This presentation is designed to provide simple factual answers to questions most often asked about learning to fly.
Is it hard to learn to fly?
There is quite a bit to learn, it will take some of your time and concentration. It will require more of you than learning to drive a car, for example.
On the other hand, what you will need to learn is not especially difficult – not nearly as difficult or complicated as most non fliers think – and it can be mastered by practically anyone who is willing to devote a little effort to it.
An important point is that you will be doing all your learning under the supervision of a highly qualified, licensed instructor and, because flying is taught on an individual needs basis, your instructor can and will customize the course of instruction to suit you and your individual needs.
There are two aspects of learning to fly – the actual ‘driving’ of the aircraft and the ‘book learning’.
You will learn to ‘drive’ by ‘driving’ – actually handling the controls of the aircraft yourself. Under the supervision of your instructor, you will not only learn how to take off, land and fly straight and level, you will learn how to make the aircraft do just what you want it to do, and how to handle any emergency – including weather, engine trouble in flight and forced landings. The ‘book learning’ covers flight planning, navigation, radio procedures, flight rules, regulations and the weather.
When you are ready for your private licence test you will be a competent pilot. The experience of future flying hours will certainly teach you more but you will be well equipped with the basic knowledge and skills necessary for safe flying.
How long does it take to learn to fly?
Government regulations covering pilot licences are specific about minimum requirements but, at the same time, leave much to the judgment of your instructor.
For example, the instructor determines when a student pilot can begin to fly solo. When he/she is satisfied that the student can handle the aircraft safely and knows the appropriate flight rules and regulations, he endorses the student’s logbook for solo flight. An average student can expect to receive solo endorsement after ten to twelve hours of dual instruction.
Once you are authorised for solo, you can fly within the training area when you want – provided your instructor feels you are competent for the particular trip. Your instructor must OK each flight and you must go alone – NO PASSENGERS.
The Private Licence allows you to fly with passengers anywhere in Australia. You are required to complete a minimum of 40 hours flying, of which 10 hours must be solo.
How long does it take to accumulate 40 flying hours?
That is largely up to you and your instructor.
The consensus is that one to one and a half hours flying time per week is a good learning rate with more hours during the week when cross country flights are made. This would mean six to eight months to get the Private Licence. It is possible to do it just in a few weeks, however the majority choose to fly for up to a year before completing their training.
What is the right age?
Do I have to have a physical examination? Can I fly if I wear glasses?
There are minimum age requirements – 16 years for a Student Licence, 17 years for a Private Licence and 18 years for a commercial Licence – but nothing about maximum age requirements. In fact, assuming continued good general health, advancing years have little to do with a person’s ability to fly safely.
A medical examination, by a doctor approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, is required every 4 years for private pilots. It is not a difficult examination and designed only to ensure that the applicant has no physical or medical problems that would interfere with the ability to fly safely. Physical handicaps are not automatic barriers. In fact, there are countless pilots who are handicapped or crippled in some way. Only the ability to control an aircraft counts.
Many pilots wear spectacles, however there are limits to the standard of sight and the doctor carrying out your initial medical examination will advise you of the required standards.
What other qualifications – such as High School education – are needed?
Very few – and a high school education is not one of them. Concerning education, the regulations only say that an applicant for a pilot licence must “be able to read, speak and understand the English language”.
From a practical standpoint, there are some simple mathematics involved in flight planning and navigation, but nothing very complicated, and a portion of your training will be given to make sure you can solve these problems.
You need not be a mechanic or posses mechanical skills or aptitude. Nor do you need the physical coordination of an athlete. Just about anyone who can learn to drive a car can learn to fly.
Actually – simple as it my sound – the three basic prerequisites to becoming a good pilot are common sense, a desire to learn to fly and a willingness to stay within the boundaries of both flight regulations and your own piloting ability.
How difficult are the tests?
There is no test for a Student Licence. But, before a Private Licence is issued, the student pilot is required to pass a couple of tests.
One is a practical examination of flying ability in which the student takes a qualified designated examiner for a ‘ride’ and demonstrates that they can handle the aircraft safely. Frankly, it is a thorough test because no one wants an unsafe pilot endangering lives. But it is not hard to pass the test. The reason is that your instructor will not recommend you for the flight test until you are ready for it. In fact, all instructors put their students through a simulated check flight just to make sure the test can be passed.
With the written examinations, you have to know your stuff to pass them. Here again, though, your instructor will do everything they can to make sure you know, and if you have learned reasonably well you shouldn’t have any trouble. They are largely practical exams in which you will be asked to work out the details – navigation, weather, estimated times, fuel requirements and the like – for a hypothetical flight. You will have done it all before in planning the cross-country flights you actually have made – and there are no trick questions.
Yes, the tests are difficult – they have to be to keep flying safe. But don’t let the word ‘difficult’ throw you. Learning to keep your balance on a bicycle once seemed pretty difficult too.
How safe is flying?
The vast majority of pilots – even the ‘old timers’ with several thousand hours recorded in their log book – have never been involved in a flying accident or misshape of any kind. But how many of your friends have never had a car accident – not even a dent in a supermarket car park?
The risks inherent in an aircraft or any other moving vehicle will never be eliminated as long as people are operating them. However a well built and well maintained aircraft in the hands of a competent and prudent pilot makes flying equally as safe as any form of transportation. Civil Aviation Safety Authority statistics show that of all aircraft accidents involving injuries, most are caused either directly or indirectly by pilot error.
Flying is safe because aircraft are safe. They are built to very rigid specifications and then are constantly checked and rechecked (even after they have been flown a lot) to make sure that they continue to measure up to those specifications. Flying is also safe because no one is permitted to fly until a licensed instructor is convinced they are ready to fly safely and because proficiency must be demonstrated before a pilot can take anyone with them.
Few activities of man can boast as fine an improvement in safety as General Aviation. The number of fatal accidents today is only about 17% greater than we experienced in 1958. Yet, the exposure, based on the number of aircraft miles flown, has increased 400%
Do engines fail often?
No – and the chances are that if it is one of your questions, there has been a mix-up of words. When your car ‘stalls’, the engine stops. In flying, however, a ‘stall’ is a manoeuvre of the aircraft and has absolutely nothing to do with the engine.
An aircraft engine is a piece of finely built machinery that is specifically designed to keep on running. They virtually never quit.
Yes, but what if mine does?
It’s simple! You just do what you have practiced with your instructor – select a good emergency landing site and land. An aircraft of the size you will be flying becomes an excellent glider when the engine is turned off and finding a place to land is simpler than you might imagine.
Will my regular insurance cover me when I’m flying?
Insurance companies have now decided that there is less risk flying than in many other activities that are not exclusions from the standard policy.
Generally speaking, life insurance polices will cover you for all aspects of flying. However, we recommend you should check with your insurance agent who will be able tell you how you stand and work out any problems that may exist.
What happens after I get my Pilot’s Licence?
You’ll have access to a whole new world. You’ll think of travel in terms of hours, not kilometres. You’ll know what it means to keep your schedules without the traffic congestion, queues, parking charges, and early check-ins of airline, road, and rail travel.
Every Australian capital city has at least one major airport within 20 minutes of the CBD and many holiday destinations have their own airstrips. As a Private Pilot you can load your friends into a hired Piper and be more than 100 miles away just one hour after takeoff.
The sky is no longer the limit!
Step by Step Plan to Private Pilot Licence
- Trial Instructional Flight - Book with Moorabbin Aviation Services.
- Student Pilot Licence - Ask your flight instructor for an application form.
- Flying Lessons - Booked as required by your instructor.
- Theory Training - Courses are run by Moorabbin Aviation Services.
- Medical Examination - By an approved Doctor.
- Your First Solo Flight - Pass the Air Law and Radio test, and then go SOLO!!!
- Theory Exams - Pass the Private Pilot Licence Theory exams.
- Licence Test - After a minimum of 40 hours flying training, 10 hours of which must be solo.
- Then… - Fly anywhere in Australia.