Which license?

Once you’ve decided what you want to learn to fly, you need to decide what kind of flying that you want to do. Are you looking to fly for leisure and your own enjoyment – perhaps taking family and friends around the country or sightseeing? Are you intending to become a professional aviator and make flying a career? Or do you want to keep your options open?

Leisure flying

Flying for your own enjoyment, or even for business or personal travel, is known as Private Flying. Licenses to do this type of flying are the least complex and least expensive to attain. There are a few decisions to make, but upgrade pathways make it relatively easy to keep your options open. These licenses only really apply to aeroplanes and helicopters, as purely sport flying such as gliding is dealt with slightly differently.

Light Aircraft Pilot License (LAPL)

The LAPL is the simplest license you can attain and the least expensive in terms of training costs, but it is the most restrictive. You can only use it in the UK, in good weather, and you will be allowed to fly aircraft below a certain weight and with four seats or less. With a little more training though, you can upgrade to a PPL.

Private Pilot License (PPL)

A PPL will allow you to fly heavier, more complex aircraft with up to 19 seats. Further training will allow you to add extra Ratings to your license; for example to allow you to fly aircraft with more than one engine, or to fly in poor weather.

Professional Flying

If you wish to earn money from your flying, then you will need a professional qualification, which is a significant academic and financial undertaking. There are two main routes to a career in aviation.

Modular training

Modular training is a simple way of describing the progression through the various stages of flying license. This training route will require you to complete a PPL before progressing on to any further commercial or instrument licenses such as the Commercial Pilot License (CPL), Instrument Rating (IR) and ultimately an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) if you wish to fly in a commercial air transport job. Modular training is relatively cost-effective, and you can complete the qualifications as time and money allow – or stop at any time when you reach the level of license that you require – keeping your options open.

Integrated training

Integrated training is more like a degree in being a pilot, indeed many integrated courses are now affiliated with universities. The courses provide all the necessary training required for issue of a CPL. You will have a so-called ‘frozen’ ATPL. This isn’t a formal qualification, but it reflects the fact that you only need to complete the minimum flight hours for automatic issue of an ATPL without further training.

The benefits of integrated training are that the training courses are organised for you, and everything that you need is provided. Most integrated schools also enjoy a close relationship with the airlines, often making a transition into employment easier for their students. However, these benefits come at a cost.

Integrated training is likely to cost you well in excess of £100,000 which might even be as a lump sum, and the structure of many of them still means that you alone carry the risk of failure. To help mitigate this risk, most training providers will test candidates prior to entry, and while these are quite selective they do not guarantee success.

Bear in mind also that integrated training is a full time course, with little or no potential to remain in employment while you complete them.

Whether you decide on a modular or an integrated course, you will need to find a training provider, and these vary in size from small flying clubs to international flying schools.

A flying school at a small airfield. Lloyd Horgan photo.

So head over to our resources site and use the search tools to find the flying schools that are within the area you are prepared to travel to do your flying.

Then you can read our next article, about how to choose which flying school to do you training.

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