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Answering six key questions about getting a private pilot’s licence


If you are serious about learning to fly then you will probably first be interested in getting a private pilot’s licence. This is the standard licence needed for flying light aircraft by yourself. Here we take a look at the specifics of getting your licence include how long it is likely to take you, how much you will spend in the process, and what it’s like to actually be up there in the sky.

How long does learning take?

The official minimum number of hours of tuition to complete a private pilot’s licence (PPL) is 45 hours, however in practice it is a little bit different. Most pilots need somewhere between 55 and 60 hours of training in order to feel confident and ready to pass the test. This might not sound like a lot of time, but depending on how free time you have available, the process could ultimately take anything from a number of weeks to more than two years.

Of course, it should also be mentioned that there are two aspects to the test for a PPL: the practical and the theory. This means that you need to put some time into learning the theoretical side of the test.

How expensive is it?

The actual cost of getting your PPL can vary quite significantly due to a huge range of factors. However, it would be sensible to budget somewhere between £6,000 and £10,000 for the total cost. Clearly one of the major factors determining the cost is the price you get from flight schools for your lessons. This is why it can be wise to look around your local area for the best deal.

You can find experienced schools offering flying lessons all across the UK so you won’t have to travel far to get somewhere suitable for you.

Do you need to be an expert in maths and physics?

Some people worry that the PPL test will be simply too complicated and advanced for them. The truth is that it is not too challenging and mostly relies on common sense, as well as doing a bit of reading, as well all of the learnings from your flying lessons.

You might assume that you need an in-depth knowledge of maths and physics but this is not the case. The maths that you need to understand to pass the test is fairly basic, in fact if you hold a maths GCSE you have everything you need already.

Is it scary?

Another worry for many people who are considering learning to fly is that the experience will be scared. The first thing to say is that obviously everyone is different, and possibly if you have a fear of flying it is probably sensible to work on this first, but most people don’t find the experience of being in a light aircraft frightening. Even for those are scared of heights, the experience of being in a plane is different.

Remember that you will have a highly experienced instructor alongside you throughout the process of learning, and will only take on solo flying when you are ready. If you enjoy driving then you will probably enjoy flying.

What is the hardest part of flying a plane?

There is one aspect of flying that almost every pilot will agree on: the hardest part of flying a plane is landing correctly, especially if there is cross-wind. Getting the landing right takes real precision and the ability to control the plane in three dimensions. It is also a difficult thing to describe how to do – getting the landing right involves experience in mastering plane position, speed, and other factors such as wind.

Where do you get a plane?

Of course, one of the major issues when you have successfully achieved your PPL is what you are going to fly. It is most common for PPL pilots to use aircrafts that are owned by syndicates (with a group of other pilots). This not only reduces the cost of buying the plane, but also significantly lessens the expense of maintenance and storage.

Buying a light aircraft outright is expensive, even the most basic, second-hand model will typically cost in excess of £20,000.

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