Learning to Fly: an Exciting Journey

Learning to fly is an exciting journey. From your trial instruction flight to your first solo, passing your theory exams, learning to navigate through the air, gaining your pilots certificate and then taking a friend or loved one with you for the first time and sharing your passion with them.

It takes time and dedication, but being able to pilot your own aircraft all over Australia makes it all worth it!

Getting Started

On your very first flight you will take the controls and learn about the effects of those controls. (don’t worry, all training aircraft have dual controls so the instructor can help you out) You will gain a good understanding of what the engine, ailerons, rudder, elevator and flaps do and how each also influences the other.

From there you will go on to a number of exercises in the training area: learning to keep the aircraft straight and level, climb and descent, normal and steep turns and some emergency procedures. One lesson is spent on each of these, but as you are flying the aircraft all the time, the others will come into play in all lessons too; you can’t get to the training area for straight and level practice without making a few turns!

Then it is time to hit “the circuit” – the pattern aircraft fly around the airfield on take-off, approach and landing. These are often called “touch and goes” – literally going around in circles for 5 or 6 lessons to perfect your landings.

And after you reach a good enough standard and can consistently land the aircraft unassisted by your instructor, it is time for…

You First Solo!

Nobody forgets the first time they fly an aircraft on their own. It’s just you, you are in command and even though you have some ways to go until you get your certificate, you become a pilot.

While you will know you are getting close, it takes people by surprise when the instructor tells you: “make the next one a full stop”, gets out and sends you on your way.

It is an amazing experience!

The Theory of Flying

You can’t get your pilots certificate without some theory. It’s not particularly hard, but you are going to have to read some books! Some people also take classes of find a tutor, but you can do it all on your own and take the exams at the flying school.

The first thing you need to study it the Basic Aeronautical Knowledge (BAK) which teaches you about how aircraft operate, some aerodynamics and weather.

You’ll also need to pass the “human factors” exam and to gain that endorsement, the navigation exam.

You can do all of these in your own time, but it is recommended you start sooner rather than later; it is actually useful in your practical training and there is nothing more frustrating than being ready to solo or even your flight test except for those pesky theory exams not being passed yet!

Navigating the Skies

After your first solo, there is still a bit more to do in the training area, and soon after, you are eligible to get your pilot certificate, which allows you to fly in your local area only. But most people immediately start navigation training.

While flying between two points with a GPS is easy, there’s more to it that that. You learn to plan your flights using aviation maps so you don’t go through areas you are not supposed to fly over, plan your fuel use and learn to get information about your destination. You also need to consider the weather, which is the most important factor in safe cross-country flying.

And we want you to be able to do it with the GPS off, with nothing but a map, rulers, compass, clock and “whiz-wheel”, an aviation specific type of slide ruler that doesn’t run out of batteries or break if you spill a drink over it.

It’s a real challenge, but very satisfying and after 5 or 6 navigation exercises you’ll be ready for your flight test where you demonstrate all the required skills and knowledge to your school’s Chief Flying Instructor. (CFI)

Congratulations, you’re a pilot!

After a successful flight test and  filing the paper work, you can take your own aircraft or hire one from the school and fly wherever you want. You have realised your dream, but you still have a lot to learn. Some of it you will learn on your own, from your own experience built over time, or you can go back to school and gain additional endorsement, like different aircraft types, formation flying and more.

As a pilot, you will never stop learning!

Beyond Recreational

Your recreational pilot certificate is also a stepping stone to your private and commercial license. Every hour you log counts towards your private license requirements so you really need to only complete the parts of the private license (instrument flying, controlled airspace) not covered by your RA-Aus training and get used to the new aircraft.

If this is your goal from the start, talk about it with your school before you start and it may be desirable to pick a school that offers both options so the transition is easier.

The Cost of Learning to Fly

The most asked question is: “how much does it cost to learn to fly” but there is no easy answer.

There is nothing to pay up-front; learning to fly is charged on an hourly rate. For recreational flying this ranges from $100 an hour at some clubs with volunteer instructor to double that at a professional school near a city. And both have their merit.

It’s hard to say what your cost will be as everyone takes different amounts of time to learn. A good rule of thumb is that if you can spare half a day every other week for a year to fly an hour or two, you’ll have your recreational pilots certificate with cross-country endorsement within a year, in anywhere from 40 to 60 flying hours. You do the math!

It’s also important to consider that if your lessons are closer together, you will progress quicker. Some people have been known to dedicate their time and finish in a month!