Tips for getting your PPL licence

Now that I have finished my PPL training I thought I would put together some tips for getting your PPL licence.
G-BMVB 030516
I remember clearly the first day I turned up to the airfield excited about what I was about to embark on. However throughout my time I picked up some tips that will help you when you are doing your licence.

  1. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing – I found that when I was at the school, I was looking at everyone else’s progress and then judging myself by it. “Oh that guy has gone solo in 12 hours I’m at 14, I must not be doing as good”
    Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, worry about what you are doing! If you go solo in 10, 15, 20, or 25 hours it really doesn’t matter. Everybody learns at a different rate and you will hit your milestones when you are ready.
    Furthermore you do not know everything about that person, they may have a background in aviation, be flying more often than you etc.
    Just take your time and focus on what you need to do.
  2. If you don’t like your instructor / school then change them / it! – I am lucky that my school and instructor(s) were all great! However if you are not getting on with where you are, then go somewhere else. This is your training and you have to be fully happy!
  3. Fly as often as you can – You will learn faster and pick things up if you are flying consistently, I would say you should fly at a minimum 2 times a week and ideally more if you can afford it.
  4. Get your medical early – After your first few lessons once you have decided it is something you want to do get your medical sorted out! Make sure you get a class 1 if you have any intentions of going commercial just so you know that you can get it.
  5. Hit the books – You need your air law exam done before you can fly solo so that is the first thing you should be studying. I personally think as soon as you sign up you should be studying for your exams, you will need them all done to send of for your licence.
  6. Make notes – Make sure that when you are told something you make notes, this will be good when you need to reference it later in your training.
  7. Chair fly / practice There is nothing wrong with practising at home in a chair as if you are in a plane. On top of this use any resources you can find online such as blogs (hint: this one), forums & YouTube.
  8. Don’t pay up front – Never, ever, ever, ever pay for an entire course up front. If you choose to ignore this advice then make sure you pay on a credit card.
  9. Don’t be afraid to speak up – If you are not happy with something or have forgotten, tell your instructor so he can go back over it with you. If you do not understand something then ask! I guarantee he would rather you ask then pretend you understand.
  10. Commit – I was working full-time and spent EVERY weekend at the airfield. It was a full on 7 months but I feel it helped to consolidate my learning.
  11. A cancelled lesson doesn’t mean a day off – Use the time wisely, study, go over manoeuvres, prepare for the next lesson.
  12. Network – Speak to the other students, they are going through the same thing as you and can understand more than anyone else your issues.
  13. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need – I am not a fan of the starter kits you get, especially if you are planning to go commercial. For instance why buy a kit with a CRP 1 when for your ATPL’s you need a CRP 5?
    Why buy a fuel tester and measure when you are renting the plane? Furthermore look for bargains, eBay and Amazon Marketplace saved me quite a few quid.

I hope this has helped and that you find these tips for getting your PPL licence useful!

Sacrifices during flight training

There will be a lot of sacrifices during flight training. This is a huge commitment that will stretch most people’s finances like they have never been stretched before. The sacrifices that need to be made are not just financial but will also stretch across your social life.

Coming into land

  1. Social Life – Your social life will take a hit and a lot of time will be spent at the airfield or with your head in books studying. You will have to pass on social events with friends and family and / or make sacrifices when you do go. For instance, I can count the amount of times I have gone out at the weekend with friends in 2016 on one hand. One of the reasons is as I work Monday-Friday, I fly Saturday and Sunday’s.
    Obviously you cannot drink and fly and alcohol effects performance so having a drink during my PPL was basically a no go, I would have had to take a weekend off which I do not want to do. On top of this I don’t really want to drink as flying is more important to me.
    On top of this there is a LOT of study you will have to do. In the PPL (private pilots licence) you need to study and pass 9 written exams and in the ATPL (Air Transport Pilot Licence) you must study and pass 14 which are even more difficult! They say the ATPL’s are an estimated 650 hours of study. On top of this there is a LOT of information to take in, so you really want to be on top of your game for this.
  2. Finances – Unless you are well off, your finances will be stretched to the limit. Even modular flight training will cost you the best part of £35,000+ so other things need to be put on the back burner. Things like new cars, holidays, expensive gadgets & even new clothes become a lot less important during this time.
    My advice is do not start on a whim, if you are going modular then make sure you have enough money to at least complete your PPL before you even start training.
  3. Time – Finding the time to study and fly is hard. Lunch breaks, before work, after work, your commute and especially your weekend all becomes study time.

If you commit to pilot training, be prepared to commit fully. It is not something that you can go into lightly, if you are not willing to make the sacrifices and are not willing to give it your all you will not succeed. This will take at least 18 months of your life as a bare minimum and could even take a few years. However in my opinion the sacrifices during flight training are well worth it as you get a sense of achievement when you tick off each stage of your training.

On a sad note, an Egypt Air A320 has gone missing this morning, my prayers for all on board.

The true cost of a PPL in the UK

There are a lot of variables that come into PPL training and a lot of things that you need to take into consideration before you decide to take the plunge. In this post I will go through the true cost of a PPL in the UK.
the true cost of ppl

So as you can see the total cost of my PPL was £10,067.23. Now this was a PPL taken with the intention of going commercial. So I did things such as get my class 1 medical and purchased a CRP 5 over a CRP 1, however these didn’t add a massive amount more onto the cost, maybe £250. You could also say my camera isn’t needed but that will only save you another £90.
My advise to you is to save the FULL cost of your PPL before starting (if you can), there are a few reasons for this.

  1. You learn faster is you can fly consistently. Once my class 1 was issued I was flying every weekend between 2 and 5 hours at a time. I could only fly at weekends due to work commitments midweek.
  2. Should you lose your job or something similar, you don’t want to stop training. By the time you go back to it you will be going over things you have already learned trying to remember how to do it.

As I mentioned before I got my class 1 medical before starting training. If you have any plans to go commercial I suggest you do this before parting with all this cash. If you cannot get your class 1 medical then you have no chance of being able to fly for an airline. The medical rules for a class 2 are less stringent so you may be able to be issued a class 2 which will allow you to get your PPL.
The second thing I say is to make savings where you can, for instance, don’t buy a CRP 1 because once you get to your ATPL’s you will need a CRP 5, so just buy the CRP 5 in the first place. Also try not to pay full price if you don’t have to, eBay and Amazon marketplace are great sources of both new and used products at a lower price than you will find them in the shop.
To sum it up, look at the TOTAL cost of your PPL before signing up, it is no good just looking at the cost of lessons when there are so many other things you have to consider. When I was training at my ATC controlled airport the cost of a lesson was £170 but all fees were included. Make sure you do not have to pay for circuits or landings as if you do, the lower fee could rise dramatically as you spend quite a long time in the circuit. The only landing fees I had were on my practice cross-country qualifier and then on the real thing.
Once you have your budget and your medical then commit to it and most importantly enjoy it!

Spin recovery

As part of my PPL I was looking forward to learning about spin recovery. When I asked my instructor when we was going to do this lesson, I was surprised that he replied that it is no longer in the syllabus.
This gave me some worry, if I was flying alone in the plane and got myself into a spin I would have no knowledge about how to go about recovering it and would pretty much be left to go spinning to the ground. Obviously I would do my best to recover but having the proper knowledge is better than guessing!
As this is something that I wanted to learn about, I decided to look online for information about spin recovery and the process you need to use to recover. I then came about this great video on YouTube that explains it all and shows you the process.
The video is from an American instructor but a plane is a plane so of course it will be applicable to everyone.

From what I can see to recover you do the following things.

  1. Power to idle.
  2. Ailerons to neutral.
  3. Apply opposite rudder.
  4. Push the nose down
  5. Recover as normal once you have straight and level flight.

I feel this is important knowledge even if it is not in the syllabus!

Happy landings everyone.

Choosing a flight school

Choosing a flight school is something that all trainee pilots should put a lot of thought into. You will be spending a lot of money and you want to make the chances of anything going wrong as small as possible.
Here are a list of things you should do when choosing a flight school.


  1. Visit the school – Ideally you should do more than just google “flight schools in X”.
    You need to go visit the school and get a feel for the place, you need to know what they can offer, what their instructors are like, what the management are like also.
    If you are doing a PPL then do a trial lesson, get a feel for the flying, the condition of the aircraft, the facilities.
    How many aircraft do they have? You don’t want to be in a position that if an aircraft goes in for repairs then you have to wait, or have lessons cancelled.
    This goes for both modular and integrated students.
  2. What can they offer you? My school is at a controlled airfield which I thought was pretty important and would help with my radio telephony. If I had chosen an airport with no ATC I may have needed to pay for ground school or a course to get up to speed.
    Speak to the chief flight instructor if possible, he should have no problems answering all of your questions.
  3. Google the school – Look for reviews online of people’s experiences, sometimes you get the honest reviews from students AFTER they have left. The reason for this is, they may feel like they cannot talk honestly while they are still enrolled at the school.
    On top of this look for reviews, check forums, blogs, social media etc to get a feel for the school.
  4. Speak to students – Following on from the last point, speak to current students. Get a feel for their opinion on what is happening, aircraft availability, training standards, management, instructors and also the environment.
    You may be based at the school for a very long time so you want an honest opinion on the place.
  5. Look at their placement record with airlines – While this doesn’t mean that you will get placed with an airline, if airlines are taking their students indicates that the airlines think that the training is up to a good level at least.
    It would be a bit worrying if they couldn’t point to any former students now flying with the airlines.
  6. Research the schools financial position – I am sure you have heard about Cabair, if you haven’t please have a read about them.
    Check to see if anyone is talking about the school having difficulties online.
    Also never forget the number 1 rule of flight training. Do not pay for a full course up front, ever.
    Also remember Credit Card -> Debit Card -> Cash. You have protections with the first two, you have very little protection with cash.
  7. Don’t choose only based on price – Yes price is important, but sometimes the headline figure can end up a lot higher. Do your research, what is included? Will you be charged for touch and goes? Will you be charged per landing? Are their approach fees?Are there any other hidden charges you have to pay?
  8. Weather – Look at the weather in that country when you are looking to train. For example if you wanted to do a PPL in the winter in the UK, prepare for a lot of cancelled lessons.

    If you consider all this advise I am sure you will pick the perfect flight school for you.

Why students quit flying

There are many reasons why students quit flying, while sometimes there is nothing that can be done other times the student can be talked through the issues they are going through.

Coming into land

  1. Money – Flying is very expensive and it is a lot of money going out, especially when you are still training. There is not a lot anyone can do if you can no longer afford to fly as nobody is going to let you up there for free. Situations change and if you need money flying will be one of the first things to go.
  2. Lack of confidence – If a student feels like they are not making progress or is struggling with parts of his training they might just pack it in.
    I remember early on in my training I felt like I was never going to be able to set the attitude and trim the plane correctly. This was a huge concern for me at the time, but looking back now I am thinking, what on earth was I worrying about!
    The same went with the flare on landing, I felt like I was never going to get that right. Once again, now I look back I see how ridiculous it was of me to think I will be doing perfect landings after 1-2 hours!
    Sometimes all it takes is a good sit down and a chat through the issues to reassure the student before they get to the point where they feel they want to quit.
    Maybe the student let’s the fear of something going wrong get to them.
  3. Lost interest (motivation)- The student has other interests in their life or something new they want to pursue. Flying gets put onto the back burner while they focus on what is now most interesting to them.
  4. Issues with the instructor – The student / instructor relationship just isn’t working out and the student doesn’t want to spend more time with their instructor.
    Now some students may just switch instructors (or school) but others may actually decide that they no longer want to fly at all.
  5. External pressures – Maybe the student loves to fly, however their partner may be scared stiff of the thought of them being in the air. They could be concerned about what will happen should the worst happen.
    A student may be facing these external pressures to quit their passion for aviation.

There are lots of reasons why students quit flying, some are preventable some are not, these are just a few examples.

The student and instructor relationship

My First Flying Lesson
The instructor on my trial lesson

As a student the relationship with your instructor is a very important one. I am in the position where I have had 3 different instructors so far and I just wanted to make some comments on the student and instructor relationship.
So you turn up at a flight school, with no idea of how to fly, you just know that you want to. You then get into a little two or four seater plane and put 100% faith into this guy you have just met. You have faith that he knows what he is doing and can return you back to the ground safely.
As you progress you have complete faith in your instructor as he teaches you to do things that are unnatural, such as stalling an aircraft at 3500ft and then recovering it, or as he signs you off on your first solo!
The first solo is an important thing for both sides, it shows that he trusts you enough to do everything he has taught you and to go up in the air and return to the ground safely.
You also believe that his confidence in you to do it, means that you are ready and have the ability to do so.
This trust goes on to the navigation sections, spin training (youtube it and see how unnatural that seems!) Then onto your test and your license issue.
My instructors have two distinct learning styles, strict and laid back, both work equally well for me but depending on your personality you may prefer one over the other. Let me give you an example of the same conversation with each style.

Altitude drop – Laid back
“You have dropped altitude make sure you regain and maintain height, it is important to make sure you don’t lose altitude”

Altitude drop – Stricter (assuming altitude should be 3000ft)
Instructor – “What is your altitude?”
Me – “2900ft”
Instructor – “What should it be?”
Me – “3000ft”
Instructor – “Then why have you let it drop? Climb and maintain altitude, do not let it drop again.”

Both are perfectly valid ways of getting the point across and work well for me.
So it is important to find and instructor (or instructors) you gel well with as you will be spending a lot of time in the air with them!


Doing your PPL (private pilots license) in the UK


I am now just short of half way through the minimum hours required for the PPL and I thought I would just reflect back on doing your PPL (private pilots license) in the UK.
As a modular pilot this is the first step on your way to your fATPL (Frozen Air Transport License).
My biggest issue by far has been the weather, put quite frankly the weather in the UK during autumn and winter is pretty awful.
I have to suffer from high winds, low clouds, rain, snow, frost, ice & mist.  This doesn’t include the endless storms that we seem to be in the middle of.
I basically have to deal with just about every type of weather that isn’t ideal for flying.
This leads to a lot of cancelled lessons and to be honest it is a very frustrating thing to deal with, especially when you are only flying on weekends. Put simply, I now have to book some midweek lessons just to try to get the hours in. There is of no guarantee they will be flown either, but at least we are approaching spring.
If I did not do this then I would have to wait two weeks between flights which obviously isn’t ideal.
I can only imagine that the spring and especially the summer are better conditions for learning to fly and you will get less lessons cancelled.
If you are able to and want a PPL quick quickly during the autumn / winter seasons I would definitely look at going abroad to a warmer climate. This will allow you to avoid the weather related issues that we face here in the UK.
You should face less issues in the spring / summer so I would say that you can do it here. In fact I would prefer to do it here over going abroad in the better months. This way you would be more familiar with the UK airspace and know what it’s like to fly in it.
There are no issues with the level of instruction here in the UK as it is on the whole very good. However, if you went abroad the price will most likely be a bit cheaper.

Modular pilot training costs

Piper PA 44
While training via the modular route is cheaper than integrated, it is still going to cost you in excess of £35,000.
In this post I will provide you with examples of modular pilot training costs. I will provide an example if you are prepared to go abroad for parts of it (cheaper) and also one if you wanted to do it all in the UK (more expensive).

Part of training abroad
PPL in the UK – £8,000
Night Rating  – £900
Distance learning ATPL ground school course and exam fees – £3400
Hour building in the US – £8000
CPL > MEP > IR – £13,500
MCC / JOC – £4000
Other expenses (hotels, flights etc) £3000
Total – £40,800
Possible type rating funding – £25,000
Total – £65,800

So this will cost you around 35-45k depending on what offers you can find at the time and where you go. This is just an example but I expect your costs to fall within this range. Savings can be had, for example, the night rating can be done within your PPL depending on the time of year.
Also you could save money on your PPL if you choose to do that abroad also.

Training all in the UK

PPL – £8000
Night Rating – £900
Distance learning and exam fees – £3400
Hour building – £16,800
CPL / ME / IR – £27,902
MCC / JOC – £4000
Other expenses – £3000
Total – £64,002
Possible type rating £25,000
Total – £89,000

As you can see, the cost of training solely in the UK is a lot higher than if you went to the US for hour building and Europe for CPL / ME / IR.
I would expect this cost to be in the range of +/- 5k either side of the total figure.
It will depend on your personal circumstances as to if the extra cost of training in the UK is worth while (family life, current job etc), however the difference between the two will almost pay for your type rating!
Both of these modular pilot training costs are just examples of course, and you may find that it’s a little bit cheaper or a little bit more expensive as all schools charge different prices.
Hopefully this will give you some insight into the modular pilot training costs, so you know how much to budget for.

Use FSX to learn how to fly

fsx steam edition

Microsoft Flight Simulator X is a very popular flight simulator for windows but can you use FSX to learn how to fly in real life?
I think that depends on what you are trying to achieve, FSX definitely has some things that will help you to develop your real life flying skills, however there are somethings that I don’t think FSX can help you with. For instance FSX will be hard to learn how to do step turns on because it cannot replicate the G’s that are in effect during the turn. It also would be no good at being able to replicate the amount of back pressure needed to do a climbing turn.
I think if you treat FSX as a way to practice procedures trainer you will be surprised at how capable it really is. Just don’t expect an airline to handover the right hand seat because you have 1500 hours on FSX.
Below is a list of what I think FSX is both good and not so good at. When I say not so good at that doesn’t mean I think the sim is useless at it. I just mean it is hard to replicate on the computer.

FSX is good for
Practicing your instrument scan
Learning the controls of an aircraft
Instrument flying
Flying a route before you do it in real life
Learning procedures like taxi, ground and ATC.
Learning the configuration of a plane at each stage of flight.
System failures, ie engine failure.

FSX is not so good for
Take offs – You just don’t get the feedback and behavior of the real plane. The Cessna 172 on FSX’s performance is nothing like the one I flew in real life. The climb performance on the sim for instance doesn’t match the real life aircraft.
Landings – Same as take offs, after doing it on FSX and doing it in my Cessna 152 it just really is not the same.
It can however help you with learning the picture you need to have when coming in to land.
Spin, stalls, steep turns, climbing turns – You don’t feel the sensations and forces on the body that you do in a real plane.
Getting a feel for the feedback of an aircraft
Learning the effects of weather on an aircraft
Pre flight checks

A good thing about FSX is that you can make it look pretty realistic from a visual point of view. There are many excellent paid add ons however if you don’t want to spend extra money you can make visual improvements for free. Here is an excellent YouTube video on how to make it look better without spending a penny.

Microsoft Flight Simulator X is also regularly on sale for just £3.99 when steam have their sales so it will not cost you a fortune to purchase. It also has been updated and recompiled by dovetail games to run on modern systems and the multiplayer has been changed to run through steam. I own the original flight simulator x and it has been a mainstay since it was released.
I would say it is essential to get a joystick / flight control system to use with the game. I personally use the Thrustmaster Hotas X which works really well with the sim and also has a separate throttle. It is available from Amazon.

So to conclude, I think Microsoft Flight Simulator X is a tool that can help you with certain parts of your training and is defiantly worth a purchase. If you want to learn to fly for real, get to your local airfield and take a trail lesson and sign up for a PPL (Private Pilots License).
If you have signed up for a PPL you can defiantly practice parts of it using FSX. Infact FSX is also really good when you come to practice instrument flying also.