It costs how much?

Pilot - - AIRMAIL - Scott But­ler, Bed­ford­shire

When some­one asks “How much does it cost to learn to fly” what is the an­swer? If you ask at most fly­ing clubs the an­swer is prob­a­bly “well, to be­come a pi­lot you need to do 45hrs of fly­ing, plus take lots of ex­ams, that costs over £7,000”. If you ask the ques­tion at a large fly­ing school you might get the an­swer “to be­come a com­mer­cial pi­lot is around £100,000...”. Both an­swers are true but are they really the an­swer we should give to some­one who wants to enjoy our sport? I can think of few other pas­times or hob­bies where af­ter one trial they then quote thou­sands of pounds as the next step.

I learnt to fly through the Air Cadets Vol­un­teer Glid­ing School sys­tem. The Air Cadet idea of teach­ing some­one to fly (though tem­po­rar­ily ‘paused’) is based around send­ing a lot of young­sters on their first solo. From th­ese a num­ber progress fur­ther and a few qual­ify as graded pi­lots.

What is ‘learn­ing to fly’? PPL, CPL, ATPL, Multi En­gine, tail­drag­ger, VP, IMC, IR... the list goes on. They all start with a first solo: at this point you have learned to fly, you are a pi­lot.

I think the way we sell Gen­eral Avi­a­tion right from the start is neg­a­tive. Look­ing at the first ques­tion again, why not give a pos­i­tive an­swer, “for un­der £1,500 you could learn to fly on your own”. Once you’ve done your first solo you can then build on it with more steps, such as off cir­cuit fly­ing, nav­i­ga­tion, lan­d­aways then per­haps a lit­tle bit of in­stru­ment fly­ing and be­fore you know it you might have ticked enough boxes to get your li­cence. If we ‘sell’ first solo as learn­ing to fly I think we will at­tract more peo­ple to our sport.

The next time some­one asks you, what will you re­ply?

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