Retiree pilot training
Go for it. Do it – unreservedly. It’s humbling but never humiliating, and the sense of achievement is stupendous. Don’t do it by halves, go for the full PPL. Exercise the privileges of your licence, take your family and friends flying, create a new bond and show them the beauty of the area around you from a perspective you, and they, may never have seen before.
I ‘retired’ in 2011, took a helicopter experience flight at my local airfield, Gloucester, in 2012 and was hooked. With some trepidation I started taking flying lessons in a Robinson 22. It was much harder than I’d expected, but my safety-valve was that I didn’t need to do this for my career or professional advancement, so if it got too hard I could just stop. Some days I felt so stupid, forgetful and clumsy, but my instructors were always kind, helpful, knowledgeable and informative. I flew my first solo one freezing morning in December. As I got nearer to the end the challenge seemed to go up a notch – still so much to learn – but the nearer I got the more I wanted to get there. In May 2013, after my final skills check flight, I was delighted, and humbled, to be awarded my PPL(H).
I’m 68 now and have taken a Class 2 medical every year; if your health is reasonably good you should have no problems. You also have to take the (shorter) Licence Proficiency skills check every year. Age has never been a factor in official dealings, nor with fellow pilots; everyone’s welcoming. The exams are hard and you have to learn the material well. Much of the theory will be completely new to you, particularly Air Law and Meteorology, and R/T requires a new grammar and dialect. The tuition books are clearly written, and your instructors will be mines of information. How many hours it takes varies from student to student. I understand the average PPL(H) hours vary from 60-80 and I took about seventy. Once you’ve got your licence it’s important to fly regularly, to maintain currency. I try to fly at least once every two weeks and now have about 250 hours.
It’s the most wonderful thing to have done and such a buzz to lift away from the earth and live in this new space for a while. So do it. Go for it. Unreservedly. William Lewis, Cheltenham