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what to expect when you learn to fly

Pre-solo

During this initial phase of your flight training, your goal is to develop the skills needed to inspect the aircraft before each flight (preflight the aircraft), taxi to the runway, take off, fly around the airport traffic pattern, and land your aircraft all alone, without your instructor's help. In other words, to solo! To do that, you'll need to understand many new concepts while learning some key terms from aviation's vocabulary. But most important, you'll need to learn how to fly the airplane under favourable weather conditions at your local airport, including when and how to communicate over the radio.

Flying Solo

Learning doesn't stop after you solo. In fact, once you've flown by yourself, there's much more for you to learn as you prepare for the next milestone in your training. In most cases, after your first solo, you'll have a couple of supervised solos you'll fly part of a session with your instructor and the rest alone, much like your first solo. Then your instructor will allow you to practice by yourself at your home airport, perhaps specifying certain weather conditions or areas in which you're allowed to fly. You'll need to master operations in the airport traffic pattern, understand winds, and learn to recognize when conditions are beyond your capabilities. It's also time to learn more about leaning the engine's fuel/air mixture and other finer points of aircraft operation. A thorough understanding of your aircraft's systems and operations will serve you well as you progress in your training.

Manoeuvres

During this stage of your flight training, you may feel like all you're doing is practicing manoeuvres over, and over, and over. Why now? Well, you do have to master these skills before you take your check ride, but you'll want to have them under your belt before you begin your cross-country flights (which will be coming up soon). It's also time to think about taking the written tests which vary in format from country to country.

Cross Country

For most student pilots, the cross-country phase of training brings a new rush of excitement. All the elements of your training come together as you expand your aeronautical horizons, first with your flight instructor and, then, by yourself as you close in on the solo cross-country experience requirement of the pilot certificate that you're pursuing. Part of the excitement, no doubt, comes from the realization that you're nearing your objective. There can be apprehension, too, and perhaps even a fear of getting lost but your knowledge of the established and proven procedures for just that contingency should help to alleviate any concerns.

Flight Tests

You're nearly finished training for your pilot certificate. The next training objective is the flight test, which will vary from country to country in its requirements. Upon passing this milestone, you will have qualified as a private pilot!

FAQs

How long does learning to fly take?
Learning to fly is not difficult, but it does require study and practice. Your aviation authority itemizes the things you must learn and the minimum hours of training and solo flight to earn a private pilot certificate. The minimum hours will vary from country to country but averages at about 45 hours. Few people complete their training in the minimum amount of time; most take 60 to 80 hours.

How long does a lesson last?
While most lessons are based on a one-hour flight, they may take two hours from start to finish because there's more to it than flying. There are pre- and post-flight discussions, in which you and your certificated flight instructor (CFI) talk about what you're going to do during your flight, how you performed, what you did well, what needs work, and what you'll do on your next lesson.

How safe is it?
General aviation (GA) is as safe as any other mode of travel, if not safer. You don't need a parachute because airplanes (and helicopters) do not fall from the sky, even if the engine stops. An aircraft without an engine, even if it's supposed to have one, is a glider and can be guided safely to the ground. If an engine quits, for example, the most common cause is the pilot ran out of gas. In other words, flying is as safe as the pilot makes it.

What kinds of licenses are there?
Pilots earn certificates, not licenses. Students work toward either a sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate. While the training for these is basically the same, the sport and recreational certificates are designed for fun flying close to home. In other words, sport and recreational pilots don't need or get the same training that private pilots must have for flying at night, on cross-country trips, or in more complex airspace.

Once you earn a private certificate, you can move up the ladder, if you so desire, to a commercial certificate, which enables you to fly for hire. A flight instructor certificate enables you to teach others to fly, and an airline transport pilot certificate is needed to captain an airliner. You can add a number of ratings to these certificates that let you fly airplanes in bad weather, seaplanes, gliders, helicopters, balloons, and airplanes with more than one engine.

Can I carry passengers?
Student pilots cannot carry passengers when flying solo. Friends or family may ride along on dual lessons (when the instructor is in the airplane); however, it's a good idea to discuss this with your instructor in advance. Recreational and sport pilots may carry only one passenger at a time; private pilots may carry as many passengers as the airplane will legally seat.

What about a medical exam?
In most cases, a student pilot certificate is also the medical certificate. This dual-purpose piece of paper is good for 24 months or less if your are over 40 years of age, and you get it from an aviation medical examiner, who is an aviation authority-approved doctor. Your instructor or flight school can connect you with one. You will need your student/medical certificate before you can fly an airplane solo (with out an instructor on board the aircraft), but it's often a good idea to get it before you start training.

What's ground school?
Flight training is divided into two parts: ground school and flight training. Ground school teaches you the principles, procedures, and regulations you will put into practice in an airplane for example how to navigate from one airport to another. You have several ground school options, including a scheduled classroom course that may be offered at a flight school, weekend ground schools, or a home-study course.

When will I actually begin flying?
You'll be flying on your first lesson, with your flight instructor's (CFI's) help, of course. With each successive lesson, your CFI will be helping less and less, until you won't need any help at all. When you reach this point, you will make your first solo flight, an important milestone in every pilot's training, in which you will fly as the sole occupant of the airplane. After you solo, you and your CFI will work on such things as flying cross-country trips to other airports.

 
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