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

Moderator: AndyR

By tspdavey
First of all, thank you in advance for your replies, and thank you for already being such a wealth of information with other posts and threads, many of which I have read. However I wanted some more specific/tailored advice, and am hoping somebody can give me a few pointers.

About me:
I am a 28 year old doctor living in East London. Since a young age I have had a great interest in flying. Indeed I got a 6th form scholarship to the RAF to work as an ATC, only to decide medicine was more my thing long-term. Anyway, only recently (despite my massive student debt) have I had an income good enough to support getting my PPL and would like some advice on the total basics to getting started.

I’ve done 2 lessons so far. One at Stapleford, and one at North Weald. Some of you will know these schools I’m sure. I prefer North Weald (concrete runway, slightly cheaper, better aircraft, preferred the instructor/feel of the place).

I have booked 10 lessons in advance as you get free exams and a slight discount. I heeded the advice of not paying for more than I could afford to lose, and will continue to do this!

I am aiming for an average of 4 lessons a month (weather permitting).

My main questions are:

What kind of materials should I purchase right now? I have only paper record slips of my first 2 lessons, but want to formalise these into a logbook, which I need to purchase. Any good sources? Or just Amazon?

I have no immediate aspirations to become a pilot. Once I have my PPL, what could I do with it (beyond the obvious). Perhaps you guys have some examples? I can imaging taking my friends and family up for a spin, but beyond that, and flying for my own enjoyment at the weekend, what kind of things do you guys do with your licenses?

Any other obvious advice you’d give someone who knows nothing about what they’re getting into?!

Thank you again!
Welcome to the world of flying!

Now there is a question. What do do with your licence once you've gone through the countless hours in the air and passed the exams?

Firstly enjoy it. Take your friends and loved ones up so they can experience the joy of flight. Fill the seat next to you if you are alone, nice to have someone along than to have an empty seat! The flying community seem to be a close-nit and mostly friendly bunch of people.

Secondly it is a licence to learn...

You could go through tail wheel differences training which will will open up a whole load of new opportunities especially those in the exotic types and many aerobatic aircraft. Which brings me onto another one, aerobatics!

A night rating and fly after the hours or darkness.

Then there is an IMC/IR(R) Rating or even the full blown IR.

Further difference training on aircraft with wobbly propeller (Constant Speed Props) and/or Retractable Undercarriage.

I note you fly from North London... day trips to Le Touquet are only an hours flight away. Jersey/Guernsey only an hour or so extra flight time.

If you decide on gaining a full PPL, why not take a flying holiday to the USA and fly around California or Florida? Or even fly from Florida to California and back?

Once you have a couple of hundred hours you can go and obtain a Flight Instructor Rating and teach the LAPL course. If you also do the CPL Theory Exams you'll be able to teach the PPL as well.

Basically the world is your oyster, enjoy the path it takes you and remember if you're unsure of anything please do ask, we will try and answer (probably someone with way more experience than myself).
Logbooks. Well, everyone has their preferences, but I like the AFE one, as it has smaller boxes so you don't use it up so quickly! :D


Other than that, you can perhaps have a look at the PPL course books, which usually come in one of two flavours, Jeremy Pratt, AFE:


Or Trevor Thom, Pooleys;


You don't need them all at this stage, but there are some which will give you an overview to get you started.

As for what to do with a PPL, well, the biggest thing that most people do is to go somewhere, eat lunch, then come back! It helps if you have friends to meet up with or take with you, and when you get into it, especially if you make friends on the forum here, you'll have plenty of people to meet up with. There's a forum thread for "Tell us where you're going" so others may follow suit.

There are fly-ins throughout the year, though mostly in the summer months, which are events held at airfields to attract people in. They could be general or they could be for a specific type of aeroplane, etc. You don't need to have that type of aeroplane to fly in, it's just where you'll find a collection of them if you have an interest. There's a Fly-in section of the forum here, and also an Events page on the Flyer site.

Sometimes we have "fly-outs" as well, where we take a group and go somewhere. Bordeaux has become an annual event, and every four years there's what's called a Raduno to Italy. Sometimes there's a forum weekend in Glenforsa (Isle of Mull)!

You can do day trips to locations - towns, museums, coasts, UK and foreign or perhaps overnight trips.

If you have your own aeroplane, or rent from somewhere which allows it, and have the time, there are all sorts of trips you can do around Europe and perhaps even beyond. At least two forumites flew across the Atlantic to Oshkosh this year, in a Mooney. Many have flown down as far as the Mediterranean, up to Scandinavia, across to Slovenia, Poland, etc.

On top of all this going places, there are air sports...aerobatics have already been mentioned. There's air racing, formation flying, display flying, jet flying....all sorts...just takes time, money and a will to do it.
Hi, and welcome to the forum, - (there are others, but this is the friendliest I've found,so -far)

you've obviously set your stall out well, to find somewhere you'll enjoy flying from and getting the optimum deal,for you.

I'd advise you to subscribe to the magazine (Flyer) It helps the Forum, but most importantly, you'll see lots of adverts for stuff you'd like,but don't actually need Also, there tend to be issues with an enclosed catalogue from the likes of Flight Store, Harry Mendlessohn, Pooleys and the like.
Some on here will advocate a carrier-bag and raid the "back to school" section of your local supermarket......Local Tesco, Asda and Lidl are awash with rulers, protractors, compasses, dividers , pens,pencils and clipboards ( a cheapo clipboard, make 2 slots , thread through some elastic and add Velcro to the ends.....instant kneeboard with thigh-strap, at about a tenth of the price the Aero- shops want.

I prefer the Ebay and AFORS routes. you will need a circular slide-rule/plotter for nav. It's archaic, but like an abacus, quick, efficient and never suffers a flat battery! Apparently, you'll never use it after passing your GST (unless you have a perverse delight in mastering old skills, as some of us do :wink: )

As regards the course-books, the science-based ones change very little so, pre-owned ones can save you a good half-hour's worth of flying. You should walk the "human Performance" (Whilst disagreeing with some of it! ) Even the most up-to date Air-Law book is likely to be out of date......but so is the exam!
Either the "old" answer, or a correct current answer is accepted, so it's probably worthwhile getting a current "air-law " (hang the expense ) Many people tend to be seduced by the "starter-kits" (see "catalogues" above! ) These often appear in the various forums, on-line marketplaces and, of course, Amazon. Again, all the gear, huge discount! Right now, you just need a PPL logbook...I wouldn't worry about that hour where you didn't continue......you are highly unlikely to complete training in the minimum hours, though it has been done! get every lesson signed-off by your Instructor...This counts if you change school for any reason. cost is around £10. a mere bagatelle in the big scheme of things !

Now! how many do you intend to fly with? Consider Microlights if the answer is "only 1 pax at a time"
highly- capable fixed- wing aeroplanes abound in this 2-seater category, which are indistinguishable from their bigger bretheren, except they leave a much smaller dent in your bank-balance.
LAA Permit aircraft can be up to 4 seats and can be self-maintained. they tend to be far cheaper than fully- certified EASA/ CAA types(usually the sort that the schools use, old and tatty, but proven and tough as old boots!

NOTE I am an enthusiast, not a qualified pilot. the above is personal opinion and possibly worth what you paid for it! 8) :lol:
I forgot! (creeping senility) :twisted: GASCO hold "free" safety-evenings at venues across the country, you'll meet interesting people, hear interesting talks and get a free copy of "the skyway-code" they produce in conjunction with the CAA..... It's as current as you're likely to find anywhere and effectively a condensed version of the course-books with the essential stuff! there are also handy cockpit check-lists and things in the folder as well. They let virtually anyone in (including me!) A very worthwhile couple of hours!

You can download the Skyway Code, online,- but why bother, when they give you a freeby when you attend (or to save printing-out a download, you can buy a print -copy~£15...
By tspdavey
Everyone - thank you very much indeed for taking the time to write your responses and advice. I’ve gone through each one and taken it all on board. I’m very excited to get started with this new hobby. A little nervous that I’m sinking a lot of money into something with no real financial return - but then again the experiences to be had as you’ve all eluded to, sound incredible!

And what a friendly forum :)
I spent all my training wanting to be able to fly solo, first solo is a big landmark, then first solo nav, then solo QXC.
You spend all your time wanting to get rid of the instructor.

Now I have a licence, I hate flying solo, there’s no one to chat to, no one to share it with and the aircraft feels kinda empty when you look around and think someone else could be enjoying this too, look.. there’s an empty seat.
Although I must admit I did do a solo hours flight recently where I did an orbit or steep turn every few minutes, just for fun.

I just bimble around for fun. I usually have a destination though rather than a circular flight, and they are slowly getting further away. Flying really is about the journey and the view, imho, it doesn’t really matter where you go, when you land that’s the end of the “wow” bit, when you drive somewhere, when you park, that’s the start of the “wow” bit.

(unless you fly into Duxford or an aviation museum of course)

I have a friend I fly with quite a bit and he said he always thought light aircraft were going somewhere, he didn’t realise you could just take off and go and fly around and just be enjoying it.
Cessna571 wrote:there’s no one to chat to, no one to share it with

...no one to see your mistakes, no one to criticise your landing...


I should have mentioned there are two forumites currently on round, or across, the world journeys, completely separate to each other.


Reverting back to the OP's first questions, I'm going to add my 2c:

What to buy? Something I didn't buy when training was a headset: I used the club's passive ones. Had I known how much better life is with a set of ANR headsets, I would have bought them during the training rather than after. My first was a pair of Sennheiser that I managed to break by being clumsy. I replaced them with a Chinese no-brand set at a third of the cost that for me works just as well. There are threads on this forum about which headset to buy, but I've found that cheap ones work more or less as good as the ones that cost five or ten times as much. (I'm not calling people or listening to music while I fly, so I don't need bluetooth, for example.)

What to do later? Everyone has his or her favourite things to do with a PPL. Some like local bimbles, some compete (landings/navigation/aerobatic/....) and so on. Me, I like going places: short outings (an evening or a day) or longer, multi-day, trips. You'll find that non-pilots around you are more willing to join you on such trips, so you don't have to choose between your friends and your flying. What I find particularly fun is to go places it would take a long time to get to with other means: islands, in particular. I my neck of the woods, we have a lovely island 25 minutes flying away. To get there in a car is a seven hour trip; in a private boat some seven to ten hours.

In the meantime: don't get hung up on what to do later. Enjoy the flying lessons. They are not a prerequisite to have fun, they are just as much a part of your hobby as all the post-PPL flights will be.


(Perhaps too many acronyms: ANR = Active Noise Reduction. Removes some of the engine noise so the radio and fellow pilots/pax/instructors are easier to head.)
User avatar
By Rob P
akg1486 wrote: (I'm not calling people or listening to music while I fly, so I don't need bluetooth, for example.)

Or listening to intelligent traffic information via Pilot Aware and SkyDemon?

I won't argue with your basic premise that the cheapest ANR set is only marginally less effective than the £1,000+ brands. But I'd hate the OP to go away with the idea that Bluetooth is strictly for trivial uses.

Rob P
Last edited by Rob P on Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
Rob P wrote:
akg1486 wrote: (I'm not calling people or listening to music while I fly, so I don't need bluetooth, for example.)

Or listening to intelligent traffic information via Pilot Aware and SkyDemon?

I won't argue with your basic premise that the cheapest ANR set is only marginally less effective than the £1,000+ brands. But I'd hate the OP to go away with the idea that Bluetooth is strictly for trivial uses.

Rob P

You got a point, Rob. We don't have Pilot Aware in my area, but I understand it's being used in the UK. Having said that, there are cheap(ish) headsets that do have bluetooth. For a PPL student or a PPL flying up to 50 hours a year, I see little benefit in the really high-end sets. Should our OP go on to fly hundreds of hours per year, the cost of an upgrade would be marginal to say the least.


(edit: spelling mistake :oops: )
Last edited by akg1486 on Fri Oct 11, 2019 2:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Rob P liked this
tspdavey wrote:Just keeled over looking at Bose A20’s - £700 even used on eBay. I’m gonna try some out next week as my instructor had a pair and then go from there.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

That's the smart move, of course. If you're in a club, perhaps you can borrow some other pilots'/students' headsets.

It doesn't sound as if it's the case with you, but many pilot students use the first few lessons to figure out if the hobby really is for them. Some find that it isn't, or at least that it isn't worth the cost/effort. No students should buy any expensive equipment before passing that stage. Books are needed for the ground school, but for flying you need a kneeboard, a pen, a chart, a watch and a logbook.
Aside from all the other good advice and thoughts already posted, I assume you have your medical in place? You don’t want to commit major expense on lessons etc until you’re sure that you meet the medical requirements.

Assuming that all is ok, good luck and welcome both to the forum and aviation poverty... :D