Taking to the Skies
People have been fascinated with flying for thousands of years. Thankfuly in today’s era it’s relatively easy to fulfill this dream. By obtaining your Private Pilot’s License (PPL) you open the door to new adventures, from taking joy rides with friends and family to flying yourself to business meetings.
The process of obtaining your PPL for both helicopter and airplane is relatively the same, although there will be some slight regional differences depending on where you are located. Here is some of the information you need to know:
- You must be at least 16 years old to fly the aircraft solo: Training may commence before 16 in some countries.
- You must be at least 17 years old to obtain the PPL: There is no age limit for you to fly as long as you qualify medically (see next point).
- You must pass a medical exam: This is best done in the early stages to ensure you are able to complete the course and obtain your license.
- You must have an adequate grasp of the English language: English is the international language used by all airports and control towers in the world.
- Basic maths ability: This is required to calculate weight, balance and flight planning questions.
- The required number of flying hours to obtain a PPL is around 40 hours (slightly variable for different countries): These 40 hours would be made up of 25 hours of dual instruction with a Certified Flight Instructor, and 15 hours of solo flight. Not many people manage to get their license with the minimum hours; it normally takes between 50/55 hours, depending on how often you fly. You should try to fly at least twice a week to make good and steady progress.
- The average cost of obtaining your PPL, based on 40 hours of flying time, is between $10 000 – $15 000. This would include the use of an aircraft, lessons by a certified instructor, on ground instruction, exam fees, and other additional costs. As this cost includes the use of an aircraft it may be worth discussing buying vs renting an aircraft.
One of the strong motivating factors of learning to fly is the imagery of oneself shining up the airplane at the hanger on a lazy Saturday afternoon or filing up the seats with loved ones and whisking them off to some exotic locations.
Some purchases come out of pure passion and common sense does not come into play. If money is no object then you may decide to purchase a plane before you even commence your training. However, most people would be wise to consider the following 3 points before going from rental to ownership:
- Each airplane/helicopter is different, just like cars. Learning to fly in your own aircraft will mean that you might not develop the skills needed to adapt to different planes.
- If you only fly once or twice a month then ownership will probably not make good financial sense. It usually takes around 100 hours of flight time per annum to make it worth owning your own plane. Look back over your flight logs to tally up how many hours you really spend in the air.
- If having the availability of an aircraft 24/7 would mean that you would fly more on business or take more vacations, then it may be a viable purchase.
Because aircraft prices tend to be fairly steady, on average there is little depreciation should you choose to sell in the future.
Obtaining you PPL is not only a wonderful achievement and the fulfilment of a dream, it’s the start of a whole new chapter. In the words of the great Dr Seuss, “You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to great heights!.”
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