Go Back  PPRuNe Forums > Non-Airline Forums > Private Flying
Reload this Page >

Training options for a wannabe amateur pilot in London, UK?

Private Flying LAA/BMAA/BGA/BPA The sheer pleasure of flight.

Training options for a wannabe amateur pilot in London, UK?

Old 6th Jan 2015, 18:40
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: UK
Posts: 2
Training options for a wannabe amateur pilot in London, UK?

Hi all,

I have some questions regarding the various training options available to a complete beginner who wants to obtain his PPL license within 2-4 years.

I'm still early in my research so please forgive the basic questions below.

1) Is there really any major difference between the various flight schools in and around London? They all seem to be similarly priced (150ph) and offer basically the same thing?

2) Given I am learning purely as a hobby, would it be worthwhile considering alternative routes that involve completing initial training on smaller/cheaper types of aircraft (e.g. microlights)?

3) Would I be correct that safety is not a concern these days or are there certain things I should be aware of?

4) Is there a minimum frequency that I should aim to complete lessons at? Would a lesson a fortnight allow development of skills and knowledge or is this too infrequent?

5) Any other tips or resources anyone knows about would be great.

Many thanks all!
LowGlider is offline  
Old 6th Jan 2015, 22:09
  #2 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: UK
Posts: 213
Cost-wise, I'd consider adding commuting cost to your hourly flying rate. I commute from London to the gliding club I fly at, it takes a couple of hours (by car or public transport). I believe the easiest places for public transport are Booker, Denham, Headcorn, White Waltham and for microlights, Damyns Hall. I wouldn't buy a car specifically for getting to an airfield though.

You could fly on microlights though you'd need to convert from a microlight NPPL to an aeroplane NPPL. You may want to consider whether your instructor is qualified to teach the JAA PPL if you go down this route as this may have an effect on your training. I think renting microlights can be difficult, I think you may need to purchase a share in one post-licence acquisition.

Safety-wise, as one magazine said "if it reeks of oil and the wheels shimmy like those of a shopping trolley, don't risk it". I'd consider the state of the aircraft, the instruction you're receiving etc. though the PPL folk will know more than I do.

I generally fly gliders once a fortnight and that is often enough for me, though I'll spend an entire day at the airfield and fly 2-3 times, gliding does tend to be fairly social and I do pitch in with launching/retrieving etc.

If you're flying March-October, wear plenty of sun-cream and/or long sleeves, Perspex canopies offer pretty much zero UV protection and you don't want to get basted.
Chris the Robot is offline  
Old 6th Jan 2015, 22:37
  #3 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: London
Posts: 148
Hi there,

I'll try to be as helpful as I can, I hope it doesn't get too chaotic as my writing normally does this late in the day.

I trained at Stapleford for PPL and then the IMC rating (now called IR(R)). I also flew from North Weald for about a year. Both places are commutable from London - Central line takes you to Theydon Bois or Epping, respectively, and from there you can get a cab. +20 to each lesson I know, but at least relatively reliable and not too time-consuming.

Stapleford are a big commercially oriented school and it is vital to find an instructor who (a) you get on well with, (b) understands and accommodates your non-commercial aspiration and (c) can book lessons infrequently. If you end up going there, I have one in mind whom I could recommend, PM me.

North Weald Flying Group is not surprisingly a large group at North Weald and the majority of members are PPLs who fly their 7 aircraft, booking as they go. The Group is an ATO, however, and has two instructors; might be worth giving it a go if you look for a more relaxed environment to learn in. I was a member for over a year and flew the Archer and the C172s.

First and foremost, visit all the places you consider, and compare the general feel and atmosphere. Only then it may be worth looking for opinions of former students from the few particular schools you'll like. Don't be put off by occasional chaos or being ignored at Stapleford - most of your training will be spent with an instructor in the cockpit, and not with the admin people at the reception.

Facilities are important, but you can assume that any authorised ATO maintains their fleet in decent shape, unless you hear on the contrary from someone. ATOs run on thin margins, so you can imagine that mechanical soundness of aircraft will take priority over the looks of the interior. Stapleford trainers look awful, NWFG aircraft look much better, but not like factory-new either. All of them flyable, maintained to public transport standards and handle well.

When training, I flew rather irregularly, sometimes once a fortnight, sometimes pressing for a few lessons a week, with two 6-week breaks due weather and one 4-month break due to a "do I really want it" moment.

Hope that helps!



/h88

Last edited by hegemon88; 6th Jan 2015 at 23:07. Reason: Add info on frequency of lessons
hegemon88 is offline  
Old 6th Jan 2015, 23:03
  #4 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: UK
Posts: 13,638
Originally Posted by LowGlider View Post
Hi all,

I have some questions regarding the various training options available to a complete beginner who wants to obtain his PPL license within 2-4 years.

I'm still early in my research so please forgive the basic questions below.

1) Is there really any major difference between the various flight schools in and around London? They all seem to be similarly priced (150ph) and offer basically the same thing?
The aeroplanes will be similar, and the airfields will be the airfields - some have better club facilities than others (important if you plan to make this part of your social life as well as the pure flying hobby), and one or two struggle a bit with the conjested airspace from the big London airports which can add a bit onto training costs.

But, the biggest difference will be the instructors. All instructors are human - and thus some you'll like and learn well from, and some you won't. Above all else, find an instructor that you like and believe you can spend 45 odd hours in a small metal box with, learning from.

2) Given I am learning purely as a hobby, would it be worthwhile considering alternative routes that involve completing initial training on smaller/cheaper types of aircraft (e.g. microlights)?
Absolutely. I've been flying for a quarter century, rated on a fair selection of stuff, and still find my hobby microlight flying the most fun for the least money. The good modern microlights are far better aeroplanes on most levels than the average light aeroplanes you'll find in many schools.

Microlights can only have two seats, and are limited to flying in day / clear of cloud conditions. But unless you do higher training, the day/VFR limitation will apply to you as well, and few of us fly with any regularity with more than one passenger I find.

3) Would I be correct that safety is not a concern these days or are there certain things I should be aware of?
Safety is always a concern - flying is inherently dangerous. And because we all recognise that, and continuously try to be as safe as possible using the learned skill and experience we have - most of us will hopefully manage to die at 90 shot in bed by a jealous husband / wife*. It requires you to be fairly obsessive to be safe enough however.

4) Is there a minimum frequency that I should aim to complete lessons at? Would a lesson a fortnight allow development of skills and knowledge or is this too infrequent?
Given British weather, if you can, plan for two lessons a week - the odds are that you'll then fly 1-2 per fortnight! The more often you fly, the less hours you'll take to learn however.

5) Any other tips or resources anyone knows about would be great.

Many thanks all!

Remember that enjoying learning is as important as enjoying your subsequent licenced flying. Also work out how you plan to fly once you have your licence, and budget for that, as well as getting your licence.

Don't forget the 7 written exams (5 for microlights) you'll need to do, and factor in time for study for that as well. They're surprisingly tough.

G


* Delete as applicable.
Genghis the Engineer is online now  
Old 6th Jan 2015, 23:24
  #5 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: NW England
Posts: 78
Microlights can be rented and the modern 3 axis ones are definitely worth looking at as an economical alternative to GA aircraft.
There is a route from NPPL (M) to GA if you decide to continue that way for night/IR more passengers etc.
Lessons are around 100/hr with min only 25 hours so you're likely to get qualified in more like 12-18 months on your budget if all goes well.

Lots of info on British Microlight Aircraft Association,Home (the forum is useful)
and endless friendly advice on Microlight Forum join and start asking questions, newbies welcome.

Last edited by Hadley Rille; 6th Jan 2015 at 23:38.
Hadley Rille is online now  
Old 6th Jan 2015, 23:28
  #6 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Central London
Age: 36
Posts: 311
Lowglider,

Welcome. I'm no sky god by any means but as a ppl flying around the london for a few years now these are my thoughts.

1) Is there really any major difference between the various flight schools in and around London? They all seem to be similarly priced (150ph) and offer basically the same thing?
It's well worth doing some serious research here! What I would say is keep in mind additional costs which flying schools may omit to mention. E.g. Stapleford include landing fees in lesson prices whereas the school I learned at charged some 30 per landing in addition to headline lesson costs. This really mounts up over an entire PPL course (I should add this was at Biggin Hill and the school is now defunct). Caveat emptor applies and I would urge you to visit prospective schools to assess them for yourself. The commute to the school is worth considering as it is a journey you'll be making a lot.

The NPPL is worth considering as it is substantially cheaper than a full EASA PPL and gives you largely the same privileges - with a few key differences around flying internationally.

+1 recommendation for north weald flying group. As the previous poster has alluded to they are looking to obtain ATO (flying school) status. Worth calling the group for the latest on this - my understanding is that they currently can only offer training to qualified pilots rather than ab-initio but I understand this is under review. I gather this is due to planning restrictions at north weald airfield rather than anything to do with the group itself which includes highly experienced instructors.'

Finally on this point, I would advise against handing over substantial sums up front for flight training. If the school goes bust before you complete the course you stand to lose the lot. If the school offers a discount for upfront payment I would suggest asking for the same discount in exchange for your committing to complete the course with them. If they don't offer this walk away as it's a competitive market.

2) Given I am learning purely as a hobby, would it be worthwhile considering alternative routes that involve completing initial training on smaller/cheaper types of aircraft (e.g. microlights)?
I would give serious consideration to microlights. The new breed of microlight (c42, flight design CT series etc.) offer equivalent levels of performance to light aircraft for a faction of the price due to lower fuel burn and maintenance costs.

Microlights are 2 seat only, and subject to a max weight of 450kgs so limit you in range and passenger numbers. You've stated you have no commercial ambitions which is important as hours on microlights cannot be counted towards commercial licenses in the future. It's worth keeping this in mind should your commercial aspirations change.

3) Would I be correct that safety is not a concern these days or are there certain things I should be aware of?
It's difficult to find concrete statistics on this. From my research on the issue GA flying is roughly equivalent to motorcycling in terms of bald safety statistics. That said the biggest killers of PPLs are all potentially avoidable: they are controlled flight into terrain, continued VFR flight into instrument conditions and fuel starvation. if you adopt a risk averse and prudent approach to flight planning you will go a long way towards making your personal risk profile safer than the general statistics would imply. As with any worthwhile activity in life there is some risk involved and it's a personal decision as to whether the risk is worth it for you.

[quote]4) Is there a minimum frequency that I should aim to complete lessons at? Would a lesson a
fortnight allow development of skills and knowledge or is this too infrequent?
I was always told the more intensively you can fly the better, but aim for weekly lessons at a minimum. If you only fly once a fortnight you will find it is one step forward, two steps back as you re-learn much of your previous lesson. This will be both frustrating and expensive at 150 per hour!.

I would suggest initially flying once per week as a minimum and once you get to solo standard book two or three weeks off work and complete the solo and skills test elements intensively.

In the uk weather is a big consideration. I would suggest commencing your training in March or April with a view completing the course by the autumn so that you (in theory at least) minimise cancelations due to weather.

Hope the above helps.

T.

Last edited by taxistaxing; 7th Jan 2015 at 00:09.
taxistaxing is offline  
Old 7th Jan 2015, 07:45
  #7 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: EGSX
Age: 52
Posts: 177
LowGlider, you don't say where you live. That will have a factor on where you learn.

I learnt at Stapleford - training was OK, but the general attitude there isn't friendly and it does put you off. Plus the 152s are in a shocking state - I understand they're in the process of being replaced with Tecnams but not sure how far down that road they are.

I now fly with the North Weald Flying Group. We have a 150, 152, and 172s - all in good nick. And there are several instructors available. The only snag is that at the mo the council won't allow ab initio training at NW, so you have to fly to somewhere like Andrewsfield, do a touch and go and the lesson begins. I don't think you will be able to learn in the Archer as there's a min 100 hrs requirement before it can be hired - it's the only aircraft that isn't owned by the group.

Hegemon88 - where are you flying now? I suspect I know who you are - did you buy a Dakota?
TractorBoy is offline  
Old 7th Jan 2015, 07:55
  #8 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Oxford, UK
Posts: 1,548
Lowglider, why did you choose that name? is it fate calling?

For acquiring the basics, if you are starting from zero....why not book a week's course in May at my gliding club? (you can google Shenington gliding for terms and conditions). And then, having a sound grip of the basics, go on to the motor glider rating, which is an economical way to fly if you insist on an engine. As for London to Banbury, good trains, etc, and then a taxi? and primitive accomodation is available on the airfield, or you can stay in a very nice B&B....or at the local pub.

We do welcome Londoners! quite a few, actually.
mary meagher is offline  
Old 7th Jan 2015, 09:03
  #9 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: London
Posts: 148
Hi again,

Originally Posted by TractorBoy
Stapleford (...) the 152s are in a shocking state - I understand they're in the process of being replaced with Tecnams but not sure how far down that road they are.
They brought their first one from Italy some time ago - G-JSFC - and will now test it in order to decide whether to execute their option for further four.

I couldn't disagree with the comment on the 152s, I don't go anywhere near them anymore.



/h88
hegemon88 is offline  
Old 7th Jan 2015, 09:08
  #10 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: UK
Posts: 125
Some very good points above. I would ask what you really want to get out of a flying hobby, ie flying with friends, flying overseas etc. Without discouraging you from pursuing a PPL, some excellent fun can be had in other types of aircraft as Mary suggests. Each type of flying has a slightly different set of people so look at them all.

Mary meagher - I started in gliders (still fly them) as a 16 yo in 1986 getting up at dawn to travel to the club by whatever means I could and then sleep in the bar but, alas I think those days are gone with so many other instant activities for youngsters to choose. I really hope I'm wrong.
Broadlands is offline  
Old 7th Jan 2015, 11:46
  #11 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Uxbridge
Posts: 586
Genghis !
There are actually 9 exams currently, but they have been simplified and some of the "CPL" level questions have been removed. Sometime this year we should see yet another change to 6 exams.


Lowglider

Which area of London are you in ?
MrAverage is offline  
Old 11th Jan 2015, 09:56
  #12 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: UK
Posts: 2
Wow, just logged back in to see so many super helpful detailed responses, thanks everyone

I need to digest what everyone has said so far so will respond in more detail a little later.

Really appreciate the recommendation and offers, will definitely consider all.

I live in West London (about 10 mins from Northolt airport, which I am sure many of you will know!)

BTW - my nickname has no meaning whatsoever, just tried to think of something aviation related. On reflection, "HighGlider" may have been the better choice!
LowGlider is offline  
Old 11th Jan 2015, 16:16
  #13 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: london
Age: 56
Posts: 415
If you live near Northolt, your best option is the Pilot Centre, Denham. Don't take my word for it, however, use Google/the search function on here to get alternative views. You could also consider Booker or White Waltham. There is a view of life that says learning fundamentals in a simple (cheap) microlight aircraft or glider is a good idea but plenty of people don't. At first it will all be a little overwhelming, and you do need a bit of time between lessons to process what is going on, then you will come to a time where continuity and recency become important (learning to land for example). Don't make the mistake that some people do in the early stages and think that it is worth going for a school that is 10/hr cheaper - do the research and pay what the school that suits you is asking. The training is for life....
custardpsc is offline  
Old 11th Jan 2015, 20:57
  #14 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: England
Posts: 79
You will be travelling to and from your flying school a lot so find an airfield that you can get to easily.
flyingtincan is offline  
Old 11th Jan 2015, 21:31
  #15 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: EGSX
Age: 52
Posts: 177
10 mins from Northolt? Then TBH Denham is a no-brainer. I've only been there once, but it seemed pleasant enough.

If you really want to learn, do 2 things before spending any more cash

1) Trial lesson (it's loggable) - to see if you REALLY want to
2) Get your medical - to see if you can

A lot of people wait for the medical prior to soloing to save money. Don't. Initial class 2 is around 200 quid (it's been a while so this may be wrong) but you'll spend around 1500 quid plus possibly a few ground exams before you're ready to solo (rough estimate).
TractorBoy is offline  
Old 11th Jan 2015, 22:25
  #16 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: UK
Posts: 13,638
I've flown from Denham, Booker and White Waltham for one reason or another. Each has strengths and weaknesses, but overall, they're all pretty good - I doubt that you will make a bad choice from those three.

On the other hand, the people talking here about microlights only as a transit route to flying light aeroplanes are missing the point. There are many good reasons to fly microlights, and thousands of pilots get years of enjoyable recreation out of microlight flying without feeling the need to fly light aeroplanes. Personally, I fly both, but would not be upset to be constrained to microlights if I only flew for fun. Microlights have been flown around the world by hardier souls than me, but most keen microlight pilots have done a fair number of multi-hundred mile trips very enjoyably.

G
Genghis the Engineer is online now  
Old 11th Jan 2015, 23:07
  #17 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Banished (twice) to the pointless forest
Posts: 1,541
It has been mentioned already but is worth going over again:

Do Not Pay Up Front.

This forum is full of horror stories about people handing over thousands, and finding the company behind the school are in the wind next day.

Turn up, go up, then add up, and pay up.
airpolice is offline  
Old 12th Jan 2015, 09:50
  #18 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2014
Location: London
Posts: 140
If you're north of Northolt, you can should also have a look at the various options at Elstree, listed here

Agree with the others - go for (at least one) trial lesson and choose as a function of how you like/get on with/trust the instructor and the impression the school gives you, as well as the planes themselves.

Enjoy :-)

B.
Baikonour is offline  
Old 12th Jan 2015, 11:24
  #19 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 70
LowGlider, I come from your area (Eastcote) although I haven't lived there for 40 years. I learnt to fly at Booker and later instructed at Elstree. I have to say that both were very easy to access. However, a recommendation from 46 years ago will not hold much weight methinks!!

What I do want to say is that I echo previous posts on the frequency of the flying lessons - the more frequent the better the progress. But don't be disheartened if you can't do more than a couple a month - I simply couldn't afford to do otherwise in 1969/70 (sometimes even less frequently) and I managed to qualify ok - and have been earning my living flying aeroplanes since 1973. As someone said, you may occasionally take a step forward and two back.

Enjoy! I do hope you are aware that you are highly likely to set up a pattern in your mind which will be impossible to ignore. The Flying Bug. Nearly half a century on, it hasn't left me!
UK019 is offline  
Old 12th Jan 2015, 13:15
  #20 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: Radlett
Posts: 115
If you're north of Northolt, you can should also have a look at the various options at Elstree, listed here

Agree with the others - go for (at least one) trial lesson and choose as a function of how you like/get on with/trust the instructor and the impression the school gives you, as well as the planes themselves.

Enjoy :-)

B.
I recently used Jose McVicar at the Lion Flying Group to do my LPC. Personally I think she's great. Really knowledgeable, and really calm, just what you need.
londonblue is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us Archive Advertising Cookie Policy Privacy Statement Terms of Service

Copyright 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.