Learning to fly and getting a pilot’s licence is interesting, challenging and very rewarding. Like obtaining a driver’s licence, you will need to obtain instruction, pass some written tests, and then pass a final flight test in an aircraft with a qualified flight examiner.

The equivalent to a provisional driver’s licence when flying is a Student Pilot Licence (SPL) and is issued on the basis of a medical examination, which must be obtained from an IAA designated Medical Examiner. The Medical/Student Pilot Licence is valid for 24 calendar months. When you have received sufficient training to qualify to fly solo in your aircraft, your flight instructor will endorse your Student Licence. When you are ready to fly cross-country (XC) by yourself, your Student Licence will again be endorsed for this privilege.

A PPL or Private Pilot License is the equivalent of your full driver’s licence. You will be able to carry passengers, although not for any commercial reward or hire. Because other people’s safety is in your hands now as well as your own, this requires more training. For a Private Pilot Licence you will need at least the following number of hours flying:

  • a total of 45 hours of flying time which includes
  • at least 10 hours of supervised solo flight time
  • at least five hours of solo cross-country flight time
  • at least one cross-country flight of at least 270km during which full stop landings at two aerodromes different from the aerodrome of departure need to be made

There is no specific amount of dual instruction required before someone is allowed to fly solo. For most student pilots it is after between 8 and 16 hours of instruction. There is a wide variable in hours because people are different, the weather may be a factor or it may depend on how often you fly. A certain amount of each lesson is spent in review of the previous lessons so a long span between lessons may require more review time.

The ground school associated with taking the five written IAA exams for the PPL is usually about 120 hours in duration and covers subjects such as Aircraft Technical, Flight Performance and Planning, Navigation, Human Performance and Limitations, and Aviation Law. The exams are multiple choice format and are not academically difficult, needing no more than primary-level maths. You may take instructional flight at any age but you must be at least 16 to solo an airplane. The minimum age to obtain the Private Pilot Licence is 17.