The private pleasure of flying
Note: This is a four-part series of features by Brookmans Park resident Jet, about the pleasure of flying. Part one offers an introduction. Part two deals with preparation and examinations. Part three includes practical flying instructions. Part four talks of the joy of earning your wings and includes some frequently asked questions.
Practical flying instruction
The airborne course consists of various modules, which follow a progressive pattern, with each lesson being a new skill, which consolidates the previous lesson.
The subjects covered are:-
Upper Air Work
This consists of learning to manoeuvre the aircraft at various speeds and configurations and also covers stall avoidance and recovery.
A danger of a stall is that it can lead to a spin. It is well worth learning spin recovery, if only to demonstrate mastery of the machine and yourself.
There is no unpleasant sensation, because it happens faster than the body can respond. As in all things, you get used to it, even if you feel queasy during bumpy conditions. This will disappear with experience, something worth remembering when you take up passengers.
This is known as circuit bashing, due to its arduous and repetitive nature. It consists of learning to take off, climb, fly level, descend and land, by means of a circuitous path around the airfield.
There will be many bounces and instructor testing during this phase. It culminates in your first solo flight, which is then consolidated by three hours solo circuit flying.
You can now control the aircraft safely yourself - and all within 15 hours.
Personally, I found my first unassisted take off more exhilarating than my first landing, which was merely a relief.
Itís worth mentioning that the first solo flight will usually occur after three perfect circuits have been flown.
The instructor will ask you to stop at the holding point and then say something like this, "Okay itís your moment, fly one circuit and after landing taxi to the tie down area, if you donít like the approach go around and do it again."
He will then unfasten his harness and walk away. Itís then down to you and, after careful checks, you will take off.
Immediately you will notice that the aircraft leaps into the air due to the lack of the instructorís weight.
You will find that you will do everything you have been taught, without any short cuts, and will be rewarded by a good landing.
A First Solo Certificate will be issued and then the drinks (if appropriate) are down to you.
Now the fun begins. When you learn to navigate, you will find that the landscape all looks the same from up there.
However, by use of flying a 'heading', and with reference to ground features identified with the help of a map, you will learn to find your way around.
When confident, you will have to demonstrate your ability to fly to two airfields and return with an en route diversion to an examiner. This is called your Navigation Flight Test.
On completion, you will then have to do your first solo cross-country flight, landing away at two airfields and returning.
This is the real milestone in your training. Initially you may find it possible to turn through 180 degrees while looking down at the map, if you are good your instructor may not notice. Before you ask, yes, I have done it.
You will also wonder how itís possible to steer with your left hand, balance the kneeboard, look out, read the map, fill in the log and operate the engine controls with your other hand. Well, it is, but I am still unsure how.
This period hones all the skills mentioned above and prepares you for your General Flight Test. This is where you will demonstrate, to a CAA examiner, your ability to carry out every possible manoeuvre you have learnt.
If you are successful, which you will be as you will not be taking the test unless you are up to standard, you will be passed and, subject to completing your solo flying requirements, are now ready to part with some more money and apply for your licence.
This test will in fact be a lesson. The examiner will love giving the benefit of his experience to encourage you. He will recall his own training and will make due allowance for nerves.
While completing your solo time, you will probably want to fly over your home for an aerial view. This is great fun, but, being a good pilot, you will of course avoid low flying and becoming a nuisance.
The above is a simplification of the stages that will also include emergency procedures, forced landing practice and enough instrument flying to enable you to get out of trouble.
There will be times when you think that you are not capable of the next stage, but your instructor will know when you are. You will be amazed at your progress, which is a confirmation that we all learn best by repetition and by being coached.
From the start you will also be shown how to carry out thorough external and internal pre-flight checks of the aircraft. These will be carried out by reference to a checklist.
The instructor will keep an eye on everything, but, ultimately, it will be your full responsibility when you are in command. Even seemingly little things like refuelling will make you more confident in yourself.
After completing the course, you will be capable of safely flying a single-engine light-aircraft in good weather conditions. However, the accuracy and standards of your flying will improve with every flight, and the learning process never stops.
You will not be able to fly solo with passengers until you receive your shiny new licence.
More details of the syllabus are available at www.nppl.uk.com. The requirements of both PPL and NPPL licence types are similar. For instance, one of the differences is that with the full PPL there are four hours instrument flying, whereas the NPPL has only one hour instrument appreciation. In both types of licence the minimum solo requirement is 10 hours.
It must be stressed, that all training is subject to minimum times. In reality, it is unlikely that a pilot will manage this unless exceptionally capable. Time has quite a bearing on progression.
It is possible to undertake an intensive course, which is a little difficult in this country due to the weather. Most aspiring aviators will book two lessons per week, which, with bad weather cancellations, may equate to a lesson every seven to 10 days.
It is quite usual to take the best part of nine months from trial lesson to licence issue. This gives plenty of time for learning and appreciation of the subject and prevents it becoming a chore rather than fun.
It is advisable that the course is prepaid in modules or full. Paying in full is more cost effective and removes the likelihood of giving up.
It would be a great pity to carry out 20 hours and not complete. You will know after the first lesson which way is best.
Costs vary considerably, and it is best left to you to decide which school you choose. The magazine 'Pilot', available from most newsagents, gives a list of every school in the UK and the world. It also lists charges, courses and the types of aircraft available in the April edition.
It must be appreciated that, even in its basic form, flying becomes a way of life and not simply a means to an end. The discipline involved helps in personal development and instils self-confidence.
In the final article, I will outline what happens next, and the possibilities available to the novice PPL holder.
© Jet - January, 2003
This is a four-part series of features by Brookmans Park resident Jet, about the pleasure of flying. Part one offers an introduction. Part two deals with preparation and examinations. Part three includes practical flying instructions. Part four talks of the joy of earning your wings and includes some frequently asked questions.
The three nearest airfields offering flying lessons are Panshanger, Elstree and Stapleford. There are a number of flying schools operating in the area including the East Herts Flying School, The London School of Flying and Firecrest Aviation and Stapleford Flying Club
Finally, the author wanted it pointing out that the four features on flying are based on his own experience and he accepts no liability for any damage that may occur in the pursuit of aviation following the reading of these articles.