I want to fly – how do I get started?

You can start right now by contacting your nearest aero club or flying school and asking for a trial flight with an instructor. This will last about 20 minutes and may cost from $NZ150 for a dual-control 2-seater plane.

I liked it – so what next?

To gain a Private Pilot Licence, you will need to fly a minimum of 50 hours and pass 6 theory exams. You will also need to be in good health. You can start learning to fly at any age but you cannot hold a licence until you are 17 years old – there is no upper age limit and many recreational pilots do not begin their training until they are middle-aged!

Medical fitness –

Private Pilots, and those in training, must pass a Class 2 medical examination which is carried out by an aviation doctor every 5 years, or more frequently as you get older. You must be in good general health and have good hearing and eyesight (glasses/contact lenses are acceptable).

Flying lessons –

Early lessons cover the basic skills of flying straight and level, gentle turns and climbing and descending, then progressing to take-offs and landings. Most students will be ready for a short solo flight after 10 to 15 hours training. Lessons become more advanced and cover all you need to know to become a safe and competent pilot. This includes 10 hours of cross-country flying, 5 hours of instrument flying, and many safety procedures. Most students gain their licences after about 70 hours flying, 20 of which are solo.

Examinations –

During your training, you will learn about yourself, the aircraft, the weather, navigation and the rules needed to keep your flying safe. These topics each have a study manual so you can study at home for the exams that are set at about high school level.

Wow! What does it all cost?

The cost varies, depending on what type of aircraft you fly. Learning to fly a glider or a microlight costs the least. You can gain your Private Pilot’s Licence in a single-engine aeroplane for about $NZ17,000, or nearer $NZ30,000 in a helicopter. With a PPL, you can take family and friends flying with costs being shared between you. You can also learn to fly different types of aircraft, fly at night or to fly aerobatics – these additional qualifications are called ratings.

How do I keep my licence?

You keep current by carrying out at least 3 take-offs and landings every 3 months in the type of aircraft you wish to fly. Every 2 years, you will show a flight instructor that your knowledge and skills are up to date and that the details of all your flying are entered in your log-book.

How do I make a career of flying?

New Zealand has about 3500 commercial pilots flying aeroplanes and almost 1000 flying helicopters. The medical examination is more stringent and the theory and the practical training are more advanced. You can study for a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) either full- or part-time and student loans are available for some of these courses.

CPL can be held from 18 years of age and you can then take passengers on charter or scenic flights, carry freight or become a topdressing pilot. You could also become an instructor with an aero club or flying school. By 21 years of age, you could train further and become an airline pilot flying domestic and international routes.

What other careers are there in aviation?

An increasing number of women are opting for a hands-on approach such as Air Traffic Control or Aircraft Maintenance Engineering, or joining the Armed Forces to pursue a flying career.

To learn more about licences, ratings and other options, visit the Civil Aviation Authority web site at www.caa.govt.nz