If you have had a trial flight and you find yourself determined to learn to fly, then you’re probably eager to start right away, but before you embark on this project spend a little time planning a study schedule. Obtaining a Private Pilot’s license is a rewarding experience in many ways, but it will take up time, effort, and money. You can save on all three by having a structured training plan.
Unless you are retired or fortunate enough not to have to work for a living then most of your time will be taken up by your employment. You may be footloose and fancy free or your may be in a relationship and you will have to take into account the time you devote to your partner and to your home and any other responsibilities.
Learning to fly is like acquiring any others skill; it takes practice and diligent study. So the first question you have to ask yourself is how much time you have spare to devote to your studies. Ideally you should have at least one flying lesson per week but you will also need time to study books, CDs, and other materials. Two lessons a week would be preferable, but it would be difficult to arrange more if you work full time. If you’re not working then of course you could book lessons whenever you like. However, you also need to spread the lessons out and add ground school studies into the schedule as they are an essential component that compliments the practical lessons.
A flying lesson consists of a pre-flight briefing in which your instructor will explain the purpose of the lesson and the desired outcome, and a post-flight briefing in which your instructor will review the lesson. Add to that the time spent traveling to and from the airfield and an hour long flying lesson can easily take up three hours. There will be days in which you have two lessons back to back, and later on in the course you’ll go on longer flights across country so the time factor will increase.
The point to remember is that one or two flying lessons and accompanying ground school studies can easily take up eight hours per week when you start your lessons. Your enthusiasm will be high so these will be hours you’ll enjoy but you may need to explain to your partner that you need to make this commitment in order to achieve the goal. Drops in continuity of training and practice will eventually cost you more time, effort, and money as you catch up when training resumes.
Weather will be a huge influence on your continuity of practice. If you live in the UK then you’ll be very familiar with the unpredictable weather. Even the summer cannot be relied up to provide the ideal conditions for lessons and if your chosen airfield has grass runways then there may be days lost in the winter when the ground is waterlogged. Bear in mind that in three of your weekend lessons might be canceled due to adverse weather conditions. If you only fly at weekends and one lesson is canceled then it could be two weeks between your lessons. How much will you remember from one lesson to the next?
Your choice of airfield may involve weighing up the pros and cons of each. If you live near a grass airfield but another with a hard runway is within reasonable distance it might be better to travel to the further field in order to take advantage of the reliable runway and other advantages like the busier control tower. A busier tower will mean more radio calls and that is never a bad thing. R/T (Radio Telephony) i.e. talking on the radio, is often a bit of a psychological block to some student pilots. Fear of saying the wrong thing and appearing ignorant has caused many a student to feel anxious about using the radio. The only way to overcome this is to develop confidence through practice and knowledge. The more you use the radio the better you’ll feel about it.
So assuming you have assigned blocks of hours each week that you can commit to learning to fly then your training should keep to a healthy pace and you will soon be marveling at the new skills and knowledge that you have acquired. You will also save yourself money because the continuity of practice and study will cut down the number of flying hours it takes for you to reach the required standard for the practical exams at the end of the course. Once you’ve bought the study materials it costs no more to study for one hour than it does for ten, but being in the air costs hard cash for every minute of fuel burnt. You want to be good enough to be a competent certified pilot but you don’t want to spend more money than is necessary.
Flying schools often advertise a price for a course of lessons that will take your from beginner to someone who has flown all the hours required in the license syllabus, but these figures are based on the minimum number of hours in the syllabus and most students will exceed this figure for a variety of reasons. So budget for more than the price in the advert as it’s unlikely you will be ready for the final exams in the minimum time. Save time, effort and money by sticking to your schedule and keeping to a pace of practice and learning that will eventually reward you with your pilot’s wings.