Your choice of Private Pilot License depends on what you want to fly and where you want to fly, and ultimately whether you eventually want a career in aviation.
The question is which is the right one for you?
But before we start, I just want to get some spelling issues out of the way. So as to avoid being inundated with comments or emails regarding the fact that I did not spell licence correctly, I just want to point out that whilst this article is predominantly associated with UK general aviation I do not want our US friends to miss out and as such I may or may not use the US spelling also which is license. – There glad I got that one out of the way!
Anyway, once you have made the decision that you want to learn to fly, you can be rest assured of being in good company. In the UK there are approximately 25,000 PPL holders, and several thousand student pilots currently working towards one type of license or another.
Unlike driving a car, you can start to learn to fly at pretty much any age, although your flying instructor will no doubt have a say as to whether they feel you are suitable or not. The only age restrictions are that you must be at least 16 years old to fly solo and 17 to take your General Flying Test – the all-important final hurdle to getting your PPL.
One thing you will have to get used to whilst learning to fly is an over zealous use of acronyms: for example, a Private Pilot’s License is a PPL; General Aviation (the term that represents most leisure flying and small aircraft) is GA; and all pilots refer to that grand overseer of all things to do with aviation in the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority, as the CAA.
Referring back to the CAA, as stated this is the governing body that oversees all aviation in the UK, general and otherwise, it also includes the people who will issue you with your PPL once you have completed your PPL training. The CAA, however, now works with other European national authorities as part of the JAA (Joint Aviation Authority), which itself will soon be taken over by EASA (the European Aviation Safety Agency). This situation is being constantly reviewed and changed to suit new political and administration needs, it is therefore worth keeping your eyes on the various news pages and forums for the latest updates.
Red tape and politics aside for one moment, once the CAA has issued your PPL license, you will be allowed to fly in any other EASA member country’s airspace using aircraft registered in any EASA member state. So, for example, if you’re on a trip or holiday in say France and fancy taking in a flight over the South Coast East, you will be legally allowed to hire a French registered aircraft and take in the view. Alternatively, if you want to fly your British ‘G-registered’ aeroplane to Germany, that’s absolutely fine as well.
This also means that you could decide if you wanted to, to do your PPL (or even CPL and ATPL) training at one of the growing number of flight training organizations (FTO) based overseas but working to a JAA/EASA syllabus. As a matter of fact, you can even find such FTOs in non-JAA/EASA countries, and as you would probably expect, Florida remains one of the most popular destinations. However, you should bear in mind that there are pros and cons to training overseas.
Outside Europe, there is a large range of licensing and governing bodies connected with aviation. The biggest of these is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in America. Many UK pilots fly on FAA licenses, primarily due to the attraction of the lower price of training in the US. The downside to this however is that with an FAA license, if you are on a flight which cross international boundaries, you can only fly FAA N-registered aircraft. You may however fly an aircraft registered in any country, but only within that country’s airspace, so no cross border trips.
If you put aside the slight negatives outlined above and decide to train for an FAA license – or that of any other non-EASA member – you can always convert your license to a JAA equivalent one, once you return to Britain. This isn’t much of an issue or prolonged procedure and the CAA are generally very helpful and will give you all the advice and information you need – contact the CAA on 0207 379 7311 or at www.caa.co.uk
Types of license
You will find elsewhere on this site plenty of information pertaining to the different types of pilot’s license that are available, as well as a brief description of the training requirements and limitations. It wasn’t that long ago that there was basically a PPL for private pilots looking to fly for recreational purposes, a CPL (Commercial Pilot’s License) if you wanted to be paid to fly, and an ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot’s License) if you wanted to fly for the airlines. For those of us who fly primarily for fun, there’s now also the very useful NPPL (National Private Pilot’s License); this is similar to the PPL although it requires fewer hours tuition, but it does restrict the type of flying. Then there’s the MPL (Multi-crew Pilot License), which is principally a fast track version of the ATPL, but with much of the required flight training being completed on simulators.
As you may now come to expect this is a constantly changing picture with even more license types on the horizon.
As you work towards your license and work through your training, any hours you complete either as a student or a qualified pilot will need to be recorded in your logbook. Your logbook is your passport to flying, recording exactly which type of aircraft you have flown, the date each flight took place, whether you were the Pilot in Command (PIC) and where you went. Whenever you visit a new airfield or club, or choose to fly a different type of aircraft or train towards a new license, your logbook will be your proof of previous experience. A key piece of advice here: keep a duplicate or photocopy of each page just in case you lose the original. I would also recommend that you write inside your log book in a bold marker pen the words “Reward if Found” and a contact telephone number, should anyone find your log book.