Learning to fly

Learning to fly

This page is for young people who want to fly, and older people who understand that their all-too-brief stay on this planet is not a rehearsal for some other kind of flight.

Fewer than five percent of the world’s population have flown, and a fraction of that tiny number have flown an aeroplane as the pilot in command.

To achieve PIC (pilot in command) is one of the most rewarding challenges anyone can accept. No pilot forgets the thrill of that first solo and the nerve-wracking flight test to qualify.

Track down a microlight pilot who has a passenger rating and a two-seat machine (you might like to carry a few dollars to help with your pilot’s grocery bill). If you don’t know a microlight pilot, your local aero or microlight club will introduce you to the sport and arrange a trial flight.

Back already? If you enjoyed the adrenaline rush and the views, the next step is to begin the training.

You’ll need an instructor. Your trial flight was probably with one. If not, the trial flight pilot will point you in the right direction.

The only requirements before you begin are:

– you must be 16 or older

– you must pass a medical examination conducted by a general practitioner and

– you must join a CAA-authorised organisation controlling the sport in New Zealand

The currently authorised organisations are RAANZ, the Recreational Aircraft Association of New Zealand (an incorporated, non-profit body mostly run by volunteers) and SAC (the Sport Aviation Corporation, a private limited company). You need not be a member of any aero or microlight club – but you’ll discover some useful benefits of belonging to a club.

Your instructor will help you to obtain a Novice Certificate, which makes you an official student. The first step will be a visit to the doctor for a medical, similar to the one some people need to validate their driving licence. Remember to take your microlight organisation’s medical form along for the doctor to sign. (Students for the Private Pilot’s Licence now face combined bills of about $800 to get a medical. You will probably pay less than $50.)

Charles Lindbergh

It’s my first time, so please be gentle. Even Charles Lindbergh had to endure his first solo, before he went on to achieve the world’s first solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1927

Fill in a membership application for either RAANZ or SAC and attach a few dollars for your annual subscription. Then you’ll need to buy a pilot’s log book and get the training manual(s).

Expect to spend 10-20 hours of dual instruction before you are ready to go solo. Remember that most instructors are contributing their spare time, while holding down a proper job to feed their habit. Our ever-changing weather will often get in the way. So things may not happen as quickly as you would like. But this teaches patience, which you’ll find helpful later on…

After the exhilarating first solo, you will do more consolidation with the instructor. You will spend more time on solo flights, but always under supervision, as you hone your skills and venture further afield.

Once you have 25 hours’ flying time, have reached an acceptable standard of skill (your instructor will tell you) and have passed your ground-based written examinations and a flight test, you move on to the Intermediate Certificate. This permits limited local flying on your own (but with no passengers; and longer cross-country flights must be approved by your instructor).

After completing more cross-country flights of increasing distance and duration – and passing a final flight test – you will qualify for the Advanced National Certificate. This means you may fly almost anywhere in New Zealand. By demonstrating a high level of airmanship and responsibility, you can also achieve the Passenger Rating – so you can share some of the most spectacular views in the world with your friends and family.

Is it hard work? Yes. There may be times when you’ll wish you were anywhere else but up there. Flying isn’t just about hurling yourself around in clear blue skies. It also involves developing leadership skills and learning how to confidently handle sometimes difficult circumstances, on your own.

For more details about the training curriculum, exams and controlling organisations:

RAANZ Training Manual
SAC lessons and exams

HB&EC Aero Club microlight training

HB&EC AC has two microlights in constant training with very reasonable hireage rates. Please check out the details on this pdf download, it’s well detailed: Learn-to-Fly-Microlight2

And to prove that you’re never too old, read Trevor Doig’s Story

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