Congratulations! You have completed the exams, bossed the GST, smashed the cross-countries and the CAA has seen fit to grant you your licence. Bloomin’ well done!
First thing: Take it easy
I found that getting my flying licence was a little bit like getting my driving licence. As soon as I got it, I wanted to use it! But looking to your right and seeing no instructor and suddenly being without that warm, fuzzy and familiar face every time to enter the flying school building is quite alarming.
So, get into the swing of your new found freedom gently. Do a few local flights before you begin galivanting off to the far flung corners of the UK. Continue to build up your confidence by taking small steps. Why not arrange to share a flight with a more experienced pilot when you want to travel a bit further afield?
Here’s a few other tips.
Come up with your personal minima
Come up with your own ‘minima’ or in other words, your own set of rules for which you will go flying while you are developing your skills. For example, cloud bases, visibility limits and wind limits to name a few main ones. Of course, there are those rules we have to follow both in terms of our licence and the aircraft we’re flying but they certainly don’t mean you can’t have your own minimums (or maximums!). You may feel uncomfortable flying under a cloud case of less than 2,000 feet. Perhaps a strong wind of 10 knots and gusting 16 knots is a bit too much for you at the moment.
By creating these minimums, that you should then stick to, you’ll enjoy your flying far more and be able to set yourself goals to reach too. Alongside that, you’ll be able to explore your boundaries more safely and steadily.
I quite like the resources below from the FAA and AOPA to help with this:
Another interesting one from CFI Book
Remember to practice your procedures
Just because you have got the licence does not mean the learning or revision stops. Oh no. Make sure you regularly practice your emergency procedures and drills. Someday, at some point, somewhen, you will need them. The more instinctive they are the better.
- Take a look at our post on how often and what you should be practicing on a regular basis for some ideas.
- Take the C42 pilot quiz every month to make sure you know your stuff.
- Take a look at our FREE weather observations for pilots made from actual weather observations to help you continue to learn about and understand the weather.
During your training you may or may not have had a chance to ask questions about what happens when things don’t go the way you expect them to. Here are some posts we’ve done on just those sort of scenarios:
- When your engine instruments don’t look right
- What does water in fuel look like?
- What if the checklist doesn’t go to plan?
- Deadside to downwind – what if it’s full?
Visiting other airfields
As you build your confidence and fly within your personal minima, you’ll start to explore further afield. I recommend becoming familiar with the operation of fuel pumps at airfields. You can perhaps start by practicing at your home airfield or asking someone to show you how they work. If you plan in such a way that you only use what you put in when you set off, you’ll considerably limit yourself. Here’s some insight from a video in lockdown we did:
Understanding how the pumps work will enable you to fly further because you can be confident in using the pumps at other airfields. If you are using a Rotax 912 engine, you are likely going to be looking for other airfields with UL91.
Experiencing other types of airfield is one of my favourite things to do. From tarmac runways which seem to go on forever and swallow you when you land on them, to short farm strips that keep your bum clenching the whole time! Each one requires slightly different skills and methods to tackle well. Expanding your horizons by experiencing these different landing locations will help you grow as a pilot but start small. Many other types of airfield require different radio procedures both in the air and on the ground so ensure you have done your research before you set off to ensure you are completely prepared.
There are a number of ways you could do that. Here are some ideas:
- Use software to help you practice your RT
- Take a look at YouTube and watch some videos of other people visiting the airfield (I’ve used this method lots of times and it really helps!)
- Get your head stuck into the latest Skyway Code
Flying other aircraft
As well as exploring other places to fly, you may be thinking about trying other aircraft. The world of fixed wing microlights is far more dynamic and broad than many people think. There are so many different types of microlight available. Plus, new changes in the UK mean our category is moving from a weight limitation of 450kg to 600kg. This is super exciting as it opens a whole new world of flying to us. More and more manufacturers are designing and updating their aircraft for the new weight limitation meaning more weight, can be carried and more fuel.
Read our post on the different microlight aircraft available.
It’s great to get experience flying different machines, so start talking to people. If you are offered a flight in a new aircraft then take the opportunity.
Staying up to date
Making sure you are up to date with rules, regulations and procedures is important – but so is learning from other people’s mistakes too. Below are some resources for staying up to date with changes as well as learning from those who didn’t get it right first time!
- What it’s like to fly into a warm front and not check the weather properly
- Confidential reporting programme for aviation and maritime in the UK (CHIRP) – Excellent resource for getting anonymous accounts of mistakes with opportunities to learn from them.
- Skywise from the CAA – An excellent resource from the CAA that contains lots of great updates and information on changes across GA in the UK.
- Always worth reading the AAIB’s accident analysis when they are available. There is always plenty to learn from these and some are better than others.
- If you haven’t already, it may be worth investing in a good magazine to get the latest news.
- Flyer magazine do a great weekly stream on YouTube which includes latest news and changes that’s worth catching on a Thursday and it is free.
Disclaimer: This article was written for information and entertainment only and was up to date at the time of writing. Please always ask a qualified instructor for more information and discuss airfield, aircraft operations and the use of aircraft equipment with a suitably qualified person.