18 February 2010

So What’s It All About?

Achieving the status of ‘Private Pilot’ is no walk in the park. I was lucky enough to have my dad teach me the basics, so when I started official training I skipped a few steps.

Judging from fellow students, you first get assigned an instructor, and attend a series of briefings. I imagine that one would also apply for a SPL (Student Pilot’s License) during this time. Basically the SPL means that you fill out loads of forms, part with some money, and fight with the CAA. In return for your efforts, you get a license number that you need for all the forms you’re going to be filling out, and it also allows you to write the online exams, and you’re also permitted to fly solo for the purpose of training. But you can read up on all of this in a handy little book called South African Air Law for Private Pilots.

After a number of briefings, I imagine you start with the practical aspects of flying, such as straight and level. Most of the time I had a briefing, then we’d fly, then we’d debrief. It allows one to see how all the theory fits in with the practical stuff.

Depending on how capable you are, you should go solo after about 15hrs (I think). It varies from person to person, so some may take 20hrs while others take 9. However you must have a minimum of 8(?) hours before you’re allowed to go solo. (Please note: not sure if the minimum is 7 or 8 hours.)

After hitting the solo mark, the real flying begins! You get even more briefings, and after a few solo hours in the circuit you’ll be sent to play in the GFA (General Flying Area). After even more solo time, you’ll start with your navs/cross-country’s. Preparing for these takes some time, and weather is always a hassle. I had to postpone my solo long nav at least 4 times, but because of that I became very good at compiling flight logs and submitting flight plans.

Most people choose to work through the exams as they progress through the practical side, whereas others will want to do all the flying, and then write the exams. My advice: try to write at least 3 exams as soon as possible! It’s less stressful and allows one to appreciate the flying. But more on this later. You also need to do 5 hours of IF (Instrument Flying). This is normally done on a simulator because it’s cheaper than hiring a C152. Be warned, simulator training is NOTHING like playing FS9 or Lock-On, or FSX, and it’s probably the most boring part of the training!

The Subjects:
Human Performance
Flight Planning
Restricted Radio License
PoF (Principles of Flight)

I’ve been asked if the exams are hard. Rocks are hard. The work is difficult and complicated at times, and the exam questions are asked in such a way as to trick you. They are multiple choice, but most of the time they’ll give you 2 (out of 3) or 3 (out of 4) correct answers. You need at least 75% to pass, and most exams have 25 questions, which means that you can only get 6 answers wrong.

Note that the subjects are often linked with one another, which means that it’s a good idea to write the exams in such a way that the info from one subject ‘flows’ into the next. A good subject to start or end with is Human Performance – it has nothing to do with the other subjects, and is a little bit easier than the rest. I’d wait before writing PoF as it requires a lot of practical knowledge which one can only gain from flying. The Radio License and Law should be written close to one another as they contain very similar information (such as VFR minima). The same goes for Met, ATG and Flight Planning. I highly recommend using the CX2 Pathfinder for the Nav exam; it’s definitely worth the money!

There are mock questions in the back of the Avex books. Please note that the real exam questions are nothing like the practice questions, and you’ll be lucky if you get something as easy as the Avex questions! Best thing would be to chat to the instructors and your fellow students as they’ll probably have a number of practice questions you can work through.

Another important thing to remember is that after you’ve passed your first exam, you only have one year (12 months) to pass the rest. Depending on how fast you study, you should be able to write an exam every 2-3 weeks.

The Flying:
I think that there are guidelines which suggest how you should complete your training and what order you should do everything with regards to the practical and theory stuff, but I did things my own way and it worked for me. If you’re interested, here are the minimum hours that you need:

45 hours, of which:
- 5 hrs must be IF
- 15 hrs must be solo
o of which 5 hrs must be solo cross-country

The Forms:
Sometimes it felt like I did more paperwork than flying. So get yourself a good pen and practice your signature! Also be prepared to copy loads of forms and run back and forth between the police station (or post office) so you can get things certified.

Some forms are:
SPL application
Restricted Radio License
Skills Test
Language Proficiency Rating *
PPL application

Make copies of EVERYTHING, and whenever you phone the CAA, be sure to ask who you’re speaking to; things tend to get done faster and that way you can also ask to speak to the same person each time.

*The LPR or Language Proficiency Rating is a short test (30min) where two experts speak to you to make sure that you can actually understand and speak the English language. There are different levels; ideally you want a level 6 as this means you’ll never have to do the test again. If you’ve got your Matric Certificate, you can send that off and it will count as a level 4 or something. I think that it’s valid for a year or two, so you’re still going to end up having to do the test. Note that the CAA will only accept a MATRIC (grade 12) certificate! And if you look on the CAA website, as well as in that handy little Law Book, you’ll notice that there’s NO mention of a LPR! So whatever you do, don’t forget about this little test as it will delay things by at least a week and half (I should know).

Always remember to triple check that you have everything in order when sending off forms. If you forget something they’ll either send it all back to you, or tell you what you’ve forgotten. This results in loads of delays. If you’re unsure of something/what you need, ask your instructor, check the CAA website, and if all else fails, PHONE the CAA!


I hope that this has helped a bit, and please feel free to ask if you have any questions.
If it hasn’t helped then there’s not much I can do about it, but your comments would be greatly appreciated.

Stay safe!

10 February 2010

It's no joke

So, the bright idea of doing my PPL popped into my head sometime near the end of 2008. Why I suddenly decided to do this is beyond me, but I'm glad that I made that decision. My dad is a pilot, so I've been exposed to aviation since I was born, and I often got to fly in the jumpseat of a 737. However I think I only ever really became fascinated with flying in 2007 when I fell in love with the Buccaneer.

That jet got me thinking, and before I knew it I was researching all sorts of jets and helicopters, and finding out about the air force and all sorts of other aviation-related things. My dad had also purchased a MicroWings Cubby, which I'm truly in love with.

Clever me attended flying lectures at the end of 2008, and I started writing the exams in 2009, which was also my grade 11 year. What possessed me to do this is beyond me (a lot of things are beyond me), but somehow I managed to juggle school, A-levels, flying, and all the ups-and-downs that come with being 17. The practical aspect of flying came naturally; I had been flying with my dad for several months, and I did all the flying on my first flight with my instructor. I did however struggle with the theory side as I had absolutely no idea what to expect!

7 subjects plus a radio license...
Principles of Flight (failed 3 times)
Aircraft Technical and General
Navigation (failed once)
Air Law (failed twice)
Human Performance
Flight Planning
Restricted Radio license

Don't let the fact that the exams are multiple choice fool you into thinking that they're easy! You need at least 75% to pass, and as most exams consist of 25 questions, you can only get 6 wrong. It's all done online, and with every exam the worst moment was hitting the 'submit' button, then sitting there waiting to see if I had passed or not. My met exam was paticularly bad as I was sure I had failed and it took close to a minute for the exam to be processed. I was so happy when I saw that it said "Congratulations, you passed" that I actually jumped for joy and shouted happily then proceeded to run around the room, a huge grin on my face (Met was the last exam I had to write).

At times I wondered why I was putting myself through the pressure and the hours and hours of studying. Most of the time I'd go to school, go home for 30min, then go to A-levels, then go straight to flying lectures, and I would often get home after 10pm where I'd have a quick dinner then study. There were a few times I felt like giving up. But now that I've got that little brown book, I'm glad that I stuck it out.

I often wonder if I would've gone through it all if I'd known what is was I would have to get through. It takes loads of hard work and dedication, and at times I was lacking in one of those departments. I don't know how people can put themselves through all of that for fun. It's a lot of work for a bit of fun if you ask me. But if you do decide to part with your money and get the license, make sure you know what you're letting yourself in for!

That being said, having acheived something so great at such a young age, and receiving so much praise and support throughout the last year has definately made all the blood, sweat and tears worth it!

About this blog

This is a place for me to share my flying adventures with whoever is interested. I'd also like to give people an idea of what becoming a pilot involves, and how one can acheive the ultimate goal (which in my case is getting my CPL and flying in Botswana or Namibia).

I am by no means an expert when it comes to flying matters (or anything really), and whatever is expressed here are purely my views and opinions. My facts might not always be correct, but I'll do my best to make sure that they're as accurate as possible. If something doesn't seem right, please feel free to let me know. When in doubt, ASK!

In case you're wondering why this has been called "The Flying Fish", it's because I've become known as "Sardine", and I felt that, because of this nickname of mine, 'flying fish' would be a suitable name for a blog about my flying.

Please note that all photographs posted here are my own, unless otherwise stated.

Welcome and enjoy!