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Intensive PPL

Old 21st Jan 2021, 19:18
  #1 (permalink)  
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Location: Ireland
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Intensive PPL


I have been reading a bit about doing an intensive PPL and was seeking some advice. To give some context I have about 15 hours of flight time from a few years ago but as with many people finances got in the way etc. I did enjoy it though and have always wanted to go back and finish off my training (re start and re do it in reality).

Due to my work situation I think an intensive PPL course would be the best option. I have read of schools offering this in as low as two weeks and up to 3 months. My basic questions are as follows -

1. Are these a case of 'too good to be true' it seems unbelievable to get a PPL in two weeks to me
2. Are there any schools that have a particularly good reputation for intensive PPL courses? (Europe ideally as I am based in Ireland but could go further afield)
3. Are intensive PPLs a good idea in the first place? Has anyone any experience of doing one?

Thanks so much in advance for any suggestions or help anyone might have.
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Old 21st Jan 2021, 23:16
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In my opinion, most people new to flying cannot absorb enough new information and skills quickly enough to benefit from more than two or so hours of instruction per day. If your mind is sponge open, you might do a bit more, but certainly not so much flying per week as to complete a PPL in two. Many skills during the PPL are based on mastering the prior skill. If you run before you can walk well, you're going to stumble. At best, you muddle through, but do not retain the skills well, nor master them, It'll catch up at examination time, and either you'll be sent to retrain some skills, or simply fail a test. Others will have differing opinions, and each person's lesson absorption is different, but I suggest that you plan to receive ten hours of new instruction per week, be it ground or flight. In the middle of that, review, and if you can fly, just some skills practice, but limiting the new information, so you're not task saturated.
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Old 22nd Jan 2021, 00:40
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I believe the PPL should be year-round journey, simply because of weather and differences between 4 seasons. It is better to experience bad weather with the instructor, than without.

Alternatively, you could expedite training by allowing at least one or two days between flying days, therefore ~60 hours(1 hr per day) can be done in about 6 months.

At the end, it all depends when "it clicks" with you, which usually happens around 60 hours. However to be fully relaxed (as in driving a car), it takes between 150-250 hours.

I would stay away from anything "instant".
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Old 22nd Jan 2021, 02:33
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Location: Perth, Australia
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Unforunately I can't help with the european specifics (what school, etc)... but if the EASA minimum is 45 hours for a PPL then doing a PPL in 2 weeks is just shy of 4 hours of flying per day (flying 6 days per week). No-one can absorb that ammount of information that quickly... and that doesnt include ground training. That's a disaster waiting to happen.

A Realistic course would take about 3 months with everything going well, and be ready for overfly - learning the entire syllabus in the minimum time (despite what they might say) is not achievable for the average student. I agree with the above, the more experience in different seasons the better, however spreading the flying out has its own draw backs - getting the licence done and dusted with a full time course is the way to go IMO.
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Old 22nd Jan 2021, 08:53
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I did a three week PPL course about 30 years ago. At the time I had been flying gliders for about 5 years before that, so the flying part was pretty easy. I also passed the written before starting the actual flying. Even so, it was pretty intensive. We lost a couple of days due to weather which didn't help. Then, having consumed my entire flying budget for the year, it was about a year before I flew again. I would imagine that trying to do it in two weeks would be absolutely brutal - particularly as there is more to learn these days.

Having said all that, I have read many *many* reports from people who went the conventional route and of course, many of them gave up. So I don't regret taking the three-week route.

I don't know if any of that helps you, but good luck either way :-)


Last edited by Grelly; 22nd Jan 2021 at 08:55. Reason: typo
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Old 22nd Jan 2021, 09:08
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Fully accept the saturation point, but on the other hand how much of a "conventional" course is spent re-learning stuff because of the inevitable gaps that occur (weather, work, family, weather, weather). Two weeks seems very short, unless you are particulalry adept at picking up and absorbing things quickly. Pilot DAR's 10 hours a week looks more realistic.
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Old 22nd Jan 2021, 09:20
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I did the flying during fall time in Denmark over a 5 week period back in '01. The theoretical part was done beforehand.

In my opinion it's doable (if the weather allows).

I did find a "smaller" school at a small controlled airport where they had the time to take me through the training, and even with a then new instructor... it was fun. Got to learn flying in a C152, a bit of a squeeze for 2 well grown men.... and was shown the nasty flip it can make with flaps, a bit of RPM and stall during the final examn... (which I passed by the way)
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Old 22nd Jan 2021, 11:07
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We are all different and so this is never to be forgotten. I have certainly known a number of people complete the PPL in a month or even less. I have known few PPLs who are objective when assessing their own abilities. I'm very cautious of those who boast of their 3 week licence undertaken without any previous experience. The vast majority of the rushed PPLs from zero experience lack too many skills and they pay for it later one way or another. Remember the world of flight of which you have no experience is very different than the world you know lots of from life on the ground.

The quick fix courses are usually provided by schools who do not expect ever to see the the student again and therefore bear no responsibility for them. This observation is shared with me by fellow instructors all over the world. It is no coincidence that the world wide 60 hours course average is the same in the UK. Judgement and decision making takes time to develop and it is usually the main difference between 45 hours and the sixty hour average. Remember the sixty figure is an average so many take much longer. If the individual has a background in flying - gliding and microlight flying etc then to complete in weeks weeks rather than months is definitely a reality.
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Old 22nd Jan 2021, 12:48
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A friend did his PPL from zero to licence in about six months, and that was probably a record over here in The Netherlands. That included lots of self study, all theory exams, intensive preparation for each lesson using various materials and online videos (that was his own idea by the way) and all the flying. As others have said, it takes time for things to click in your brain and to really 'automate' the needed skills and techniques. If done too quickly, this will not happen fully and you will lose those skills again. Have a think on how often you will fly once you have your licence. If this will be in the region of once or twice per month, have a go at scheduling lessons in this same way and see if you can carry across all you learn from one lesson to the next. Do this for a few lessons and by all means increase the tempo once you feel that you can, but realise that once you have that bit of paper, you will most likely go back to flying once every few weeks and you should be comfortable retaining your skills and knowledge across these once or twice-monthly flights. This is a silly idea perhaps but it might help you.
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Old 22nd Jan 2021, 13:11
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Jhieminga you have provided some common sense which is definitely not silly.
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Old 22nd Jan 2021, 14:58
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We specialise in intensive PPL courses in Spain and can tell you from years of doing it that there is no way anyone can do a PPL in 2 weeks. We consider normally 5-6 weeks to be a fast track course. It is possible to do it in under a month but it requires a huge amount of dedication and stamina that few people are capable of committing to.

It's an incredibly tiring process keeping your mind and body alert enough to learn. Its not about logging hours its about mastering skills that require a high level of effort and concentration. As you work through your PPL this takes its toll and you need some breathing space to recharge, reset and absorb what you have learned.
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Old 22nd Jan 2021, 15:18
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A loooonnnng time ago but when I did my PPL I needed an intensive week to master landings.
This is the one part of training where continuity is important. Five solid days of circuit bashing had me greasing it on the numbers every time. Total time was 47 hours in a tad under 6 months.
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Old 22nd Jan 2021, 15:27
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I did my PPL in 3 weeks, along with a friend who qualified the day before me. Both of us had a background in avionics and I had previously flown hang gliders. We went solo after 5 hours and by the end of the second week, had done a 300 mile cross country triangle with a land away.

We went to Texas, primarily for the good weather and the school knew that we were there for a limited time, so made instructors and aircraft available for us. It was also significantly cheaper, even accounting for flights and accommodation.

It certainly helped to have someone to compare notes with and the studying for the exam. Neither of us found the course too challenging and we did it around the 45 hour mark. As has been mentioned above, because we were doing an intensive course, we didn't have to spend a lot of time going over what we had learned in the previous lesson. This was done just before the internet kicked off and there is now lots of on-line learning to help prepare, so it should make thinks easier now.

Coming back to the UK, it took several more lessons for me to go solo again as there are differences in the way some things are done and I needed to get to grips them before I was signed off.

I did understand that just because I had a piece of paper saying that I was a pilot, I still had a lot to learn, so I was more than happy to continue with an instructor and keep practicing circuits and drills.

So I would recommend an intensive course if you can accept that there is still more to learn. In the early years, you need to fly regularly and there will be periods that you will just not be able to fly because either the weather is bad or you have other commitments. In that case there is nothing wrong with going up with another pilot and going over things. I was fortunate to have a colleague who was hour building, so he was always happy to come with me as PIC.

With the current Covid situation, it might be some time before you can start a course (Social distancing is not easy in a 152!), so I would make the most of your time by preparing and also getting the exams out of the way. That way when the time comes, your mind will be clear and ready to take in the flying experiences.

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Old 22nd Jan 2021, 16:09
  #14 (permalink)  
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Location: Ireland
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Many thanks to everyone for your very helpful replies.

It seems the consensus is that two weeks is far too short and that for an intensive option somewhere around 10 hours a week could be more doable.

Without going into great detail on my personal circumstances, unless I take time off (could take probably 3 weeks) I would only be able to fly once a week maybe twice but I can easily see there being times where I couldn't fly for 3/4 weeks.

Taking that into account and trying to get the best balance between efficiency and quality of training, would it be a reasonable plan to do the following -

Do the theory exams in advance
Take somewhere from 3-4 weeks to do training intensively (10 hours a week or so) at a European location where good weather is a better probability than in Ireland, build up somewhere from 30-40 hours.
Finish off the remaining time flying weekly in Ireland on a weekly basis (or as often as I reasonably can) and take the test here.

My thinking here is that this will allow me to build some level of proficiency in a short amount of time as well as build up a good number of hours before returning to finish off the licence in a location that will be more typical of where I would be flying regularly and presumably also experiencing weather I would more often encounter while flying in Ireland.

The downside I can see is the changing of instructors, aircraft and location will take some time to get used to but I am still thinking this could be a more efficient way than flying once week (or less) over a longer time period.

The other option I guess would be to simply do the first number of hours in Ireland and then finish off the training in the more intensive manner.

If anyone has any time to give any advice on how these plans sound I would really appreciate it. And again thank you very much for your replies so far.
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Old 22nd Jan 2021, 19:00
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At Thruxton. 23 years old. With solo gliding experience. First flight in Jackeroo 20.15 on 27/7/1964. First solo at 12.40. on 30/7.
Airtest passed, landed 19.15 on 21/8/1964. All exams passed during that time. Then 20 minutes to complete the required hours.
No radio, and it was 30 hours for an intensive PPL then. Thruxton was a busy no-control airfield in busy airspace. No electrics, no brakes. Taildragger. Excellent instruction - on one lesson, when the instructor didn't see progress, he cut the lesson and passed me to someone who could fix the problem.
1 hour 20 to convert to a Chipmunk at Perth in January 1965, with only gliders in between, so not a poorly trained pilot.
BUT: Fewer exams then, and I did it immediately after an intense 3 week Zoology course at what was becoming Strathclyde University, 2 years after a University degree and postgraduate diploma.
The study for the PPL exams may be very easy depending on your recent experience. And age makes a difference.
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Old 23rd Jan 2021, 10:56
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You have to be honest with yourself about your commitment.
I gained a PPL in 3 weeks and 1 day (GFT aborted due to weather) and enjoyed every minute. Having said that I had read Trevor Thom's books cover to cover and could probably recite relevant chapters from memory, which meant that the theory side was a non-issue and I didn't miss any flying re-sitting exams. I'd had an experience flight and a couple of flights where I was 'hands on' prior to this.

This was at Clacton on Super cubs and C152/172's, I wanted to fly on tail-draggers because I was interested in an Auster group. Circuit bashing and airwork in Super cubs and navex's in 152/172's due to fuel burn.

This worked for me whereas the longer methods probably wouldn't, I was also fortunate that I quickly formed a good relationship with the instructors (I chose Clacton above others for this reason).

Good luck with whatever you choose.
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Old 23rd Jan 2021, 13:17
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I gained a PPL in 3 weeks and 1 day (GFT aborted due to weather) and enjoyed every minute. Having said that I had read Trevor Thom's books cover to cover and could probably recite relevant chapters from memory, which meant that the theory side was a non-issue
Good information to hear. The key to the success mentioned was a lot of review and self learning before hand. My experience in instructing has shown me that the instruction is like the flowing water, and the student is the sponge. It's the instructor's job to pour water onto the sponge only at a rate at which it's not flowing off, and running down uselessly. The student's job is to grow the sponge, so it can absorb more and more water, without wasting any. This means that the student arrives for the instruction with their sponge well wrung out of all of life's other distractions, and both ready to absorb, and, knowing how much it can absorb (having good questions).

In my early days instructing, I was poor at recognizing when my water was flowing off my student's sponge, and being wasted. Following a flight, we'd debrief, and I'd realize how much I'd taught, that was not retained by the student. The bigger problem was that the student did not know that they had not retained much of what I had taught, they thought they were learning. So, my best students (while I became a better instructor), came to the lesson very well prepared, with lots of questions. When the student had questions, I knew that their learning sponge was well wrung out, and ready to absorb, and I knew what it could absorb. So, I regularly ask my students what questions they have, and what they want to see/learn during that flight. And I pay much more attention to what they are retaining, as I can still saturate their sponge if I'm not paying attention.

I had occasion last month to take a very experienced aeronautical engineer employed by the certification authority right seat during a certification flight test on a modified Cessna Caravan. It was the third time I had flown her during a flight test. While trying to get her to take the controls just for straight and level flight, I got as far as showing how the pedals moved the ball, and I recognized that she was saturated, she returned control to me. This was not because she did not understand what a rudder does, I know she knows that. But, I had already saturated her by explaining the details of he flight test, explaining the warnings we would be hearing during the test, and the chatter with the flight test engineers in the back. The very basic flying did not saturate her, but the whole thing going on around her did.

So, if you want to present yourself for intensive instruction in anything, and make the best use of your time and money, arrive for the instruction having made your personal sponge as big as possible, and well wrung out of other life distractions. Then, pay very close attention to preflight briefings, so you have no questions about the content of the instruction going in, just ready sponge. If you're getting saturated, say so.
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Old 23rd Jan 2021, 16:53
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The goal of ab initio flight training should not be "get a PPL", it should be "become a safe pilot". This sounds rather obvious but I would suggest that too often the point is lost. I see a lot of flight training that is completely designed to pass the flight test. This is accomplished with a lot of canned lesson plans. For example the forced approach is taught at a few "favorite fields" and instead of learning flight path judgment the students learns if they turn final over the red house they will get a good mark on their fligth test.

While structure in flight training is important, it is also important that the student understands the why as well as the what and to be able to truly "see" what is happening to the airplane. Teaching aerobatics is a great example. At first the maneuvers are flown in a very cook book fashion, i.e. three parts aileron, one part rudder, half a part elevator, stir = aileron roll. But at about the 5 hour mark suddenly they can see what is happening and the controls start to be adjusted in real time. But it takes practice and repetition to develop the ability to see the maneuver. This applies as much to the very first lesson, attitudes and movement, as it does to the most advanced maneuvers,

That is IMO the problem with these intensive training. Rushing through the training does not in my experience allow flight lessons to gel.

That being said there is the opposite problem. Not flying enough means that forgotten skills needs to be retaught. The sweet spot is individually dependent but when I was teaching a lot of . PPL's. I discouraged more than one lesson a day. I wanted the student to arrive at the lesson having reviewed the previous lesson and read up on todays days lesson, and when they finished the lesson to go home and review what they did and write down any issues while they were fresh in their minds

Full disclosure I have a reputation as a very demanding instructor. Students who wanted me to spoon feed them the information and only wanted to achieve the minimum standard did not like me very much and usually quickly found a new instructor.

Finally Richard Bach is one of my favorite aviation authors. His short story collection " A Gift of Wings" has a story called " School for Perfection" . I first read the book as a young man and remember thinking about how great it would have been to be the Mister Terrell, the young student featured in the story.
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Old 23rd Jan 2021, 17:52
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I’ll second that, ‘School for Perfection’ is a great story 👍🏻
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Old 23rd Jan 2021, 20:37
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"For example the forced approach is taught at a few "favorite fields" and instead of learning flight path judgment the students learns if they turn final over the red house they will get a good mark on their fligth test."
That is bad.
"The goal of ab initio flight training should not be "get a PPL", it should be "become a safe pilot". This sounds rather obvious but I would suggest that too often the point is lost. I see a lot of flight training that is completely designed to pass the flight test. This is accomplished with a lot of canned lesson plans."
Have you any accident/incident statistics to support your opinion that passing the flight test is not enough to make a safe pilot?
Extra hours will not change the pilots personality, but will provide extra income for the school.
Perhaps many of the schools you criticise are in fact good.
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