We’ve had a few people asking us recently about what they need to do to get a PPL. If you’ve already been browsing our site, you’ll know that the flying you do with Air Experiences counts towards the hours you need to get a PPL. But what else do you need to do? Read on to find out!
Hours needed for a PPL
There are currently three different PPLs you can do, and the main difference between them is the number of hours you are required to do for each of them. The LAPL (Light Aircraft Pilot’s Licence) and NPPL (National Private Pilot’s Licence) give you a pilot’s licence that limits you to flying in VFR conditions (that is, not relying on instruments – so when the weather is good enough) and non-complex aircraft. The full PPL enables you to fly the same aircraft, but there are more bolt-on ratings you can do, such as multi-engine and retractable undercarriage.
- For the LAPL & NPPL, you need to do a total (minimum) of 32 hours, which includes ten hours of solo time and 22 hours of instruction.
- For the full PPL, you complete 45 hours, including ten hours of solo time.
During your instructional hours, you’ll learn how to handle the aircraft and how to cope with various emergency situations, such as an engine failure (you’ll learn to select suitable fields to land in and do practice landings). You’ll also learn how to recover from situations like stalls and spiral dives.
As well as flying hours, there’s a fair bit of what we call “ground school” to complete, with nine exams. You can either learn this information from books, or you can pay an instructor to teach you (or both).
- Air Law – this tests your knowledge of the rules pilots need to know – important things like how high you’re allowed to fly, and which way you should turn to avoid an air-to-air collision.
- Operational Procedures – this covers various aspects of operating an aircraft safely, such as marshalling signals.
- Human Performance and Limitations – this one looks at how aspects of the human body can cause accidents, such as hypoxia from a lack of oxygen at high altitudes.
- RT (Radiotelephony)/Communications – this covers what you say on the radio to communicate with air traffic control.
- Flight Planning and Performance – this exam tests your knowledge of how to plan a flight, including things like how to calculate how much fuel you’ll need.
- Navigation – this one is about how to use various navigational aids, work out your estimated time of arrival and work out what headings to fly whilst accounting for the wind speed and direction.
- Principles of Flight – this looks at how the aeroplane flies, including the forces to which it is subjected and what causes lift.
- Meteorology – this one covers the weather, conditions that could affect your flight and how to read and interpret specialised aviation forecasts.
- Aircraft General Knowledge – finally, this exam looks at how the aircraft is built and how it works, such as what different bits of the engine do.
As well as the written exam we mentioned just now, there’s also a optional (highly recommended) practical exam for radio communications. This involves flying a pretend route on a computer-based flight simulator and making appropriate radio calls, such as requesting permission to pass through military airspace, making a mayday call and asking for the weather.
PPL flying tests
There are three flying tests to pass when you’ve completed the flying hours and written exams. These are:
- Navigation skills test – you plan a specified route and then fly it with an instructor; at some point along the route, you’re asked to divert to another airfield, so you need to know where you are at all times.
- Solo cross country – you plan and fly a route on your own, including landing at two other airfields (one if you’re doing the LAPL).
- General flying skills test – this tests you on things like recovering from stalls and spins, and checking that you’re going to react appropriately to emergencies like engine failures.
It sounds like an awful lot – and it is! It’s a big learning curve and it’s a lot harder than learning to drive. However, it’s incredibly rewarding – once you have your licence, you can take passengers up, fly to other airfields for lunch, and enjoy the wonderful views of the world from above.
If you enjoyed your flight with Air Experiences and you want to take your flying further, any one of our flying schools will be happy to discuss the possibility of you learning to fly with them. You can also learn to fly a motorglider with Lee with MotorGlide.