With your Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL), the world opens up to you like never before. You will be able to travel to new places and experience life from an entirely different perspective.
As a Declared Training Organisation (DTO) that is registered with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), South Coast Flying Group is able to train pilots from scratch. You can only learn to fly with a certified training organisation, like SCFG, and it’s worth looking around to find one with good aircraft availability and reasonable membership requirements. For a UK Private Pilot’s Licence for a fixed-wing aircraft, the PPL(A), you will need to prove at least 45 hours’ flying time, which includes a minimum amount of time flying solo. You will need to pass nine written exams, most probably a practical radio exam if you plan to fly in controlled airspace, and a final practical flight exam, known as the ‘skill test’. You have to be declared medically fit to fly, by issue of a Class 2 certificate, by an aeromedical examiner (AME) but note these specialist doctors are few and far between – it’s most unlikely your GP is an AME. The CAA website has many resources for aspiring pilots, which can be found here.
At the end of all this, if you are granted your licence, you will be able to fly in a fairly basic aircraft. You can’t get your PPL and then jump in any plane you like, nor can you fly any other type of aircraft such as a helicopter, hot air balloon or glider. You won’t be able to fly at night, in cloud, if it’s too windy etc. In fact, any additional qualification or ‘rating’, will require more training, more time and more money. Your plane will have a single, piston-powered engine, a fixed pitch propeller and fixed landing gear, i.e. it doesn’t retract after take-off. It will probably take either two or four people but if any of them is large in any dimension and you want to have enough fuel to go very far, they will probably need to stay on the ground.
The old joke goes something like this:
Q: How much money will I need to learn how to fly?
A: All of it.
Planes are not cheap. There aren’t many of them around, only a few thousand are made each year, and new ones cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. In fact, even old ones that were built in the 70s and 80s, like those you will learn in, are still worth more than a brand-new BMW M5. Because even small planes cost a lot to buy and maintain, renting one will be your biggest overall outlay.
The good news is that you are only paying rental when the propeller is turning, it’s not like renting a car where you pay for a period of time, here you really only pay for what you use. The two most common rental states for planes are ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ but this refers to whether fuel is included in the price and is nothing to do with the weather outside! Aircraft fuel – most commonly ‘AvGas’ – is more expensive than petrol by around 40% and since these planes drink it at a rate of anywhere between 25 and 40 litres per hour, it’s a large part of the rental. At SCFG, the classic Cessna 152 will cost £125 per wet hour.
What goes up, must come down. Safely. An aerodrome is any place from where flight operations can take place. This can include a grass airstrip or ‘farm strip’ in the middle of nowhere, to a commercial airport in the biggest city in the world. Where you fly from and where you fly to will be strictly regulated and costs a lot to maintain. For training, a paved runway is generally better than a grass runway, as it’s flat and can be used in wet weather but is also generally more expensive.
Additional aerodrome costs include lighting, emergency services, security, air-to-ground communication, fuel provision, etc. These costs are met by ‘landing fees’ and every plane will have to pay these each time its wheels touch the ground. A ‘full stop’ landing at Shoreham for a PA28, even with the discounted SCFG rate, is £29.40. When you are learning how to land but then taking off again, something known as a ‘touch-and-go’, you have to pay £10.80 for each touchdown.
Few, if any, people make much money from general aviation (GA) and when you consider the cost of an hour’s instruction is a fraction of that of a plumber or car mechanic, you start to see why. Most instructors are self-employed and charge a very modest amount for their time, anywhere between £40-60 per hour, depending on what they are providing training for.
Like planes, instructors also tend to charge for their time when the propeller is turning although they also charge for ground school training and many of them are CAA-certified examiners who can take you through the written part of the course.
SCFG has instructors who can take students through almost all aspects of their training and then on to additional qualifications (or ‘ratings’) such as a night rating, IMC rating and even aerobatics. The Club also has examiners available for most PPL ratings and is well connected for other courses such as Radio-Telephony (RT).
The final skill test examiner’s fee is around £150, while the CAA license application fee is £196 (Oct 21). Then there’s all the equipment you will need for use in the plane and for your studies that include training manuals, a headset, ruler, flight computer (the infamous ‘whizz wheel’), air chart, knee board, log book etc. Of course, you can buy used equipment and there’s plenty of it about, but even for basic gear you will need to budget a few hundred pounds.
For most people, the lowest cost and also what represents the best value is membership to SCFG, which only costs £50 per month. This includes access to three clean and fully-maintained aircraft via an online booking system, insurance, use of the Club room, training facilities and the chance to meet other pilots and students through Club events and fly-outs.
There are some clubs and schools that offer fixed price deals, often calculated on the bare minimum 45-hour requirement, and likely to be offered in the smallest, cheapest aircraft. There are certainly cheaper airfields than Shoreham but they probably won’t have a paved runway, which is not so good if you are flying over the winter months. They may lack an air-traffic control service and runway lighting.
Critically, however, students can't predict how they will take to flying, or how quickly they will be able to master the controls and consistently demonstrate a safe, comfortable landing. You may need to be in the ‘circuit’ (a small area above an aerodrome for coordinating landing and departing aircraft) learning how to land properly for more hours than the minimum allowed. Handing over a lump sum in advance of your training is a risky business and flying is all about reducing risk wherever possible. In the past five years, at least three flying schools at Shoreham have closed down, so it pays to do your research and have a realistic expectation.
With the cost model of South Coast Flying Group and years of experience, we are one of the oldest training organisations on the airfield, even in the modern incarnation since the 1990s. We are committed to affordable flying with the least amount of hassle. We have a history of changing our aircraft and introducing members to different experiences that keep their skills up-to-date. We have many members who completed their PPL training with us and remain members today. For more information about joining the Club and the training we have to offer, please complete the form here.
Shoreham Flying Club Ltd, trading as South Coast Flying Club, operates a CAA Declared Training Organisation (DTO), with registration number GBR.DTO.0170.
We offer training for: Light Aircraft Pilot Licence; Light Aircraft Pilot Licence to Private Pilot Licence; Private Pilot Licence; Class Rating (A) SEP (Land), TMG, etc.; Night Rating and IMC.
Our Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) is a commercial pilot with almost 20 years’ experience and works with one of the world’s major airlines. He runs his own flying company, CartAer, is a qualified ground school examiner and partners with our other instructor members who provide training at the Club.
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SCFG have no affiliation with SkyDemon and nor do we receive any incentive from them to recommend their solution. It just makes sense to call out the great services they provide to General Aviation.