Getting started – Achieving your Private Pilot Licence
Introduction to flying training and the flying school
The first step in taking up flying, as a career or just for pleasure, is to undertake a Trial Instructional Flight, or TIF, at a licensed flying club or training organisation. The normal rate for a TIF is around $45-60 and it should last around 30 minutes. This trial flight will most likely lead to a few lessons after which you should be able to decide whether you want to continue flying training. Your instructor will also be able to make an assessment of your potential to handle an aircraft.
During the initial stages of flight instruction you will always be with a flight instructor. You will be taught the basics of flight in preparation for your first solo flight in the circuit area (rectangular pattern flown around an aerodrome), but will be familiarised with the local training area, usually a ten mile area around the airport. During this time you consolidate your training and build flying experience. Most likely, you will be ready to fly solo after approximately 10-15 hours of instruction. However each subsequent solo flight must be authorised by your instructor.
Before you can fly solo, you will need to pass the required medical checks, pass an examination in Air Law and be issued with a Student Pilot Licence (STUDENT). To be issued the SPL, you must be at least 16 years of age and be capable of reading, writing, speaking and understanding the English language. You will also need to obtain an ARN (Aviation Reference Number) from CASA, supply photographs and identification documentation, and complete a security check.
If you have set your sights on a career in aviation, this is usually the time that your school will advise you of options for commercial training. They will also suggest that you undertake the required medical checks which are more exacting for professional pilots to make sure you can satisfy the medical standards before outlaying considerable sums of money on flying training.
First solo flight
Your first solo flight will involve practising take-offs and landings, and general flying within the airport circuit. This is basically a consolidation of everything that you have learned to date, such as operation and effect of controls, straight and level flying, climbing and descending, turning and stalling, for which your instructor found you competent to do on your own.
From this point on, you will focus on preparing for your first area solo where you will demonstrate your ability to fly solo outside the airport circuit but still within the training area used by the school. Most students are ready to attempt their first area solo after reaching 15-20 hours. Before you can do so, however, you must pass an examination on the flight procedures pertaining to that training area.
First area solo
Your first solo in the training area will involve practising simulated engine failure during which you will exercise your own judgement, simulate radio calls and trouble checks as well as passenger briefs. It will also include a short navigation exercise to and from the local training area to enable you to demonstrate some chart reading skills.
As you progress, you will learn to fly the aircraft in all situations in preparation for your General Flying Progress Test (GFPT). Before you can undertake this test you first need to pass the Basic Aeronautical Knowledge theory examination. You will also need a min of 20 hours flight time which includes 5 hours as pilot in command and 2 hours instrument time.
General flying progress test (GFPT)
During this test, you will demonstrate to an approved testing officer that you can competently manage the aircraft in all basic phases of flight. If you pass the test, you will be able to carry passengers in private operations (ie not for hire or reward) within the confines of the student pilot area limit. Your solo or pilot-in-command flights must still be approved by your instructor.
After the GFPT, you will be able to commence navigation training. The navigation exercises teach the practical skills and airmanship required for flying safely to distant locations plus management of fuel and flight logs, radio communication and transition through different airspace, control zones, unplanned diversions due to weather etc., and circuits at distant locations with landings on different types of surfaces. These skills will then be reinforced and consolidated in preparation for the Private Pilot Licence flight test.
Prior to undertaking the PPL test, you must have acquired at least 40 hours of flight time as a pilot that includes:
- 5 hours of general flight time as pilot in command; and
- 5 hours of cross country flight time as pilot in command; and
- 2 hours of instrument flight time.
You must also pass a theory examination which covers flight rules and air law, navigation, performance and flight planning, meteorology and principles of flight. Although the minimum experience requirement is 40 hours. You can undertake the PPL flight test while still 16, however, you cannot be issued with the licence until your 17th birthday.
Private pilot licence (PPL) test
You will demonstrate your skill to an approved testing officer by departing for a round trip with two or more landings/turning points en-route. You will be able to show that you can divert to an alternative location and overall, demonstrate competent planning and management of the flight, observing all procedures and rules, navigation, radio work and airmanship before successfully completing the flight.
After passing the PPL Test, you will be issued with the licence which enables you to fly anywhere within Australia, solo or with private passengers in daytime visual meteorological conditions. You will no longer require your instructor’s permission to undertake a flight as pilot in command.