aviation Law & Operational Procedures
Human Performance & Limitations
Navigation & radio Aids
Aircraft (General) & Principles of Flight
Flight Performance & Planning
Before you can fly solo you must have passed Aviation Law (and have also passed the medical). Most flying schools will run their own 'ground school', with instructors going through the textbooks with you, and there are also Computer-Based Training DVDs available.
All these items will be recorded on your student record, along with hours flown and regular progress reports by your instructor.
The aim of the PPL training course is to pass the Skill Test. This is a thorough, demanding flight with an examiner. Before your flying school enters you for the test, you will have completed the full syllabus, both flying and ground school.
There is a checklist of everything required on the day in a very useful document issued by the CAA, Notes for the Guidance of Applicants Taking the PPL Skill Test, available on the CAA website, www.caa.co.uk.
Pass the Skill Test and, well done, you're a pilot!
The training course for learning to fly a helicopter follows a very similar syllabus as for fixed-wing aircraft (above). It's just that the controls for a helicopter and the way it flies are completely different!
You have to fly a minimum of 45 hours for the PPL(H), with a similar progress through various exercises and ground exams. You never seem to have enough hands at first when flying a helicopter and what seems to be the simplest operation - hovering - is one of the most difficult!
But don't let this put you off. Flying a helicopter is a wonderful experience and the ability to land and take-off almost anywhere make sit a hugely practical aircraft.
Gliding in the UK is administered by the British Gliding Association with a network of very active clubs all over the UK. There's a useful "club finder" page on the BGA's website, www.gliding.co.uk
As with other forms of flying, you can buy anything from a single trial flight to a full course for gliding.
The only age limit is that you have to be 16 to go solo, and you will need your GP to sign a medical declaration that you are fit to fly.
Gliding has a 'Badge' system of flying qualifications, and achieving the various levels allows you to do more sorts of flying. For instance, you need the Bronze Badge to go for the UK Cross-country Endorsement which allows you to fly cross-country.
To get the Bronze Badge you need:
50 solo flights or 20 solo flights and 10 solo hours.
Two soaring flight of 30 minutes each (if launched by winch car or bungee) or 60 minutes each (if from an aerotow not exceeding 2000 feet).
At least 3 check flights in a dual-control glider with a Full-rated instructor.
Pass multiple choice written Air Law and General papers (on airmanship, meteorology, principles of flight, radiotelephony, navigation).
Further Badges are Silver, Gold and Diamond which are all internationally recognised and allow you to fly in competitions.
UK Civil Aviation Authority
British Gliding Association