The Ultimate Aviation Internet Resource Guide

According to studies, the average person apparently spends nearly seven hours a day on the internet in some way, shape or form. When you take away social media, endless perfectly posed selfies, cute puppies, and videos of cats doing hilarious things – there is actually an incredible amount of useful information out there on basically anything you might need to know, including aviation websites for student pilots.


The aviation world is no different. We rely on internet-based information for anything from training resources and simulation, to live flight data, navigational aids and real-time weather.

Many pilots might not know just how useful the internet can be to enhance your flight training experience, so we decided to put together a list of the best aviation websites for student pilots. Happy surfing!


Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)

Over the last few years, the CASA website has seen significant improvement in terms of functionality and training resource availability. The website includes access to:

  • Aerodrome and airspace information
  • Aircraft register and airworthiness information
  • Written and multimedia training and education resources
  • Rules, regulations and safety information
  • Licensing information
  • Medical information and links

CASA also has a YouTube channel featuring videos that target topics including human factors, safety management, fatigue, drones and flight crew licensing and training.


Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus)

With nearly 10,000 pilot members, RA-Aus is the peak body in Australia responsible for administering ultralight, recreational and Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) operations. On the website you will find:

  • Membership and member event information
  • Training information
  • Accident summaries

RA-Aus offers a host of scholarships for flight instructors, maintainers and people of any age who wish to enter the aviation industry, and also publishes a print magazine called Sport Pilot.

Airservices Australia

Airservices Australia is a government-owned organisation providing the aviation industry with telecommunications, aeronautical data, navigation services and aviation rescue and firefighting services. They are also the provider of NAIPS – the pilot briefing service which covers flight plan filing, NOTAMs and safety information. The website has:

  • Navigation information
  • Flight briefing services
  • Career information for air traffic control, aviation rescue and firefighting
  • Charts, navigational supplements and other products available for purchase online

Bureau of Meteorology (BoM)

Through regular forecasts, warnings, monitoring and advice covering both Australia and Antarctica, BoM provides one of the most fundamental and widely used government services.

They also offer an aviation weather service that provides pilots with meteorological information necessary for safe operations within the technical and regulatory framework of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Some of the information of the website includes:

  • Interactive Local and national weather maps and forecasts
  • Interactive weather radars
  • Synoptic charts and forecasts
  • Aviation weather warnings
  • Downloadable resources and historical data
  • Graphical Area Forecasts (GAF)



There are many aviation news websites available online that contain a range of information including industry updates and news, training-related articles, regulatory changes, reviews, features, events, galleries, videos, competitions and more. Here are some of our favourites:

Australian Flying
Australian Aviation
Flight Safety Australia



AvPlan EFB

AvPlan is an Australian flight planning application for Apple iPad, iPhone and Android devices. AvPlan is CASA approved and therefore can be used as a legal replacement for paper maps, ERSA, DAP, AIP and AIP SUP. The website includes:

  • Tutorials, tips and webinars
  • Virtual co-pilot
  • Airfield directories

AvPlan EFB also offers flight plan transfers from Jeppesen, FliteDeck, Command Flight Planner and Champagne.

OzRunways EFB

Available for Apple and Android devices, OzRunways is an Australian electronic flight bag, approved by CASA as a data provider, meaning that Australian pilots can use it to meet all requirements for document carriage in flight. It provides worldwide airport weather, NOTAMS and full area briefings in Australia. The website offers:

  • Subscriptions (free trial offer as well)
  • User manuals
  • Online support


There are a few websites that provide real-time flight tracking information around the globe, with the ability to zoom into local areas for more detailed information. We recommend:

Flight Radar 24
Flight Aware


Aviation Australia

Aviation Australia is a registered training organisation, established to support the development and growth of the aviation and aerospace industries in both the Australian and international markets. On the website you can find:

  • Aviation courses
  • Student support
  • Aviation employment services

Pilot Career Centre Oceania

The PCC is comprised of a global team made up of present-day airline pilots. The site offers a wealth of relevant industry insight, recent airline interview experience, and career advice, including:

  • Pilot shortage news
  • Aviation news and updates
  • Pilot jobs
  • Training information
  • Pilot CV assistance
  • Tips for airline interview preparation


My Flight Story: Learning to Fly with Balendran Thavarajah

LTF student Balendran Thavarajah has just successfully completed his first solo flight. We thought it would be a great idea to share his flight story, to show you that it is possible to juggle a busy professional and family life with your dream of flying.

LTF: You’re currently completing your RPC – what’s your end goal with flying?

Balendran: In the short term, I would like to complete my RPC with passenger and cross-country endorsements. Ultimately, I want to obtain a Private Pilot Licence.

What made you want to learn how to fly?

I was fascinated by planes and the idea of an aircraft moving through the air. As a kid, I wanted to be a fighter jet pilot but, growing up in Northern Sri Lanka during a prolonged civil war provided no such opportunities. After arriving in Australia, I realised that private aviation was not for the privileged alone. Last year, I finally made the plunge. I am so close to fulfilling my dreams, and I could not be happier. Eventually, I would love to take my daughter around Australia and I feel that is not too far away. Flying with my family in our own aircraft is my next big goal. I guess, now I am a step closer to achieving that goal.

What do you love most about flying?

I love all aspects of flying. From the feeling of being high up in the air in a lightweight aircraft to the sound of propellers, and the way the plane responds to the movement of controls. Every single flight still amazes me.

It is an incredibly relaxing and crazily exciting feeling. I fly on the weekend and it makes my weekend super fun. My instructor Anurag is great and he has made the learning experience very enjoyable. I have been thoroughly enjoying the theoretical side as well as the actual flying. Early morning flights from Moorabbin to Tooradin airport and back on a winter day is unbelievably calming and the views along the shorelines are breathtaking.

If you were given the opportunity to fly any aircraft you wanted, what would be your first choice and why?

It would have to be the Piaggio P.180 Avanti. I am a big fan of anything unconventional. Can’t go past the unique and efficient design of an Avanti. Avanti uses turbine power to rotate the propellers and boasts three surfaces that produce lift. The main wing, front wing, and the tail. On a conventional aircraft, the wings are the primary lift producers.

Tell us a bit about what you do outside of flying

I am a technology executive and lead a busy life. Being the best Dad, I can be to my 9-year-old daughter and managing my work commitments keep me fully occupied. In that sense, I am not the typical learner that a school like Learn To Fly would attract. Apart from flying, I do love roller skating, movies, Stand up comedy, Rugby League, reading and long rides on my motorcycle.

How do you find juggling your busy life with learning to fly, and what advice would you give to other FT professionals and/or people with families wondering whether they will be able to do it?

Juggling family and work priorities with your hobbies can be a challenge. I knew from the beginning, being disciplined with my time management was the key. It has taken me 10 months to get my first solo flight, because I was time poor. I had to take my daughter to the flying school on some weekends. While I flew, she would stay back at the office and get through her homework. The most important thing is to establish some basic goals; in my case it was to fly a couple of times a month on the weekends. That was the goal I set for myself and I got stuck into it. Once I got going, everything fell in to place. The school was flexible and made it easier for me to complete my exams and the required hours of flying at my own pace.

My Dad told me if he waited for the right time, he would not have had me and I would not be here today. This applies to anything in life. The right time may never arrive for anything you want to do. If flying is something you want to do, the right time is right now and you will make time for it.

Balendran leads a busy professional life as Chief Technology Officer of Bluedot. Bluedot has rapidly grown from its humble beginning to being a very serious player in the global mobile location services marketplace. The product Bluedot offers is cutting edge, truly innovative and ahead of its time. Balendran has had a very exciting career so far at some of Australia’s reputable organisations. He is passionate about growing and developing people.

Prior to Bluedot, he held senior roles at Standards Australia, Centrelink, Soul and TPG. Balendran is also an Associate Lecturer at the Western Sydney University.

We wish Balendran all the best with his flying adventures, and look forward to seeing him reach his goals. If you’re looking to kickstart your flying career, check out our range of courses.

Sharing experiences: How I passed my cadet pilot interview with Singapore Airlines

Who Am I ?

My name is Shaun and I am here to tell you about how I started my journey to become a pilot.

Firstly some background about me – I got interested in aviation about 3 years ago (2015). Prior to that, I had absolutely no background on aviation at all, no flying experience, no education, nothing. What sparked my interest was a rather chance encounter while I was working full time 3 years ago. Back then, I was working full time at my family’s business where we run a car workshop.

One of our customers happened to be a pilot from Singapore Airlines, and I managed to speak to him for a bit while he was waiting for his car to be serviced. He sparked my interest in aviation, and after he told me that Singapore Airlines was actively recruiting, I immediately had the thought of trying it out.

However, one thing that did come to mind for me is that there is a rather lengthy bond, 7 years from after your graduation from training. Now I know some people might think it is a small price to pay for sponsored training, but from what I gathered, most people do not realise this before applying – are you really suited for flying, and can you meet the airlines strict standards of training?

Singapore Airlines Cadet Pilot Program

I thought about if I was the interviewer and a candidate told me he is passionate about being a pilot but has never flown a plane before, it does not really sound believable or convincing does it? So I thought it wise to see if I was suited to fly first. After all, even if I did manage to get in, what if I got chopped halfway during training? It is a very real thing and it is still happening now as I have witnessed a few cadets being chopped as they are unable to handle the flight training.

Just for your info, for Singapore Airlines cadetship, you have to complete ground school in Singapore first for 6 months, and only after passing the 14 ATPL papers will you then be sent to Jandakot in Perth to start the flight training. There is a wait period before being sent to Jandakot as well and it can range from 3 weeks to 2 months. So imagine if you are not able to handle the flight training and get chopped halfway through the course, it is not only a waste of your time, but it is also a wasted opportunity to have completed the training if you had prior experience.

Prior Flying Experience Is Important

In fact, in the first week when I reached Jandakot, the assistant Chief Flight Instructor (CFI) asked all of us who has prior flying experience, and pointed out that those with experience have a huge advantage over those who do not. Why this is so is because the school has strict limitations on the number of hours you can fly under training and will not allow for multiple repeats. One major hurdle for most people is the first solo, and a number of people who were unable to clear the first solo check within the set number of hours by the school would be terminated.

My Interview Preparation

Okay, enough about the gloomy stuff. On to the preparation on how I got in.

The first thing I did was to book a simulator session at the now defunct SG Flight Simulations (Airbus A320), and also one at Flight Experience Singapore (Boeing 737). The experience I had at both these simulators was enlightening, but it was not really as beneficial as I thought as I did not really have any idea what was going on and what I was doing. I thought about what I should do next, and by coincidence I chanced upon the Learn to Fly advertisement on Facebook. I was immediately attracted to it when I read about their Future Cadet Pilot Program (FCPP).

Not only did it offer flight training at a cheaper cost, but what really attracted me was the Interview Coaching Session with one of the Senior Captains from a famous Airline in Hong Kong – Darren Mcpherson. Darren has been an interviewer for cadets at his Airline before, and he provided me with the much needed feedback I required for my preparation for the interview. He was a great help to me – I had even went through a few skype interview sessions with him before my actual SIA interview.

During my time in Melbourne, I must say that I enjoyed the flight training thoroughly. The instructors are friendly and helpful, and the planes are maintained well, despite the fact that it is cheaper than other general aviation schools. I made lots of new friends with similar goals, and we all helped each other out. There were a few hiccups here and there, but no one is perfect, and if you are considering enrolling in a flight school, I must forewarn you to adjust your expectations. Even with that said, the school manager is a very hardworking person and I am thankful that he was able to make arrangements for me to complete my training in 1.5 months as I was on a tight schedule.

Areas Of Knowledge

I only applied to SIA after I came back from Melbourne. I prepared myself by reading up on the followings:

  • Air crash investigations – Ones such as Air France 447 and Air Asia 8501 which were pretty prominent cases at the time
  • Latest news regarding SIA (destinations, new products, and so on)
  • What the MPL program was all about
  • Watching the video Inside Singapore Airlines by National Geographic
  • Reading up about crew resource management
  • Reading up about incidents involving SIA planes (avherald is a good source)
  • Reading up on SIA annual reports and shareholder reports to see how the company is doing
  • Reading up about the fleet of SIA (plane models, engine name, maximum thrust, maximum endurance, max takeoff weight)
  • Revising on what I had learn at learn to fly (aerodynamics, principles of flight, landing and crosswind procedures)
  • Preparation for the HR side of questions, such as what are my strengths and weaknesses, examples of situations when I demonstrated leadership, problem solving
  • Working on a good introduction

For the last point, it is especially important as the interview process is very fluid, and they can really ask you about anything if they want to. Why a good introduction is important is because how the interview proceeds will depend on how you do your introduction. For me personally, both my initial and final interviews were very focused on my experience in Melbourne at Learn to Fly. This made it somewhat slightly less intimidating for me as it was more of a sharing session rather than a hard grilling compared to other interviewees.

Moment Of Truth

After completing the final interview, the very next day you would know if you made it through or not. Fortunately for me, I was selected. I was happy and at the same time grateful to have been given this opportunity. When I left Melbourne to return to Singapore, I remember feeling sad as I was unable to complete my navigation training. Now that I am given another chance to do so, I will cherish this opportunity.

Anyway, for those of you who require more info on the application process to Singapore Airlines, the Hardwarezone Forum is a good resource. I read all of the pages of it. Also, some other good resources are: Ace The Technical Pilot Interview by Gary V. Bristow and Flying The Big Jets by Stanley Stewart. I read both of these as well.

Thank you for reading. I wish you all the best in your application.

Disclaimer: In no way am I representing the company, I am just sharing my personal experiences which may differ from person to person.

Leeanne Kaplan – Her First Solo Flight

Learn to Fly RPC student Leeanne Kaplan won’t be forgetting her 15th birthday in a hurry. She started studying the theory components for her Recreational Pilot Certificate (RPC) at age 13, patiently waiting until she was 14 to be allowed to take the controls of an aircraft in flight under the guidance of her instructor.

And then, on the day of her 15th birthday, Leeanne successfully completed her first solo flight. Given that 15 is the minimum legal age at which you are actually allowed to fly solo, Leeanne is surely one of very few people that have actually achieved that milestone so early.

We asked Leeanne a few questions following this amazing achievement:

1. How do you feel after your first solo flight?

To be perfectly honest, after flying solo for the first time, I felt really self-accomplished and proud of myself. In the hours leading up to my flight and on my way to Tooradin, I was incredibly nervous. I wasn’t worried that I would crash, but more that I would forget something and disappoint everyone. However, I got over my nerves and just did it, and I’m glad that I did!

2. What was the most challenging thing about it?

The most challenging part about it is deciding to actually do it. By this point my nerves had calmed down but the first time Anurag (Leeanne’s instructor) asked me if I wanted to do a circuit by myself I put it off and asked to do two more with him.

I found that I just had to commit to it and to know that I would be fine, which I was.

3. When did you decide that you wanted to get a pilot licence?

In December 2016 I went to the HASSE x NASA Space School in Houston (Texas, USA) for two weeks and they were talking about the different career paths NASA can offer, one of which was a pilot. Being able to fly a plane has always interested me, and when I came back from the USA I decided to pursue it.

4. What do your friends at school think?

My friends are completely obsessed with me flying and they hardly ever shut up about it. When I told them that I flew solo I was bombarded with comments, congratulations, and videos, anything where they could get their message across. Needless to say, they are extremely supportive of me but I always get asked this one question; “When can you fly me to _____?”

5. What is your ultimate goal for your aviation career?

I don’t have an exact goal for my aviation career but I’m certain I would like to fly for a great airline like QANTAS. There are so many options and I know I have a long way to go, plus I don’t have to decide now.

The Best Time To Start Flight Training

With an enormous increase in pilot demand predicted globally in the next 20 years, there’s never been a better time to seriously consider a career in aviation. It’s fantastic to see young people like Leeanne with the passion and enthusiasm to start so early.

The aviation industry has traditionally been somewhat male-dominated, but that is changing, and there are many progressive airlines that are proactively looking to recruit more and more female pilots. It’s role models like Leeanne that will help to encourage more young females with a passion or interest in flying to have the courage and drive to pursue it.

Learn to Fly offers a range of courses to suit budding pilots of all ages and experience. For young people like Leeanne, the Recreational Pilot Certificate (RPC) is the best place to start. It allows you to commence learning and progress at a younger age than other courses such as the Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL).

After achieving your RPC, there are many other options available to you such as the Private Pilot Licence (PPL), and then Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL). Whether your aviation career goal is to be a flight instructor and teach other students, fly charters, or become a Captain with a major airline – you will find plenty of exciting opportunities within this fast growing industry.

We very much look forward to seeing where Leeanne’s flying career takes her.

2018 Outback Air Race – Our Learn To Fly Team

Late last year we posted a blog story announcing that 2 of our students were going to compete in the 2018 Outback Air Race. The annual event starts in Archerfield (near Brisbane) in QLD and finishes in Broome WA after 8 individual flying legs.

Since 1996, the Outback Air Race has helped to raise much needed funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. This year will see over 100 competitors in more than 40 teams take to the sky. The race covers approximately 2,132nm (or 3,940km), with the longest leg taking pilots from Bundaberg to Longreach.

Horace, who is currently studying for his PPL with Learn to Fly, has now been joined by Eason, who is studying his Diploma of Aviation and hoping to become an airline pilot one day. At 21 and 20 years old respectively, they will be the youngest team competing in this year’s event.

The race starts on August 18th, with Horace and Eason taking off from Moorabbin Airport here in Melbourne on August 15th to make their way north in our Sling 2 VH-LHH aircraft.

We asked Horace and Eason a few questions in the lead-up to the event:


Horace: I have always dreamed of circumnavigating Australia in an aircraft, and by the time I have completed the race and returned to Melbourne, I will have almost done that (Melbourne to Brisbane, across to Broome WA via the Northern Territory for the race, and then back to Melbourne). I am also looking forward to having a lot of fun, and raising money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Eason: I think this will be something amazing to be able to tell my grandchildren one day, and as a student pilot, taking part in the race will really improve my flying and navigational skills. I’m also really looking forward to having fun flying with Horace.


Eason: We have been flying together as much as possible, and completing a lot of longer flight legs and navigation exercises together. It’s important that we can work as a really good team together.

Horace: We have been doing a lot of planning around how we will complete each leg of the race, and how we will split responsibilities whilst we are flying. The longest single distance I have flown in the Sling 2 is around 480nm (from Sydney to Melbourne).


Eason: The main goal is to finish the race successfully, but also we would love to actually win at least 1 leg.

Horace: We are also hoping to raise at least $2,000 each for the Royal Flying Doctor Service through our Everyday Hero fundraising page.

You can help Horace and Eason’s fundraising by donating on their Everyday Hero page here. We’ll be keeping track of their progress when the race starts on our social media, so make sure you are following our Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Tips To Pass Different Pilot Theory Exams

Contributed by Learn to Fly Melbourne student Howard Lau.

Okay, so this was a hard pitch as a movie title. I know nothing grabs you like the words ‘exams’ and ‘theory.’ Well, what can I say? One thing is for certain, none of the exam questions will be about cats, so how about you close YouTube for now while I give you the inside scoop on what to expect from your theory exam. No matter what course you’re currently enrolled in, you need exam practice, so let’s get pumped for preparation!

Aviation is a complex and sophisticated profession. Airlines are not looking for cowboys and hotshots, but well-rounded, intelligent statesmen and women. Now look, the purpose of this post isn’t to change whatever ‘type’ you happen to be, but to remind you of the importance of approaching the exam runway carefully. I’m in the fortunate position of having completed all seven of my CPL subjects (woo-hoo!). In addition, I have passed my PPL theory exam and all RA-Aus theory exams (in flying colours I might add!). I’m not here to brag, but instead offer my experiences to help you.

Let’s separate the post into three sections: Recreational Pilot Certificate, Private Pilot Licence and Commercial Pilot Licence.


First of all, congratulations on embarking on a dazzling journey in aviation. These days, its common to start with a Recreational Pilot Certificate (RPC) under Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAus). The theory exams of the RA-Aus syllabus comprise of:

  • Pre-Solo Air Legislation
  • Human Factors
  • Basic Aeronautical Knowledge
  • Flight Radiotelephone Operator Licence
  • Pre-Certificate Air Legislation

Each subject has its own degree of difficulty. One advantage is that they all come in multiple choice format. (It’s always B! Just kidding). As it occurs in the early stages of training, an instructor will usually decide whether or not you are ready to sit. The exam requires self discipline, concentration and rigorous study. An instructor’s blessing is no guarantee you will pass. Before you hit the cockpit, you need to hit the books! Just when you thought you’d finished school forever, study is the best way to get your career off the ground. To tackle my RA-Aus exams I set aside two hours of homework each night after class. This allowed me to iron out weak spots and plug up any gaps in my knowledge base. If you have any questions (and you should), remember you can always contact your instructor (but not at 3am! No matter how bad your dream was).

All RA-Aus exams requires a pass mark of at least 80%. So unfortunately you can’t just bluff your way through. Rest assured that you won’t be quizzed on anything other than what has been covered in class. That said, sometimes a question can have more than one right answer – RAAus will be looking for the one that is the ‘most right.’ That might sound funny, but it’s not just a matter of recalling information from memory, but displaying your own understanding of concepts.


The PPL comprises of one exam. The advantage is you can focus all of your attention and energy into one test. The exam will cover a wide range of topics, so your knowledge base will have to be up to speed. The PPL exam has around forty questions, with a range of multiple choice and ‘single answer.’ Some sections offer ‘double marks’ and require calculations. It’s vital to answer as many of these ‘doubles’ correctly as they will ultimately make or break your campaign. These questions relate to take-off and landing distances, weight and balance, density, height and pressure calculations.

It’s advantageous to memorise the formulas for these problems as an over-reliance on the flight computer could throw off your answer due to rounding errors. As you can imagine, flight mathematics must be precise, so slight variants will result in an incorrect answer (or worse, an accident!) There’s no room for ‘guesstimates.’ Having said that, don’t be alarmed – the questions aren’t complicated and you’re not expected to know everything at this stage.

You are allowed to take charts and materials into the examination, so you need to be organised. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the region(s) depicted in the charts as they’re based in Sydney. Most navigation questions require you to draw on the chart – here’s some advice – take it slow! You have a decent amount of time to complete the exam, so slow and steady wins the race. You don’t want your charts to look like a doctors prescription pad or a spider on drugs! There’s actually a saying in the military that applies to exams: “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

I found taking the AIP (Aeronautical Information Publication) into the exam didn’t help me. I referenced the Visual Flight Rules Guide (VFRG) and that covered all my bases. This is the only exam which allows you to carry the VFRG – which is concise and easy to follow, so this exam was a breeze (well, less of a gust).


Since there are seven separate exams for the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), I will just give an overview advice. The last thing I want to do is overwhelm you (there’s plenty of time for that). All exams except Aerodynamics, Aircraft General Knowledge (AGK) and Human Factors, require reference materials and tools to complete the questions. For all exams, a sound knowledge of the basic concepts is paramount as you could be quizzed on anything. The difficulty for each exam can fluctuate wildly, depending on who you talk to. Personally, I found Aerodynamics and Aircraft General Knowledge easy, while others struggled with these ones in particular.

It’s worth taking other students reports on an exam with a grain of salt. Everyone will have their own strengths and weaknesses within each subject. The best bet is to be prepared for anything! You can always set yourself a practice exam (what better way to spend a Saturday night!). For my preparation, I tackled each exercise in the Bob Tait books twice, ensuring I scored above 90% before considering myself ready for the real thing.

Preparing for exams is stressful and stress tires you out! If you’re still completing your CPLs it’s worth reducing your flying time. It sounds like a drag, but this is one case where too much multi-tasking can be your downfall. Use the extra energy to find which study times and locations suit you best. Some work better at home, in the morning – while others may be able to concentrate at school during the afternoon. I don’t know many people who do their best work at three in the morning! For subjects like Navigation and Performance, there are various calculations and chart reading exercises. You will benefit from completing the practice exercises and familiarising yourself with the formulas and formations. Again, it’s important to remember that rounding errors can jeopardise your entire exam. If you don’t carry the zero you could end up with nothing! You don’t need to be a genius mathematician, CASA just prefers the most conservative rounding.

To conclude, all exam success relies on sound study. Practice, be prepared and remember to take your time. Slow is smooth. There are no shortcuts to aviation knowledge, and being ready for all weather is a good rule for life and an even better theory for flying. Good luck!

The Forced Landing: Case Study and Lessons Learnt (Part 2)

Contributed by Learn to Fly student Howard Lao.

The case study of the successful forced landing has proved that other than having tremendous flying experience, pilots need to be determined and make quick decisions.

Forced landings are simulations that we do when we are down to 500 feet and when we punch the power and overshoot; however, in reality, if your engine fails, you are literally flying the final 500 feet to the ground without training. The instructor did have the fortune to go through specialised forced landing training and he shared some excellent tips to students.


According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, aircrafts that are manufactured before 1987 only require a seat crash tolerance of 9Gs in all directions while for others all seats have to exceed that tolerance.

A Cessna 172R has a crashworthiness of 26Gs. As the impact in the incident was actually around 5–6Gs, it can be easy to exceed limitations if you botch something.


  1. To keep the cabin intact during the impact, you do not only need to fly at the minimum controller airspeed, but also use dispensable parts of the airplane to take the impact for you, such as the wings, landing gears and even the engine.
  2. The crash energy goes up with the square of airspeed and using other parts of the airplane structure can help reduce that crash energy safely.
  3. If you were to use trees like the instructor did in this case study, you should aim to impact the trees as horizontally as possible as that will allow the trees to reduce your forward kinetic energy.


A crucial takeaway from this case study is that not all engine failures are the ‘propeller stops spinning’ scenario that you might see in a textbook.

Most engine failures are in fact partial power loss. Some partial power losses can sustain level flight but in the case of the pilot in the case study, he didn’t have the power to sustain level flight, so essentially he was in a slightly powered glide.



  1. If your flight is too high, then fly faster, which will allow you to be less efficient and fall faster. You just have to have the technique to slow it down.
  2. If you want to lose altitude and you are not on final approach on a forced landing yet, it is advisable to pitch the nose over to the white arc speed in order to lose height even quicker.
  3. In the end, you have two options, either side-slipping or S-turns or even a combination of both.
  4. Do not be timid on S-turns! The instructor in this case study flies extremely wide S-turns, which is the only way for them to be effective.

Hopefully, this entry can inspire you to get up and practice some forced landings and consider that the last 500 feet will be the real make or break moment! Have fun and fly safe!

To learn more about forced flying techniques, head to Forced Landings: An Alternative Technique. Check out our courses page to start your flight training.

A Great Flight Instructor Makes for a Successful Career in Aviation

Flight instructors are the backbone of all successful aviation careers; however, we know that quality instructors are not easy to come by.

At Learn to Fly, the finest flight instructors are training some of the brightest future pilots in Melbourne. Our students are assigned their primary and secondary flight instructors; however, that is always open to change.

A great flight instructor should always be one you’re able to build a productive and trusting work relationship with. Regardless of how far into your aviation career you are, your instructor should always be someone you look to for guidance, assurance, advice and improvement. With this in mind, here are five great qualities all aviation students can expect from the right flight instructor:


Based on the current guidelines, all of LTF’s primary flight instructors are at an GA Grade 2 or RAAus senior instructor level, while their secondary instructors are at an junior level. The senior rating can only be achieved if the pilot accumulates certain flight training experiences and passes a flight test that is conducted by external GA or RAAus certified flight testing officers.

From the right control buttons to smooth landing movements, their skills and knowledge were honed by hard work and personal experiences. We know that our instructors’ shared personal experiences are full of priceless pieces of wisdom, giving rise to a kind of excitement in our students that can only be gained from receiving a pilot’s insight into the aviation industry.


During your aviation journey, a large portion of flight training is based on emergency procedures: stalls, wing drops, forced landings, engine failures, radio failures, and the list goes on! This is why our school standards require instructors to be well-trained. Learn to Fly will only employ instructors who are confident and can remain focused on the task at hand, alert, and ready to respond immediately to any potential situation in which the risk outweighs the learning opportunity.

Beyond our instructors’ seniority level, our chief flying instructor (CFI) actively supervises all flight training operations and consistently checks training records and documentation. This ensures that Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are complied to and students can always feel safe while flying!


What kind of a learner are you? Do you learn visually or kinesthetically? Do you like to push yourself out of your comfort zone or take things step-by-step? Are you goal orientated or do you prefer to enjoy the ride? Knowing the answers to these questions is the first step to realising your potential, and a committed instructor can help you to really flourish.

Aside from the dos and don’ts in flying, a good flight instructor will teach you the right attitude towards managing risks, valuing responsibilities and trusting in your own abilities. Trust your flight instructors and allow them to help you become the efficient and reliable pilot you desire to be.


Great flight instructors are able to light up your curious mind. They’ve all had multiple years of experience, so it is never wrong to ask questions and express that you want to know more about aviation—they are here to help you learn!

Plus, they do great as motivators who’ll help you overcome any self-doubts and boost your confidence incredibly. Their goal is to get you career ready, so the key is to always find alignment between their goals and yours.


Your educators will always be a part of your journey. Whatever knowledge they’ve instilled will remain long after you leave the cockpit. From your first trial introductory flight to going solo, all the way to achieving your Commercial Pilot Licence, your instructor will have set the tone and had an influence over your entire career in the aviation industry—and that’s what makes the right one so special.

In flying, it’s essential to have a companion who’s always got your back. Choose wisely and set your sights on a successful aviation career. To start your journey with Learn to Fly, visit our website for a variety of beginner, intermediate and advance courses.

We’ll see you in the sky!

Focus on the Flying and Choose a Pathway Later with Learn to Fly

The big question: are you flying at Learn to Fly in order to pursue a professional career in general and/or commercial aviation, or here to become a recreational pilot instead?

At Learn To Fly, we believe in flexibility and diversity—in our instructors, students and courses. Regulation developments at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAus) put even more pressure on budding pilots to choose their pathway early, which is why we provide a seamless transition between the available options should you change your mind during the course.

Nevertheless, choosing which pathway to follow is a big decision so we’ve put together everything you need to know when planning your next steps.


RAAus can issue Recreational Pilot Certificates (RPCs). Emerging aviators should pursue this option if they don’t require the additional benefits and privileges offered by a Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) and above.

Achieving your RPC is a good starting place to help aviators gain their footing in this entirely new world. This certificate also provides students with the opportunity to pursue several additional endorsements—making this a great way to get started in aviation.

There are some restrictions with this certificate; however, with flights made by the pilot limited to 1–2 seater aircraft that can fly with a maximum total take-off weight of 600 kgs only.

On the other hand, medical requirements for this certificate are as effortless as having a driver’s licence and performing a pre-flight self assessment.

Students may decide that they wish to continue their pursuits in the aviation profession during their RPC program. Here at Learn To Fly, these students are given the opportunity to smoothly transition into one of our other training programs and effortlessly continue their aviation adventure.


Getting your RPL is the first major stage in pursuing a career in General Aviation. RPL holders can carry 3 passengers compared to RPC holders who can only carry one. RPL holders can also fly aircraft with a 1500 kg Maximum Take Off Weight (MTOW) while RPC holders can only fly 600 kg MTOW.

In order to convert the RPC to an RPL, you will need to do a 2-hour instrument flying and flight review on a GA registered aircraft.

Getting your RPL puts you on the pathway to achieving your Private Pilot Licence (PPL) and eventually your Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), and with these, you can enter general and/or commercial aviation as a professional aviator.

Students may decide to continue along the professional aviation pathway after achieving their RPC and/or RPL. The team here at Learn To Fly will work tirelessly to ensure that students are aware of the process and coached appropriately.

The training and experience offered by Learn To Fly’s capable instructors means that the flight education we offer is of the highest quality. Whether you have chosen to pursue a professional aviation career or are aspiring to become a recreational pilot, your training will be equally valuable and will help you achieve your goals.

Still unsure? Contact Learn To Fly to ask any questions and start your flight training today!

Flying Circuits Calls for a Tip-Top Weather Brief

As an aviation student, you are constantly placed in unfamiliar situations that test your skill, airmanship and decision making. These Judgements could even determine the entire outcome of a flight. It is paramount for all pilots to attain a weather brief for all matters of flying, including flying circuits.

The 24th of September, 2017, was a definitive learning curb and monumental day for me in my aviation career. What was supposed to be a regular day of circuit flying soon turned into an unforeseen challenge.

The weather was marginal on that day, with gusts up to 20 knots and some showers, as the outer rainbands of a tropical depression were affecting us here in Hong Kong. However, it seemed safe enough to fly circuits at first glance.


After pre-flight, I immediately requested to not be sent out solo due to the weather. Nevertheless, my instructor and I decided that today would be a wonderful opportunity to test the limits of my ability safely under his supervision.

My instructor was comfortable with the conditions, however we were both aware of a squall line brewing to the south of Hong Kong that could potentially affect us. We calculated that we had at least 45 minutes before the line hit, and we assumed we’d be in the clear.


Heels to the floor, full power, RPMs in range, Ts and Ps in the green and as the aircraft passed 55 knots, I gently applied back pressure for a smooth take-off.

Almost as soon as I climbed above the tree-lines, the aircraft jolted to the right and I corrected instinctively. I remembered exactly how to respond during turbulence—focus on holding the altitude of the aircraft, don’t chase the altitude and most importantly don’t bust manoeuvring speed.

As I rolled out on downwind, the aircraft was thrown around in all directions. My body, with the absence of double shoulder harnesses, was also thrown around alongside as the rain and turbulence worsened. I struggled but managed to get my pre-landing checks complete and a radio call out. Despite my headset bumping the ceiling, in such turbulence one must remember that the priority is to always fly the aircraft.


Final approach was terrible, the turbulence made me delay my full flaps selection and I felt as if the aircraft was being tossed around. It occurred to me that I was way too flat as I flared so I applied more back pressure to establish landing attitude. Even so, it turns out that I was way too fast. I hit and bounced, holding the landing attitude before touching down once again. The conditions weren’t easing, and I really began to worry.

The rain and turbulence escalated and my headset fell off. The instructor took over as I tried to collect myself. It appeared the squall line on the radar image I saw before the flight was going to hit. I voiced to my instructor and knew that this was going to be a full stop.


Prepared and eager to land, I rolled out on downwind, least expecting flight operations to declare a runway closure for 5 minutes over the radio.

The rain became menacing as I flew at circuit height and held, pelting onto the windshield, and obscuring my visibility. My instructor, however, remained silent to test my decision-making skills.

Waiting for the all clear seemed like forever. Panic began to set in as I came too close to loss of control. “Don’t chase the instruments and hold the attitude,” I reminded myself.


My instructor sprang into action and decided to help me with radios. On base leg, I set the appropriate attitude for 75 knots and trimmed—I feel very fortunate to be taught how to fly attitudes instead of chasing airspeed, the emphasis on attitude flying by Learn to Fly helped immensely.

Just as I was about to turn final, 75 knots plummeted to only 65 and I sank like a rock. I just had a windshear of a 10-knot loss. Immediately I applied full power and performed a go-around.

On final approach, I focused on just flying by feel. The landing was hard; however, being back on the ground was all that mattered.


15 minutes after landing, the squall line came through with heavy thunder and rain. It was at this moment I realised the outcome of today’s flight was merely a testament to my good judgement under pressure in a difficult situation. My instructor and I were both safe after I made the decision to call it off. It reiterated to me that as a student, we have the right to make a no-go decision! Because despite embracing every ounce of optimism, even for the simplest of tasks, it won’t change the weather outcome.

This experience has only strengthened my decision making skills, and confidence as a pilot. Something that will surely benefit me in the coming months as I return to Learn to Fly Melbourne in November for more advanced flight training. Keep an eye on the Learn to Fly blog for more personal posts following my return to flying in Melbourne!

The Forced Landing: Case Study and Lessons Learnt (Part 1)

Contributed by Learn to Fly student Howard Lau.

On the 26th of February, like any other Sunday, I was sitting in the flight operation office here in Hong Kong. Little did I know, out there in the Tolo Harbour, a Cessna 152 was about to be at the centre of a whirlwind adventure involving a forced landing.

The man who sent me on my first solo flight in Hong Kong is full of wisdom and has a sense of humour in the cockpit. He shared the following flying experience on Cessna 152 with me, which I wanted to share with you now as a case study full of tips that will guide you on how to execute a forced landing.


At the time, we were doing some pre-examination exercises for students and we had just turned around towards the Shek Kong Airfield. The engine suddenly ran rough so I pulled the carb heat out and went full throttle, but it did not change the situation. I was thinking, “Is this my lucky day? Or a bad day?”; but really you don’t have time to think or even pray.


Obviously, I had three options:

  1. Go back to Shek Kong, but in that case I would fly over Tai Po and many buildings.
  2. Fly over to the dam wall (of the Plover Cove Reservoir), but it was 11.30 am on a Sunday which means many people were there.
  3. Fly towards Three Fathoms Cove.

I thought of those three options and discarded the first two options as they were populated.


I was thinking, “if I drag on too much or if I drag on too long, I wouldn’t have the altitude to execute my approach.” At this point, I still didn’t want to believe that I had to do a forced landing, and I still wanted to revive the engine and glide back into the airfield. Actually, I asked ATC for approval to climb above the vertical limit and they said, “Sure, no problem.”


The rule of the thumb here is to get a plan and stick with it. If you keep switching and your aircraft keeps descending, you will eventually be forced to simply land ahead, which usually does not go well at all.


I was trained to approach a field with an escape route to overshoot and go around in case something miraculously happens to the engine. The most important thing is that you have a technique to slow down. I can do S-turns to bleed off height and shorten the landing distance, and side-slipping helps as well.

I was at 70 knots, nowhere near 60, and I was out of options at the time. If I dived the aircraft into the golf course, I would gather up speed, which may result in a tumble and getting wet. So I spotted a relatively flat spot in the trees and I went for it, and with full flaps I hit the trees at around 45 knots, close to the minimum controllable airspeed.

Intentionally, I aimed between two branches so the wings would hopefully lessen the impact and it did. The left wing was broken off but we walked away unhurt.

Head to Part 2 to see the lessons learnt from this forced landing case study.

Top 5 Ways a Flight Instructor Rating Can Benefit Your Pilot Career

If you currently hold a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) and are wondering how to boost your employability in aviation, you can either do a Multi-Engine Command Instrument Rating (MECIR) or a Flight Instructor Rating (FIR).

The Flight Instructor Rating is a genuine career starter. With it, you can start with Grade 3, and work your way up to Grade 1 or even Chief Flying Instructor.

Then, as an instructor, you can build your flying hours, which will make you more attractive to the airlines. This is just the tip of the iceberg so we wanted to share our top 5 ways a Flight Instructor Rating can benefit your pilot career.


The Flight Instructor Rating is required to be held by Commercial Pilot Licence holders to be employed as a flight instructor for the purpose of delivering training to students.

If you are interested in becoming a flight instructor, then you are in luck—flight instructors are in high demand right now and are expected to remain so for many years to come. It is an easy way to land your very first flying job.


Pilots choose to become a flight instructor for many reasons. It’s can be a dream job and a primary source of income, and it’s the next step on the way to becoming an airline pilot.

Airlines do prefer pilots who are equipped with a Flight Instructor Rating as the concepts that the instructing environment deploys are similar to cockpit resource management. Besides, check and training positions within airlines also require an FIR.

More than 2000 flight instructors who met the airline’s requirements have been recruited by the American airlines in 2017.


Junior Grade 3 instructors can build flying hours by teaching the next-generation of pilots how to fly an aircraft.

To become a qualified flight instructor, you are required to take the FIR program. You can choose to do either a Recreational Aviation (RA) FIR program or a General Aviation (GA) FIR program, or both of them. RA & GA dual qualifications can maximise your opportunities of landing a job as it allows you to instruct both RA and GA registered aircrafts.


An essential element to becoming a flight instructor must be your passion in instructing and teaching. Some people see the flight instructor job as a stepping stone as it can build flying hours for getting into airlines regardless of the learning experience of students.

This role is more suitable for pilots who have passion and patience in instructing and have better communication skills to teach students from different countries and backgrounds.

If you find your real passion in being a flight instructor, you can keep pursuing the higher levels of instructing, like Grade 2 or Grade 1 instructor, or a CASA approved testing officer. Some flight instructors eventually become the school’s Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) or even open their own flying schools.


Becoming an experienced flight instructor presents an alternative entry into the industry to that of a charter pilot and one that can also enhance your chances of becoming a check and training officer in an airline environment should your career take that direction.

Every flying position has a training element to it, from introducing a pilot to a new aircraft or explaining new rules and regulations. Therefore, a Flight Instructor Rating is practically always beneficial.

For more information about getting a flight instructor job, please check out: and explore our courses to pursue your own Flight Instructor Rating.

Forced Landings: An Alternative Technique

Contributed by Learn to Fly student Howard Lau.

Any pilot or experienced student will tell you that one of their nightmares must be the practice forced landing, let alone a real forced landing, and to complicate things further, there are a few alternative techniques a pilot may be instructed to follow.

Even though at Learn to Fly flight instructors offer impeccable pre-flight briefings and guidance throughout the flight, the prospect of undertaking this practice run is still enough to make anyone feel at least a little bit nervous.

If you, like me, find the technique involved with forced landings to be super fascinating, then I urge you to continue reading as I unpick and discuss traditional and alternative approaches.


A fundamental flaw in the traditional High/Low Key technique has been commonly taught in most civilian flying schools across the world. This technique depends on your judgement of the trajectory of the flight in order to somehow ‘nail’ 1500 feet by your low key position, which is normally abeam your IAP (Initial Aiming Point) on a downwind.



As a matter of fact, there are too many factors to process in order to clearly judge the altitude of our aircraft in a glide at a particular arbitrary point. It also requires the pilot to be extremely knowledgeable about surrounding terrains and the elevation of the terrain he or she is flying over, which sometimes can be challenging.


The Royal Air Force has developed a new Constant Aspect technique in order to combat the issues of different aircrafts and the requirements for some undetermined judgements.

The principle of such technique is that it removes all the guessing of altitude and descent angle, and it narrows down to one thing, which is called the “Sight Line Angle” (SLA). It is the perceived angle between the IAP of your landing field and the horizon. Realistically, all you can look at during the forced landing with this technique is ONLY airspeed and the SLA.



The SLA is the “Aspect” which is part of this entire forced landing approach, and the “Constant” is basically the entire technique itself. The ultimate goal of the entire pattern is to keep your SLA constant as you approach the IAP.


The first step to fly this approach is to pick a landing field within safe gliding distance and meet the criteria set out by your instructor. Next, you can choose a sensible IAP within the first third of your landing field. This will be the “fulcrum” where your aircraft will pivot during the entire pattern which ideally is a round pattern unlike the High/Low Key method with a rectangular pattern.



Ideally, you will join what is equivalent to a crosswind; however, depending on wind direction, it may be a direct downwind or a midfielder crosswind join into the “circuit”. It is important that your bank angle does not exceed 20 degrees during the approach otherwise you may risk the SLA either increasing or losing airspeed and glide ratio due to the reduced vertical component of lift and increased drag.

If your SLA is increasing (getting too high): Deviate from best glide speed or increase spacing. If your SLA is decreasing (getting too low): decrease spacing, fly inwards.

When approaching final, you must make the turn in to directly approach your IAP. This is the time when you decide, using your knowledge of the trend of your SLA, whether you cut in short, fly a standard final or overshoot and then turn back onto final depending on your height.

If the SLA is high, you have three options to get back onto glide path. You can use flaps, do S-turns or do a steep slip, or you can combine S-turns and steep slips if it is ridiculously high.


This technique is not only used by RAF but also being slowly accepted by flying schools around Europe and the UK.

It is recommended that everyone should practice the entire pattern all the way down into the flare and touchdown. You will find out, if you really are ridiculously high, you can still hold the slip into the flare, centralise the rudder when the aircraft sinks, and then continue to flare.

For more information about our flight training, head to our courses page.

New Horizon for Australian Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) Holders

The global aviation market is booming, which is fantastic news for aspiring pilots and represents the best time ever to get into the industry. Hundreds of Australian Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) holders who are coming through the local training systems are ready and willing to fill the roles in commercial operations.

The future looks promising due to demand rising in emerging markets across the globe, which is expected to continue driving the world’s general aviation market. Emerging markets in Asia will dominate over the next 20 years, according to IATA.


Virgin, Air New Zealand, Qantas, QantasLink have been recruiting a high volume of pilots this year. Airlines from the United States such as SkyWest have also made significant Australian hires.

The Australian government recently allowed foreign pilots to work in Australia on working visas for 2 to 4 years, which proves that we need pilots in Australia now than ever.

While there is a general consensus that getting a position with an airline is difficult to secure, the entry requirements are pretty achievable, and many flight instructors with a certain amount of flying hours and experience are easily accepted.


China, as one of the biggest emerging aviation markets, is going to surpass the United States as the world’s largest air travel operator by 2020. China’s airlines have been rapidly expanding their international destinations in recent years. Over the next 20 years, they will require 5000 pilots to be recruited per year to meet skyrocketing travel demand.

Chinese airlines are offering higher than standard industry salaries and benefits to recruit airline captains and attract some of the best Australian pilots and other pilots in the world.


Darren, our airline interview training coach, has been helping many flight instructors get their airline jobs. Recently, 20 instructors from an Adelaide-based flying school, accounting for 30% of all of their flight instructors, successfully landed their dream airline jobs.

As many flying instructors have gone to the airlines, the flight training industry needs more and more flight instructors, especially the senior level flight instructors who can work without supervision and can do more specialised types of training.

Some flight training students who thought about getting into the aviation industry through an airline’s Cadet Pilot Program have may wish to consider to another path: student pilot > Commercial Pilot Licence > Instructor Rating > working as a flying instructor > airlines.

Learn To Fly’s Flight Instructor Rating course is an ideal way to increase your aviation knowledge and set yourself up for a career as a flight instructor. At the end of the course, students will receive dual qualifications (RA Instructor Rating and GA Instructor Rating) which can maximise their employability in airlines.

We will also hire selected students to work for us and we are happy to see our students becoming flight instructors, senior instructors and landing their airline jobs at the end.

Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) is also essential if you want to land a career in commercial operation. CPL holders have a wide range of career pathways to choose from, including joining a commercial airline, and finding a job in tourism, agriculture or passenger transport.

For more information about our courses and training, head to our courses page.

Final Flight in Hong Kong as a Recreational Pilot

Contributed by Learn to Fly student Howard Lau

It’s a little hard to believe that one year ago I was writing about just how unique and fun flying in Hong Kong is as a recreational pilot. Here I am again, one year after that, writing about my final flight in Hong Kong.


I flew with my familiar instructor, Bertie, who has a reputation for being strict and fastidious. Being a former Tiger Moth owner and pilot, Bertie’s stick and rudder skills are second to none. He threw a curveball at me once again, asking me to plan a navigation exercise.

I thought, you’ve got to be kidding …

He wasn’t, and with my limited knowledge I set off with the chart, plotter and marker. I plotted and drew the route up, did the measurements to the best of my ability completed the calculations for wind correction, groundspeed and time required. I put recorded all of the essential information from the chart, including the leg information, on a paper navigation log.

Although Hong Kong navigation exercises aren’t real navigation exercises, it still took me around half an hour to plan everything out.


After being briefed about what the exercise would involve, we took off. As we departed the Shek Kong area though Kadoorie Gap I took out my pre-folded chart, turned overhead from my starting point and went into my first heading. I hit ‘start’ on my stopwatch, and I thought, “Here it is—the moment where I test out how accurate my planning as an absolute rookie is.”

We reached the first waypoint around a minute earlier than expected, which means we cruised at a slightly faster ground speed; however, our tracking was pretty close to perfect and I estimated I was only half a nautical mile to the right of the planned track. Within my limits and my instructor’s limits, I reset my stopwatch, turned onto the next heading and then started the same process again. Just as I was about to get confident about the accuracy of this leg flight, information came through notifying us to stay clear of an enroute visual waypoint due to a rescue helicopter doing a rescue.


As we tracked towards our original point, we encountered an unexpected issue because the original point is a small island and there are many similar islands in Hong Kong. I was, at one stage, lost. I decreased power and started flying slower than usual so I could figure this out. After a while I managed to identify the outlet of the Plover Cove and identified the island.

Returning to Shek Kong, we defended into the circuit. Despite a strong northerly breeze that tossed us around a little bit, we ended up with a satisfying landing.


Hong Kong Aviation Club is an icon, a historical remnant of the bygone days of British Colonialism. People in the club all agree on one thing: preserving and advocating for recreational aviation is highly important and is what we as pilots do. Not only do we fly aircraft, we are genuine ambassadors of the aviation family and we encourage more people to take part in such a beautiful journey.

What the club also taught me is to never take anything for granted, especially the freedom to fly and the availability of flying.


My aviation journey will now continue at Learn to Fly’s beautiful headquarters in Melbourne. For me, the school at Moorabbin Airport is full of the spirit and freedom of flying and it complies with the highest standards set out by aviation governing organisations, CASA and RA-Aus. Needless to say, I can’t wait to be back in Australia!

Stay tuned for further blog updates from me as I pilot the skies down under! To find out more about Learn to Fly Melbourne and the flight training on offer, please head to our courses page.

LTF To Enter The Outback Air Race 2018

Image credit: Outback Air Race

Learn to Fly Melbourne is pleased to announce that we have put together a team to enter the Outback Air Race 2018. Come August next year, Learn to Fly students Horace and Jack will take to the skies and take on their ambitions in the big race.

Outback Air Race supports the Royal Flying Doctor Service and has raised over $2.1 million to help the RFDS continue to provide 24-hour emergency medical assistance to patients throughout Australia.

The route has been drawn up and will take participating pilots over some of the most interesting parts of Australia with stops in Archerfield (YBAF), Bundaberg (YBUD), Longreach (YLRE), Mount Isa (YBMA), Adels Grove (YALG), Daly Waters (YDLW), Katherine/Tindal (YPTN) and Kununurra (YPKU) and Broome (YBRM).

In total, the pilots will fly a distance of around 3 940 km over the 12-day period in which the race will be held. Believing that the race will come to represent a significant chapter in the lives of both pilots, we wanted to share their pilot journeys with you can track their progress with a sharpened interest.


Horace is a college undergraduate from Hong Kong who is majoring in biotechnology. He started his flight training with us at Moorabbin Airport in 2016 when he was just 19.

“I fell in love with flying from the moment that I got behind the controls. Since then, I have used all of my school leaves to complete my training and become an RA-AUS flight instructor.”

After successfully completing his Recreational Pilot Certificate (RPC) in January, Horace went on to achieve his Cross-Country Endorsement and Passenger Endorsement in quick succession, and then had his GA flight review finalised shortly after that.

“My next big goal is to become a GA instructor. The Outback Air Race will be the first ever official aviation race I have ever taken part in and I feel honoured that it will be such a meaningful and exciting experience,” said Horace.


Jack recently graduated from his studies in Hong Kong, having majored in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He has his sights set on becoming an airline pilot and started training at Learn to Fly Melbourne earlier this year.

Jack fell in love with the sky from the seat of the Bristell NG5 aircraft. His target is to obtain a Private Pilot License (PPL) in early 2018 and he believes that by taking part in the Outback Air Race next year he will make swift progress towards his aviation career goals.

“It is my pleasure and honour to be able to take part in Outback Air Race 2018. It is surely the perfect kickoff of my pilot career. My excitement about such an amazing, fruitful adventure is beyond words,” said Jack.

“Horace and I have both completed all of our flight training at Learn To Fly Melbourne. The school has not only taught us all the practical and technical details of flying, but also about all of the qualities a professional pilot needs.”

In the Outback Air Race, Horace and Jack will be flying the Sling 2. The Sling 2 is light-sport aircraft (LSA), which the manufacturer, The Airplane Factory, agrees can accommodate the needs of pilots at the highest level.

“Sling 2 aircraft have been used to circumnavigate the world and are especially good for cross-country flights,” said Jack.

“While getting a job at an airline is one way to do something great in aviation, the Outback Air Race 2018 opens up a whole other realm of possibilities.”

Learn To Fly Melbourne would like to take this opportunity to share our love of flying and aviation with the general public, including our community in Hong Kong, which includes many passionate teenagers. If you’re a fan of the cause or want to show your support of Howard and Jack, please jump on our Facebook and Instagram channels and share your message. Let’s keep the doctors flying!

Solo Flights at Learn to Fly: What a Feeling

We did the math and discovered that every 10 days a Learn to Fly student completes their first solo flight! It’s an experience to look forward to and one that makes our students beam with pride!

Born to Fly

Recently, one of our students went on a particularly special journey to make their first solo. Meet Gavin Li. He has a genuine passion and interest in aviation and he cannot wait to inspire other young people to pursue their flying dreams!

We can be certain he is doing just that because Gavin started flying with us in July of last year when he was just 14-years-old! No sooner had he signed up to train for his Recreational Pilot Certificate did he start dreaming of making his first solo.

Hatching a Dream Plan

By law, students doing the Recreational Pilot Certificate program can only fly solo after they turn fifteen so to make things happen as quickly as possible, with this as the case, we sat down with Gavin’s parents and planned out the perfect flight training schedule for him.

Gavin came to fly once every two weeks and in between flights we helped him to complete all of the theory and keep up his motivation and positive attitude toward learning to fly. Naturally determined, Gavin made progress without encountering many obstacles along the way.

First Solo

Originally, we had planned for Gavin to do his first solo flight on his birthday. Unfortunately, when the day arrived, the weather conditions were less than ideal. There was a touch of crosswind and already several aircraft in the circuits so Gavin’s instructor decided to delay the flight to a later date.

As an added precaution, we rescheduled the flight for 7 am in the morning when the weather is usually better. As luck would have it, the weather was perfect the next time around; the winds were low and the clouds were high. We couldn’t have been happier with the conditions and the traffic in the airways was very low.

An Unforgettable Flight

Gavin started by doing a few circuits together with his instructor, Rien. Just after turning downwind on the 5th circuit Rien said, “Gavin, make it a full stop and you can go and do one by yourself.”

That was the moment Gavin had been waiting a whole year for. He was calm, he taxied the aircraft to the runway, took off and flew a lap; the landing was a bit harder but safe. He taxied back to the apron where Rien was there waiting with a smile on his face.

A New Goal

This day is one that Gavin will never forget. Gavin is continuing his training and aims to have his Recreational Pilot Certificate flight test successfully completed by the end of October.

As mentioned, Gavin Li completed first solo flight two weeks after his 15th birthday, which makes him the youngest student pilot ever to do so at Learn To Fly!

We love this inspiring story and we would love for you to come and chase something unreal with us. As Gavin’s journey shows, getting your Recreational Pilot Certificate is an excellent place to start!

Life As a Learn to Fly Student #9: Flying Solo in HK & Tips for Landing

Contributed by Learn to Fly student Howard Lao.

Solo flying here in Hong Kong is honestly not much different to flying in Australia. The instructor rides along for the first two or so circuits and then before you know it, it’s time for you to fly the circuit yourself!

My confidence is growing steadily and I have been experimenting with different power settings on different legs. In light of many new flying experiences, I thought I would share some tips for making smoother landings, which I know will really help you out with yours.

1. Be Brave

It is normal for you to feel a little overwhelmed before completing your first solo circuit. Flying feels bizarre at first, almost like trying to drink out of a fire hose. I can only urge you to stick with it and fly often.

It helps to keep in mind that you will be soon be rewarded with your first solo experience of flight. I’ve put this point first because flying is a very mental pursuit. There are, of course, many technical aspects to consider as well, which we’ll cover in a moment.

2. Find A Stabilised Approach

It is a cliché perhaps but, “a stabilised approach is the key to a good landing,” and a stabilised approach doesn’t come together by magic. It starts with a good circuit. Good circuits have simple criteria. They require the pilot to:

  • Take 90 degree turns between each leg
  • Adhere to power settings taught on the ground
  • Check the surface winds to make corrections and predict ground speeds
  • Make smooth corrections and try not be overly controlling
  • Hold airspeed & be disciplined when holding it

Aim for better circuits every time if you want to improve your landings. You don’t have to be perfect, but you have to keep aiming high. As listed above, you will need to hold different airspeeds during flights. Something that will help you transition between airspeeds is pitch & power coupling.

3. Manage Pitch & Power Coupling

Pitch and power coupling is the basic notion that when you power down, you will also have a pitch down moment and vice versa. On most small GA aircraft there are two airspeeds you must adhere to, and to transition and decelerate smoothly pilots must learn to anticipate a pitch down moment when power is being pulled off.

When you are approaching short final you need to pull back the power to idle gradually. While you’re pulling back you should also judge and apply added back pressure on the yoke or the stick in order to hold the final approach attitude. Doing this allows the aircraft to slow at a reasonable rate.

I usually start this deceleration when the aircraft approaches the runway and I am confident that I have the runway “made”, which means if I experience a loss of power the aircraft is within gliding distance.

This stage of landing is very personal and comes down to personal preference. Some like to do it early, and some like to do it late. However if you want my 2 cents I recommend doing it early if it’s not gusty or turbulent.

4. Forget Flaring for Now

Unless you’re flying a Space Shuttle or a 777 you won’t be flaring on the last seconds of your landing. “Flaring” implies that the nose is being raised to the landing attitude right away, and this is incorrect as this will cause nothing but a balloon for the small aircrafts you will be flying in training.

For these smaller aircrafts you will be transitioning from an approach attitude to a landing attitude using a gradual process called “holding off”. The aim is to touchdown at a nose high, tail low landing attitude at just above stalling speed.

A good tip is to keep your eyes looking at the far end of the runway, which will allow you to use your peripheral vision to judge whether you’re sinking or ballooning.

5. Go Around When it’s Right

If something isn’t working out, know when to push the power to full and to go around. At the end of the day, going around is not a sign of failure, and if you hear that voice of doubt in your head about your current approach, go around and try again! You can do that in a flight test, and you can do that during any flight, solo or dual.

Back to Oz

It has been a busy time as I am approaching the end of Secondary School. At the same time I have more flight training to look forward to at LTF at the end of the year! Despite my busy schedule on-the-ground I am now soloing on the Cessna 172 here in Hong Kong at Shek Kong Airfield, and due to the training that I completed at Learn to Fly, I have been afforded much more freedom as to the types of approaches I am allowed to do, even though I am still a student pilot on paper in Hong Kong.

Until next time, I hope you enjoy reading my tips and putting them to use.

If you’re like Howard and can’t think of anything better than flying solo in the skies, then our solo flight course could be the ticket to your dreams

Training Beyond the Private Pilot License (PPL)

After completing your Private Pilot License you might wonder, “what’s next?” As strange as it may sound, you may in fact wish to do more training. For as a pilot you have never actually finished your training.

Freedom of Flight

Additional training after you receive your PPL will help you to fly different types of aircraft that are bigger, faster, have multi-engines, are tailwheel, or are seaplanes. This will really open up the world to you. In particular it will give you much more freedom when you organise recreational flying trips.

Top Rated Pilot

It’s not just about learning how to fly different planes. You can work on honing skills for which you will receive endorsements and ratings that add value to what you can do already. Some areas that might be of interest to you will be things like night flying, formation, aerobatics, and instrument based flight skills. The best part is it only takes about 5 – 10 flying hours for a pilot to complete training like this.

Linked Ratings

Some ratings and endorsements are linked to each other. For example, if you are planning to do your Command Instrument Rating or Private Instrument Rating, Night VFR (Visual Flight Rules) training can be a great introduction to it. Even if you feel like an rating is not essential after you receive your PPL, it is a great way to build your confidence and mastery of aeroplane and general flying skills.

Knowledge to Succeed

When a PPL pilot talks to us about additional training options, we normally suggest a reference text on the skills they’re interested in, and provide ground briefings to ensure they have sufficient knowledge to achieve the skills. As always we strive to provide you with education on the ground before you spend money on the air.

Lifelong Learning

It certainly is one the great things about aviation that you are given constant learning opportunities. Given the varied flying conditions in which pilots operate, gaining an endorsement or rating is no-brain route to telling everyone you’ve done your preparation and have grown confident in many aspects of flight.

Read more about Learn to Fly courses here

Life as a Learn to Fly Student #8 | How I Started My Journey

I knew from an early age that the pilot life was for me, but when it came time to pursue my childhood dream I still had to put a lot of thought into how to turn the dream into reality.

Being extremely interested, inspired and impressed by the role of an airline pilot, I started to do massive research into all kinds of information and details related to aviation over the past few years.

Starting with Simulation

Soon after starting my research, I became aware that in Singapore, they actually have a flight simulation centre for the public located at Singapore Flyer called “Flight Experience”. It operates the Boeing 737-777. Therefore, I went down to give it a try and spent $175 for 30mins.

After the first attempt, I had an interest in going down once every two weeks or more and had a couple of flying sessions with them spending just over $500 on this Boeing simulation. I was also aware of the SG Flight Simulator in Orchard Central and also in Changi which they operate for a different kind of aircraft, the Airbus 320.

The Changi Simulator is so special because it was a full-motion type, where it really feels like a realistic experience. Once again, I had a couple of flying hours and spent a large sum of money on them.

The reason behind this is simple, it was so I could know and learn more about the difference between an Airbus and Boeing.

After trying both, people would ask me: What’s the difference? Honestly, there is a hell of a lot of difference between them I would say. They both work and operate systems differently. But if you asked which one I prefer, it would be…..


But well, honestly I am fine with either.

Building Basic Skills

Apart from flying the simulator, I actually learnt a couple of things during my sessions with them. They oriented me around the cockpit, taught me the basic handling of a huge aircraft and the fundamentals of flying as well as some extra flying knowledge to use along the way if needed.

How Far Have I Come?

Right now, after training here in Melbourne in Learn to Fly’s Bristell for 2 weeks, I will be going back again to complete an additional 5 hours for my pre-solo exam which is part of my achievement.

But also the takeaway from this is for me to master every single thing I have learnt about basic aviation knowledge and the fundamentals of flying. I need to be ready for the most important career milestone for my future which I will face next, the interview with Singapore Airlines and Scoot Air.

I have to say it’s going to be a challenge and big priority for me to take on the Singapore & Scoot Airline Interview process in 2018. To be able to pass and get through their interview process and be accepted by either one of them would be the biggest goal in my life.

Lastly, my story would end with “Every pilot or even cadet pilot have different stories to tell”.

Stay tuned for more personal stories from Charles and other LTF students! If you’re interested in following in their footsteps, check out our Courses to find out how.

Life as a Learn to Fly Student #7 | Why Do I Want to Fly?

Many people ask me, why do I choose to be a pilot or what makes me want to become a pilot? This is my reply to them.

Ever since I was young, I have been passionate about becoming an airline pilot. I was fascinated by the huge massive aeroplanes that were able to stay up in the air and fly around, the first thing that came into my mind the moment I saw them was: Wow, how amazing is that?!

Love at First Flight

Initially, at the age of 16, I was going on a holiday with my family to China and we boarded a plane with Singapore Airlines. Technically that was the very first time I experienced riding in an aeroplane. So before my actual check in, my parents and I went to the plane view gallery where you can have a clear view of the aircraft and watch them takeoff and land.

At that point in time, looking with my own eyes, watching those aircraft lift off the ground and fly up towards the sky, it was beautiful and amazing! Furthermore, hearing the massive sounds coming out from the engine, especially during the takeoff, I really enjoyed listening. Does it sound crazy to you? Oh well, that’s how I feel!

Besides that, I guess what I felt was, in the role of an airline pilot you see different passengers onboard everyday. You meet different kinds of people around, hold a large number of lives in your hands and ensure a safe and pleasant flight every single time without fail. You must meet their expectations and bring them safely to the ground.

Overall, I really love doing this, I would say I am happy about what I’m doing and I can’t wait to step into that position soon.

After all, this is the reason that inspired me a lot to be an airline pilot. And right here, right now, that’s what I am doing.

A Modern Day Miracle

Flying is just like escaping from the world, leaving together with other souls up in the sky. That is the only time I can really stand back, relax my mind and have my own little freedom up in the sky.

Looking out from my seat through the cockpit window, coursing at the altitude of 4000ft above ground level, you realise how beautiful Mother Earth really is.

Especially during the raining season. On one occasion, the rain wasn’t that bad or heavy, just a little drizzle and it rained for just a while. I was coursing on top and right after the rain stopped I was instantly captured by the gorges and beautiful double rainbow that were right in front of me. My face was literally like glue and stuck to the window.

Passing through and flying around the rainbow, it was breathtaking. I was speechless at that moment and I told myself that was this was God’s gift for me and it’s a miracle.

Charles will be sharing more insights about his flight training soon. Keep an eye out on our blog so you don’t miss a thing!

Life As a Learn to Fly Student #6 | Meet Charles

Good day to everyone out there!

Let me introduce myself, I’m Charles Lau Jun Wei, 23 this year, Learn To Fly student from Singapore. Basically, I love flying and I’ve been very passionate about becoming an airline pilot ever since I was young when I had my first amazing flying experience on a trip to China with my family.

Currently I’m still serving with the military back in Singapore. I’ve been in the military for seven years in total and technically, I’ve still got two more years of service left as I’m working as regular personnel.

Apart from my military service, concurrently I’m doing self-study as well as training and learning aviation at Learn To Fly Melbourne. As for my pilot training progress, I’m attending classes as part of the Future Cadet Pilot Program.

Following My Dream to Fly

Before my actual starting date, I could say I was extremely excited. I requested a break from my military work and luckily the officers understood my situation, that flying was my passion and of course training is important for my future career. So I went over to Melbourne for two weeks to complete my training.

As a junior cadet pilot there, a brand new student, honestly, I can’t explain how I felt. It’s a good feeling, not a bad one, so don’t be alarmed! But to cut it short, I was really looking forward to my training!! I completed one week of my training and was happy and satisfied overall.

Unexpected Challenges

One thing that came into my mind, and I honestly I didn’t expect this to happen, but at first I thought that the technical process of training as a cadet pilot was going to be easy. But eventually I learnt it wasn’t going to be easy at all!

I’d heard rumours from certain people saying, “There’s an autopilot in an aircraft so don’t be worried!!” But, after a massive amount of research and learning more about being an airline pilot I learnt that this is not true!!

Even before getting to the stage of using an autopilot, you have to start training at the bottom and work your way up to the top — when you understand everything about being an aviation pilot and also everything in the aircraft system! Therefore, I would say, it’s not easy, but it can be done, there’s just lots of things you need to know and learn!

Getting Started with Flight Training

Firstly, I was provided with a student starter kit which covered the basic knowledge and flight training rules, with that comes teaching on basic aerodynamics, primary and secondary flight controls, and also the pilot skills set.

Furthermore, a ground training manual book was issued, which included lots of information about air law, air navigation, radio communication, human factors and more.

Flying the Bristell

The Bristell was the aircraft I was using for training, to master the basic handling of the aircraft and also the fundamentals of flying. Two words to describe the experience? Awesome and fun!!

The moment when you enter the cockpit and you’re the one who is actually flying and controlling the aircraft after a session with the instructors, how great is it? That feeling was really so good that it literally took my breath away. I had lot of fun flying that small aircraft. Eventually I completed 10 hours on my flying record, hopefully I’m able to gain more flying hours towards my future.

First Impressions of Flight Training

I would say the process of training and learning is challenging and critical. Apart from the flying itself, you have to really put in your 100% heart and soul into it, in order to build successful processes and work towards your future goals like any pilot in aviation history.

Overall, I really enjoyed my training and studying at the flight school. Besides that, the instructors and students from other countries were friendly! I managed to hang out with them throughout my two weeks there!

And most importantly, we were able to share our knowledge and skill sets within one another, which I guess is part of the take away from the flight school.

Stay tuned for more updates from Charles as he shares his experiences of flight training with Learn to Fly Melbourne.

Life As A Learn To Fly Student #5 | Phase 2 – Flight Training In Hong Kong

Some of our fans have been asking about updates from one of our star students, Howard Lau. Since he’s been back in Hong Kong, he has started his flight training with the Hong Kong Aviation Club. Now he’s ready to share his thoughts on what flight training is like in Hong Kong.

Hi readers and fans, it’s Howard! I’ve successfully completed the Recreational Pilot Certificate (RPC) and now I am back in Hong Kong with the Hong Kong Aviation Club. I have just completed my Cessna 172S familiarisation flight and will be working towards my HKCAD PPL over here!


The Hong Kong Aviation Club is the only organisation in the Far East that provides flight training and leisure flying. We pride ourselves as being an aviation organisation run entirely by members and volunteers. Most of the instructors and staff are volunteers. They perform their duties out of passion, since they do not receive any monetary compensation.

Now you may ask, “If it’s non-profit, why do you charge so much?”.

I have been asked this question many times before. This is due to the taxation that the Hong Kong Government places on leisure flyers, as we take up airspace and resources. As 100LL Avgas is very expensive and rare in Hong Kong, we are fortunate to have companies supplying us with a steady flow of 100LL Avgas.


We currently operate 4 Cessna 172 aircrafts and 2, or soon-to-be 3, Cessna 152 aircrafts. All of the planes are impeccably maintained despite their age. For example, our oldest Cessna 152 (B-HPA) is 30 years old this year!

At the end of October, I completed my Cessna 172 (B-LUW) and Hong Kong procedures familiarisation flight – it was the first time I had flown in three months. It felt great, the aircraft responded just as I had expected and the experience can be described with just one word – docile!

The 172 is heavier than the Sling that I used to train in at Learn to Fly Melbourne. It burns much more fuel and is a typical training aircraft. As the old saying goes, “You can never go wrong with a Cessna!”.


I had an amazingly passionate and fun instructor. His name is Adam and he was also a PPL flying member of the Hong Kong Aviation Club until he earned his AFI rating. AFI stands for “Assistant Flying Instructor” and is the first instructor rating you can achieve in Hong Kong. It does not require a CPL, just like the RA-AUS flight instructor rating! I found him quite accommodating, encouraging and very humorous when we flew over Tolo Harbor, which is our main training area with a vertical limit of 3000 feet AMSL.

We also managed to squeeze in 4 circuits in Shek Kong Airfield, an airfield with one single runway (11/29) and a CTAF frequency (123.60). We had to go around twice, since I travelled high and fast in the first attempt and during my second attempt another Cessna 152 (B-HHN) began to backtrack into the airfield’s apron. We flew a very tight circuit at just 800 feet AMSL and a very steep approach – this differed from what I did in Melbourne! Full flaps for every landing!

I am so happy to be writing about flying again, so stay tuned for more blogs about my flying adventures in Hong Kong!

Which Path Should I Take? | The Difference Between RA & GA Flight Training Paths

Although many people focus on comparing the differences between Recreational Aviation (RA) and General Aviation (GA) schools, in reality there is not much of a difference at all. Let me explain what I mean, as I fly through common misconceptions about both flight schools.


As a current flying instructor, I completed my Recreational Pilot Licence through a local RA flight school. I found that whilst GA schools claim they are professional, based on the aircraft they use, this is becoming increasingly less and less relevant.

Over the past 10 years, RA schools and their aircraft have come a long way. You will find that most RA schools have:

  • New aircraft with advanced technology
  • Glass cockpits
  • Faster cruising speeds, which are greater than GA aircrafts
  • Reliable engines
  • A better fuel consumption rate, which I dare say would outcompete traditional GA aircrafts

With so many advances, flying RA aircraft can be equally as rewarding and adventurous as GA aircraft.


One thing is for sure, GA courses will burn a hole in your wallet faster than RA courses. As a general rule of thumb, GA aircraft can be around $100 more expensive per hour than RA aircraft. If you’re aiming to achieve all the required hours for your Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) through GA aircraft, this price difference could end up costing $15,000 more.

As another example, the diagram below demonstrates the price differences between a GA and RA course at Learn to Fly Melbourne. This particular infographic also illustrates multiple pathways to attaining a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), the step before CPL.


Personally, I’m unconvinced that the course content and quality of instructing is drastically different between the two types of schools. Instructors at RA schools may hold both GA and RA qualifications. At the end of the day, pilot candidates study from the same textbook to undertake the same CASA written tests and CASA check rides. And of course, everybody gets the same CASA licence.


I know many successful pilots who have taken the RA path. As an example, the Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) of a well-known GA school in the Melbourne regional area initially trained under an RA school before continuing his training path under GA.

Whether you choose to fly with GA or RA aircraft, you will still be able to obtain your CASA licence following either paths. It is up to you to decide what is budgeted for flight school and the type of aircraft you want to fly.

To read about more aviation misconceptions, check out our blog on the difference between the Recreational Pilot Licence and Private Pilot Licence.

Life as a Learn to Fly Student #4 | Simulation Training

With the abundant amount of flight simulator programs for sale or available to download for free on the market, it is a given that any real aviation enthusiast will use such programs to simulate and experience what real flight is actually like. For the most part, and as a flight simulator enthusiast and student pilot, I think flight simulator programs do a relatively good job of portraying the numerous nuances of flying as well as real flight itself.

Do you think flight simulation has been a good addition to your flight training?

It can take a little while to get used to flight simulation, but I think once you do it is a great addition to flight training. Many amateur flight simulation hardware such as joysticks, yokes and rudder pedals have way too little travel and this means many nicely modelled flight simulator aircraft can feel sensitive, twitchy and generally out of whack. This is also the main reason many flight instructors still believe that flight simulators can have detrimental effects on a student’s performance.

However, as a student who has used a flight simulator before actual flight training, I have to say that flight simulation has done more good than harm to my flight training. One must just make sure the hardware gives enough good feedback when flying on flight simulator.

Which flight simulation programs do you use?

I currently use two main flight simulator programs, Microsoft Flight Simulator X and X-Plane 10, each has their own merits and shortfalls but I believe both programs are very good if you are looking for some reasonably realistic flight simulation.

What do you like about Flight Simulator X?

Flight Simulator X has a long history in the flight simulation community. In the past, Microsoft had a flight simulation division composed of real world pilots as well as seasoned programmers and engineers. Their purpose was to develop one of the longest standing and most powerful flight simulator programs for sale. Since the termination of this flight simulator development team, the code has been sold to Dovetail Games and is distributed on Steam® for a reduced price compared to the original with DLC expansion packs to enhance general user experience.

Flight Simulator X is highly flexible and modular due to the nature of aircraft development. Simply put, each aircraft is fully modelled using a 3D modelling program and the flight dynamics are written and contained within coded files, which are written by the developers.

Coded files give programmers and developers more flexibly when simulating some of the aircraft’s systems and particular flying quirks as it allows for a nearly unlimited span of development. Such is evident in the company, A2A Simulations, with their impeccably modelled Cessna 172R trainer and many other training models. They are the pioneers of persistent modelling as well as wear and tear, as they have even modelled a full maintenance hangar and preflight which is not only a gimmick, but required if you do not want to suffer from any catastrophic failure in flight.

On top of that, such simulation even mimics the stick force feedback you have on real aircraft. Although it does have obvious limitations, it does make the feedback and control inputs smoother, more intuitive and more realistic.

It should be noted that I am by no means endorsed by A2A Simulations to say such message, as the simulation has obvious limitations due to the fact that it’s only a simulator. However A2A Simulations and Flight Simulator X has helped me greatly by assisting and speeding up my training.

How much can I do on a flight simulator at home?

You can do a great deal on a simulator at home with a joystick, to improve or speed up the progress of your training. One can follow the syllabus of a typical Recreational Pilot Licence, starting from effects of controls as well as straight and level flight, to slowly study how controls affect an aircraft in flight.

If the correct model is chosen for the flight simulator, aerodynamic modelling shouldn’t be too much of an issue. It is important to select a model with correct modelling of aerodynamic properties such as torque and the slipstream effect as that will allow you to correctly make control inputs.

How do you practice radio calls?

With the advent of VATSIM, which is a network of virtual air traffic controllers and pilots, people who use flight simulators can even practice radio calls with actual “controllers” and learn about airspace rules and regulations. The most important thing about VATSIM is improving radio confidence and discipline, knowing that radio calls can be daunting at first. However, I must thank VATSIM for this, as the first time I keyed the mic and talked to ATC at Moorabbin Airport, it was nearly as smooth as silk and my radio calls are always hailed as “excellent.”

Is the flight simulator as good as flying a real aircraft?

Eventually, one will find that flying in real life is much easier than flying on the simulator due to the abundant amount of control feedback. You will have a direct link to the control surface, which means you can “feel” the air and how firm the controls are so you will know whether or not you’re slow or fast just by control feel alone. With control feedback on a real aircraft, you will find trimming to be much easier and it will actually allow for smoother flying despite possibly turbulent conditions.

But in a nutshell, it comes down to these four things:

Have fun, fly safe, listen to your instructor and enjoy every minute you have in the aircraft!

Life as a Learn to Fly Student #3 | First Solo

Perfect Day For a Solo

It was a rather clear morning, which is a luxury in the Melbourne winter, accompanied by little to no wind. It really was an absolutely beautiful morning to go flying, but the word “solo” wasn’t really on my mind. I just expected a normal routine of going out for a morning pre-flight, hopping into the plane with the instructor and heading to Tooradin for a few circuits and then I would come back.

I strolled out to the tarmac, breathing in the cold air of winter, the other aircraft still silent. The entire Moorabbin Airport was silent and still, as if I was sneaking into someone’s bedroom while they were still sound asleep. I went through my normal preflight flow check, “Electrical, Mechanical and Chemical.” The Sling was good to go, the fuel topped up and the instructor arrived just as I was about to strap into the lefthand seat.

I ran through the start-up checks and did the normal procedures that would allow me a safe passage out of Moorabbin Airport, only a few planes started rolling along the taxiway with me. The instructor really didn’t say anything to suggest that I was ultimately preparing for my first solo.

The air was as smooth as butter as I climbed to 2500 feet for a short cruise to Tooradin; I got to enjoy the rising sun as I directed the aircraft to fly towards the small, private and unlicensed airfield that is Tooradin Airfield.

Joining the left downwind leg of Tooradin, I really got a good look at the two windsocks placed at the beginning and at the midpoint of the runway; it looked as if the wind was still down at the sealed strip of runway where I would touch down. We did a barrage of normal landings and even two glide approaches, at this stage my mate in another aircraft, the Bristell, is already on his second solo doing circuits with us.

Finding Out I’d Be Going Solo

“Make this one a full stop,” the instructor says briefly.

So I did, I set the aircraft as steadily as possible on the runway and gently pulled on the brake lever next to the throttle to taxi off the runway. At this point I was wondering, “Oh maybe he just wants a break or a quick word with the other instructor.”

Except I was off by miles as he keyed the mic and said, “Sling 8781 will be returning shortly for a student first solo.”

I look at him in disbelief, but it was evident that he is adamant in sending me off on my first solo, and if he is confident in my ability to fly the aircraft without him on-board, I should be as well. He directed the aircraft past the other instructor, who was watching my mate do his second solo, and he briefed me on my first solo. He told me where I should go and what I should do, leaving me with one final tip, “My final piece of advice? Enjoy it, you can only go first solo once in your lifetime.”

Taking To The Sky

So there I was, all by myself for the first time in this Sling 2, just myself and the aircraft in all its glory. I slowly positioned the aircraft in-line with the runway and advance the power to full, a quick glance at the engine gauges confirm that my engine is running healthily. As soon as I hit 50 knots I gently applied back pressure and the aircraft leapt into the sky and climbed like a homesick angel.

I was pleasantly surprised at the significantly higher performance when I went on my first solo; the aircraft was climbing much faster than I was used to when flying with an instructor. I couldn’t help but look to my right and see an empty seat there, I really was flying the aircraft all by myself!

As I turned into the final approach I glanced at my airspeed indicator and for the first time I can say I’d nailed the speed on approach, 70 knots, that is what I want to see.

As I passed over the bush by the beginning of the runway, the power came smoothly to full idle as my eyes looked down to the end of the runway for the flare. The nose came up, and up, and up until the landing attitude was established. Before I knew it, the main gears settled into terra firma once again in a gentle fashion and the nose gear did soon afterwards as well.

I pulled the brakes gently to slow the aircraft down, as I exited the runway my instructor said, “Congratulations on your first solo,” through his handheld radio.

An Unforgettable Experience

It felt surreal as I taxied back to my instructor after just completing my first ever solo flight, including my first flight where I completed the takeoff and landing by myself. It was the first flight in my life where I acted as Pilot-in-Command!

The breath of fresh air hit me as I slid open the canopy, and the sense of joy and accomplishment washed over me as I basked in the glory of what is one’s first solo flight.

Life as a Learn to Fly Student #2 | My First Two Weeks

What were my first two weeks in flight school like?

Well to sum it up, flight training with LTF up until now has been a rewarding and challenging experience. I’m honoured to be the first student to fly the new Sling 2 training aircraft. I flew the Sling 2 on my second training flight with LTF and I can only say she is a solid, obedient and beautiful aircraft to fly.

What did I do in my first flying lesson?

I remember very vividly my first flying lesson with Chief Flying Instructor Jordan Rogers, it was effects of controls and straight and level in the Bristell NG5, as the Sling wasn’t in operation yet. Jordan’s passion for aviation and making the most fun out of a flying lesson is absolutely admirable, he took me down along Mornington and the Mornington Peninsula, scud running at 500 feet above sea level at more than 100 knots as a “welcome ceremony” type of thing. Although it was bumpy and cloudy, the view from up above was awe inspiring.

“You have to be up really high to know how small you really are” – Felix Baumgartner

Aviation provides the perspective the human race needs to prevail, that our issues on a large scale are really, really insignificant.

Eventually, the instructor hands more and more control of the aircraft over to you, the student, as your ultimate goal is to fly as a pilot in command. Right now I am up to flying circuits and landings on the Sling 2, and the instructor basically sits back and watches as I do all the procedures, which is what he/she will eventually do. However, at the end of the day the pilot in command is still your instructor sitting in the right seat.

What are the LTF instructors like?

Some people have the false perception that a flying lesson includes some shouting and screaming from that grumpy old man sitting next to you (aka. the instructor), however this is just so far from reality.

I have had the privilege of flying with the Chief Flying Instructor, and although on paper his seniority is of the highest authority, flight lessons with him are something rather fun. Despite his seniority and experience, he still holds that naïve, childish admiration of aviation, evident from his use of his phone to take pictures while in the air. I can promise you; sometimes you simply can’t wipe that smile off of his face when you are playing among the clouds in your humble little single engine piston aircraft.

That being said, the instructors you will be flying with here at LTF will expect high standards of you as a student pilot, after all you are at LTF to learn and improve your flying skills. It’s just that you learn in an environment that will not over-stress you.

What’s the LTF community like?

The LTF community and school atmosphere is nothing short of awesome! No other word to describe it, the school is more like an extended family where we can talk about anything! Even about topics that aren’t aviation related. On the ground everyone, including the Chief Flying Instructor, are good mates who share experiences and thoughts with each other openly and freely. Instructors and classmates are always happy and willing to help anyone in need, and of course we share that same passion for aircraft and aviation.

When will I go solo?

Currently, the first solo is just around the corner as we are refining circuits and circuit emergencies such as flapless and glide approaches, the instructor will slowly let everything go and everything will be under your total control. The rule is, if the instructor is quiet (or if he ends up doing a little dance after you totally aced that flapless approach), you’re close to solo.

Solo flights are conducted out of Tooradin for now; Tooradin is a small private airfield to the southern boundary of the Moorabbin training area with one real operational runway. Until LTF receives the solo exemption, all solos will be conducted out of Tooradin.

So that’s it for now, stay tuned for the next update!

Life as a Learn to Fly Student #1 | Meet Howard

Oh goodness! I need to write a blog kind of thing for Learn To Fly Melbourne! So where shall I start?

Oh right you don’t even know who in the world I am!

Who am I?

G’day everyone! My name is Howard Lau and I am 16, turning 17 next month, I study the Recreational Pilot Licence at Learn To Fly Melbourne. I have just completed my first week and a bit of training on the Sling 2 and have logged 9.4 hours. To say I am earning my pilot licence before I can legally drink, drive and vote is not only something thrilling to be thinking about, but the process of learning to fly is immense.

Why do I fly?

Well I always ponder upon this seemingly simple, black and white question; however any aviator will spend hours explaining the nuances of their own reasons as to why they fly. Why do I fly? Well flying is like an escape of the petty things that occur back on the ground, it’s really the only time I get to slow down and look at the world that we live in. Flying is encapsulating and fascinating.

How did I start?

I started in a now defunct flight simulator centre in MegaBox called Flight Experience, they operate a Boeing 737-800 fixed base simulator and I was a student of their youth cadet program. The program taught me the fundamentals of flying; however a simulator is a simulator, not the real deal obviously!

Investing in a simple home simulator setup is a good way to learn some basic fundamentals of flying, like what I do! I use a Logitech joystick and a laptop to run Microsoft Flight Simulator X with the well-known, and proven to be realistic add-on A2A Simulations Cessna 172R. Such hard and software combination is recommended to any aspiring aviator, and it has definitely sped up my training here at Learn To Fly Melbourne.

Obviously, I am training in Melbourne right now on the Sling 2 aircraft, hopefully to earn my Recreational Pilot Licence in a month and a bit more.

How can I learn more about aviation in general in Hong Kong?

Now as a Hong Kong resident, it’s evident that Hong Kong isn’t the most aviation-friendly city per se; however several communities and organisations can be worth a look at for the keen aspiring aviator.

HKADB (Hong Kong Aviation Discussion Board) is a Facebook page for all aviation enthusiasts who live in Hong Kong and the page is a good way to know more people working in the aviation industry.

HKYAA (Hong Kong Youth Aviation Academy) is a youth organisation that aims to provide people with assistance and guidance on professions in aviation and the participants of HKYAA will be introduced to various facets of aviation and working in the aviation industry. This program does not offer real flying experience however aims to gear the individual with the proper skills and characteristics towards working in the aviation industry.

The most useful thing these days is the internet! Make good use of the internet and aviation relies on the relationships and ties you have with the people in it, so reach out and ask more questions!

In conclusion, aviation is not only a hobby or career, it is a lifelong commitment. Learning to fly is a process that never ends; after all we are all student pilots regardless of experience and qualifications.

Stay tuned for future blogs about my training and experience here with Learn To Fly Melbourne!

Until next time… Have fun and fly safe!

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