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How to Become a Private Pilot? A Step-by-Step Guide

2 December 2016 by  | 

Boy wearing old-fashioned aviator hat, scarf and goggles holding a wooden biplane up in the air with sunset

Private pilots are people who just love flying, really love flying. Their passion for flying powers the determination and effort required to gain a private pilot’s license. The license gives the holder the freedom to travel almost anywhere and see The World in new and exciting ways.

To become a pilot you need to gain a Pilot’s Licence.

The European Pilot Licence (PPL) is recognised in Europe and worldwide, thanks to the new EU FCL regulations. Whether you hold a UK-issued PPL, or any other European PPL, you may pilot any aircraft with a European JAA-registration worldwide.

The easiest flight qualification to get is a private pilot’s license, which means flying a small or ‘light’ aircraft, along with the ability to carry passengers without charging or earning any money the flight. The cost of a Private pilot licence cost may vary depending on where you do it.

To become a licensed private pilot and gain your PPL, the following steps are recommended:

Step 1: Take an introductory flight:

If you have never flown in a small aircraft before then you need to try it at least once. Find a flight school in your area and arrange a trial flight with an instructor. Don’t hesitate to ask a lot of questions!

Step 2: Meeting the required medical standards

Firstly, you must be over 17 years old. Secondly, you must obtain a ‘Class 2’ Medical certificate, which can be used for private use only. Note that conditions such as asthma, diabetes and colour vision deficiencies are some of the areas that can lead to failure to meet the required medical standard. You should confirm that you meet the required medical standard prior to investing in flight training. The loss of a medical certificate for whatever reason (e.g. decrease in medical fitness) will invalidate your pilot licence and the privileges of that licence. Be advised that once you have a medical certificate it is your personal responsibility to notify the issuing authority if you suffer from any condition which is likely to affect the validity of the certificate.

Step 3: Meeting theoretical knowledge requirements

Find a flight school in your local area to study and pass a pretest.

The first step in training is to study several theoretical subjects and take exams in them. The required pass mark is usually around 70-75% (check with your national authority) and the format is multiple choice.

The required theory subjects are:

  • Air law and ATC procedures
  • Aircraft general knowledge
  • Flight Performance and Planning
  • Human Performance and Limitations
  • Meteorology
  • Navigation
  • Operational Procedures
  • Principles of Flight
  • Communications

Step 4: Completion of flight training

Your PPL(A) flight instruction will cover the following:

  • pre-flight operations
  • aerodrome and traffic pattern operations, collision avoidance
  • control of the aeroplane by visual reference
  • flight at abnormal flight conditions and recovery
  • normal and crosswind take-offs and landings
  • maximum performance take-offs and short field landings
  • instrument flying
  • cross country flying
  • emergency operations
  • operations to and from controlled aerodromes, compliance with air traffic procedure

Step 5: Required logged flight experience

This varies significantly from one licence level to another but typically requires you to have spent at least 45 hours in the air to gain your PPL.

Step 6: Continuation to Commercial Flight Training

Many individuals want to take their flying to the next level and you can do additional training after your PPL right up to the commercial (ATPL) level. This is a significant expense and undertaking and you are strongly advised to do lots of research before going down this path (see https://www.balpa.org/Becoming-a-pilot )

There are two main types of course delivery; integrated and modular.

  • The Integrated Course is a highly structured and focused course where a student goes from zero flying experience to completion (Frozen ATPL) in typically 14 to 18 months. To be eligible for this course the candidate must first pass an assessment to ensure that he/she is capable of completing in such a short period of time. Then he/she must be able to commit to training every day, 5 days per week, and adhere to a strict training regime. This course is not always suitable for everyone.
  • The Modular Course is designed for individuals who do not wish to undertake a full time course of study or who wish to “stagger” their training. The course can be completed in several modules over a period of time which is more suited to the trainee. People who have other commitments and cannot train 5 days every week find this method more suitable.

Read how to become a Commercial Pilot:



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