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Thinking of Learning to Fly? Here’s What You Need to Know!

Are you thinking of learning to fly? Regardless of your final goal, it’s important to do your research before you start. There are questions you should ask yourself before looking at flying schools. And then, when you are looking at flying schools, it’s important to know what to look for. In this blog, we’ve put together some handy information to make doing your research easier. Here’s what you need to know.

What is my reason for wanting to learn to fly?

If you are thinking of learning to fly, the first thing to consider is why you are doing it. What is your goal? Are you wanting to simply experience flying, or maybe experience solo flight? Do you want to fly for a career, or fly for fun? If you are flying for fun, how far do you want to fly?

The answer to these questions will help you choose the right course pathway. Also, it will help you choose between flying schools.

If you want to fly for fun but aren’t 100% sure if you’ll like it, you can look at a beginner course. Our beginner courses include the Learn To Fly Starter Set and Learn To Fly First Solo Flight Course. Beginner courses introduce you to flying, without the commitment of a full pilot licence course. Any training you do in a beginner course will be counted if you do decide to continue your training.

If you are ready to commit to a licence, a Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) teaches you the basics and allows you to fly up to 25nm from your departure aerodrome. A Private Pilot Licence (PPL) adds navigation and allows you to fly anywhere in Australia. If you want to fly for a career, you’ll need a Commercial Pilot License / Licence (CPL).

Want to get a taste of flying first before committing to any of the courses? Start with a TIF (Trial Instructional Flight, also known as a Trial Introductory Flight).

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A TIF (Trial Instructional Flight or Trial Introductory Flight) is a great way to start learning to fly!

Should I do a TIF (Trial Instructional Flight) first?

Regardless of your ultimate goal in learning to fly, a TIF (Trial Instructional Flight) is a great first step. A TIF is a short flying experience, often 30 or 60mins in duration. It allows you to take the controls of an aircraft under the guidance of an instructor.

This is great for people wanting to know what it feels like to control an aircraft. You can then decide if you want to continue your training with a beginner or pilot licence course. It can also be handy for pilots that might have already flown, but want to see what flying a different aircraft type is like.

How do I choose between flying schools?

There are many flying schools out there, especially in a large city like Melbourne. Choosing the right one is very important, and could be the difference between your failure and success as a pilot. It will also impact how much you enjoy your flying lessons.

So, how do you choose? Here are some key things to look for when considering flying schools:

1. Convenient location
2. Wide range of courses
3. A range of aircraft to choose from
4. Experienced instructors, including Grade 1 instructors
5. Good facilities, including simulators
6. Flexible training options (on-site and distance/online learning)
7. A range of payment options

We tick all of these boxes above – click here to check out our blog on why you should choose to fly with us.

Our YouTube channel offers a great variety of free online training content, including RPL/PPL flying lessons!

What aircraft should I choose to fly?

There are a few things to consider when choosing which aircraft to fly. There are traditional aircraft like the Cessna 172 or more modern aircraft like the Sling 2 LSA or Diamond DA40.

Traditional aircraft are generally older and have analogue controls/avionics. Modern aircraft are usually fitted out with glass cockpit avionics, which means they include an electronic flight system like the Garmin G1000.

Aircraft availability is worth considering when learning to fly, both during your training and after your training is complete. The aircraft cost is also a factor, as the overall pilot course cost will depend on the cost of the aircraft.

Click here to check out our aircraft fleet.

How much does pilot training cost?

The answer to “how much does pilot training cost” obviously depends on the course you are doing. However, there are other factors to consider as well.

The pilot course cost is generally dictated by the length of the course and therefore how many flying lesson hours there are. Also though, different aircraft cost different amounts to fly and maintain. So, the aircraft you choose will also have an impact on the pilot course cost.

A good flight school will offer payment options. The majority of our courses offer the option to purchase a course package or “pay as you fly”. A course package covers the entire course and has most of your required expenses included. The pay as you fly option is as it sounds – you pay for each flying lesson, theory lesson or exam as you progress.

Many of our course packages can be paid for in interest free instalments via SplitIt. This allows you to split the pilot course cost over monthly payments. Click here to read more about SplitIt.

What are the pilot prerequisites for learning to fly?

Before you start learning to fly, there are pilot prerequisites that you need to meet. These depend on what course you are doing. For example, a pilot licence course will require that you get an Aviation Reference Number (ARN), complete an aviation medical check and meet English proficiency standards.

Age is another consideration. Whilst technically there is no minimum age to attend a flying lesson, you must be at least 15 to fly solo. You must be at least 15 to obtain a Recreational Pilot Certificate (RPC), 16 to obtain your Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL), 17 to obtain a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), and 18 to obtain a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL).

There are no set pilot prerequisites for a TIF (Trial Instructional Flight or Trial Introductory Flight), but there are recommendations to consider, such as your general health.

Are there differences in pilot licences in Australia to pilot licences overseas?

The structure of pilot licences overseas compared to Australia is quite similar. You may however find some differences in the exact names or the terminology. This is something to keep an eye out for when researching about learning to fly in Australia.

The USA, for example, has both a Sport Pilot and Recreational Pilot Certificate or License, and these are comparable to Australia’s Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL), but with some differences. The USA also has the Private Pilot License and Commercial Pilot License which are again very similar to their Australian PPL and CPL. You may find that overseas licences are called “Certificates” in some countries.

Another note on terminology. Pilot licences in Australia are spelt with a “c” rather than “s” like overseas. For example, Commercial Pilot License in the USA, and Commercial Pilot Licence in Australia.

Want to find out more about learning to fly? Get in touch by email to [email protected] or schedule a meeting and school tour at https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting today! Don’t forget to click the button below and subscribe to our YouTube channel where we have a great range of flight training content, as well as free RPL/PPL flying lesson videos!

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Top Tips to Prepare You for Solo Flight Training

Your first solo flight training experience is an incredibly exciting moment. It can also be quite nerve-wracking though. It’s natural that you might feel a little anxious about what’s about to happen. After all, you’ll be the one in complete control of the cockpit. If anything unexpected happens, it will be your skills and cool, calm head that needs to find a solution.

However, most people find that once they’re safely up in the air, that anxiety turns to complete exhilaration. You’ve been training for this moment for a while now. You know what you are doing, and you’ve finally achieved your dream of flying an aircraft solo!

Here at Learn to Fly, we’ve provided countless students with the skills and confidence they need to safely take to the skies in a solo capacity. In fact, we’ve built a whole course around it — our very popular Learn to Fly First Solo Flight Course. As part of your training, our experienced team will provide you with several strategies you can implement to make solo flight training as enjoyable as possible. Here are some of the top tips:

Be patient

Depending on your age, skills, background, and experience, getting to the point where you feel comfortable undertaking solo flight training may take some time. This is completely understandable; remember how strange it felt getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time without an instructor? And your feet were firmly planted on the ground!

Be patient with yourself and your instructor when preparing for your first solo flight. Flying is a difficult skill. It requires physical finesse and a certain level of theoretical knowledge. Building this skillset takes time. With patience though, along with passion, dedication, and support from the right flying school, you’ve got the best chance of getting there.

Ask questions

Learn to Fly’s First Solo Flight Course is specifically designed to develop your skills to the point where your instructor feels comfortable letting you take to the skies on your own. It involves 15 flight training hours, and these will be flown with an instructor by your side until you are ready.

You should aim to ask as many questions as possible about the plane you’re in, the role and responsibilities of a pilot, and how to handle unexpected, emergency situations. There is no such thing as a silly question. In fact, you’ll be left feeling pretty silly if you don’t ask something and are later left still wondering when you’re in control of the aircraft.

Learn to Fly’s team of experienced and dedicated instructors are as passionate about teaching as they are about flying. They’ll be more than happy to answer any and all of your questions, so ask away!

Don’t rush

Mistakes are usually made because we don’t give ourselves enough time to fully think through a situation. This is true in all contexts but is particularly important regarding solo flight training.

Your flight instructor will only okay you to fly solo if they truly believe you are ready. Once you’ve got that tick of approval, you can be confident that your skills and knowledge are up to the task of being in command of the cockpit.

The trick is to not let nerves get the better of you. Your instructor has confidence in you, so you should have confidence in yourself. Don’t allow anxiety to dictate how quickly you move through your pre-flight checklist. And don’t let nerves tell you that you’re going to have difficulty making the landing. Trust in your training and knowledge, and everything will go smoothly.

If you find yourself rushing, take a moment to look out the window, enjoy the view, and acknowledge that you’re a solo pilot. Not many people can say they’ve had that experience!

Enjoy yourself!

Finally, remember to enjoy yourself. You’ve put in a lot of time, effort, and study to get to this point. Maybe this is the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. Or perhaps it’s only the first step in going on to obtain your Recreational Pilot Licence, Private Pilot Licence, or Commercial Pilot Licence. Maybe one day you’ll be piloting a jet airliner, and you will look back and remember that very first time you took to the skies on your own!

Here at Learn to Fly, we are passionate about helping our students fulfil their dreams. We know that flying can be both exciting and overwhelming, which is why we recommend our First Solo Flight Course for those looking to commence solo flight training. The course is designed to provide you with all the practical and theoretical skills required to safely take-off, handle the aircraft in the air, and then safely touch down again. Our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and are equally as passionate as you about achieving their aviation goals.

Solo Flight Training Student Pilot

Contact our friendly team today to find out more about our course options and programs.

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Pilot Flying Tips for Successful Flights

What are some tips for successful flights? Our instructors are a wealth of knowledge, so we asked them for their best pilot flying tips!

Across Australia and around the world, thousands of recreational and commercial pilots complete successful flights with accidents thankfully being rare. When accidents do occur, investigations often reveal that standard processes and simple practices weren’t carried out. In aviation, this is known as “human factors”.

There’s a lot to take in when you are learning how to fly, and sometimes the most simple of advice can help to make your flying safer and more enjoyable. So, here are some pilot flying tips from our experienced LTF flight instructor team!

Planning

Prior planning prevents poor performance. Adages like these become cliche for a reason. Have a thorough flight plan. Know your radio calls and frequencies, the landing airport layout, to making sure you ate recently, (take snacks and water, always) and are well-rested before take off. 

Other essential planning tips for a successful flight include:

– Knowing the current weather and forecast on the route and at aerodromes
– Being aware of the aerodrome conditions and aircraft suitability
– Knowing ATC rules and procedures for that flight and NOTAMs

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Pilot flying tips: Planning is so important.

Familiar Territory

Flying can throw enough curveballs at a pilot without creating additional ones through oversight and inexperience. Recognisable and accustomed situations are ways of further minimising risk and avoiding threat situations.

Some examples of what we mean by that:

Flying in a new aircraft? Fly it in good conditions and in a familiar place.
– Pick the best day to head to a new destination.

No matter how long you have been flying, one of the best pilot flying tips is to carry out one cockpit task at a time. Multitasking means spreading your attention thinly and potentially missing something. Another one of our pilot flying tips is that even if you have been in an emergency and survived (high five by the way), practice your emergency procedures.

Not Flying is OK!

It’s OK to decide not to fly when things happen like a change in weather, you forgot something or are running late. We know how much you want to get up there, but you can choose to fly another day if things aren’t aligning and subsequently putting pressure on your flight plan. 

Good piloting comes from an honest assessment of all the factors that enable the safest flight experience. If you decide to push ahead, keep a cool head in situations like if the aerodrome is busy, and don’t succumb to passenger pressure or your own get-there-itis.

Know the Rules

Non-compliance is a contributing factor to many accidents, particularly fatal ones. Whether it is validity, memberships, operating in VMC conditions or one of the abundance of rules and regulations, they play heavily in tips for successful flights. 

Being compliant is pivotal to safety, and the rules and regulations have come about not just from the fatal mistakes of past pilots but because our skies are increasingly busy with aircraft.

Brief Your Passengers

Whilst you’re the one behind the controls, an important pilot flying tip is to brief your passengers even if they are friends or family who fly with you regularly and in the same or similar aircraft. It’s good practice to always run through:

– No smoking in or near the aircraft 
– Seatbelt adjustments
– Emergency procedure including life jacket and emergency equipment location
– Stowage of luggage and personal items.

Tell your passengers always to let you know if they aren’t feeling well, if they notice something with the aircraft or have questions during the flight. Check in with them throughout the trip (even short ones).

Evaluate and Improve

Being in the sky is one of the most vulnerable places on Earth. Very experienced pilots have failed before as frequently as novices. Experience can be your greatest asset or your blind spot by way of complacency or worse, cockiness. Soar to great heights but keep your ego grounded on terra firma.

Evaluate after every flight. You should be looking to improve something every flight. Professionals across all sectors, through to elite athletes all look at their last performance and see what can be improved. 

Never stop learning. Write your own notes and study them. Doing a flight check with someone different every year is a great habit to get into in between your biennial flight reviews.

You can get more pilot flying tips by subscribing to our YouTube channel. We have RPL/PPL flying lessons, aircraft pre-flight check videos, and more. Click the button below to subscribe!

Chat to one of our flight training specialists to get your pilot training off the ground. Email [email protected] or go to https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Basic Pilot Navigation Skills – PPL Training

If you have already learnt the fundamentals of flying and are hoping to obtain your Private Pilot Licence (PPL) or even a Cross Country Endorsement (for RA-Aus RPC holders), then learning basic pilot navigation skills is the next thing on your agenda.

The majority of the PPL syllabus centres around navigation, and you will learn both basic techniques and advanced skills to allow you to conduct flights to and from anywhere in Australia.

Whilst technology has provided us with incredibly powerful tools to assist with navigating in an aircraft, learning and understanding the principles is still extremely important for any pilot.

The Fundamentals of Navigating an Aircraft

Since there are no roads in the sky, navigating from Point A to Point B can potentially be a lot more difficult in the air to what it is on the ground.

The concepts of using maps, a compass, and landmarks or geographical features as navigational tools have been around since well before the first flight ever happened – but they are still central to navigating an aircraft today.

The core syllabus for learning basic pilot navigation skills includes:

Maps and Charts

Student pilots learn about the different types of maps that exist, what aviation-specific maps and tools are available, and how to use them correctly. They will also need to have a detailed understanding of the terminology, symbols and scales used in aviation maps and charts.

Some of the maps and charts used for navigating an aircraft include:

– Visual Terminal Charts (VTC)
– Visual Navigation Charts (VNC)
– World Aeronautical Charts (WAC)
– Jeppesen Airways Manual Low Altitude Charts
– Jeppesen Low-Altitude En-Route Charts and Area Charts

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Maps and charts are essential tools for basic pilot navigation skills.

The Earth, Positioning, Distance, Direction and Time

The concepts for the most basic pilot navigation skills come from understanding the shape of the Earth, and how location positioning conventions have been applied to it. Student pilots will learn how co-ordinates for a specific point are determined, and look at key features including:

– Latitude and longitude
– The Poles
– The Equator
– Cardinal Points
– Great Circles and Rhumb Lines
– Time (Including Coordinated Universal Time UTC)

Understanding Velocity

The concepts relating to velocity and its effects on navigating an aircraft is sometimes referred to as the “Velocity Triangle”. Basically, this compares the direction and speed properties of a moving aircraft to the direction and speed properties of the wind to determine the effects on an aircraft’s track, and end destination.

To understand these concepts and perfect navigation solutions to the problems they pose, students learn about:

  • Speed & Velocity
  • Heading and bearing
  • Track and Track Made Good (TMG)
  • Vectors
  • Indicated, calibrated and rectified airspeed
  • Plotting
  • Using Navigation Computers

Flight Planning

The next phase of basic pilot navigation skills involves applying the previously learnt concepts to the planning of flights, which include a number of waypoints or stops. Additional factors are included at this stage such as:

  • Airspace classes
  • Fuel planning
  • Altitudes
  • Weather forecasts

There’s a lot to take in when you are learning how to fly, and sometimes the most simple of advice can help to make your flying safer and more enjoyable. So, here are some pilot flying tips from our experienced LTF flight instructor team!

Practical navigation exercises

Of course the most fun part of learning basic pilot navigation skills is putting them into practical use!

Integrated PPL syllabus will combine theory and practical flying as you go, gradually building to more complex navigational flight exercises as more concepts are learnt and grasped.

Many of the concepts and calculations that student pilots learn relating to navigation can nowadays be effectively managed or guided by computerised avionics. At Learn To Fly, we have fully analogue aircraft as well as aircraft with the latest Garmin G1000 technology.

We believe it’s essential for a pilot to understand and be able to apply concepts without the aid of computers, but it is also important for them to learn what technology is available and how it can reduce the potential for human factor errors.

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With some basic pilot navigational skills, you can extend your flying range and enjoy some stunning scenery.

You can get more pilot flying tips by subscribing to our YouTube channel. We have RPL/PPL flying lessons, aircraft pre-flight check videos, and more. Click the button below to subscribe!

Chat to one of our flight training specialists to get your pilot training off the ground. Email [email protected] or go to https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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The Most Common Student Pilot Mistakes

In our last blog, we asked our instructors for their top tips on how to make the most out of your time at a flying school. In this blog, we asked them what they thought were some of the most common student pilot mistakes.

Studying to become a pilot isn’t easy, and there are plenty of opportunities for error when learning how to master the controls of an aircraft. Making mistakes is a part of learning anything. This blog has tips helps you to avoid some of the biggest ones when flying.

Being underprepared

According to our instructors, the most common student pilot mistake relates to preparation. Many student pilots make the mistake of thinking that they know more than what they actually do know, and then find themselves out of their depth.

Preparation is crucial, and it’s impossible to over prepare. Poor preparation commonly sees students struggling with exams, or wasting valuable flying hours going over things that they should already know.

Not using checklists

Australia has one of the best aviation safety records in the world.

Students will confirm their pre-flight checklist items before takeoff such as checking the auxiliary fuel pump, setting the altimeter and exercising the propeller. However, a mistake students often make regarding preparation is not using their flight checklists.

Not conducting a pre-landing checklist is another common student pilot mistake. One that can result in failing their final flight test. Checklist items may feel like second nature, and you have the information in your head, but you must manually go through them every time.

Student-Pilot-Checklist
One of the most common student pilot mistakes is not using your checklists properly – they are there to keep you safe and make your flight more enjoyable!

Impatience

There is no fast track to becoming a pilot, and nor should there be.

Flying is a distinguished skill that takes time to learn. Whilst there may be key competencies that you can pick up quickly, the process overall needs patience. Many students tend to want to jump ahead, and find it frustrating when things aren’t moving faster.

This results in misaligned over-confidence and rushing through components that require more attention. It can also make students disillusioned with their pilot pathway when they aren’t grasping things through lack of practice.

Not looking outside the cockpit

Just like driving a car, it’s important to look out the window when piloting an aircraft. Inexperienced pilots can unknowingly find themselves staring at the flight and screen controls rather than picking up visual and audio cues that indicate the performance of the aircraft, traffic and weather.

Students must remember to develop and hone their pilot instincts. This means not constantly relying on the flight controls to provide the information they need, and being continually aware of what is happening in the sky around them.

Lack of radio communication skills

Airports and their airspace are constantly busy. Communication over radio is rapid-fire and can be daunting for new students. Reluctant students can become hesitant to jump in during quiet moments over radio, and don’t communicate sufficiently with ground crew and air traffic controllers.

Clear and direct communication skills are essential for professional pilots. Practice your scripts when contacting the controller, and develop your skills to ensure you are confident and clear in your radio communication.

Not bribing your instructors with coffee

Believe it or not, this was actually the top response – every single instructor agreed that their students not buying them coffee was the most common mistake that they see during training.

We’re totally joking. But are we…? 😉

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Don’t forget to buy your instructor a coffee occasionally!

You can get more pilot flying tips by subscribing to our YouTube channel. We have RPL/PPL flying lessons, aircraft pre-flight check videos, and more. Click the button below to subscribe!

Chat to one of our flight training specialists to get your pilot training off the ground. Email [email protected] or go to https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Maximise Your Time In The Sky With These Top Flight Training Tips

You’re passionate about aviation, and you’ve made the commitment to learn how to fly. Make no mistake. Becoming a pilot is a huge investment of your time and finances. Like learning anything, you can be certain that the more effort you put in, the more you will get out of it – and the more successful you will be. We asked our Senior Flight Instructors for their top flight training tips.

1. Be well prepared

Just like many things in life, preparation is the key. Study before your lessons the theory course materials and other information available to you. The best student flight training candidates ensure they are well prepared for theory and flight lessons. It reduces the chances of having to repeat parts. Learning to fly isn’t cheap. Being well prepared will save you both time and money.

2. Observe other flights

– Always take the opportunity to join other training flights or sessions when they present themselves.

– Ask if you can come along as an observer and sit in the back seat on other students flights.

– Take notes whenever you can.

The more you are able to learn and build information outside of your own flying time, the faster you will grasp concepts. This can also help avoid the need to pay to fly extra hours to achieve your flight training objectives.

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“Backseating” a flight to observe is one of our instructors’ top flight training tips

3. Be flexible with your schedule

Flexibility with your schedule is very important. There are many factors that can affect both instructor and aircraft availability, and if you are able to adapt to schedule changes then you will get more flight training time.

Always keep an eye on the weather forecast, and the upcoming flight schedule. Communicate regularly with your instructors to make the most of the times that look likely to be good flying conditions.

You should also try to schedule your theory lessons for when the weather is likely to be bad, as your instructors will be on the ground too.

4. Ask lots of questions

If you are completely new to the aviation world, it can feel pretty foreign. It comes with its own technical language, terminology, abbreviations, and that’s just the start.

You may feel uncomfortable asking questions, but you will find that everybody is more than happy to share their knowledge. What may seem like a silly question to you may be something that helps to piece together something far more important that greatly assists your flight training.

Don’t be afraid to ask a question. This gives you access to your instructor’s top flight training tips at any time!

5. Spend time at your flying school

The more time you spend at the school, the more chances you will have to join training flights as an observer at short notice. You can also then take advantage of cancellations and schedule changes where other students weren’t able to be as flexible as you.

It also goes without saying that spending more time around your instructors and the other student pilots will allow you more time to ask questions and share ideas.

6. Make use of flight simulators

Flight simulation technology now provides an exceptionally realistic representation of the cockpit, avionics, flight conditions, and aircraft behaviour. Flight sims form a crucial part of your training, and they are also a very economical way to hone certain skills, and to train for specific non-standard flight situations.

The more time you are able to spend learning your skills in a simulator, the more you can use your time in a real aircraft to put those skills into practice.

7. Fly as often as you can

Practice makes perfect. Repetition allows you to retain information and allow your skills to become second nature. If you don’t fly frequently, you may find that small bits of information have disappeared by the time you fly again, and you may need to repeat certain things.

If you are spending your flying hours going over things you’ve already learnt then you won’t be able to progress your flight training as quickly. Fly as much as you can!

8. Have fun!

This may be the most important point of them all. When it feels like hard work, try to remember why you wanted to fly in the first place. You’re learning to do something that many people dream about, but will never experience for themselves.

Celebrate your successes, be proud of your achievements in an aircraft, and never forget – YOU ARE FLYING!

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One of the most important flight training tips is to remember that flying is fun!

You can get more flight training tips by subscribing to our YouTube channel. We have RPL/PPL flying lessons, aircraft pre-flight check videos, and more. Click the button below to subscribe!

Chat to one of our flight training specialists to get your pilot training off the ground. Email [email protected] or go to https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Circuit Flying Tips – The Perfect Circuit From Start To Finish

For student pilots, flying repeat circuit pattern procedures around their aerodrome will form a large part of their training. In this blog, we reveal circuit flying tips to help you get it right from start to finish.

What is a “circuit”?

CASA describes standard circuit procedure as follows:

“The standard aerodrome traffic circuit pattern facilitates an orderly flow of traffic and is normally a circuit pattern made with all turns to the left. When arriving at an aerodrome to land, a pilot will normally join the circuit upwind, crosswind (mid-field), or downwind (before mid-downwind). Landings and take-offs should be made on the active runway or the runway most closely aligned into wind. If a secondary runway is being used, pilots using this secondary runway should avoid impeding the flow of traffic on the active runway.”

The circuit pattern is the orderly take-off and landing flow of aerodrome traffic. Maintaining it is crucial to even the most major airports. Procedures will vary locally at different aerodromes that may have other factors to consider (terrain etc).

There are five basic legs to circuits:

– Take-off Leg
– Crosswind Leg
– Downwind Leg
– Base Leg
– Final Leg

While it might seem like a fairly standard or boring flying procedure to many people, circuit flying forms the basis of any pilot’s training.

Circuit flying includes fundamental flying syllabus including take-offs, climbs, climbing turns, medium level turns, straight and level flying, descending, descending turns, slow flying and landing. It’s also crucial to developing your separation skills as the presence of other air traffic is common.

Circuit Flying Pattern
The circuit flying pattern can be split up into 5 flight legs.

The definition of a perfect circuit

According to CASA, a perfect circuit will see the pilot completing the following:

– Take-off and then climb to 500ft (approx 150 metres)
– Turn onto crosswind leg (perpendicular to the extended runway centreline)
– Climb to 1,000ft (approx 300 metres)
– Reference aerodrome for turn point and turn onto downwind leg
– Reduce power, turn onto base and commence descent
– Turn onto final leg and land

There are many factors that can intervene and subsequently make it harder for you to complete that textbook perfect circuit flight. These include:

– Traffic
– Wind
– Light
– Glare

External factors aside, the best method for putting together a perfect circuit is to look at perfecting each of the legs individually.

Departure (take-off) leg

When airborne, find the attitude that allows you your nominated climb speed on full power. As soon as the attitude is established, find a reference point on the horizon and aim at that.

Once you have established your climb to a safe altitude (300ft or above), complete your take-off checks including a glance back to ensure your reference point is maintaining the extended runway centreline. Look for a reference point for your turn, just ahead of your left wing’s leading edge.

A clean take-off and a good setup into your first turn is essential for smooth circuit flying.

Crosswind leg

Begin your turn after you have reached an altitude of at least 500ft, although 750ft is the CASA recommendation. As it is a climbing turn, look to bank the aircraft at a 15 degree angle.

As other aircraft commonly join a circuit pattern on the crosswind eg at circuit height, keep a good lookout for traffic, and then adjust to maintain separation. Once the turn is made, maintain your attitude and power, and look for a reference point for the downwind turn.

Downwind leg

The turn onto downwind is generally made when your aircraft is at 45 degrees to the upwind threshold, onto a suitable reference point so as to track parallel to the runway. Depending on adjustments made for separation, you will either need to be level the aircraft at circuit height (1000ft) before, during or after the turn onto downwind. Lookout is again stressed, as traffic may also be joining the circuit on the downwind leg.

If a downwind radio call is required, it should be made when abeam of the upwind threshold. You should confirm your position in the circuit. Making a visual search by scanning from the threshold back along the final approach to base and then to downwind ahead of you. Identifying other aircraft positions within the circuit.

Maintain straight parallel flight by visually running the runway through the wingtip. Then you can complete your landing checks. Say each one out loud as you do them. Consider a reference point for your turn to base.

Base leg

As you are reaching a point in line with a 45° angle from the threshold, pick your reference point along the wing. Then make the base radio call if required. The best time to make the call is just before commencing the turn, as a turning aircraft is more easily seen by others in the circuit.

Reduce the power (1500-1700rpm as a guide) and then start a medium level (30°) turn. There’s no need to adjust your trim, as you will naturally wash speed in the turn whilst holding height at reduced power. Continue the turn onto your reference point, allowing for drift, until the leading edge of the wing is parallel to the runway.

Before the descending turn onto final, look carefully for traffic, especially along the approach path to ensure no other aircraft are on long final. Try to anticipate the roll out onto the approach (final) leg. This will help to ensure that the wings are level at the same time as your aircraft aligns itself with the runway centreline.

Throughout the turn, the angle of bank should be adjusted to achieve this by about 500ft. Adjust your altitude to maintain the nominated approach airspeed.

Circuit-Traffic
Circuit flying has a number of threats to look out for, and one of the major ones is other traffic.

Final (approach) leg and landing

During the approach, as with all phases of flight where the intent is to maintain a specific airspeed, it is important to emphasise that you should select, hold and trim the correct altitude for the desired airspeed.

When established on final, select full flap at the appropriate time and maintain your airspeed. Or allow it to decrease through attitude adjustment. Avoid extending your flaps during the turn onto final.

Select an aiming point on the runway (commonly the numbers, or the threshold), and then monitor and adjust your power as required to maintain a steady rate of descent to touchdown. If the aiming point moves up the windscreen, increase power – and if the aiming point moves down the windscreen, decrease power.

If you have trimmed the aircraft correctly, then the power adjustments should be small.

Your landing should be one smooth manoeuvre that slows the rate of descent to zero, and the speed to just above the stall speed, as the wheels touch the ground. When you have have assured your landing, often described as “crossing the fence”, close the throttle and progressively raise the attitude of the nose.

Gradually increase backpressure to achieve the correct attitude, so that your touchdown is light and on the main wheels only. Following touchdown on the main wheels, gently lower the nosewheel to the runway using the elevator. Use a reference point at the end of the rudder to keep straight on the runway centreline with your rudder, and then apply your brakes as required.

And there you have it! There will always be factors that require you to adjust things, but if you use this as a guide, then you will be well on your way to perfecting your circuit flying.

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How to Pass Your ICAO Aviation English Exam with Flying Colours

Effective communication is an important skill for any pilot. Being able to pass your ICAO Aviation English Exam with flying colours is crucial to your career. It is a requirement for radio communications with aircraft and air traffic control, advising your flight intentions, and with colleagues both in and around aircraft.

To ensure consistency, global standard English is the recommendation from ICAO for communication. It forms an essential part of pilot training. It covers a range of topic areas including the use of relevant terminology, vocabulary, and protocols. Pilots will be tested on Aviation English throughout their career.

ICAO-Aviation-English-Exam
Pass your ICAO Aviation English exam with flying colours.

Background

The language proficiency standards were established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in 2008, and then applied to flight crew licensing and signatory countries soon after.

Although one may speak English well, it’s also critical that pilots can listen to and comprehend instructions given over the radio. Accents from controllers and pilots can vary from flight to flight. Overcoming the challenge of accents alone can mitigate issues, and consequently play a significant part in making a flight run smoothly.

Listening Skills

Taking the time to observe and listen to Air Traffic Control (ATC) can be a valuable strategy prior to your ICAO Aviation English test. Live ATC allows individuals to listen to various control centres globally. You can listen to ground control, control towers, and en-route centres at a number of locations around the world.

When developing your listening skills, accents from both pilots and controllers will become apparent. This allows you to effectively tune your ears to a range of accents and instructions that you will likely experience daily as a pilot. This will ultimately then make this component of the ICAO English test more achievable.

Vocabulary skills

In addition to honing your Air Traffic Control listening skills, pilots need a broad spoken vocabulary in practical aviation. Reviewing aviation images or scenes online and then describing them out loud can be a valuable technique in determining the depth of your vocabulary.

Google search for aviation scenes and images. Practice describing what you see in random scenes or images verbally using known aviation terminology. Practice this technique regularly to help expand both your aviation vocabulary and flow of communication. You will need to execute this for the Aviation English Proficiency Test.

Preparation is Key

Clear and effective communication will always be critically tested and assessed for any pilot candidate. Utilise the resources available to you immediately and then start applying techniques in preparation. Expanding and improving your own listening and communication skills will prepare you well as a future pilot in a rapidly developing and growing industry.

Darren McPherson
ACS – Aviation Consulting Services 2019

You can get more flight training tips by subscribing to our YouTube channel. We have RPL/PPL flying lessons, aircraft pre-flight check videos, and more. Click the button below to subscribe!

If you need more information about how to pass the ICAO Aviation English exam, chat to one of our flight training specialists. Email [email protected] or go to https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Human Factors in Aviation. Are Pilotless Planes The Future of Air Travel?

As technology progresses faster and faster in the modern world, there are many processes that are becoming automated. So where do human factors in aviation sit in an increasingly automated world?

What are human factors?

Even with automated tasks and processes, humans still need to either control, manage, intervene, or interact with technology at many stages.

Human Factors in its widest definition describes all the many aspects of human performance which interact with their environment to influence the outcome of events. These may be related to either the physiological or psychological aspects of human capability. Both of which are able to directly affect the way in which the human operator performs in different circumstances.

Human Factors knowledge reduces the likelihood of errors, and builds more error tolerant and more resilient systems.

What are the effects of human factors in aviation?

Things have changed a lot from when we had to manually start an aircraft’s propeller. And also from when pilots had to exclusively use landmarks to visually navigate during flight. But even with all of the latest technology installed in aircraft, human factors still play an enormous role.

The human factors involved in the operation and interpretation of even the most modern technology remain of the utmost importance in ensuring the safety of aircraft operations.

Negative human factor impacts

Most of the world’s worst aviation disasters have been a direct result of human factors, including the following. An example of this is the Tenerife disaster in 1977. A runway collision between two B747 airliners, due to misinterpreted radio communication form the captain of one of the aircraft. It resulted in 583 casualties.

There are examples of failed interactions between humans and technology. One such incident is the mid-air collision between a chartered Tu-154 passenger flight and a B757 DHL cargo jet over Überlingen, Germany in 2002.  This resulted from ambiguous air traffic control and TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system) instructions. The automated TCAS instructions were in fact correct in warning the pilots of nearby traffic. It directed them to change their respective altitudes accordingly. The intervention of a fatigued air traffic controller however, who was unable to access the full scope of information he needed, resulted in the TCAS instructions being ignored, and the aircraft collided.

Human-Factors-Aviation-Accident
The Uberlingen disaster was a combination of automation and human factors in aviation.

Positive human factor impacts

Whilst human factors such as stress, fatigue and psychology can no doubt be discussed in relation to negative impacts on aviation, there are many situations where human factors are essential to the safe operation of a flight.

Most technology still requires a human to either operate it, manage it or translate it. In flight in particular, there are so many variables that at this stage it is very difficult to rely entirely on an automated system to make decisions.

A perfect example of the above lies in the recent tragedies involving Boeing 737MAX aircraft. This led to the grounding of the aircraft globally while software systems were checked and upgraded. There is evidence to support that the failing system was overridden by a pilot on the LionAir aircraft during flight the day before the subsequent accident occurred.

Investigation into human factors decisions that have proven to be efficient in breaking a chain of events that would have led to an accident is very important in improving aviation safety overall. This is helping to develop better technology.

Would you trust flying in an entirely automated aircraft?

The only way to eliminate human factors in aviation contributing to accidents is to completely eliminate human involvement. In other words, become 100% automated. But is this feasible, and would you trust an entirely automated aircraft?

The use of commercial and military drones shows the technology for pilotless plane travel exists and is in regular use. But whilst the world’s most common types of passenger aircraft rely heavily on computers to execute the commands of pilots and crew, a completely unmanned flight poses many potential issues.

Would there be teams of pilots on the ground controlling the aircraft? Who is in charge of the plane when it is in the air, and what would happen if an emergency situation with a passenger on board occurred?

It is incredibly difficult to think of scenarios that would not require human involvement at some level. Therefore, human factors are still relevant at some point in the process.

What do pilots think?

Naturally, pilots are concerned about flight safety. Steve Landells, flight safety specialist for the British Airline Pilots Association, says:

“Automation in the cockpit is not a new thing – it already supports operations. However, every single day pilots have to intervene when the automatics don’t do what they’re supposed to. While moving pilots to a control tower on the ground might eventually save airlines money, there would need to be huge investment to make this possible, and even more to make it safe.”

Where do human factors fit in the future of aviation?

Negative human factor influences may be accountable for most aviation accidents. But how many accidents have been avoided through positive human factor intervention?

The study of human factors in relation to aviation is incredibly important to maintain and improve the safety of flight operations in today’s world, as well as for the future of air travel.

With technology accelerating and offering more in the way of automation, the nature of the relationship between human factors and aviation will continue to change. Human management, interaction and involvement with technology and automated processes in aviation now is no less crucial than it was in the management of fully manual processes in the past.

We have developed our own Human Factors Awareness Training course, that all of our staff attend. This course is also open external applicants who want to learn more about human factors in aviation. To learn more, chat to one of our flight training specialists. Email [email protected] or go to https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Tips On How To Pass Pilot Theory Exams

I know nothing grabs your attention like the words ‘exams’ and ‘theory.’  Here I will give you the scoop on what to expect, and provide some tips on how to pass pilot theory exams.

No matter which course you have enrolled in, you need to study –  so let’s get pumped for pilot training exam preparation!

Aviation is a complex and sophisticated profession. Airlines are not looking for cowboys and hotshots, but well-rounded, intelligent statesmen and women. The purpose of this post is 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!). I have already passed my RPL and PPL exams. I’m not here to brag, but instead, offer my experiences to help you.

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

Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) Theory Exam

First of all, congratulations on embarking on a dazzling journey in aviation. But before you hit the cockpit, you need to hit the books! Study is the best way to get your career off the ground. The RPL theory and subsequent RPL(A) theory exam covers:

Basic Aeronautical Knowledge
Basic Aerodynamics
Flight Instruments
Human Factors
Navigation and Flight Planning
Meteorology
Air Law

You may find some subjects harder than others, which is why thorough study is important. The exam is multiple choice, and can be completed online. You are allocated 2 hours, and the pass mark is 70%.

To tackle my RPL exam, I set aside two hours of homework each night after class. It allowed me to iron out weak spots and plug up any knowledge gaps. If you have any questions (and you should), or are finding certain areas tricky, always contact your instructor. They are there to help you pass! I would also recommend completing some practice/mock exams beforehand so you get an idea of the exam format.

The exam will only cover things included in the theory syllabus. That said, sometimes a question can have more than one right answer. You should choose the answer that sounds MOST CORRECT. That might sound funny, but it’s not just a matter of recalling information from memory. It’s important that you display your understanding of concepts.

Private Pilot Licence (PPL) Theory Exam

The PPL exam will cover a wide range of navigation-based topics, as well as knowledge learned during RPL. So it pays to brush up on RPL knowledge as well. The PPL exam has 55-60 questions, varying between multiple-choice and single answer. The pass mark is 70% and you are allowed 3.5 hours.

Some questions offer up to 3 marks and require calculations. It’s vital to answer as many of the extra point questions correctly as possible, as they can ultimately make or break your campaign. These questions mostly 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. Flight mathematics must be precise. Slight variants will result in an incorrect answer. There’s no room for guesstimates!

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.

My best advice here is to take it slow. You have a sufficient amount of time to complete the exam. Slow and steady does win the race. Keep it neat. You don’t want your charts to look like a doctors prescription pad! There’s a saying in the military that applies to exams:

“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

I found that 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.

Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) Theory Exams

Since there are seven separate exams for the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), I will give a bit of overview advice. The last thing I want to do is overwhelm you. 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 get quizzed on anything. The difficulty for each exam can fluctuate wildly, depending on whom you talk to. I found Aerodynamics and Aircraft General Knowledge easy, while others struggled with these.

It’s worth taking other students’ reports on an exam with a grain of salt. Everyone will have their 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% in my practice exams before considering myself ready for the real thing.

Preparing for exams is stressful and tiring. If you’re flying AND studying for your CPL exams, 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.

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.

Conclusion

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!

Thank you to student pilot Howard Lau for contributing these tips on how to pass your pilot theory exams.

Pilot-Theory-Exams-Study
One of the best tips for how to pass your pilot theory exams is simply to study hard!

Chat to one of our flight training specialists to get your pilot training off the ground. Email [email protected] or go to https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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