How much does it cost to get a PPL?
Although the minimum requirement is for 45 hours training very few people manage to get their licence in this time.
The average across the UK is estimated to be 55 – 60 hours. Depending on where the training is carried out and on which type costs can vary greatly, but the honest answer is that it’s likely to cost between £12k to £16k and can be considerably more.
The best way to minimize the cost is to try, if possible, to plan the training so that you complete the course in around six to nine months. By doing so you will largely avoid losing skills and thus having to revise any of the exercises too much. Also, make sure you feel comfortable with your chosen facility and especially the instructor you will be with for the majority of (at least) the early exercises.
I’ve seen offers as low as £8.5k if I pay up front – is there a catch?
Maybe not a catch, but very likely a risk. Almost without exception, £8.5k can only be for an NPPL which is a licence with many more limitations than a PPL. Even a PPL advertised at say £9k is virtually certain not to include extras such as books and equipment or any additional hours, Skill test aircraft rental and Examiner fee (around £450 or more combined), landing fees at other airfields (and possibly the home airfield) plus Written Exam and Radio Telephony Practical Exam fees. Other costs to consider are ground briefing and or groundschool, membership fees and excess amounts on aircraft insurance in case of damage whilst flying solo.
What if I do not have that much money?
If your resources are limited, since there is no restriction on the duration of the course, you can spread the training over two years or more. It is also possible to learn to fly solo for less than £3500 (but not to carry passengers).
If I pay up front to get a discount is my money safe?
Probably not. Most flying clubs and schools are small businesses, usually limited companies, and there has been a high and regular failure rate of these companies for many decades. The considered opinion is that the failures will continue. When this happens many trainees are left without a licence and with little or no chance of getting their money back.
Again, the considered opinion of those experienced in light aviation training is never to pay up front, at least not in any significant amounts.
At what age can I take flying lessons?
There is no lower age limit for learning to fly, nor is there an upper limit, however it is essential to be able to see out of the windscreen above the coaming (the top cover of the instrument panel) and to properly reach the rudder pedals. Since solo flight is not allowed before the age of 16 and 17 is the minimum age for licence issue, it is perhaps not wise to begin training too soon. In addition flight training before the age of 14 will not count toward the 45 hour minimum. At the later end of life, as long as a medical is possible – so too is a licence.
Should I pay for briefing or groundschool?
It is true some clubs and schools give free briefings and a small minority free groundschool. Extensive groundschool is rarely neccessary since most people manage the written exams easily with self study. Unfortunately, if the long formal flight briefings and any significant debriefs are not charged for, psychologically the instructor will be inclined to cut them short as he or she will not be paid for that time. Consequently the student can suddenly be up flying without a proper understanding of what is to be practiced leading to more dual flying costs than should be required. A relaxed comprehensive brief, charged at a fraction of the dual training rate, can actually save flying costs.