You don't actually need a pilot's licence to fly some types of microlight..

Licensed flying - So, you want to be a pilot ?

Learning to fly is one of the most rewarding of challenges, whether you’re learning to fly on foot or wheels. Students remember their first solo and their final flight test for the rest of their lives. How does it work? Chris Finnigan explains.

HOW much does it cost to learn to fly a microlight? How long will it take? What is involved?

The cost of microlight flying training varies widely, depending on a number of factors:

• Age. Generally, the older you are, the longer it takes.

• Weather. In a good year for British weather progress can be made quickly, but when a spell of bad weather comes along delays are inevitable.

• Availability of student. If you can train whenever the weather is suitable, including summer evenings, you will make better progress than if you only fly at weekends.

• Availability of instructor. If your instructor has many students you will be competing with others for his/her time.

• Natural ability. The more natural ability you have, the faster you will progress.

• Funds available. If you are working on a tight budget, you will only progress at the rate you can afford.

The National Private Pilot’s Licence microlight rating requires a minimum of 25h flying training, 10h of which must be solo, for the pilot to have no operational restrictions. A licence with restrictions can be achieved with a minimum of 15h flying training, including 7h solo. These restrictions include not being able to carry passengers, only being able to fly in very good weather conditions, and being restricted to flying within 8nm of your own airfield.

The hours quoted above are minima that only the most naturally talented young students achieve. The rest of us normally take a little longer. A few achieve their licences within weeks, others take months, and those on a tight budget sometimes take a year or two.

When budgeting for flying training, it is wise to calculate the cost of the minimum number of hours required and then add between 50 and 100% of that cost, depending on how confident you feel of your own ability. Hourly rates vary depending on where the instructor flies from and what his/her overheads are.

In Britain the high cost of fuel will also add to the overall expense. Realistically, a budget of £2.5–3.5k should cover your training.

Don’t forget groundschool. In addition to flying training the student pilot must also learn a number of groundschool subjects that are considered vital to becoming a safe and competent pilot.

The best results are always achieved by a combination of attending lessons and private study. Those who are not particularly confident of their academic ability should not be put off by the thought of having to go back into the classroom and pass exams at the end of the groundschool training.

All groundschool subjects relate to what goes on in the air while flying and they are much easier to understand when put into this context.The subjects taught in groundschool and confirmed by written examinations include:

• Principles of Flight

• Aviation Law

• Aviation Navigation

• Aviation Meteorology

• Airframes & Engines

• Aircraft Instruments

• Fire, First Aid, & Safety Equipment

• Human Performance Limitations

The Airframes & Engines and Principles of Flight exams ensure that the student pilot understands how the aircraft flies and how its engine and control systems work. They also cover aircraft performance and the many factors that can affect it in the air and when taking off and landing.

Aviation Law training ensures that the pilot understands how the law applies to him or her, including when and where they can and cannot fly, what documents they must have in their possession, what rules they must obey and how they must ensure that both they and their aircraft are capable and safe for the flights they wish to make.

Aviation Navigation training on the ground provides the pilot with the necessary skills and knowledge to plan before a flight and then fly to that plan, knowing at all times where they are and how to get where they want to go.

The more navigation is included in flight planning on the ground, the easier it is to navigate once in the air.

Aviation Meteorology lessons give a sufficient understanding of the weather, and how it affects the performance and safety of the aircraft, for the pilot to know when it is safe to fly and when it is not. This includes being able to anticipate and plan for changes to the weather during a flight, especially if it is a long cross-country or touring flight.

Human Performance & Limitations is a relatively new subject in aviation and covers all the different factors that can affect the way a pilot performs in flight. These range from the effects of tiredness, alcohol, drugs, lack of oxygen and cold, to misperceptions and misjudgements caused from stress, anxiety, complacency or confusion. The knowledge acquired in studying this subject allows the pilot to factor in his or her own performance, and importantly its limitations, into their risk assessments before flying.

The exams must be passed before the pilot can achieve a licence even if the General Flying Test of skills has already been passed. Most groundschool exams use the multiplechoice system; each question has a range of answers from which the student must select the correct one. The navigation exam involves planning an imaginary flight using a chart and navigation ‘tools’, taking into account windspeed and other weather conditions given in the exam scenario.

For more information visit the BMAA website at www.bmaa.org or the National Private Pilot’s Licence website at www.nppl.uk.com, where the syllabus is available for download.