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Time & Cost: How long does it really take to earn your PPL?

The Journey to Earning Your PPL: More Than Just Hours in the Sky

Earning your wings as a freshly minted Private Pilot, secures your membership of an exclusive Club which makes up less than 1% of the world population.

So let's talk about the elephant in the room: how long does it really take to earn your PPL (Private Pilot License)? ie how much will it cost and how much time will it take?

The legal requirement is 45 hours of actual flight training. It is not always clear if this includes or excludes the flight test itself, which is a nuance that usually doesn't matter. The 45 hours requirement is what flight schools will quote you on, but most muggles are in for more moolah. How much it costs is directly related to how many hours you fly before you are considered proficient enough to be recommended for your flight test. The average person takes 55 to 65 hours of training and practice before they are ready to test. It can take longer. If you want to know why, keep reading...

PPL: Time and Cost

The 8 multiple-choice exams in South Africa (that are pretty tough), are the fundamental reason why a PPL can no longer be completed in 4 to 6 weeks, and in my opinion as a flight instructor of over 20 years, is a primary reason why the actual flying takes longer to complete as it has to be slowed down to keep pace with the exams. This all has a knock-on effect to the final cost. The exams are the reason for a PPL taking from three to four months full time, and time availability and cashflow ads to the reason part timers generally take a year or longer to complete the training. The flying is best done more quickly, so each lesson can build on the former with maximum lesson retention.

The determining aspect of the time it takes to earn your PPL pivots on how long it takes to go solo. This is the fundamental milestone in your training.

The balance of your training is made up of various components. You'll spend around 8 hours on foundation training, 3 hours on solo landing consolidation, approximately 7 hours practicing solo in the training area, 10 hours or so on navigation exercises, and about an hour for a mock test.

This makes for a total of about 28 to 30 hours that are spoken for. The balance of your time is spent on learning to land. It takes longer now than it used to, you may hear old timers boast they went solo at 6 or 8 hours... those days are long gone as safety has been improved, and training areas are further from airports affecting how much time it takes to complete the lesson objectives. The -learning-to -land phase of training is where you'll cover all the safety aspects around things going wrong during the take-off and landing phase as well as getting a handle on landing safely, albeit not always prettily.

If you fly solo between 10- and 18-hours total time, you can complete the training by 45 hours, but be warned, if you try to chase the solo, it becomes as elusive as grabbing a wet bar of soap in the shower. So, while the legal requirement may be 45 hours, the reality is that it often takes longer. But don't let that discourage you! Earning your PPL is an achievement that's well worth the time and effort. And remember, every hour you spend in the sky is an hour closer to earning your wings.

Happy flying!

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