Gaining a UK Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) will either be the first step on the road to becoming a professional pilot, opening many doors to the world of aviation, or it will simply allow someone to enjoy the thrill and fulfilment of light aircraft flying for pleasure.
The PPL course requires that students to fly a minimum of 45 hours, including 10 hours solo. Following successful completion of their training students will be required to pass a fight test with an examiner; this test will assess their ability to navigate as well as their general aircraft handling skills.
In addition to the flying training, students will be required to pass nine ground exams in the following subjects: Air Law, Operational Procedures, Communications, Meteorology, Navigation, Human Performance and Limitations, Flight Performance and Planning, Principles of Flight, Aircraft General Knowledge. These tests are the online multiple-choice format and require a 75% pass mark. A written and practical radio-telephony examination is also conducted to ensure that students are able to communicate correctly with Air Traffic Control and other aircraft.
Before their first solo flight, and as a prerequisite to the award of a PPL, students will have to undertake and pass a medical examination. For the PPL, this is termed the ‘Part M Class 2 Medical’, conducted by a specialist Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). It is prudent to book a medical, and confirm that the students holds the necessary standard, before commencing the PPL course or committing any expenditure.
The average time taken to achieve a PPL is around 60 hours, but how long a student takes will depend on their ability and ‘flying lesson frequency’. There is a well-known saying in flying training and that is “Continuity is Key to Success”. In other words, undertaking regular flying lessons will undoubtedly help students achieve the PPL in a shorter period of time, and probably at less overall cost.
An alternative licence to the UK PPL is the Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (LAPL) - which is less stringent in its requirements and requires fewer hours to obtain. The LAPL course requires a minimum number of 30 hours flying training but a navigational flight test and a general handling skills test are conducted at the end of the training period, making a total of approximately 35 hours. However, most students to take approximately 45 hours to complete the course if studying part-time.
The LAPL was developed for those private pilots who may only wish to fly for pleasure in Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) and it doesn’t allow the holder to add additional ratings to the licence such as the Instrument Rating (Restricted), known as the IR(R) - allowing flight in relatively poor weather conditions. However, night flying and aerobatic qualifications can be added to the LAPL
The written exams are the same as those for the UK PPL licence and again, students need to pass a simple medical carried out by a CAA Approved Medical Examiner (AME). Overall, there would be a saving in costs by undertaking the LAPL course compared with the PPL licence, but it is not the correct option if a student wishes to progress to a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) as part of a career-path. A LAPL can be ‘upgraded’ to a PPL, but the hours required to do so will be slightly more than the simple difference in hours between the two courses.
Most flying training is conducted in well-known light aircraft types such as a Piper or Cessna with excellent handling characteristics, ideal for the training environment. Student lessons will always include time for a comprehensive pre-flight brief, flying instruction, and, after their flight, time to de-brief the lesson and discuss any points that may have arisen. There is no time limit for the completion of the course, but it is recommended that students take regular lessons so as to avoid having to revise some exercises in the air as this will help keep the overall cost down.
All dual instruction (with the instructor sitting next to the student) 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, steep turns, navigation and so on. There are hurdles, the first of which is to be able to land the aircraft. For all pilots, even the most experienced, landings are a cross between science and art, and something to be practised and practised…. rarely are two landings the same.
During the initial phase of training, the goal is to develop the skills needed to inspect the aircraft before each flight, taxi to the runway, take off, fly around the airfield traffic pattern (circuit) and land the aircraft without the instructor’s help. To accomplish this, students need to understand many new concepts while learning some key terms from aviation’s vocabulary. As students work through each lesson their advancement will be recorded on their student record, along with their hours flown and of course regular progress reports by the instructor.
Once a student is competent at landing the aircraft, the next big event is their first solo flight. There’s no set number of flying hours for this - it will come when the instructor has worked with the student through all the elements of flying a complete circuit and are satisfied that they will be able to handle the aircraft safely in an emergency. There is no doubt that the first solo flight will leave students feeling elated and incredibly fulfilled by their achievement - a very special memory that will be etched in their mind forever!
As the student learns to fly, they will also be working their way through the necessary theoretical knowledge, not only as preparation for the nine exams they will be required to sit, but more importantly to acquire the fundamental knowledge base required to operate an aircraft in the ground and airborne environs. Most ground training will be self-study but there will also be a series of formal ground school classes, provided by an instructor to support the learning process.
Post-Solo Flying Training
After the first solo, there’s much more for students to learn and in most cases, they’ll fly some sessions with their instructor and others solo. During this stage of the training, students may feel like all they’re doing is practicing over and over but they’ll need to hone their skills as they prepare for the next milestone in their training.
Little by little, the flying instructor will introduce students to more challenging flying, including leaving the circuit and learning to fly on carefully planned cross-country flights. Students need to understand navigation and the weather, and learn to recognise when conditions are beyond their capabilities. For most student pilots, the cross-country phase brings a new rush of excitement as all the elements of the training come together and expands their aeronautical horizons, first with their instructor and then by themselves as they work towards the solo cross-country element of the PPL course.
The final stage consists of preparation and rehearsal where all manoeuvres are reviewed and their proficiency is raised to a higher standard. As flying training nears completion, the instructor will be working ever more closely with the student to identify and correct areas in which they may think the student needs a little more practice. By this time, the student will have completed the full syllabus of both flying training and ground school, and passed all of the required examinations. Only when the instructor is satisfied, will they recommend the student for the test.
The two-hour PPL skills test is carried out by a CAA approved flight examiner and is a very thorough and demanding flight designed to demonstrate that the student has acquired all of the necessary skills during their flying training.
Pass the test, and the student is now a qualified pilot ready to take on the skies!
Our Higher Education pathways provide Level 4 (HNC) and Level 5 (HND) technical qualifications for prospective pilots, air and space engineers and travel and tourism management. Find out more on our Higher Education webpage.
If you’re interested complete the form below and a member of the team will be in touch soon.