So you want to learn how to fly? That’s great news. You’re about to embark on an exciting and challenging adventure.
But before you get bogged down with all the aviation jargon, we’ll provide you with a simple (and much needed) introduction to General Aviation & Flying, outlining every step from when you’re starting out right up to the highest possible level.
Why Learn To Fly?
When one imagines them self as a professional pilot they tend to think of the smart uniforms, fancy jets, high pay and exotic holidays. Although seeming rather glamorous, in reality it’s quite a stressful occupation. But the good news is that becoming a pilot is definitely not an impossible aspiration to have.
You may have grown up dreaming of becoming a pilot and want to finally make it a reality. Or you could be looking to break free from your day-to-day routine and create a totally new career path. Whatever your reason, my advice is to go for it — aviation opens the door to many exciting & rewarding roles.
A Great Hobby
And it is! In fact, that’s precisely the reason that the FlyGA team started learning to fly. I instantly loved the experience of flying and wanted to keep progressing. Nowadays I use my licence to visit places, to travel as far as I can, and to enjoy hour building. I’m at the stage where I can do what I like, visit where I like, and fly whoever I like whilst I log hours towards my building targets.
Granted, one day I may just try to turn my hobby into a career…
One of the common myths about flying is that pilots need an array of academic qualifications. This is only partially true.
Technically speaking, to learn how to fly you do not need any qualifications at all.
However, if you’re looking to become a professional pilot in the future (with say an airline) then your other achievements will undoubtedly strengthen your application. If you have no other qualifications (e.g. A-levels) aside from your pilot licence then you’re unlikely to be the strongest candidate for the role. Most airlines seek qualified pilots with a spread of skills and achievements.
There’s also other qualities that pilots must have. To learn more, read our post What Traits & Skills Must Pilots Have? What Makes A Good Pilot?
Where Can I Start Flying?
We Can Help You Find A Flight School
Most prospective pilots start learning to fly at their local school — and you can find yours from our Flight School Finder.
Locate the one that’s most practical for you to get to and give them a call (or drop an email) to make an appointment to chat with an instructor or member of staff. Usually you’ll meet with someone that has already been through the ‘school’ process you’re about to begin. You should take this opportunity to enquire about their rates.
Your local school will offer introductory lessons.
We can also recommend Buyagift, who have teamed up with several reputable UK flight schools to provide introductory pilot lessons. Their rates are fair, and the flying lessons pack in as much experience possible into the time allocated.
At Buyagift you purchase a ‘flight package’. This is safety certified and especially formatted for beginners. While your package may not be entirely catered to your exact requirements, it provides a very exciting all-round experience and a ‘taste’ of flying. The main advantage of such ‘package’ deals is the certainty of knowing precisely what your first session will include and, importantly, what you’ll get for your money.
Once you’ve taken an introductory lesson you’re free to enquire about rates and packages at the flight school, and how they can assist in your pursuit of becoming a pilot.
Book a Flight Simulator from Buyagift
There’s a huge offering of several popular planes, making for an exciting and highly realistic experience. Flight simulators from Buyagift take you the nearest you’ll get to really flying planes such as the Boeing 737. It’s so accurate that these very simulators are used to train commercial pilots.
Your First Licence (The PPL)
Every airline pilot starts out by firstly working towards the Private Pilot Licence (PPL):
In it's simplest form, the PPL consists of all the flying skills you need to pilot a light aircraft alone, anywhere in Europe during daylight and in fair weather conditions.
During the learning process you’ll need to perform your very first solo & cross-country flights, as well as pass your first flight exam.
To find out more information on what’s involved in the PPL(A) check out the following posts:
- The EASA Private Pilot Licence (PPL) Explained
- How Much Does It Cost To Become A Pilot?
- 5 Most Difficult Aspects Of The Private Pilot Licence (PPL-A)
- What Flight Equipment Do I Really Need To Buy For The PPL?
Whilst studying and training towards your PPL you might benefit from reading through the posts on the Pilot’s Blog. We also offer a small range of rulers, protractors and flight tools specifically designed for flight students. All products are competitively priced and made exclusively by FlyGA.
Obtaining your Private Pilot Licence will be one of the most memorable moments in your life. You officially become a pilot. And for some people it’s still just the beginning of their journey…
After The PPL
Once you have gained your Private Pilot Licence, you will need to complete at least 150 hours total time as well as a Night Qualification (NQ), entitling you to fly during night time. This phase is great because you’re essentially just spending your time practising different skills and doing what you enjoy the most — flying.
Some pilots then proceed to the next step, which is the less interesting part of training. This is the Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) theory:
The ATPL is the qualification that allows the holder to act as the Pilot in Command (PIC), or Captain of a large transport aircraft. It is this licence the student pilot aspires to complete when embarking upon a career as a professional pilot.
The ATPL process involves you enrolling at a full-time ground school or part-time distance learning organisation. You need to study the theory of 14 different exam topics. You can find out about these subjects here.
How long this process takes varies. A full-time course can take 6 months whereas a part-time or distance learning course can take up to 9 or 12 months dependant on other commitments. The ATPL is much more intense than the PPL.
For Those Serious about Becoming a Professional Pilot
This phase extends beyond the scope of what FlyGA focuses on — but it’s important that you understand the bigger picture.
Once the ATPL theory is completed you’re ready to move on to the ‘Professional Training’ part of the journey. This can start with either a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) or an Instrument Rating (IR). For more information on these, please follow the links provided.
My advice is that you complete the ‘Professional Training’ phase at one single Flight School, as airlines tend to prefer this. Usually you’ll do IR first, combined with a Multi-Engine Piston Rating or “MEP Rating” — which allows you to fly a multi engine aircraft. The training is then completed by either flying solely on a ‘multi’ engine, or combined with a ‘single’. This process takes over 55 hours.
Once you’ve completed this you will work towards the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), which consists of 25 hours advanced training and another flight test. Once you have completed the IR, CPL and MEP Rating — which typically takes 3-4 months back to back — you will be within touching distance of holding a frozen Airline Transport Pilot Licence or “(f)ATPL”.
There’s Just a Few More Steps Left…
Next up is a Multi-Crew Cooperation (MCC) course, which is completed entirely on a simulator. It’s aimed at providing you with the experience and training needed to work within a multi-crew environment; such as how to delegate tasks and share responsibilities. The simulator is usually a jet but sometimes a twin-light aircraft. This course takes from 1-3 weeks and can be completed at a number of Flight Schools.
The final Jet Orientation Course is optional, but preferred by airlines. It doesn’t have to be combined with the MCC course but it provides you with experience in flying a jet engine aircraft apposed to flying a piston engine aircraft [throughout the training].
When this is completed you are granted a (f)ATPL, which will remain frozen until you complete a certain number of hours including several specified requirements. This is usually met within your first few years with an airline operation.
Summary of the Steps Involved
- Complete the grey boxes in any order.
- PPL requires a Class 2 Medical or above. Commercial pilots must have a Class 1.
Don't panic: There's a lot of steps outlined here. It's confusing to begin with, but the next milestone on your agenda will be made very clear by your flying school.
FlyGA — Your Journey Begins
Learning to fly and becoming a pilot requires a lot of time, dedication and persistence — especially if you’re aiming to do it professionally. Being up in the sky carries huge risk and responsibility; hence the need for stringent examinations and hour building.
Flying is also incredibly rewarding as both occupation and hobby. If you decide to pursue becoming a pilot, FlyGA is here to help get you started. We’ll set you on the right track and aim to provide specialist products to guide you through the PPL.
Best of luck.