introduction to Start Flying learn to fly fixed wing aircraft learn to fly helicopters or autogyros learn to fly ultralights and microlights learn to fly gliders learn to fly hangliders learn to fly paragliders and paramotors learn to fly balloons
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So - you're thinking about starting fly. How are you going to do it? There's more than one way to defy gravity, and deciding how you are going to get up there is the first problem. You need to consider issues such as licensing requirements, where you can learn, whether to hire or buy, the cost of purchasing and maintaining an aircraft, hangarage . . . let's look at a few of these.

Probably the major consideration for most of us. This can be broken down into three areas:

Purchase cost of aircraft or hiring costs of aircraft

Training Costs

Ongoing Costs - e.g. maintenance, repairs, hangarage, documentation

Cost is not the only consideration, though. Cheaper forms of flying tend to have certain advantages and disadvantages. Some types of aircraft - e.g. para-gliders and balloons - can only fly in light wind conditions, so if you live in a windy area this may not be a sensible option. This type of aircraft is easily transportable, though - so you can take it on your holidays. It really is a 'swings and roundabouts' situation. While it is easy to rent single normal aircraft, it can be difficult  to rent para-gliders, ultra-lights, and balloons.

Another consideration is what you want to use the aircraft for. If you want to make five hundred mile cross-country flights regularly, then a powered parachute isn't a sensible option, and if you want to use the aircraft for business trips then you'd better forget ultra-lights and basic aircraft.

Finally, what type of airfield do you have available? A helicopter can take off from any patch of flat ground, whereas a hang glider requires a suitable slope (or a tow) and conventional fixed wing aircraft, for instance, require several hundred yards of flat runway.

learn to fly single engine fixed wing aircraft
Learning to fly a small two-seat single engined training aircraft (e.g. Cessna 152 or Piper Tomahawk) can be quite expensive - although it is much cheaper in the US than in Europe. Purchase costs of this type of aircraft are high - although many pilots do not own an aircraft, and rent one when they want to fly or buy in to a group owned aircraft. Ongoing costs for certificated aircraft are generally quite high, with the need for professional maintenance at tightly scheduled intervals. You will need to learn to fly in a trainer aircraft before you can fly more sophisticated aircraft. Modern training aircraft are very docile and will allow you to make mistakes without fear of difficult consequences.  If you wish to fly aircraft with more than two seats, or wish to fly at night or in cloud, this is the route you will have to take. For more information on learning to fly this type or aircraft, click on 'single engine' . If you never intend to fly aircraft with more than two places, a much more economical  choice would be to look at flying one of the new three axis microlights
(see below). learn more

learn to fly ultralights and microlights
If we want more simplicity and less cost, there is the ultralight or microlight option. US legislation in particular makes it possible to fly an ultralight very cheaply, with no licence being required. Licensing requirements in Europe increase the cost, but costs are still less than with conventional aircraft. And, according to the British Microlight Aircraft Association, microlighting is "The best fun you can have out of bed". New legislation in Europe has allowed a new category of light planes to emerge...the ULM. Some of these machines are indistinguishable from light certified two seat aircraft and can even fly a lot faster and look a lot better. Operating costs are greatly reduced and medical requirements are less stringent. On the downside, you cannot fly at night or in cloud although one has to say that only a very small percentage of pilots ever actually need to do this.
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learn to fly gliders
Want some peace and quiet? Then dispense with the engine. Gliding, or soaring as it is often known, is a challenging form of flight which is almost always practised in a club environment. Gliding offers many special challenges but if you do not have an engine, do not expect to fly elsewhere with any degree if certainty! The sport is rather weather dependent, as unless there is lift, all you will do is to glide downwards. There is a 'half way house', the motor glider. These aircraft are not as efficient as gliders, but they will get you home and even allow you to fly to other airfields, albeit rather slowly.
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learn to fly helicopters or autogyros
Two very different creatures here - the delightfully eccentric autogyro and the exotic, expensive and incredibly versatile helicopter. The autogyro has had a rather chequered history and it is difficult to find instruction. Over the years, the accident rate has been quite high for various reasons. Helicopters do have a slightly higher accident rate than conventional aircraft but are capable of landing in the most unlikely places! Smaller helicopters are rather slow and are very weight sensitive. They are dreadfully inefficient and use gallons of fuel. Training and ownership are also very expensive, (at least twice as much as learning to fly fixed wing).
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learn to fly hangliders
If you've ever had the desire to fly on your own then this is one of the most exciting and affordable solution for most people. It allows you to own an aircraft that doesn't require an expensive hangar or special pilot license and best of all you can haul it in your car or truck. You can launch under your own power, climbing and gliding as you please. Many a pilot have said, "this is exactly what I've been looking for".
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learn to fly paragliders and paramotors
If you want cheap flying and really want to get back to basics, then you should consider Paragliding - engineless aircraft you can carry up a hill to a convenient launch point. Cheap, largely unregulated and great fun. Now there's also foot-launched aircraft to consider as well - paragliders with small auxiliary engines, which provide the best of both worlds. It must be remembered that you will not be able to fly in any degree of wind.
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learn to fly balloons
And lastly, the oldest and possibly least practical method of flying - ballooning. This most eccentric and stately method of defying gravity still has a large following. This sport is very weather dependent and the best times to fly are generally very early morning or evening.
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