If your inner voice begs you to push past your limits and acquire a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), the least you can do right away is to start imagining. To trigger the “wish-fulfilling machine,“ close your eyes and visualize yourself talking to your student peers at the flight school, doing your first solo flight, and shaking an instructor’s hand when receiving your long-awaited licence. Of course, it is just a support tool for the real and purposeful actions you must take, such as enrolling in a course, to begin with. Nevertheless, to give you some food for thought and visualization, we share 5 surprising things a PPL student experiences during and after their studies.
1. Solo after just 10 flight hours
While the regulation does not specify the minimum flight hours for doing your first solo, many students do it only after 10 flight hours with an instructor. It indeed sounds incredibly short, especially for those who have no previous relation to aviation. Almost the equivalent amount of time people usually spend at work per day! In broad terms, you need one working day to learn to operate a single-engine aircraft on your own (all flight training hours summed up).
The actual decision is left to a flight instructor’s discretion, who evaluates the student’s progress and signs their logbook certifying the first solo flight. Therefore, other scenarios, such as soloing at 20, 30, or even 40 hours, are also possible. The average is around 15, so if you are well above that, it might cause concerns over your readiness to pilot an aircraft.
2. Be ready to get soaked
The first solo flight is an experience of a lifetime you will never forget, so traditions to mark it solemnly have taken root and vary from country to country and school to school.
While some students are dunked by water soon after they touch the ground, others get deprived of their shirts’ tail. The second custom traces back to the days when a small tailwheel aircraft without radios or intercoms were used for training and the instructors would yank on the student’s shirts to get their attention.
Cutting off the shirttail became a way to remind a student they were entirely on their own from the solo flight onwards. Some other training institutions have the same story of cutting the fabrics, but they cut the student’s tie instead.
A less popular but probably a funnier way to congratulate a successful student is to give them a backside hit with a flat hand. However, due to a growing number of female pilots, the tradition is gradually abandoned to prevent sexual harassment.
If you were allowed to choose, which of these quaint challenges would you go through?
3. Fancy a $100 hamburger?
Once you finish your studies and officially become a pilot, it is your time to shine. There is an excellent tradition among aviators in the USA to fly to get a $100 hamburger, as crazy as it sounds.
The concept means taking a short plane trip lasting less than two hours to a nearby small airport to have a meal (not necessarily a burger!) and fly home. It has nothing to do with the price tag of the burger but is more about what it takes to get one – the cost of renting or operating a light general aviation aircraft, such as Cessna 172.
If you fly across the European territory, Americans will not get mad if you borrow the idea and fly for an €X hamburger or pizza instead. The rent cost of a four-seat airplane without a pilot but with fuel expense included varies from €180 to €200 per hour, so the “European burger” might be a bit more expensive than the American one (although, the round and lovely $100 estimation is said to be outdated). The good news is that both the USA and EU regulatory bodies allow you to diminish the flight fees by taking some passengers on board and sharing costs (and food!) with them, so try to think outside of the box.
These kinds of roundtrips will get you excited about aviation, which, believe it or not, might “trap you for long,” making you revise your priorities and life plans.
4. Discover your proper career calling
As it has been mentioned above, aviation is infectious. We have observed students who initially started training for a PPL, thinking it would be their final “destination point,” but, in reality, they could not help going through later stages. Hence, they kept getting certificate after certificate.
Others cherish the thought of becoming a First Officer one day even before they start their PPL training. Signing up for an ATPL or CPL modular with no previous aviation experience would flatten their wallet, so these students usually decide to take one step at a time. After completing a PPL at BAA Training, it is possible to get recruited as a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) instructor and begin saving money to proceed with a pilot career later.
If tutoring is not your thing, you can use your PPL as a stepping stone to a CPL program. This way, you will see if you like flying, not just in theory but also in practice, and whether you have the aptitude to continue further.
5. Acquire new habits
Even if you finally decide to fly for recreational purposes only, this new experience will leave its positive footprint on the rest of your life.
The situational awareness skills, knowing how to behave even when the unexpected occurs, and being able to remain calm and collected will become part of your daily routine even at times of no flying. When you learn the skill, the chances are low that you will “unlearn” it. You can indeed apply these invaluable skills in any area of your life, from your main work to your personal life. For some, an ability to scan the surroundings within seconds has saved their lives several times behind the car wheel.
All discussed in the article is only a fraction of what to expect from embarking into the pilot world. Once you have “got your feet wet,” you will quickly realize how to get the most of it. By the way, once you finish your PPL studies, share your list of the most striking things about the PPL journey – it would be interesting to know!