Learning to fly, or thinking of learning? Post your questions, comments and experiences here

Moderator: AndyR

By VFR_UK
#1714304
I travel from a similar area. It’s hard work without a car to be honest - you might want to zipcar it, I’ve done that a few times.

Most has already been said but my experiences were:

Wycombe Air Park / Booker
I trained there ages ago when it was branded British Airways. It was my only point of reference at the time and I quite liked it. It had ‘proper’ (unnecessary I now think) ATC and was fairly well run although I had various instructors and they all taught differently which wasn't ideal. Tarmac runway wasn’t an issue ( if the wind was the right direction), but to be honest loads of lessons were weathered off and would have been the same on tarmac or grass.

I called a few times this year to discuss retraining after a lapse and found them to be curt, borderline rude, and completely uninterested. Whoever answered the phone sounded like a bored, 20yr old wannabe airline pilot (I came to that conclusion purely on the way they spoke to me) and they never answered a single email. So I totally ruled them out. Maybe I was unlucky - I was keen to go back there as it was where I first flew but I’d probably never bother again. They do have a big fleet seemingly PA28 and Cessna now.

White Waltham
A great airfield. I had a share there and did my IMC training and some aeros there. It could use a bit of love updating the decor, menus etc (literally hadn’t changed a bit in the years I was away!) but it offers a great ‘club’ sort of feel with nice place to hangout. Again it’s not the place I’d probably go if I wasn’t flying but it’s a nice social scene around flying.
I don’t think the grass is an issue and although I like the AG radio now I’m used to it - the first time I went there I didn’t know what to do not having to get permission to do anything!
They have more aircraft than instructors and I found it tricky getting anything booked in recently, after a bit of a mess up their end initially, and this meant quite protracted training even despite the amazing weather. Definitely check on availability if you go there.

I believe they are OK for their AC to be taken for the day post-PPL but i haven’t put that into practice yet. I think multiple days requires more heavy usage. Same everywhere really and a key reason (among others) why so many people without a share give up after getting their license .

Fairoaks
Has tarmac and FISO and is close, so ticks a few boxes. I’ve only done a few hours there having discovered it only recently. It’s a good airfield, and has some more ‘bizjet’ (Jetprop) flying. Not much social scene but has a cafe. Training there is primarily Synergy and LTFC. Synergy is pretty expensive and you have to add instructor time on top of their rates, billed at ‘student contact time’ so may be a lot longer than your flight hours. An instructor was very over-enthusiastically teaching use of a whizz wheel while I was waiting there - ‘this is how you’ll plan your flights once you have your license’ he told his student. It made me laugh, what a waste of time I thought....
Didn’t visit LTFC but I understand they are more affordable and have their own ‘clubhouse’.
Both operations have their aircraft parked on the grass.

Of the two I flew with recently, Synergy at Fairoaks was most expensive and the aircraft felt a bit ‘rough around the edges’.

Waltham is slightly cheaper and the hourly training rate is what you pay, and the PA28’s I think are pretty well specced most with Garmin 430 and some look quite decent. You do have to pay membership but I think students get a discount.

Some people don’t care so much about the condition of fleet - especially in training - but I think for £200+ an hour you should be getting a nice aircraft. This is also important if you’re thinking of hiring afterwards, and will save the look of dread on your friends/passengers faces when they turn up to see an aircraft looking like it’s long past it’s sell by date and dirty/worn/smelly interior which you can still be paying £200/hr for around London.

I’d personally avoid anywhere that charges per landing or touch and go for training - it can really add up. I did some flying /checkouts from Shoreham when I lived near there and the airfield costs made it so much more expensive.

Just realised Blackbushe isn’t on your list - not sure how accessible by train but it’s similar distance to Waltham/Booker.

Good luck with it. Whatever you do once you’ve passed, try and keep flying....
By StuG
#1714395
Another shout for Cubair at Redhill - I used to get the train from Clapham Junction to Nutfield, then walk along to the aerodrome - it's not too bad a walk through country lanes (and some of the instructors would drop me off if they were finished for the day). if you had a brompton bike - even better. I now drive which gives a bit more flexibility.

Don't worry too much about the waterlogging at Redhill - as others have mentioned there is a section of taxiway to take off from - it's not too tricky and helps you nail your landings in a more accurate way. The benefit of learning in an environment where you are utilising an aerodrome with atc, and with Gatwick next door is good fun too!

I'd pop down to Cubair at some point and have a chat with the instructors - friendly bunch (QSD taught me) and it's great we stay in touch through the club - having access to ask the silliest of questions is one of the most important parts of learning!

Happy to have a chat if you're ever down there - enjoy the journey!
VictoryRoll liked this
By KN58
#1717819
VFR_UK wrote:Wycombe Air Park / Booker
I trained there ages ago when it was branded British Airways. It was my only point of reference at the time and I quite liked it. It had ‘proper’ (unnecessary I now think) ATC and was fairly well run although I had various instructors and they all taught differently which wasn't ideal. Tarmac runway wasn’t an issue ( if the wind was the right direction), but to be honest loads of lessons were weathered off and would have been the same on tarmac or grass.

I called a few times this year to discuss retraining after a lapse and found them to be curt, borderline rude, and completely uninterested. Whoever answered the phone sounded like a bored, 20yr old wannabe airline pilot (I came to that conclusion purely on the way they spoke to me) and they never answered a single email. So I totally ruled them out. Maybe I was unlucky - I was keen to go back there as it was where I first flew but I’d probably never bother again. They do have a big fleet seemingly PA28 and Cessna now.

White Waltham
A great airfield. I had a share there and did my IMC training and some aeros there. It could use a bit of love updating the decor, menus etc (literally hadn’t changed a bit in the years I was away!) but it offers a great ‘club’ sort of feel with nice place to hangout. Again it’s not the place I’d probably go if I wasn’t flying but it’s a nice social scene around flying.
I don’t think the grass is an issue and although I like the AG radio now I’m used to it - the first time I went there I didn’t know what to do not having to get permission to do anything!
They have more aircraft than instructors and I found it tricky getting anything booked in recently, after a bit of a mess up their end initially, and this meant quite protracted training even despite the amazing weather. Definitely check on availability if you go there.

I believe they are OK for their AC to be taken for the day post-PPL but i haven’t put that into practice yet. I think multiple days requires more heavy usage. Same everywhere really and a key reason (among others) why so many people without a share give up after getting their license .

....


I can totally relate to the wycombe / booker expoerience.
They are extremely rude and are simply not interested in new students.
When I was deciding on which club to start my PPL training with, I wanted to book a "taster flight" with wycombe (back in May) and the earliest availability was in August and guess what, 3 days before the flight, they cancelled it as the aircraft according to the lady on the phone was "busy"
This made the decision very easy for me and I went with White waltham where I am currently doing my training.
By Will1v
#1717873
Thanks a lot for the detailed feedback guys, much appreciate it.

I'll try to get out to Cubair and White Waltham to have a chat with the people there (@StuG I'll let you know when, in case you're around).
#1719392
Not many airfields are that close to a railway station. I own a flying school at Blackbushe, 20 mins from Clapham by train if you go to Farnborough Main. You would have to get a cab from there.
We train PPL and CPL and have packages where landing (and everything else!) is included.
We are the first UK flying school to fly the new Sonaca 200. We have one and number two is pitching up in October. Other than that we have a CZAW PS28 Cruiser with Dynon glass, three C152s, one of which is an aerobat, two PA28s and a TB20. Plenty of choice!
By Will1v
#1719412
Sir Morley Steven wrote:Not many airfields are that close to a railway station. I own a flying school at Blackbushe, 20 mins from Clapham by train if you go to Farnborough Main. You would have to get a cab from there.
We train PPL and CPL and have packages where landing (and everything else!) is included.
We are the first UK flying school to fly the new Sonaca 200. We have one and number two is pitching up in October. Other than that we have a CZAW PS28 Cruiser with Dynon glass, three C152s, one of which is an aerobat, two PA28s and a TB20. Plenty of choice!


Thanks. Unless I haven’t looked properly, it’s more 40 minutes to an hour from Clapham Junction, but it might still be an option if it’s not too tricky to find a cab from there. I’ll try and pop over when I can.
By VictoryRoll
#1719549
Sir Morley Steven wrote:Not many airfields are that close to a railway station. I own a flying school at Blackbushe, 20 mins from Clapham by train if you go to Farnborough Main. You would have to get a cab from there.
We train PPL and CPL and have packages where landing (and everything else!) is included.
We are the first UK flying school to fly the new Sonaca 200. We have one and number two is pitching up in October. Other than that we have a CZAW PS28 Cruiser with Dynon glass, three C152s, one of which is an aerobat, two PA28s and a TB20. Plenty of choice!


What happened with the Firefly old bean?