First things first! All pilots have to start at the beginning.

The first step for anyone wanting to become a career pilot is to obtain a Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL). This type of licence will allow you to fly the type of aircraft listed on your licence with passengers on board but you as pilot may not be rewarded for the flight in any way. Though a PPL is useless to start a career with it is a necessary step to be able to enroll for a Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL). For an aircraft owner or aviation enthusiast wishing to fly for the fun of it, this will be the only licence you need. In this article we will focus on Fixed-wing (airplane) requirements only. To fly helicopters you need a Helicopter PPL. The requirements differ slightly.

Educational Requirements
There are no educational requirements to start training but it is strongly advised that you should at least have a matric certificate and have a good understanding of the English language. Mathematics, Science and Geography are not compulsory but it will make the course a lot easier to understand and if you wish to make a career out of flying it might just be what you need to get a job instead of someone else who did not take these subjects. The more you have to show, the better your chances are!

Medical Requirements
A Class I (required for a CPL) or Class II Medical Examination must be passed upon which you must apply for a Student Pilot’s Licence (SPL). Do not be misled by the old air force standards of medical evaluation. The standards are not as high in General Aviation. For example, people with bad eye sight are allowed to fly with glasses and there are no height requirements. You can go to a certified Aviation Medical Examiner for an examination to see if you are fit to be a pilot.

The PPL Syllabus
The PPL course consists of a well worked out syllabus consisting of 8 theoretical knowledge subjects and 45-50 hours of practical flight lessons (some with an instructor, some solo). You have to attend Ground School classes on all of the subjects and write and pass the exams before applying for a PPL.

The 8 Ground School theoretical knowledge subjects are:

  1. Principles of Flight
  2. Aircraft Technical and General
  3. Navigation
  4. Flight Performance and Planning
  5. Aviation Meteorology
  6. Human Performance and Limitations
  7. Air Law
  8. Radiotelephony

You will need to pass an English Proficiency Examination as well.

These examinations must be written and passed within a period of 18 months the last of which must be passed not more than 36 months before the flight skills test.

The table below explains the hours and flight time that you have to log before applying for a PPL:

Dual Instruction Hours

25 hours

Solo Hours

15 hours

Flight Simulator Hours

5 hours

Total Flying Hours

45 hours

Flight Simulator Hours is not compulsory and can be flown as Solo or Dual Instruction Hours.

Most flight schools don’t have set dates or hours that you need to attend. You can start whenever you like and continue at your own pace. Soon after your first flight lesson and Medical Examination has been passed you will be issued a Student Pilot’s Licence (SPL) that will allow you to fly solo (without anyone on board) for the duration of your training.

Aviation is an expensive industry. Aircraft is expensive to operate and maintain and the increase in fuel prices make it even worse. A PPL can cost you anything from R 80 000 – R140 000. Unfortunately, banks don’t offer student loans for Private Pilot’s Licences and sponsorships are almost non-existent. The good news is that banks do offer loans for Commercial Pilot Licences so it is possible to save money for a PPL and loan money from the bank to continue your training to commercial level. Keep in mind that entry level pilot salaries are between R5 000.00 and R10 000.00 p/m so make sure that you can pay off a loan after you have qualified as a pilot before taking the loan.
It is not impossible for anyone to get the funding needed for a pilot licence. There are ways and if it is your dream to fly then you will find a way to fund your licence! It is very important to remember that it is illegal for a PPL pilot to take money from anyone as a reward for a flight. This includes money to pay for the fuel used for the flight.

PPL Checklist

  • You must be at least 17 years of age
  • You must have a valid Class I or Class II Medical Certificate
  • You must have a valid Restricted Radio Licence
  • You must have a valid Student Pilot’s Licence (SPL) OR have or have held one of the following within the previous 60 months:
    • A Pilot’s Licence issued by a foreign country or state
    • South African Air Force Pilot’s qualification
    • A National Pilot’s Licence or Recreational Pilot’s Licence
  • You must write and pass the 8 PPL theoretical knowledge exams in the required time period
  • You must fly and log the required hours set out in the column above
  • You must pass the PPL flight skills test when you adhere to all of the above requirements within 36 months after you have passed the last theoretical knowledge exam
  • Your training must be done at an Aviation Training Organisation approved by the South African Civil Aviation Authority
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