So you want to learn to fly?

Wow! 10 years since I passed my PPL checkride.  Instead of looking back at the last decade of flying, I thought I would use my wisdom (yeah right) to dispel a few myths about making that fateful first decision.

Frequently asked questions.

1)  Can I learn to fly?

Most people are capable of learning to fly to a safe PPL standard.  It is a matter of dedication and whether or not you can pass the medical requirements, fit and proper person test, and written exams.  The exams are no harder than a year 10 (10th Grade or 4th Form) test, and there are usually classes and/or online resources available to self study.  If you suffer from a condition that prevents you from driving a car, you probably cannot fly either.  When I say dedication, I mean it.  It is a never ending process as even thousand plus hour pilots will tell you they are still learning as they go.  There are a very small percentage of people to which flying comes naturally and  I am not one of them.  What this means is, it won't come to you over night, you need to practice it to get to the point where it comes naturally to you.  How long this takes depends as much on you as it does on the quality of your instructor.  What I will say is at the end of it all, not only will you have learned to fly but you'll have learned a lot about yourself on the way as well.

2)  Am I too old/young to learn?

There are no minimum or maximum age requirement to begin learning to fly.  You must be able to physically reach the controls and see over the instrument panel, but that is about it.  There are some limits placed on other aspects, namely in NZ you must be 16 or older to fly solo, 17 or older to hold a PPL and 18 or older to hold a CPL.  I know one young fella who had won several national flying competition titles by the time he went solo at age 16, and I know of an 80 year old gent who fulfilled a life long desire to learn to fly after his family finally convinced him he could do it.

3)  Is it safe?

Taken in a literal sense, nothing is truly safe.  In a more reader friendly way, think of it like this:  Flying and flying training is made as safe as it can be and safety is an ongoing development that Flight Schools and Govt regulators take very seriously.  The long answer is while there is always serious risk in flying, steps are always taken to actively mitigate any inherent risk involved.  It's often said that its more dangerous driving out to the airport than actually flying the plane.  To compare the statistics, in March 2015 a family of four tragically lost their lives in a light plane crash.  Since then, no one has died flying light fixed wing airplanes.  From March 2015 up to today 248 people have died in automobile related accidents on NZ roads.  When you consider that in NZ pilots fly light aircraft for around 50,000 hours a year, there's a lot of fatality free flying going on!

4)  It's really expensive isn't it?

Yes it is.  But so is that house, car or 4kHD TV you want to buy.  My point is, if you really want to do this, a way will exist where you can afford to save up for it.  It might not be particularly pleasant and there may be some hard choices involved, but see my point about dedication.  It might surprise you how little it may cost compared with other pursuits (try costing up mountain biking, skiing or scuba diving as a comparison).  My PPL cost me NZ$14,000 over two years of training which took me just over 3 years to save up, and I spend approximately NZ$3500 a year (~NZ$375 per month) keeping current, competing and going on the odd joyride.

5)  Do I have to go on and become a commercial pilot once I get my PPL?

Strangely enough, a lot of non pilots ask me this question when they find out I fly recreationally.  They automatically assume that I am going to quit my job and change careers.  The answer is no you don't.  I've been flying privately for ten years and I have no plans to go any further down that path.  Besides, there are many other paths your flying can take even in the private pilots world, blogging being one of them. :-)

6) I'm a girl.  Can I fly?

You sure can, this is the 21st century!  Having said that, women have been flying for almost as long as men have and their history of flying makes for a fascinating read if you are interested.  There is nothing stopping you getting out there and having a go, it all starts with you.  I followed one aviatrix through her training from first flight to checkride.  She went through a lot of personal challenges on her journey, but she made it and passed her PPL flight test with flying colors (pun intended).  Go and read her blog.


Zjian Wai said…
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