Private Pilots License (PPL)

Sources: CAA, EASA PART-FCL

What is a PPL?

A private Pilot’s license (PPL) is the most basic form of pilot’s license.  A PPL permits its holder to ‘act as pilot in command (PIC) in non-commercial operations on aeroplanes or touring motor glider (TMGs).’ Most PPL holders use their license solely for pleasure flying either as individuals or as members of a flying club.

What can I do with a PPL?

The key here is in the name ‘Private’, the private pilot’s license allows you to partake in flying activities of a non-commercial nature (i.e. unpaid), unless the holder also possesses an instructor/examiner rating.  A basic PPL allows its holder to fly in VFR (Visual Flight Rules) conditions in most airspace types, a full guide to VFR flying in the UK can be found here.  As VFR flying has many restrictions (such as being clear of cloud and in sight of the ground), pilots wishing to fly in more marginal weather conditions can upgrade their license to include an IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) rating or full Instrument Rating.

What are the minimum requirements to get a PPL?

PPL minimum requirements include 45 hours logged instruction on aeroplanes or TMG’s (Touring Motor Gliders), 5 hours of which may have been completed in a simulator training device.  These hours must include at least 25 hours of supervised flight instruction and 10 hours of supervised solo flight time, including at least 5 hours of solo cross country flight time with at least 1 cross country flight of at least 270 km (150 NM) that includes full stop landings at 2 aerodromes different from the departure aerodrome.  Full requirements can be found on the CAA website or page 210 of the EASA PART-FCL.  Students must also complete 9 Ground School (LINK TO GS BELOW) exams as part of their license.

Where Can I get a PPL?

Click here to view our a flight school finder.

How long will it take?

Depending on the type of course chosen, a PPL can be completed in as little as a number of weeks, however this would be full time study and flying and is often considered impractical.  Most PPL students work during their training and often fly on average 1-2 times per week, at this rate most students are ready for their Skills Test (LINK to ST BELOW) in about 10-14 months from their start of training, however this may take longer with allowances made for poor weather which can often hinder students in winter months, for this reason it’s often best to plan to undertake the bulk of the training in the spring/summer.

What does the Skills Test consist of?

The PPL skills test is the practical flying test for the issue of a PPL and usually lasts around an hour.  The skills test requires the student to plan a route from one aerodrome to another (or sometimes to a point, returning to the departure aerodrome), the route should include at least 3 navigational points and must be flown within a set of tolerances – a full list of these can be found on page 201 of the EASA PART-FCL.  Other test items include general handling (steep turns, practiced forced landings and basic stalls) and various types of approach and landing to demonstrate the minimum skills required to qualify for a PPL. More information on skills tests can be found here.

What is an RT Test?

The radio telephony operator license test is the examination taken by all pilots before they can be issued with their aircraft license.  In order to undertake the test, candidates must have completed the communications ground school exam (within the last 24 months) and demonstrated a language proficiency of at least level 4.  The RT exam is a practical test in which candidates must demonstrate their knowledge of standard radio phraseology and procedures to an examiner, the test is often undertaken using computer software and full headset/microphone equipment.  More information on radio telephony licensing can be found here.

How can I take the PPL to the next level?

There are several ways to get more out of the PPL, some of the more popular license additions are listed below.

IMC Rating – The Instrument meteorological rating is designed to allow pilots to fly in slightly more marginal weather conditions than on a full PPL flying under standard VFR conditions.  In order to undertake an IMC rating, PPL holders must have completed 25 hours of flying post PPL issue and 10 hours of PIC (Pilot in command) with at least 5 hours of these as cross-country flying.  It is important to note that the IMC rating is not a replacement or substitute for the Instrument Rating (IR).  A good website for further reading on the IMC rating can be found here.

Night Rating – The night rating is a five hour course which, when completed allows PPL holders to fly after sunset.  The course comprises at least three hours of dual instruction, one hour of cross country navigation and five solo take-offs and landings.  

Class Ratings – Most PPL holders will only hold a valid Single Engine Piston class rating.  Additional class ratings may be applied to the PPL allowing the holder to fly different types of aircraft covered by their license but for which they require additional training, such aircraft may include taildragger aircraft or multi-engine piston aircraft, for which  you require a CPL.  Larger aircraft ratings require the license holder to undertake a type rating and often require a CPL or ATPL.

How much does a PPL cost?

The average cost of a PPL in the UK is around £5,000-£8,000 depending on the amount of training undertaken (minimum 45 hours).  Costs vary heavily depending on location (due to landing fees etc), type of aircraft used to train and amount of lessons taken. Some training providers offer fast-track courses which can sometimes work out cheaper, see our list of training providers for more information Click here.

What does the Ground School consist of? 

The PPL ground school requires you to pass a total of 9 multiple-choice examinations on the following subjects:

Air Law – 16 Questions – 35 Minutes – Topics covered range from ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) directives to the rules of the air.

Meteorology – 16 Questions – 50 Minutes – Topics covered range from basic weather theory including clouds, precipitation and winds to the practical application of this knowledge in a flying environment.

Aircraft General Knowledge – 16 Questions – 35 Minutes – Topics covered range from Engines, Instruments and Fuel to Airframes, Electrics and Hydraulics.

Navigation and Radio Aids – 12 Questions – 45 Minutes – Topics covered range from form of the earth and GPS to modern day radio aid navigation.  This exam includes practical navigation elements using tools such as plotting devices.

Human Performance and Limitations – 12 Questions – 25 Minutes – Topics covered range from psychology to physiology in the aviation environment.

Flight Performance and Planning – 12 Questions – 45 Minutes – Topics include aircraft take-off and landing performance to fuel planning.  This practical exam requires the student to perform map and aircraft manual-based calculations as part of the test.

Private Pilots License (PPL)

VFR Communications – 12 Questions – 20 Minutes – Topics covered include Radio Telephony (RT)(LINK TO BELOW), basic radio theory and aviation radio phraseology.  As part of your PPL you will also be required to complete a practical Radio Telephony License test.

Operational Procedures – 12 Questions – 30 Minutes – Topics cover all authority-regulated procedures applicable to PPL holders.

Principles of Flight – 12 Questions – 35 Minutes – Topics cover basic aerodynamic theory including lift, drag and thrust.

A full syllabus of PPL ground school topics can be found on Page 194 of the EASA PART-FCL. Students are given 18 months in which to complete all of the above examinations, this begins at the end of the calendar month in which the first examination attempt was completed.