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If you were doing it all again....

Continued from here

For me the whole PPL training process was 99% frustration.

  • disorganised school (e.g. walk-in pleasure flight groups bumping students off lessons)
  • shagged out planes (2cm of water on the floor of the PA38)
  • a lot of aggressive instructors (they tone down for the women; 2 got female students pregnant though I appreciate it takes two )
  • a lot of “big characters” who belong to the bar, nailed to the floor and propping up the bar, not flying
  • a lot of bullsh1t interspersed with little tiny bits of knowledge
  • the use of bizzare and virtually useless navigation procedures
  • zero information on what to do post-PPL (except of course renting the school’s wreckage)
  • zero support for mixing with experienced pilots
  • zero encouragement to hang around post-PPL (and have people to fly with)

Getting the PPL and doing some flights alone or with a friend was a breath of fresh air, but nothing like getting the TB20

Maybe German schools are better organised, maybe French ones are more “club-like” (with certain other issues like ultra-macho male behaviour) but in the UK the above was pretty typical of the era (15 years ago). Today things are a bit better, with some schools operating DA40s and such. Also the real cowboy outfits have tended to go bust.

If I was doing it again I would go to the USA and spend a few months there and come back with a PPL/IR and buy an N-reg TB20 from the outset. That would clearly be by far the most efficient route. But it does presume

  • having time off work (would have been hard)
  • having family approval (would have been OK – no family)
  • having the knowledge (absolutely zero info was available in the school situation on any foreign options)

So that’s why nearly everybody just goes to their local school and gets what’s on offer.

How would you do it if you were doing a PPL now, or if – as often happens to me – you met somebody who wants to learn to fly?

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

For me the whole PPL training process was 99% frustration. … Maybe German schools are better organised

Maybe they are because my experience was the opposite. I went to a very large “ATPL sausage factory” and it was overall a very good experience. A large fleet of aircraft with good availability, a large number of FIs with good availability and a rolling PPL theory course twice a week in the evening where you could start at any time. I probably paid 2-3k€ more than with a club but it was convenient and compatible with my work schedule. My FI even got me my first own aircraft and another FI kept inviting me to pilot tours with the FTO also organizing tours of its own (I quickly gave up on that after being a bit more proficient myself, group travel is not my thing).

If I was doing it again I would go to the USA and spend a few months there and come back with a PPL/IR and buy an N-reg TB20 from the outset.

I think very few people have the opportunity to do that. There was nothing much wrong with PPL training for me, apart from the cost it wasn’t any worse than in the US. I did learn a few things later from FAA CFIs but I did pass every single check ride there, so my PPL wasn’t that bad after all

Maybe the best decision was that I did my PPL at a large and busy airport. Most PPL holders I know are scared and inexperienced when it comes to large airports.

Last Edited by achimha at 23 Feb 15:00

Well I endured everything that you mention Peter, until at a frustrated 15 hours, thought bugger this, bought a Chipmunk out of the RAF, and got an aerobatic instructor to teach me to fly it, as well as aero it. PPL in 40 hours straight. Never looked back, but witness daily the above.

Would advocate my route, if possible, every time. I actually cringe when I see the reception some willing and enthusiastic kids get at some flying clubs, by crusty old tossers who think they know it all.

Fly safe. I want this thing to land l...
EGPF Glasgow

German schools? Dream on …

Example 1:
My girlfriend (highly impressed by my plane) decides to do PPL after first flight (probably to impress me :-)). One day I come to the airfield to pick her up and she just did the 500 km cross country. Asks me in the car what she was supposed to do in case the engine stopped. I find out that the instructor lets her fly cross country without EVER having done ONE emergency landing procedure …

Example 2:
I do my IFR training and in the last sessions before the checkride the chief instructor tells me that I would “never get it”. Why? I did a powered approach (172RG) just like the 100 before – but the school has changed their methodology over the weekend. They want power off gliding approaches now, but nobody has told the students. (The “reason”: in this case i would make the field in case of engine failure. ….)

Example 3:
I decide to do the three hours for the Ultralight licence. The instructor tells me to climb on top through the overcast, saying: “Not a problem for you, you are IR rated”. I refuse to fly in IMC in the UL and he tells everybody that I’m a “sissy” ;-)

…. This list has about 100 items, all similar. I am really done with flight schools and that’s the main reason why i didn’t do any other ratings. It’s just no fun, and I am going to carry any more money to flight schools who treat you like an idiot and have zero customer service. I know two or three super qualified free lance instructors – and I do all checkrides etc. with them.

PS: I have to add that i had a very good first instructor for PPL. Let me taxi, take-off and land on the first flight, showed me how to spin the 152 and NEVER touched the controls!

Last Edited by Flyer59 at 23 Feb 15:08

Three things I’d say.

One. If you have the time and money, go to the states to do a three-week PPL. Three weeks on an intensive course is so much more conducive to learning to fly, compared to having a single lesson each week. That alone makes it worthwhile. It’s also cheaper (but only marginally so) and the weather is more predictable. Do study all the theory (and I mean all the theory) before you go though, as you won’t have time for theory lessons over there.

Two. Become a member of a true flying club. A not-for-profit, members-run club. Not a commercial flight school calling itself a “club”. That gives you a say in the way the outfit is run: What the standards of upkeep of the aircraft should be, what activities should be organized, whether to have a bar and how to arrange that, and so forth. It also gives a much better opportunity to mingle with more experienced pilots. And a well-run club should cost about the same as a syndicate, but with better and more varied availability.

Three. Your education should not stop once you’ve got the PPL. Instead, it’s a license to learn more. Sure, if long-distance touring is your thing, get an IR. If you want to go faster, start flying retractables or MEPs, or a Cirrus. Gain a seaplane rating if you’re that adventurous. Me, I did an unusual attitude recovery course, which eventually got me hooked on competition aerobatics. But I also learned how to fly gliders and I’d love to explore other low-end GA (microlights, TMGs, hanggliding) if such an opportunity would ever arise.

(Oh, and the fourth is perhaps: Whatever you do, keep seeing it as a hobby. The only way to make a small fortune in aviation is to start with a large one, so don’t try and convert your hobby into something that is going to make money for you. There are only very, very few Richard Bransons and Michael O’Learies on this planet that are able to turn an idea into a profitable airline. Even commercial pilots generally don’t make anywhere near the amount of money that you think they do.)

I do my IFR training and in the last sessions before the checkride the chief instructor tells me that I would “never get it”. Why? I did a powered approach (172RG) just like the 100 before – but the school has changed their methodology over the weekend. They want power off gliding approaches now, but nobody has told the students. (The “reason”: in this case i would make the field in case of engine failure…

I’ll never get it either, a glide ILS is beyond my capability.

Last Edited by Neil at 23 Feb 15:09
Darley Moor, Gamston (UK)

But to answer the question:

a) I’d do the PPL with an older former military type of instructor in the USA. I’ve later flown with a couple of those – and these were the gyus who showed my what hand flying an airplane really means. One of those guys taught me to fly a Bucker biplane on one day in Texas. Anecdote: Taking off from the asphalt runway of Decatur, TX. municipal airport after refueling I lost control in the t.o. run and was headed straight for a tree. I missed if by probably 10 feet … At altitued I asked Frank why he didn’t take control: "Oh, i was sure you wouldn’t want to hit that tree …. " :-))

b) I’d buy the Cirrus in the USA and do the IR in my own airplane there. But back then I didn’t know the people I know now …

NEIL / what next: That was a VFR approach to our VFR field after an IR lesson. But still ..

Last Edited by Flyer59 at 23 Feb 15:17

I’ll never get it either, a glide ILS is beyond my capability.

I can do it but only if I violate the SOPs of our company, especially the stabilisation criteria And with a typical flying school Pa28 I have my strongest doubts that it can be done at all. At least the ones of my flying school glide steeper than 3 degrees…

EDDS - Stuttgart

a glide ILS is beyond my capability.

I know of a guy who killed himself in a PA46 after an engine failure by declaring an emergency and accepting vectors to an ILS. They glide, but not that well!

EGTK Oxford

NEIL / what next: That was a VFR approach to our VFR field after an IR lesson. But still ..

OK, that makes (a little) more sense. I instruct (and received instruction) in a commercial flying school and we don’t teach or ever taught gliding approaches, except for the practise forced landing. Mainly because most of our students will go on and get their IR and CPL and will never fly things that glide on final. But if I would instruct microlights and motorgliders I probably would also focus on gliding approaches.

Personally, if I would fly for recreation, I wouldn’t bother with PPL and IR. Gliders, motorgliders and maybe microlights would be my way to go. Affordable flying, no hassle, weekend trips still possible, there is nothing else I would want. For real traveling, we got Germanwings and Air Berlin… For the price of one hour in a decent IR tourer they take me and my familiy and all our luggage across Europe and back.

EDDS - Stuttgart
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