Monday 20 May 2013 13:26 UTC
If you're learning to fly, or thinking of learning, then here's the place to post your questions, comments and experiences
I'm sorry, I know what I'm about to ask has been asked countless times before in various forms but I wanted to say "hello" and am secretly probably angling for you lot to persuade me to take the plunge and start training!
Background - I've always had an interest in flying and periodically I look into learning without actually doing anything about it. I first had a go at the controls of a Cessna (no idea which type, it was a while ago!) piloted by my ex's father in southern France and since then have had a couple of pleasure flights - one in a Standard D25 at Fantasy of Flight in Florida (no stick time sadly) and one in a Tiger Moth at Duxford. Last week I had a go in a full motion 747 simulator at Bournemouth and it's again rekindled the desire to fly albeit something a bit smaller! I'm probably as able to afford to learn now as I'll ever be (can anyone really afford this?) but with a busy job and family life time is a rare commodity. I also haven't broached the subject with the wife yet...
So I'm after advice!
- I work full time during the week, so any flying would have to be weekends or maybe I could fit an hour in the evenings during the summer (if they even do lessons then)? Weekends fill up with domestic commitments so realistically I imagine I'd only be able to regularly book once maybe every 2-3 weeks. Is flying that infrequently going to make the going really tough especially if one or two lessons get scrubbed?
- Are most lessons an hour? Can you do 2 hour lessons or is that too much to absorb in one go?
- I live in Woking, Surrey and have read good things about LTFC at Fairoaks. It says on their website that they are a "club" not a "school" and that they don't have staff instructors. Does that mean it's hard to find a regular instructor? Since they volunteer presumably you're restricted to days and times when they can work - are weekends difficult?
- I originally thought about NPPL due to the lower number of hours needed to stay current, but have read that it's probably no cheaper to achieve than PPL since most people will need more than the minimum NPPL hours to qualify anyway and I'm coming round to the idea that learning is part of the fun (I may retract that statement at a later date). Can you work towards NPPL and then just continue training to PPL (using NPPL as a stepping stone)?
- Any advice for bringing the subject up with SWMBO?!
Thanks in advance!
Firstly, if you think you want to do it and have had some time in light aircraft so know you're not going to be afraid or whatever, then my opinion would be to go for it - I'm finding it's one of the most fun (and challenging but therefore rewarding) things I've ever done.
To be honest the way the UK weather goes if you were doing weekends only you'd probably want to book every weekend, and you'd find you'd probably only get every other one on average. Not sure if anywhere does evenings, I guess it would depend on the aerodrome and what their hours are - somewhere that is more 'club' than 'school' based is probably more likely to I suppose as they'll have instructors in the same position.
With regards lesson duration I believe the lessons at most places are 40 minutes to an hour (depending on the content - e.g. circuits lessons are quite hard work for both instructor and student so tend to be towards the shorter end), though obviously you will also have a pre and often post flight briefing - at Cambridge where I'm learning they schedule lessons in a 2 hour slot to allow for this (but only charge based on the flying time obviously).
I've not tried longer lessons as it's not an option, but my impression from the ~10 hours I've had so far is that any longer than an hour and you wouldn't really learn much more - in the early days I did find as long as there hadn't been too long a gap I'd be better at something at the start of the lesson after than I was the lesson before as I'd had time to mentally process it all and think about what I'd been doing wrong initially etc.
I believe (but haven't looked at this closely so might be wrong) that the NPPL syllabus starts off in essentially the same way as the PPL, so I don't think you'd need to decide straight away which one to do.
As for SWMBO, I think the key thing is not to mention the cost, but stress the positives (for example talk about how you could fly the pair of you over to France for a day trip or whatever)
Like Alex says, I would suggest you'll need to book a lesson every weekend to account for the weather cancellations. I found in the early lessons that anything more than 2 weeks meant half the lesson was spent refreshing.
Also remember that an hour lesson is much more than an hour away from your other commitments. You'll have pre-briefs and de-briefs, you'll be responsible for checking the aircraft on your own quite quickly and, depending on how far you live from your chosen airfield, you'll have to account for travelling.
Early on it seems to be based around an hour in the aircraft which in those first few lessons is surprisngly exhausting mentally. As you progress, the lessons will probably get longer. For instance, today my lesson was 1hr 5mins flying from Southend to Headcorn, doing dual circuits, followed by an hour of solo circuits. A quick cuppa and a 25min flight back to Southend.
As for the big question , how to break the plan to your wife? I've no words of wisdom there but hopefully you'll be lucky like I was and she'll be supportive. However, I warn you now that this best case scenario is not without it's pain. Be prepared for the costs of flying to be increased by the reciprocal spending and have 'those flying lessons' used to justify anything she does
Pilot plans, Weather laughs.
Do I know you? I recognise the name from somewhere...? Hmm.
Anyway, yes, I echo the others here in saying book one a week. Remember when it comes to later in the course and cross country flights, that could be 3 hours or so, so start saving!
I've found that flying needs something of a mindset change to be able to do...it can't just be a hobby you dip into from time to time. I've found it's more a way of life...forums, fly-ins, etc. If you can take the family along, so much the better, but if not, make sure they're supportive of you disappearing for hours on end, or perhaps for the whole day - just boring holes in the sky for an hour and returning to your base airfield is all very well for a while, but it's so much better to go somewhere for lunch, meet a load of friends off the forum, spend time looking over aeroplanes, etc, before flying back. You're obviously interested in aeroplanes!
There are some LTFC members on this forum, I'm sure they'll be along in a while. I used to be a member of the other club at Fairoaks, many moons ago. Never did get round to joining LTFC before I bought my own aeroplane!
My own school flies until dusk, so at this time of year evening lessons are quite possible. The only issue I can think of here is that at the end of a nice warm day, things can get a bit turbulent. I found that on my second lesson, which nearly put me off until the instructor gave me a talking to!
My method for dealing with the wife was to keep looking at hairyplanes on the internet until she suggested that I might like to take some lessons. Result!
The houses get smaller - One man. Two wings. Not a lot of money. No idea what he's doing.
If you're serious about learning to fly (and I'd say you are), then get the medical out of the way sooner rather than later: You don't want to spend shedloads of money on your training only to find there's a deal-breaker of a skeleton lurking in the recesses of your medical history (to mix a few metaphors).
Once that's out of the way then go for it: And as most have said aim for one lesson a week to allow for weather (and tech-it happens)cancellations and also to avoid the 'two steps forward one step back' scenario where you repeatedly have to repeat stuff 'cos the gap between flights was a leeeetle bit too long for your memory cells.
I, like you worked fulltime with lots of on call so my flying was at the weekends: I managed to get the family on board with my disappearing for sometimes both days of the weekend and by doing that managed to polish off the PPL in six months through a particularly mild winter. And I was pretty old when I started....................
Primum non nocere..
As others have said, go for it Tim.
I think a 2 hour lesson would be too long, at least initially, and number of hours to complete is obviously down to how quickly you learn.
Certainly a 2 hour lesson doing circuits would exhaust you but later on a 2 hour navigation flight would not be so tiring.
From personal experience I would say speed of learning is affected by age, I certainly find far more difficult now then when I was 20ish.
For the same reason I think a lesson a week is much better than one every 3 weeks.
You need to check with the club what their arrangements are for lessons, check availablility of instructors. I learn at a school which has instructors available all week except they don't fly after about 5pm, that may be down to the school or location, not sure which.
As PeteS says, once you are sure you are going to go ahead get your medical done and shop around for price. When I was looking for my first med (last year) the prcies varied by as much as £100, that's nearly a 1 hour lesson!
Do be aware though, once you start you will be hooked
Not much to add, but I'll say that when I first started I booked in a solid week and a half of flying of a couple of hour-long trips a day. This got me through basic handling, into the circuit and then my first solo.
I've seen fellow students fly only at weekends and they often spend the first part of the lesson getting back to where they were previously so it seems to take longer. I felt that a concerted period of flying for the basics got me over this "hump" and I could then fly at weekends for the rest.
Obviously this may not work for you with holidays and money, but it's worth discussing with your instructor about whether you'd benefit.
I wouldn't get to hung up on how often you can fly at first.
Book a lesson, see how you enjoy it and go from there.
You may find your brain is knackered, so every 2 or 3 weeks if plenty at first until you get the hang of it.
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Ok, first you book slots at most clubs, some do 2 hour slots, some 1.5 hour slots, but this is NOT the time you will be flying. So if you try and work back from the hours needed to work out how many "lessons" you will need - it wont work
Being honest, if your weekends get busy you will very soon find yourself not having gaps of a month or more between lessons - not so much of an issue in some ways (all hours count), but you will probably have to repeat things, or have rust-remover lessons, especially when doing anything solo. Which extends the total time, and of course costs money.
Having said all that, here is my suggestion: Set aside the budget in your head/in your bank. If your availability is not likely to improve over the next year (and it rarely does!), consider doing a block of lessons over a week... this can either be in the UK (esp if you can take holiday at short notice, and we get a week of decent flying weather, AND there is availability of aircraft/instructors at the club you choose), or overseas where the weather is a bit more reliable.
In fact, in your circumstances I would recommend starting over here with the weekly lessons, but with the intention/acceptance you will need to go off somewhere sunny to finish off. The latter could also end up saving you money, and also helps appease SWMBO if she thinks a trip to a nice beach house in florida (or the like) is on the cards.
If lessons over here work out ok, you are getting the flying done, cancellations aren't winding you up, then fine.
I would not actually recommend going to florida (etc) to do the whole thing - it will be 3 weeks and very intense, so I don't think you will enjoy the slog, and SWMBO definitely wont see it as a holiday if you are either out flying all day or cramming for exams.
I did not plan to finish in florida, but I got up to my QXC/35 hours over here, and comfortably finished off the rest and required 10 hours in a week - so the flying was enjoyable and I felt like I had a holiday, as did the wife. If you allow 10-15 hours per week, you will find the same. This means you could learn over here up to 15-20 hours (which should include solo by then hopefully), then off to florida/spain/jersey for 2 weeks with the missus.
If you cost that out (20 hours lessons here + club memberships + commute, + 30 hours lessons in florida + flights + paperwork + accomm etc) it will almost definitely be cheaper than doing the whole lot here in the uk. Double bonus
Anonymous shanonymous - the name is Mark...
Oh and you might get others coming back and discrediting doing/completing your PPL abroad, and also suggesting that it isn't cheaper when you take into account all the overheads.
All I can suggest is get a spreadsheet and work it all out
As for the flying - as long as you have some lessons over here, and experience our airspace/chatter/busyness/weather, then its not an issue at all.
Anonymous shanonymous - the name is Mark...
I'd underline what mo0g says.
Doing it all in the USA may leave you with a nasty surprise and the need for more hours when you start flying in the UK.
Some pilots manage it with no fuss, but most find the very different procedures, ATC, etc throw them.
If you can get to (say) 30 hours or so in the UK, then finishing off in the USA won't be such a problem. If you play it right, you could also end up with both EASA and FAA PPLs. A standalone FAA one has several advantages over the "based-on".
When I learned, I booked a lesson every week, and on average flew once every two weeks. Slots were 1½ hours, typically an hour airborne each time till we got onto navigation etc. 2 - 3 hour slots weren't unusual at that stage.
Moderatio in omnibus
Thanks for all the replies everyone. I had looked at the US option but finding the time would be tricky, and as some others have suggested I think I'd prefer to learn in the environment I'll hopefully be flying in afterwards. I think the next steps are to carefully select a suitable moment to ask permission from the boss and then head up to LTFC for a chat. Maybe I'll try a lesson and if I get hooked sort out a medical as suggested. I'm not aware of anything which would cause a problem and at 32 I hope there aren't any surprises - although I wouldn't say I lead a model healthy lifestyle!
Next question - what and when are the "start up" costs of learning? I assume to start with all equipment such as headset, charts, etc are provided but how soon do you need to start buying stuff? Books, etc I guess as soon as you know you're serious?
Paul - I don't think I know you but I'm terrible with names so it's not impossible!
I forgot to mention, wherever you learn over here, given your availabilty, I would definitely go for a club which has a hard runway.
Losing slots due to bad weather at the time is bad enough, without losing extra because the grass runway is waterlogged day(s) after too.
Fairoaks is fine, as is Denham which is also doable from where you are.
Anonymous shanonymous - the name is Mark...
Yep, if you're interested in aviation and aircraft as you obviously are, i'd say Go for it too!
As others have said,flying becomes a way of life, and if you decide to train, there are no half measures, you have to go full out and immerse yourself in flying and studying. Any chance to talk flying or to go flying with club members and friends, go for it. AS I ahev said before on this forum, I find it invaluable to haev two very good experienced pilot friends as mentors...and an Instructor who is now a good friend too.
I don't haev any expereince of "schools" but at my club we fly evenings until it gets dark and at the weekend. In fact its better to fly when the airfield is closed because we don't waste so much time holding for the squadrons We can fly in the week if Ops give permission but as I say, our usual hours are out of hours. Our instructors are all volunteers so therefore its a case of when they are available.
AS to frequency of flights, if your finance allows, I would advise flying at least once a week if not more. i try and get in two trips per week (one at teh weekend and one or maybe two after work) But my QFI is a very busy chap and sometimes it can go weeks between...it really is pot luck. However, I echo what others have said about the liklihood of the weather putting the kybosh on your plans....be prepared for anything! But if rain, viz, cloud, wind stops play, then there is always the opportunity to talk to your instructor and fellow club members....you can learn an awful lot just chatting (especially over a pint ) Also be prepared, as you get towards the end of your training (as I now am) that you will need to sacrifice another hobby for a period (as I now have) you can always pick it up when you're qualified.
Time taken. Yeeeep as others have said, its not jsut the hours flight...theres the briefing, debrief, paperwork, cleaning the aircraft...and of course the general chit chat in teh clubhouse. Navexes are longer - the flights are about 1 - 2hrs and a real mental strain...theres the time taken to Hold....
I can't advise on the home life front, as i'm single so don't ahev anyone moaning at me about the time I spend at the Club, nose in books or nose in forum! But I guess I'm just lucky As i've said to my friends....whichever chap I end up with...he's got to either BE a pilot or put up with dating one!!
Flying is a fantastic challenging and exhillarating experience. There is nothing like it and being keen,enthusiastic, and willing to learn, the battle is then half over.
Go for it, and have Fun!
Iolanthe "The Flying Curator"
Home Airfield: EGYD
Exams Passed: Met; Air Law; Comms
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