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Learn To Fly Student Life: Starting Flight Training in Melbourne

So you’ve made the decision to learn how to fly! It’s a decision you won’t ever regret. Flying is a wonderful experience, and knowing how to pilot an aircraft is an amazing skill. But the learning journey itself is something that you should enjoy, and choosing the right flying school makes all the difference. Our students love flying with us, and so we thought we would give you some insight into Learn To Fly student life.

This blog looks at your first day, when you arrive at our Learn To Fly Melbourne training base.

Arriving at Learn To Fly Melbourne

Do you remember your first day at school, or at a new job? New place, new people, feeling a little unsure? As you get older, ‘first days’ get a little easier, but they can still be daunting.

On your first day when you arrive, you’ll be greeted by our HR team who will welcome you and take you through our enrolment procedures. They’ll show you around our state-of-the-art facilities and give you a bit of information about Moorabbin Airport and the surrounding area.

We’re lucky to have a lot of great retail, food and transport options available nearby. This makes things a lot easier, especially if you are new to Melbourne. We have a lot of international students, and many of them have only just recently arrived in Australia. Having some local knowledge really helps, and this is your opportunity to ask about anything you need to know.

You’ll be spending a lot of time at LTF’s training facility while you become a pilot, so we want you to feel like this is home. Learn To Fly student life starts the moment you step through the door!

Meeting Your Flight Instructor

Having the right flight instructor is so important. The right instructor will bring out the best in you, and make your flight training journey enjoyable right from the start. Flight instructors are as much a part of Learn To Fly student life as the students themselves.

Our LTF instructor team has a huge amount of flying experience, from diverse backgrounds around the world. We have Grade 1 instructors through to Grade 3, as well as instructors with specific skill and knowledge areas such as IFR training, multi-engine training – even down to aerobatics and formation flying.

Just as important as flying knowledge and experience is an instructor’s ability to connect with you. Everybody has different learning styles, so you need an instructor that you can connect with. At LTF you will be allocated a primary instructor and a secondary instructor to look after you and your training progress. But if it turns out that there’s another instructor that may be better suited, our large team means that you’ll have the opportunity to change.

On your first day you will meet your primary instructor, and they’ll have a chat to you about your flight training journey. They’ll show you through the features of our online student portal, and how our training model works – including our huge range of online training options.

Moorabbin Airport and the LTF Flight Training Fleet

There’s a lot to learn about the airport you will be training at, and Moorabbin Airport is quite complex. With a complex taxiway and runway layout, high aircraft movements, and ATC tower, there’s definitely more to learn here than at many other aerodromes.

Whilst this may seem daunting at first, it’s actually going to be a huge benefit to your learning. And don’t worry, your flight instructor has got your back! On your first day they’ll spend time going over the layout and procedures with you. Of course, you’ll learn more in your first lesson.

The LTF flight training fleet has a great range of modern and traditional aircraft. This means you can choose between learning on analogue instruments or in a glass cockpit aircraft with advanced Garmin avionics and screens. If you are beginning your Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) training, you can choose between the sporty Sling 2, the modern Diamond DA40, or the classic Cessna 172. We also have the A22LS Foxbat for RA-Aus RPC training.

It’s likely that you will have already chosen which aircraft you are going to fly before you start, but it’s good to know that you can always change throughout your training.

Moorabbin-Airport-Runway-Layout
The Moorabbin Airport layout is complex, but a fantastic place to learn.

Your First Flying Lesson

Do you want to know what the BEST part of Learn To Fly student life is…? That’s really easy. It’s FLYING!

When you start flight training, your first lesson will be Effects of Controls and Straight and Level Flying. Your instructor will brief you in one of our briefing rooms, before showing you how to pre-flight check your aircraft. And then it’s time to head towards the runway, and begin your love affair with the sky!

Student Culture at Learn To Fly

One of the things that we are really serious about – other than safety of course – is ensuring that we create an inclusive learning environment, and a just culture. What that means is that we engage in open and honest conversations at all levels, from our students all the way up to our CEO and Chief Flying Instructors.

Our students and our flight training team support each other, and we have seen many fantastic friendships form over the years. Learn To Fly student life is a lot of fun, and we can’t wait for you to be a part of it!

Learn-To-Fly-Student-Life
Learn To Fly student life is fun!

If you are interested in finding out more about our learning to fly with us, email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Life is Short. Get Your Pilot Licence.

Challenges aren’t stopping David from fulfilling his pilot dream. At 71 years young, he’s studying a Recreational Pilot Licence at Learn To Fly Melbourne.

David, you’re studying a Recreational Pilot Licence with us right?

Well, yes that is the first step (laughs).

Have you already thought about what you are going to do next?

Of course! I haven’t got time to waste now.

David is 71 and signed up for studying a Recreational Pilot Licence this year. We find out he’s not only a friendly chap who has made an impression on many of the instructors and staff at LTF, but he is also a pretty tough character. 

He shares with us how his flight training path has hit some patches of turbulence, and how he has overcome adversity to chase his dreams. There is no stopping David now.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Tell us how you got into aviation and what made you want to get your pilot licence?

I guess it’s like many young teenagers in my day, I was into model planes. I desired to build them and I used to just fly them around in circles. We didn’t have radio control, we just had a couple of wires flying a small model plane. I went onto further studies and other life paths, and I left that aviation interest behind a little bit. 

Then one of my uncles was a pilot, he was a radio operator in World War II. He maintained his interest in aviation and gave me the chance to go up with him, flying around northern NSW, back country area

So how old were you at this point?

In my late teens. I loved it. We flew around in a Tigermoth over that area. Such good fun.

Did he let you take the controls?

No, and I don’t think I asked (laughs). I was happy to sit in the front and look at the scenery and checking out the area below – waterholes, cattle, sheep and things like that. I just knew I enjoyed being up there.

A lot of other things happened in my life. Completing school, getting a job, got married, had kids. Becoming a pilot took a back seat. But it was always there in my mind “gee I’d love to learn to fly”. I didn’t have the time and I was making sure my kids got a good education and took care of their needs first. 

I used to have a farm but I sold that, so have some money in the bank. What am I going to do? (laughs) Get my pilot licence! Do what I always wanted to do. Now I can afford to get my licence and maybe buy a plane. So it’s a comfortable place to be in.

But the journey getting here has been a bit traumatic for me.

We have a bit of background on that. Are you happy to talk about that with us?

Oh yes, it helps me. My wife when she was alive I encouraged her to fly a helicopter. I bought her a flight as a 50th birthday present. I thought by having the first lesson in a helicopter I hoped she would really like it and continue or maybe want to fly planes too. But it was enough for her just to experience the flight. Unfortunately she passed away from an aneurysm.

As it turns out that is somewhat how I found out I too had an aneurysm. I didn’t have any symptoms though. When I went for my medical I told my doctor had a bad cycling accident and split my head open, broke my leg.

How long ago was that?

30 odd years ago. A long time! But it was a big accident so the doctor said maybe you should check that out. So I went to a radiologist and had a CT scan. The radiologist calls me in and says you should go and see your doctor straight away because you have got a small aneurysm. So I had an operation. A neurosurgeon put a clip on it.

Fortunately, afterwards, the doctor said, ‘You are still good to get your pilot licence’! And that was 3 or 4 months ago.

Wow, so very recent then.

Yes, I’d already started my flying training and I didn’t want to give up. Because I had to get the Grade 1 Medical, it was through those discussions with the doctor about my history, and the bike accident, that she suggested getting checked out more thoroughly.

So how has that been a bit of motivation for getting out there and studying Recreational Pilot Licence?

Yes in some respects. It’s given me something to focus on this and it’s something to work towards achieving. It gets the adrenaline running (laughs) and I am enjoying it. I’m looking forward to when I can take the grandkids! Something exciting to show them. They are a bit young still though. One he is only eight months old and the older one she is four-and-a-half.

How have you found the course so far?

I’ve found the course well-paced and I don’t feel like I’m being pushed. Hopefully, I am reasonably competent in what I am doing. I’m taking it very slowly and carefully. The instruction of the course is well laid out, the stages of it and how it all fits in so I’m enjoying that part. 

My instructor is Cam Mitchell and I’ve flown once with Dave Ostler who are both very good. It feels like a bit of a family now. Everyone is supportive and Dips (School Operations Manager) is fantastic. I was checking out the different schools and I found your website and it looked good, so I came in and Dips was so friendly and explained everything well.  It was the friendly open approach that attracted me. I’ve felt comfortable coming here.

Have you flown any others?

Not personally. Not yet. But my cousin used to fly in a Cessna 172 ages ago, like forty-odd years ago. A few years ago I went out to Lilydale and thought I might see about doing lessons there and went up in a Victa Air Tourer.

What is the aircraft you are learning in?

The Sling 2.

Learn-To-Fly-Starter-Set-Hero
The Sling 2 is a great aircraft to get your pilot licence in.

What do you enjoy most about flying?

I like the part where I am pushing myself differently because even though I am a trained teacher and with that, in the past, I did lesson planning, I am still very much a person who just chucks the stuff in and goes. Whereas flying an aeroplane is very different to that so I’m enjoying spending time on the planning and making sure that I do all the checks prior, and weather forecasting and flight planning. I like the discipline that’s involved in controlling an aircraft.

If you were going to buy a plane, have you thought about what kind you would buy?

It would probably be a Foxbat or a Jabiru or one of those types. The reason would be I want a high-wing one where I can see out more easily and if you go camping you can camp under the wing. There are lots of high wing aircraft becoming available. A light plane, high wing, able to carry a small amount of luggage like your tent and picnic essentials.

Do you like tinkering around with the engines as well?

In the past I was mechanically oriented but as I’ve gotten more mature, not so much. Modern engines aren’t so much fun to play around with, computer controls, fuel injection and all that. It’s too specialised. But you know give me a diesel tractor I’ll happily pull that apart to get it working again. I’m not interested in tinkering with aircraft engines though.

You’re having enough fun just flying them?

Yeah, I’m loving flying and the idea of visiting places, as I said, camping under the wing and doing all those things.

Sounds like a perfect way to spend your time.

Australia is a big country and driving takes ages so I think, why not fly yourself in a plane. You can see where you are going if there is bad weather ahead you can just find somewhere to land and try again later.

I’m not a maverick but you know, if there is a dry gravel road down there, check there are no powerlines, no trees, I can just put it down there (laughs).

RPL-Sling-Student-Pilot

Want to get your Recreational Pilot Licence? Email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Training as a Mature Age Pilot: Learning to Fly in Your Fifties

You’re never too old to chase your dreams! Student pilot Kim shares with us his story of learning to fly in his fifties, training as a mature age pilot, and fulfilling his pilot dreams. This year he flew his first solo just shy of his 54th birthday.

Hailing from Singapore, like all citizens and second-generation permanent residents there, Kim had to join the armed forces. He still keeps in contact with two of his military friends who are established pilots and are currently captains for Singapore International Airlines.

“We have a WhatsApp group chat to keep in touch. The two pilots recently captained a flight together, and shared a photo of the two of them in their uniforms after the flight.”

I replied with a photo of myself after my first solo, next to a Diamond DA40 with the text “I may be 30 years behind you, but I am learning to fly”.

They were so happy and excited for me. One replied, “Kim, have fun. A small plane is fun to fly and lots of things to look around”.

Mature-Age-Pilot-Training
Kim is one of our mature age pilot training students.

Did you always want to be a pilot?

I have always had a keen interest in aviation, like flight planning and Air Traffic Control. I tried to join the Singapore Air Force when I was younger but was rejected because of their eyesight requirements. So I missed that chance.

What are the issues with your eyesight?

I used to wear glasses for short-sightedness. For the air force your eyesight must be perfect. I had laser eye surgery 15 years ago, and now my vision is excellent. However, it was still too late to join the air force. The dream to fly remained, though. I’m retired and still healthy, I thought I would try again to be a pilot of some sort.

Which course are you studying?

Right now, I am doing my RPL. I will go through all the tests, and once I get my licence, I will go to the PPL. I can’t fly with an airline or the Air Force obviously, so I want to fly for fun.

What has been the highlight of the course?

Everybody says your first solo is the most memorable and most exciting moment as a pilot. Indeed it was for me, but not for the reasons you might think. I had to do three solo checks before I could fly. The weather changed, then the air traffic was too busy.

Then when I did get to fly, another issue was my own silly mistake. I didn’t line the aircraft nose up straight. My aircraft wheels weren’t straight either. When I powered up, the plane went to the left. I tried to use the rudder to straighten up, but that didn’t work to straighten the aircraft, and I was moving sideways. I had to hit the brakes and I went onto the grass. Then I advised the control tower I was aborting the flight. I came back to the training room to debrief. The instructors said I did the right thing calling off the flight, as after something like that you should come back and check for potential damage. 

I was upset with myself. When something like that happens, it’s a big blow to your confidence. My instructor was a little surprised too because he thought I seemed ready. It was one small thing that I didn’t check. However, that is all behind me now. It has made me a better pilot. I won’t make that mistake again!

So a mistake that you made ended up being a highlight because you learned the lesson from it?

It made me more aware of things that can go wrong, even when you are focused and prepared. This can happen to anybody – even an experienced pilot.

What have you found to be the most difficult thing about mature age pilot training?

The weather and busy air traffic. Even when you get good weather and an aircraft, the airport is hectic. So there is lots of waiting. We only have a two-hour time slot to fly. More waiting around means less flying time. The weather here is the most challenging for me.

How did you go with the theory and exams?

I found the exams ok so far. You have to study hard, and you have to know the material – lots of memorising. I haven’t found it an issue, and I am currently preparing for a big theory exam. I will do that around mid-August. So by next week, I should have finished all my flying so I will have two weeks of intensive study and prepare myself for theory. When that is over, I can arrange for my flight test.

What would you say to anyone whose considering learning to fly later in life?

Live your dream if you want to fly. I feel, at 54, my age is not an issue. It is more about your mental will.

The other day I met a man who had come in for a Trial Introductory Flight. A retired businessman around my age who was asking me many questions. He was scared about the engine stopping mid-air and asking me what happens. I was explaining that pilots are trained to manage those situations. We got talking about how I was getting my Recreational Pilot Licence. He was saying he did want to learn to fly and now thought he was too old. He is 50, so I told him I am 54 and I am learning. So you are not too old!

Then when he went out for his flight, and the pilot let him glide. After landing, he came and spoke to me again. He was so excited.

So to people my age, I want to tell them, you are never too old. As long as you are medically fit and you have good motor reflexes, then you can fly.

This is what I always wanted to do. Now I am retired and have the resources. It took me a while, but here I am. I enjoy it so much. I’ve met some nice people. The instructors are great.

Thanks Kim for sharing your experience of learning to fly in your fifties. Best of luck for achieving your Recreational Pilot Licence.

Are you a mature age pilot looking to start your training? Get in touch with our flight training specialists. Email [email protected] or visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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Taking to the Sky as a Mature Age Pilot

Want to learn to fly in Melbourne? Even in your later years, you can take to the sky as a mature age pilot.

Becoming a pilot is often considered a youthful pursuit. A majority of students who achieve their pilot licence with Learn to Fly are under 25 and go on to have successful pilot careers or fly recreationally. However, if you are well over 25 and still have pilot aspirations, you don’t have to give up on your dream. Even with certain medical conditions that some people perceive as a barrier to obtaining a pilot licence, as LTF student Pete Bain shows us, it’s an achievable goal.

We sat down with Pete, who is undertaking his GA Private Pilot Licence, for a quick chat to ask him about being in his fifties and deciding to become a pilot in Melbourne.

Did you always dream of becoming a pilot, or is this a new endeavour?

I had dreamt of becoming a pilot, but it never came to fruition. I joined the police force at 20 and followed that path instead. 

I undertook some flying lessons when I lived in England many years ago and acquired about 10 hours. However, it became unaffordable for me, so I stopped. I then developed a condition in my eye that has left me virtually blind in my left eye. I just assumed that this would disqualify me from getting the medical clearance required, so once again, I didn’t pursue it any further.

When I moved to Australia, on a whim I started making some enquiries. It was in my investigations I discovered that being a monocular pilot is not uncommon. I also found out that becoming a pilot was more affordable in Australia than in the UK, so I decided to retake the plunge. 

After some research and talking to some Melbourne flying schools, I decided on Learn To Fly. One of the reasons I chose this school because of the busyness of the airport, so I could get more experience with air traffic and radio communications.

I started here with the RA-Aus course, but I decided to transfer over to a Private Pilot Licence (PPL). However, that requires a Class 2 Medical clearance. I have been working with CASA to obtain this.

Tell us more about that. What has this meant for obtaining your PPL?

I started with LTF in November 2018. I have got roughly 40 flight hours. So I am at the stage where if I had my medical clearance, I would have been able to progress to solo and then go onto licences. So it has stagnated my progress a little. In the interim, I’ve continued with my instructors to keep practising things such as emergency forced landings and short field takeoff landings. However, again, I haven’t been able to fly solo and go and do that myself. I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels a little at the moment.

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is, you’re the pilot” ~ Michael Altschuler. 

What has been the highlight of learning to fly so far?

Today. I’ve had to jump through loads of hoops for CASA to get my Class 2 Medical Clearance. Today was the last hoop so it is looking good that I will get the required medical certificate so I can keep progressing with my PPL dream. 

What have you found the most challenging about learning to fly?

For me, I guess it’s the workflow and the checklists. Remembering those and keeping on top of them. Every now and again, an instructor will ask you a question. For example ‘can you remember what we do for a steep turn’, and you think ‘I hadn’t thought of that in a while’ – so trying to remember those details of what you aren’t currently practising. It does become more and more familiar with the practice over time. 

What is your ultimate goal as a pilot in Melbourne?

I want to get to PPL. I don’t want to be a commercial pilot. Besides, I’m 53. A job with an airline is not an option for me. I could get a job as a flight instructor or something like that. However, I’m happy doing what I am doing. I just want to fly. 

The idea of flying my wife, or friends, or even my dog to an airfield for lunch or even a short break somewhere nice, and then coming back is pretty cool. I’ve got family in NZ and England and when they come over to visit it could be quite nice just to take them up and fly them around and Victoria from above.

Do you have any tips or advice for anyone who is considering being a mature age pilot?

Persevere. There might be hurdles to overcome in terms of balancing what’s required from a learning commitment point of view. You may also have to face obstacles concerning CASA medical clearance regulations, but that is all part of it. If you keep at it, you will get there. Take things at your own pace.

Thanks, Pete for showing others that the art of flying as a mature age pilot absolutely can be done!

Mature-Age-Pilot
Mature age pilot Pete Bain with the Sling 2 aircraft he is training in.

Are you a mature age pilot looking to start your training? Get in touch with our flight training specialists. Email [email protected] or visit 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.

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. Check out our lesson on circuit flying, the 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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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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Passing The Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) Flight Test

Every professional pilot once undertook and passed their Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) flight test. You’ve completed your theory and your flight training, and your instructor has told you that you are ready. But what should you prepare for in order to pass the test with flying colours?

On the day of the test, the CASA-approved testing officer will sit with you and run through how they will be grading you. It may seem daunting, but don’t stress, going for and passing your Recreational Pilot Licence flight test really isn’t as scary as you make it out to be. Plus, it’s all based on knowledge and skills that you have already demonstrated.

In-flight, your testing officer will want to see how you can demonstrate the following:

1. Steep turn through 360 degrees and back onto the original heading

The best way to do this is to make sure you give a thorough lookout to ensure you are in the clear before the turn. When you’re ready, hold the required amount of back pressure on the control stick so as to stay more or less the same altitude or level out in anticipation as you come back upon your original heading.

2. Stall recovery

For this part of the test, your testing officer will want you to demonstrate stall in various configurations. Make sure you remember the HASELL checks—Height, Airframe, Security, Engine, Location, Lookout—and know how to identify the symptoms before entering a stall.

Your instructor may also ask you to demonstrate how to recover a stall with a wing drop. If you make sure to use rudder rather than the ailerons, in the opposite direction of the dropped wing, you’ll be fine!

3. Forced landing

An integral part of flying – and your responsibility – is to be prepared for anything. To make a forced landing successfully, maintain control of the aircraft and select the suitable field. It is important to carry out all emergency checks. Conduct the passenger brief and mayday call, and always make sure to reassure the “passengers” that you are a trusted pilot and have been trained to handle emergency situations.

4. Instrument flying

The testing officer will want to see your demonstrated ability to fly on instruments alone under the hood. To do so, ensure you stay within the +/- 100 of the requested altitude and +/- 10 of the requested heading.

5. Circuit flying

The final part of passing your RPL flight test will have you demonstrate how to fly a squared circuit pattern and control your speed and altitude when doing so. Make sure you can also land the plane with different approach configurations, and manage engine failure after take-off and in the circuit.

Remember your inbound radio calls as you return to Moorabbin Airport’s control zone, and congratulations, you’ve completed the test.

After passing the RPL flight test and obtaining their RPL, students are qualified to fly within 25 nautical miles of the departure airport and carry passengers, during daylight in good weather (VFR) conditions.

Remember that every professional pilot was once a student, itching to achieve their next milestone. Bombarding their flight instructors with questions about how many flying hours it would take for them to reach their First Solo, Training Area Solo, RPLPPL and finally, CPL.

However, we know that while flying itself is a great adrenaline rush, you shouldn’t be in a rush when learning and attempting your exams. If you mess up any part of the RPL flight test, remember that it won’t be the end of the world. You will always be able to have another go.

Student-Pilot-Checklist
Remember your checklists! They are crucial to successfully passing your RPL flight test.

For more information on our RPL course, 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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Aircraft Forced Landing Techniques

A situation that requires a forced landing is something that most pilots would rather not experience while flying. But the reality is, that while uncommon, it could happen at any time. It’s a pilot’s job to be prepared. Like anything, practice makes perfect. In this blog we look at aircraft forced landing techniques.

To complicate things a little, there are a couple of different aircraft forced landing techniques a pilot may be instructed to follow. Knowing them all gives you more flexibility to make the right decision should the need arise. Lets take a look at both the traditional and alternative methods.

Traditional High Key / Low Key Forced Landing Technique

The High Key /Low Key technique is the method traditionally taught in most civilian flying schools across the world. This technique depends on your judgement of the trajectory of the flight in order to hit 1500 feet by your low key position, which is normally abeam your IAP (Initial Aiming Point) on a downwind.

Forced-Landing-Technique-High-Key-Low-Key
The High Key / Low Key method is the most commonly taught of the aircraft forced landing techniques

Some believe this technique to be somewhat flawed. There are a lot of factors to process in order to clearly judge the altitude of your 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 they are flying over, which sometimes can be challenging.

Constant Aspect Technique

The Royal Air Force has developed a newer method, known as the Constant Aspect Technique. This method combats the issues of different aircraft, and the requirements for some undetermined judgements.

The principle of this aircraft forced landing technique is that it removes all the guessing of altitude and descent angle. It narrows down to one thing, which is called the “Sight Line Angle” or 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 airspeed and the SLA.

Forced-Landing-Technique-SLA
The “Sight Line Angle” or SLA is the perceived angle between the horizon and the IAP of your chosen landing field.

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.

How To Conduct The Constant Aspect Technique

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.

Forced-Landing-Constant-Aspect-Technique
The Constant Aspect Technique is one of the newer aircraft forced landing techniques.

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:

1. Cut in short

2. Fly a standard final, or

3. 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.

Experiment With Aircraft Forced Landing Techniques

Chat to your flight instructor about which method they prefer and why. Proactively seek to practice both aircraft forced landing techniques, so that you know which one you feel more comfortable with.

Thanks to LTF student pilot Howard Lau for contributing this article on aircraft forced landing techniques. 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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Victoria’s First Diamond DA40 Flight Training School

Our first Diamond DA40 has just landed to join our flight training fleet at Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne. This means that we are now officially Victoria’s first Diamond DA40 flight training school.

The arrival of the DA40 continues Learn To Fly Melbourne’s successful expansion over the past year. We have committed to building the state-of-the-art Learn To Fly Flight Training Centre on a new larger site, and have received our Part 142 qualification.

About The Diamond DA40

The DA40 is a reliable and durable four-seater aircraft, made out of lightweight and robust composite material. Powered by a Lycoming IO360 engine, and boasting a spectacular balance between performance and durability, the Diamond DA40 is a brilliant flight training aircraft.

Our DA40 has a Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system, helping LTF students secure a seamless transition from RPL all the way through to CPL training. It also makes the aircraft both efficient and economical. This is particularly handy when completing long navigational flights for PPL, and for CPL hour building.

This state-of-the-art aircraft is decked out with both round instrument panels and the Garmin G1000 avionics. The cockpit has plenty of space, with a comfortable and ergonomic design, and excellent visibility.

We plan to order even more DA40s moving forward, further expanding our fleet. It is our goal to give our flight training students as much flexibility as possible.

Diamond DA40 Specs

Engine: Lycoming IO360

Avionics: Garmin G1000

Cruising Speed: 130 Knots

MTOW: 1,150 Kilograms

Wingspan: 11.9m

Landing Gear: Tricycle

Available Diamond DA40 Flight Training Courses

Given its versatility, the Diamond DA40 can be selected for most of our flight training courses. It is perfect for Recreational Pilot Licence, Private Pilot Licence, and Commercial Pilot Licence students. Its Manual Pitch Propeller Control (MPPC) means that we can now offer this as a design feature endorsement. The DA40’s Garmin G1000 means that it is also equipped for Instrument Ratings.

In addition to this, we have plans to order the DA40’s twin-engine sibling, the Diamond DA42, for multi-engine training. This will provide our students with an even more seamless transition from single engine training to multi engine training. Stay tuned!

Dimaond-DA40-Flight-School
Learn To Fly has become the first Diamond DA40 flight school.

Want to learn more about flying with the only Diamond DA40 flight school in Victoria? Email [email protected]. You can also visit https://drift.me/learntofly/meeting to book a meeting and school tour.

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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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