It costs how much?
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?