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Private Instrument Flight Rating (Private IFR) – Should You Get It?

Flying under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) conditions alone can be quite restrictive for private pilots. Planning around light and weather heavily reduces the amount of time you can fly, especially if you are flying in a place with changeable weather like Melbourne. Having said this, there may only be a handful of situations that require instrument flying privileges, and so completing a full Instrument Rating course might not really be required. The good news is that the Private Instrument Flight Rating (also known as Private IFR or PIFR) course allows you to choose exactly which instrument flying endorsements you need.

This means that obtaining a Private IFR is far faster and less expensive than undergoing full Instrument Rating training. So, is this the right option for you? Read on to find out!

What is the difference between Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR)?

VFR and IFR refer to the meteorological conditions that a pilot operates under. The specific rules for each are determined by CASA, and are based on Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) minima.

Basically, VFR means that weather (and light) conditions are clear enough for you to fly and navigate entirely visually. So, you must be able to clearly see visual references on the ground. You also need to see clearly enough to avoid other obstacles in the air (including clouds).

Any conditions outside of what CASA determines to be VFR are considered to be IFR. This is because they require you to use your instruments to fly, rather than being able to fly by visual reference alone.

DA40 Rainbow Private IFR
A Private IFR allows you to fly in more conditions than what VFR allows.

What is a Private Instrument Flight Rating (Private IFR)?

The Private IFR course can be completed in single or multi-engine aircraft. To commence the course you need to hold a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) or Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL). You’ll also need to have passed your CASA Instrument Rating Examination (IREX) before progressing with the flight training syllabus.

A Private Instrument Flying Rating authorises the holder to act as a pilot in command of flights under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) in a single-pilot aircraft with MTOW of 5700kg or less. However, in its most basic form, a Private IFR still restricts the holder to flying in VFR conditions only when flying under Lowest Safe Altitude (LSALT). So to solve this issue, there are a range of endorsements that you can add. You can base these on the type of flying you want to do, and also the aerodromes you will likely be flying to/from.

What Endorsements can you add to your Private IFR?

Endorsements allow you to conduct specific flight activities under IFR conditions including en-route navigation procedures, approach and arrival procedures, departure procedures and night flying.

En-route Navigation Endorsements

En-route navigation endorsements allow you to fly under IFR conditions using ground-based navigation aids. They include:

– NDB En-route (for eligible aircraft)
– VOR / LLZ En-route
– GNSS En-route

Approach Endorsements

Instrument approaches are set procedures that allow you to approach an aerodrome under IFR conditions. They apply from the start of the approach through to either when you land or reach a point where are able to continue the landing visually. They include:

– STAR
– NDB Approach (for eligible aircraft)
– VOR / LLZ Approach
– DME or GNSS Arrival Procedure
– RNP ACHP 2D / RNAV Approach
– ILS Approach

Departure Endorsements

An endorsement is required to be able to take off and depart an aerodrome under IFR conditions. There are some aerodromes that have specific departure procedures though, and these are known as Standard Instrument Departure (SID) procedures. A Non-Standard Instrument Departure (NSID) Endorsement can cover IFR departures for all aerodromes that don’t have specific procedures. You will need a separate SID Endorsement for each different aerodrome that has specific procedures.

Night IFR Endorsement

A basic PIFR will only allow you to fly under IFR conditions in the situations granted by your en-route, approach and departure endorsements during daylight. So, to be able to fly at night, you will need to add a Night IFR Endorsement.

Night-Visual-Flight-Rules-NVFR-Training-Endorsement-Hero
Flying at night is an amazing experience – you can add a Night IFR Endorsement in our Private IFR course.

What does the LTF Private IFR course include?

A full Instrument Rating course will train you in the vast majority of the endorsement options mentioned above. But you might not need ALL of those things. Subsequently, this is where the PIFR can be a great option.

We utilise practical aircraft training as well as training in our state-of-the-art Alsim AL42 or TRC472 flight simulators. Integrating simulation allows you perfect your techniques on the ground and make the most of your time in the real aircraft.

LTF’s Standard PIFR course package includes:

– 10Hrs Dual Flight Training
– 9Hrs Dual Simulation Training
– Ground School and Briefings
– IREX Theory Course Online Subscription
– VOR/LLZ, GNSS, NDB En-route Navigation Endorsements*
– RNP 2D Approach Endorsement (RNAV)
– NSID (Non-standard Instrument Departure) Endorsement
– 2 Approach Endorsements (STAR, NDB, VOR/LLZ, DME/GNSS, ILS)*
– 1.5Hrs PIFR Flight Test Solo Hire
– PIFR Flight Test Fee

The following aircraft are available from our fleet for this course:

Cessna 172
Diamond DA40
Piper Seminole
Diamond DA42

*NDB not available for Diamond DA40/DA42

We offer a Standard + Night PIFR package as well that includes all of the above plus a Night IFR Endorsement. We can also offer face to face IREX theory classes for those would would prefer to learn in person. In addition to this, we are able to offer packages for additional PIFR individual endorsements.

Do you want to find out more about our Private IFR course? Email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Getting a Night VFR Rating: What You Need to Know

Night flying is a great skill for a pilot to have in their arsenal. A Night VFR or Night Visual Flight Rules Rating allows you to fly your aircraft at night. You do however, need other VFR weather conditions to be present.

It gives you the freedom of not being limited by time when flying cross-country. You can also take passengers flying to see the beautiful city lights of Melbourne from the sky. It’s a sight not to be missed!

Not only is flying at night exciting and thrilling, but having this skill also generally makes you a better pilot. Here’s a quick look at getting a Night VFR Rating on your pilot licence and what you should expect:

Eligibility Criteria:

In order to successfully get a Night VFR rating, the pilot must have:

– A Private Pilot Licence at the minimum, but can also have a Commercial Pilot Licence or Air Transport Pilot Licence,

– At least 10 hours of night flight time training under a supervisor, either in an aircraft or in an approved flight simulator,

– At least 5 hours of dual cross-country night flight time training included in the above 10 hours,

– Successfully cleared the Night VFR flight test.

Why Get a Night VFR Rating

Melbourne winter days are short, with the winter solstice this year clocking just 9 hours and 53 minutes of daylight. Having a Night VFR Rating gives you the flexibility to make longer trips. This is especially handy during the short daylight hours in winter. You can start your flight before sunrise and end it late without having to cut your trip short before sunset. Furthermore, you could even end the day by taking in magnificent views of the city from the air.

Air traffic also tends to be lower in the nighttime, which means you will have a smoother, easier flight. And if you are flying on a night with a full moon, it will not be much different than flying in the day owing to all the light coming from the moon!

Finally, for pilots who aim to fly commercially, having a Night VFR rating and a significant amount of night command time is a necessity, as commercial pilots often need to fly at night. Many airlines looking for professional pilots require the pilot to have at least 100 hrs of flight time at night in order to even be considered for the position!

What to expect from Learn to Fly’s Night VFR Rating Course

Enrolment and Orientation

When signing up for our Night VFR Rating Course, you will get a Training Starter Kit. This will contain all relevant course materials. It will also contain detailed information on the processes of your course and access to shared online resources.

On the day of orientation, you will be introduced to your instructor. They will take you around the airport, airspace and our facilities. You will also get to learn about the processes Learn to Fly follows.

Night VFR Ground School

Once you have successfully settled in, the first part of the course will include some ground training and instructions. These are typically conducted in the form of theory classes where you will learn of the fundamental concepts of a Night VFR Rating. You will also learn what to expect during the actual night circuit training.

Night VFR Flight Training

In this step of the course, you will learn different landing techniques, approaches and what to do in emergency situations. You will also familiarise yourself with common navigational aids. These include NDB (non-directional beacon) and VOR (Very high-frequency omnidirectional range) as well as the use of pilot activated light (PAL) and other runway lighting equipment.

Night Solo Training

Once you have successfully mastered the last step, your instructor will determine if you are ready for your first solo night flight. The first solo flights will involve circuit flying. Once these have been mastered, you will then move on to navigation training. This form of training makes you a more independent pilot, as it involves planning and executing a number of navigational flights at night, helping you prepare for the next and final step.

Night VFR Flight Test

Approximately 3 hours in duration, the Night VFR Flight Test is conducted in a CASA approved aircraft under the supervision of a CASA approved instructor. This test will include take-off and landing as well as navigation skill assessment and the correct use of navigational aids. Finally, the test will also assess some nighttime emergency procedures and how prepared you are to handle them. Once you successfully pass this test, you then get your Night VFR Rating. Congratulations!

Why Choose Learn to Fly

At Learn to Fly, all of our flight training courses, including the Night VFR Rating course, involve simulation training. This allows students to become familiar with the controls and behaviour patterns, procedures and systems of the aircraft they choose whilst still on the ground. We have a range of simulators available. This includes full cockpit synthetic trainers like the Alsim AL42, replicating the cockpit of our Diamond DA42 twin-engine aircraft.

Learn To Fly offers an innovative training model, so you can continue learning online even while you are at home. We have state-of-the-art facilities at our Moorabbin Airport base in Melbourne, experienced instructors, and a range of aircraft to choose from.

Night-VFR-Rating-City-Lights
Being able to see the city lights at night from above is just one benefit of a Night VFR Rating.

To find out about our Night VFR Rating course, email [email protected]learntofly.com.au. You can also visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour. For more great flying tips and the latest flying videos, click below and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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What to Expect from a Trial Introductory Flight (TIF)

Learning how to fly can be as scary as it is exhilarating. If you’ve been on the fence about whether flying is for you, why not book yourself a Trial Introductory Flight (TIF) to get a taste of what flying is like before you move on to getting your Recreational Pilot’s Licence (RPL), Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) or Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL).

What is a Trial Introductory Flight (TIF)?

A TIF is exactly what it sounds like. A low-stakes, fully supervised opportunity to take to the skies in a trial flight with a licenced instructor to see if flying is really something you want to do.

The very first flight you take sitting in the cockpit will undoubtedly be something to remember all your life. But before investing in a long, expensive flight training course, it is important to be absolutely sure flying is something you truly want to do, whether recreationally or commercially. This is where a Trial Introductory Flight comes in handy. Most future pilots can tell if they want to continue learning how to fly after this first TIF based on the knowledge they get during the experience.

What to expect from your TIF

Pre-flight briefing and inspection:

Your Trial Introductory Flight will start with a brief but thorough introduction into the workings of an airplane. You’ll learn about aerodynamics and what to expect during your flight. After this, your instructor will conduct a thorough physical pre-flight inspection of the plane with you. You are welcome—and invited—to ask the instructor any questions that may come to mind and to participate in the pre-flight inspection. The more you know about the aircraft, the better of a pilot you will be!

Duration of flight:

The typical TIF lasts around 30 to 60 minutes.

Hands-on training:

During the flight, the highly trained instructors will demonstrate flying methods, manoeuvres and skills. You’ll then be able to attempt them yourself under full supervision. This is a great, low-stakes way of getting a feel of being in the cockpit and flying a plane yourself. It can also be an excellent method to treat someone who has always expressed a desire to fly but doesn’t want to commit to getting a flying licence.

Final assessment:

Want to know how you went and whether you have a future in the aviation industry? No worries! After the flight is over, your instructor will conduct a full debriefing session to talk about how you did, your ability to follow instructions, understand directions and complete tasks. While most of these skills can be further perfected in the more thorough, detailed licence programs, it can be useful to get an idea what your chances of success are if you ever decide to pursue it professionally.

Who should try a Trial Introductory Flight?

Anybody! Taking a TIF is a fantastic opportunity to see the land from the lens of a pilot in a cockpit. You’ll experience the thrill of flying a plane without any long-term commitments. Fairly inexpensive, it is also a terrific present to give to the airplane enthusiast in your life, or to get them started on a career in aviation. Flight time during your trial introductory flight can also count towards getting a pilot licence should you decide to pursue it any further. The possibilities are limitless!

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A Trial Introductory Flight is a great way to take the controls and get a feel of what it’s like to be a pilot.

Take to the skies today by booking your very first Trial Introductory Flight (TIF) and experience a world like no other! Want to chat to a flight training expert? Email [email protected]. You can also visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour. For more great flying tips and the latest flying videos, click below and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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How Flying Critical Incidents Can Occur

When an aircraft flying under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) enters Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), flying critical incidents can sometimes occur. In most cases, this is due to reduced visibility or inadvertent entry into clouds. Both of which happen because of the loss of the natural horizon.

Unfortunately, such flying critical incidents have cost the lives of many pilots.

You hope it will never happen to you

Before I began my pilot journey, I always seemed to find the time to read unfortunate accident reports where a non-instrument rated pilot on a VFR flight enters IMC. It is even more unfortunate to realise that many of these incidents become fatal accidents. The more I’ve read, the more I’ve tried to make myself believe, ‘It will never happen to me!’

For non-pilots, all of these accidents seem preventable. Reading the Terminal Area Forecast (TAF) and good weather knowledge are all valid and effective strategies to combat any similar occurrence from happening. However, today I will write about a time when this happened to me on a training flight, nonetheless with an experienced instructor on board.

The importance of sharing stories

Before undertaking the task of writing it, I had been wondering about whether or not I should really share my story. However, I made the decision to do so knowing it could help educate other pilots and student pilots about when flying critical incidents can occur.

Cloudy conditions and lower visibility

It was a very cold morning after a cold front came through the day before. I checked the METAR of Hong Kong International Airport and the forecast indicated cloud covers clearing and rising to 2500 feet with 9 kilometres of visibility. However, as I arrived in the flight operations office, we received PIREPs from other pilots of temporary visibility reduction to an estimate of fewer than 3 kilometres near the high ground. I knew this could become an issue upon exiting the airfield area into the training area via a gap in the mountains.

The aircraft from previous slots were rocking the circuit and about to finalise their return. Skies above Shek Kong Airfield were clearing and let in some warm sunlight. However, the area towards the exit route (Kadoorie Gap) into the training area was still rather cloudy. I saw clouds on the other side of the mountains and thought this could really be an issue for our flight today – we had some instrument flying planned.

Climbing to 1500 feet

My instructor had nearly 40 years’ experience in the UK as an aerobatic pilot and warbird pilot. He also holds an Instrument Rating – Restricted on his CAA license – although on his Hong Kong license he does not hold such rating. Even so, his instructor rating allows him to teach basic instrument flying and tracking. On this day, despite the clouds, I put my trust in his judgement and was well aware of his capabilities since we had flown together numerous times.

We taxied out to the runway after our run-up checks, only to notice something very strange. Our slot was supposedly fully booked out with our entire fleet expected to fly. However, there was no action on the aircraft apron. I recall looking to my right as I prepared to shift into full power for takeoff and witnessing all the aircraft sitting idly, waiting for the weather to clear. Still, I thought there was no time to waste and we took off.

We climbed to 1500 feet and tracked towards the exit. As soon as we switched frequencies for traffic information service we heard a rescue helicopter saying, “Visibility deteriorating to less than 3000 meters.” I wasn’t sure where the helicopter was, but in retrospect, it really should’ve been the warning to turn back. We pressed on and exited out of the mountain gap and went on to “the other side,” where all the nasty clouds were, maintaining 1500 feet all the way through.

Scary in-flight sights

As soon as the mountains disappeared from my peripheral vision, my instructor and I realised that visibility was not 9 kilometres, as we had initially projected, and I could only see what was in front of us by looking downwards.

The only visibility I had was of the ground below, including the roads, trees and buildings of Tai Po. I looked back and realised that our only escape route back to the airfield would be obscured if we kept going. Just as I was about to turn back, it became apparent that my instructor had the same idea in mind. “Bring us back,” he said.

Returning through the mountain gap

The direction indicator on that particular Cessna 172 was somewhat defective. This meant I started my timer on my watch and began a rate one turn to the left. I timed for 1 minute, which at 3 degrees a second would be a full 180-degree turn. Fortunately, the mountain gap remained in view this entire time and I instinctively throttled up to return quickly. We were pushed even lower as we entered the airfield airspace, finally descending to 1300 feet. It was very uncomfortable watching the mountains on either side of me come so painfully close.

Lessons learnt

Of course, we were fortunate that despite this being a VFR into IMC incident. The visibility was still sufficient for a safe turn-back manoeuvre.

Among the contributing factors to the success of this was the expertise of my instructor, who holds a restricted instrument rating in the UK, and the fact that at this time I had already completed an hour of instrument flight training. A serious lesson in how flying critical incidents can occur.

After landing, and during the debrief, we narrowed the causes down to the ‘get-there-itis’ that occurred as a result of wanting to squeeze more instrument flying time in for me and also the fact that my instructor was instrument-rated and we put such confidence in his expertise. In retrospect, we shouldn’t have even left the ground in the first place.

This flying incident is proof that pilots with any amount of experience can be sucked into this veil of complacency. They then can make decisions which go against rational and safer judgement. It is an incident my instructor and I will both go on to remember.

Safe flying everyone!

Flying-Critical-Incidents
When an aircraft flying under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) enters Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), flying critical incidents can occur.

Thanks to LTF student pilot Howard Lau for contributing this article on how flying critical incidents can occur. For information on our flying courses, email [email protected] or go to https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour. You can also get more handy flying tips by clicking below and subscribing to our YouTube channel!

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Training Beyond the Private Pilot Licence (PPL)

After completing your Private Pilot Licence you might wonder, “what’s next?” As strange as it may sound, many pilots are still keen to do more training after achieving their initial goals. Realistically, if you want to fly regularly or as a job, learning is ongoing. Let’s take a look at training beyond the Private Pilot Licence.

Fly more aircraft types

Why limit yourself to flying just the one aircraft type? Why not fly aircraft that are bigger, faster, have more than one engine, or maybe even can land on water?! There are ratings and endorsements that can open up a whole new range of aircraft to you. These include a Tailwheel Undercarriage Endorsement, Multi-Engine Class Rating, and more.

Having the capability to fly more aircraft types increases your skill level, and gives you a lot more options when organising recreational flying trips.

Tailwheel-Training-PPL
A tailwheel endorsement opens up a range of new aircraft options.

Fly at night

Flying at night is an amazing experience. If you live near a major city, seeing the sparkling lights from above is absolutely spectacular. Completing a Night Visual Flight Rules (VFR) course. will allow you to fly at night, in otherwise good weather and visibility conditions.

Fly in more weather conditions

One of the most important areas of training beyond your Private Pilot Licence will allow you to plan and conduct flights in far more weather and light conditions. Instrument flying is a great skill to have, not just for your own flying abilities, but for added convenience when planning flights. It allows you to fly in inclement weather conditions, cloudy conditions, and at night.

Flying under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) alone can be quite restrictive, especially in areas with changeable weather like Melbourne. A Private Instrument Flying (PIFR) course can be customised to your needs, making it a great option.

Flight activity endorsements

There are some seriously fun flight activity endorsements that you can add to your repertoire.

Formation flying is an experience that even the most seasoned pilots get a huge thrill from. Taking off, flying, performing manoeuvres and landing with another aircraft right next you is surreal. Flying in formation is also a very good tool for honing your precision skills, with precise control movements required for accuracy.

Another popular endorsement is aerobatics and spinning. Aside from being a huge amount of fun, this type of flying is again great for your skillset. Knowing how your body reacts and how you can recover from high G situations and unusual attitudes is actually very important.

As you can see, there is no shortage of options for training beyond your Private Pilot Licence. Additional endorsements will enhance your ability to get the most out of your PPL, and also help you to keep your skills sharp.

PPL-Formation-Flying
A formation flying endorsement is an exciting way to hone your precision control input skills.

Find out about our extensive range of ratings and endorsements for PPL holders! Email [email protected]. You can also visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour. For more great flying tips and the latest flying videos, click below and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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What is the Difference Between RPL and PPL?

It’s a common misconception that you must choose to between completing a Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) or a Private Pilot Licence (PPL) when you start flight training. But they’re actually two milestones on the same flight training journey. But what is the difference between RPL and PPL?

It’s less about which licence you choose, but rather how far you want to take your flight training. Each licence and endorsement you earn along the journey will give you different skills and expand your freedom when you’re up in the air. It can be helpful to know what each licence entails so you can start planning your own flight training journey.

First stop: Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL)

A Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) is the starting point for your pilot training. Whether you are training for fun or for a career in aviation, the Recreational Pilot Licence will be your first major milestone.

The RPL program will teach you basic flying techniques including climbing and descending, take-off and landing, dealing with emergencies etc. Every flight lesson will start with a classroom briefing on the techniques before they’re put into practice. You’ll need to pass several theory exams as well as complete practical flight training.

With a Recreational Pilot Licence, you’ll be able to fly as a Pilot in Command of a single-engine aircraft under the maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 1500kgs, within a boundary of 25 nautical miles from the departure airport. This distance limitation is the main difference between RPL and PPL.

Next stop: Private Pilot Licence (PPL)

After completing your RPL, you can continue on to get your Private Pilot Licence (PPL). The PPL training focuses mainly on navigation. During the PPL training, you will learn how to navigate to and from different airports. You will go through the following steps:

1. Take-off, navigate around the ranges and control steps
2. Fly to a different airport and land
3. Take-off and navigate back to the original airport

Similar to the RPL program, you will need to pass several theory exams as well as complete practical flight training.

Once you have received your Private Pilot Licence, you will be allowed to act as a Pilot in Command and be endorsed to fly anywhere in Australia. You will also be able to carry up to five passengers and fly all over Australia.

If you decide that you want to continue towards a career as a pilot, your next step will be Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) training syllabus.

It’s up to you how far you take your flight training, and you don’t need to have your journey planned when you first start out. Now you know the difference between RPL and PPL. But be warned, once you’ve gotten a taste for flying through the RPL it’s hard not to catch the bug and want to keep going!

PPL-Navigation-Flight
The main difference between RPL and PPL is the distance you can fly. A PPL allows you to see some pretty amazing sights around Australia!

Complete your RPL or PPL with us! Email [email protected]. You can also visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour. For more great flying tips and the latest flying videos, click below and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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