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Hopefully a new NPPL(M) learner!

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  • Hopefully a new NPPL(M) learner!

    Hi all,

    I'm hoping to start to study to earn an NPPL(M) license in the nearish future. I'm a huge aviation fan and have always dreamed of flying myself. I'm 31 so thought that now is a good time. I have about 6 hours of real life hands on time, flying Grobs in the Air Cadets more recently a Ikarus C42 (trial lesson) and Cessna 152. I really like the look of the Eurostar and a local club (Eshott) flies them. I have another hour experience booked next week in a CT2k which will be my first flight in said aircraft.

    Back to learning... I have a few concerns; the main and most obvious is the cost. I appreciate that it is far from a cheap hobby but relatively speaking, the NPPL is the cheapest. If my immediate goal is to get NPPL and fly for fun, what's the best way to go about it? Fly as funds allow and pay on a per lesson basis, then investigate shares in an aircraft? My research into costs has illuminated how training pans out, but I'm a little clueless as to what happens after that. Realistically, time and money would only afford me 1 flight a month, but I'd happily do more if circumstances were to change. Do 'graduates' tend to join a club and just fly at the hourly rate?

    Secondly, I'm Type 1 Diabetic. My control is going through a bit of a rough patch so my current goal is to get that improved. My DVLA license is still valid and I'm perfectly safe to drive, but all T1 diabetics are limited to a 3 year license that has to be renewed. According to CAA docs I can find, this shouldn't affect my eligibility of getting an NPPL license but would anyone be able to confirm that self-cert is still valid for me?

    Ideally, I'd love to go for LAPL or even PPL, but I think realistically, it's better for me to go for NPPL due to cost and medical concerns. I don't wish to intrude on the finances of others, but I'm on ~30k with good savings, but not married nor do I have a mortgage (the better half owns the house) so I haven't decided if now is the best time to start either. I still have no idea if I'm 'rich enough' to pursue a license; it's quite daunting knowing that I'll be chucking a good 8k into a hobby!

    Anyways, regardless if I start this summer or in a couple of years, I'd like to start studying the theory. Can anyone recommend any invaluable resources? I'm about to buy The Microlight Pilot's Handbook (8th edition) and have been watching many VFR NPPL videos.

    Sorry for the very long post, and I look forward to hearing from you!


  • #2
    Hi Harry,
    welcome to the mad bunch (ie microlight pilots).

    I can't advise on the medical side, but the nice people at the BMAA headquarters might. In terms of learning I'd suggest you consider amongst your options to learn in the way I learnt; by treating 'learning to fly' as your hobby as and when time/funds/health permit. Enjoy every lesson for what it is: a flight, a bit more experience, and a step along the road towards your licence eventually. It's not usually the quickest, nor overall the cheapest, way to get to your licence - but hey! it's flying, and as an active member of a microlight club you might even be able to blag passenger flights with qualified pilots.

    Doing it that way also avoids the need to commit too early to a path within the sport. As you get to know more about what's involved you'll also start to work out which aspects of flying you find most enjoyable and concentrate on those.

    have fun
    Last edited by Joan Walsh; 6th December 2018, 16:23. Reason: minor change to text
    The pilot formerly posting as MadamBreakneck
    R examiner and TST pilot.
    and now a Tai Chi instructor


    • #3
      The medical requirements are to self certify your medical declaration. Basically if you can hold a car licence, you should be eligible for an NPPL. There are exceptions though but from what I read your diabetes is not one of them.
      Read this.
      Joan is right. Fly for fun. If somebody offers you a flight -take it. Whilst a student I was offered a flight one bank holiday with somebody who wanted a practice flight before a long trip. He asked if I would like to fly back. Bolt Head to Old Sarum took 90 minutes - on a bank holiday!
      The experience helped my flying confidence no end and helped me greatly. I started 20 years older than you and I am no sky God. I had to work at it.
      Do it. It will never be so cheap again. You will learn as much about yourself as you will about flying and if you can commit funds enough, then you are talking to the wrong people if you want us to talk you out of it. I now fly a single seater homebuilt that cost about 4K and have had years of fun out of it.
      In terms of useful advice, DON'T pay up front and burn all the receipts sight unseen. You can't put a price on achievement.


      • #4
        As you will discover, once the bug truly bites it will be like this:
        "How much money do you spend on flying?"
        "All of it..."

        The serious answer that I give people is that if you reckon you could afford to buy and run another car then you can buy and run a microlight aeroplane. The costs will be about the same and the range from cheapest to most expensive is similar.
        Martin Watson
        Microlights in Norfolk
        Fixed Wing Instruction - Exams and GSTs - Revalidations
        07805 716407


        • #5
          First welcome!

          There is a lot of good advice above and Joan is dead right in that if you are short on cash treat the learning as the hobby and just enjoy it.
          When I started to learn all the wisdom was that it was way beyond my means, it didn't help that I had no talent for it whatsoever either. However I plugged on and must have tested the patience of my instructors as I aimed at what I could afford, that was initialy half an hour a month. That is a very slow way to learn, but it gave me half an hour of near paradise every month, sometimes if the weather had been poor for a month I had a whole hour. It took a very long time but hey, I was flying.

          That was many years ago, but I have no regrets for along the way I met with some fantastic people, some of whom I still know. When you hold that precious piece of paper in your hand there are still many ways forward. Full ownership of a posh piece of kit is only one of them, there is syndication, ownership of an older machine or even syndication of one of those. Also worth a look are SSDR machines, many of these are very simple aircraft, simple and cheap to run and look after.

          Your flying world is what you make of it so tailor it to yourself and have fun


          • #6
            For what it is worth I offer my story
            I started learning in 2012 at 27 now 33 on a similar salary to your I spent ~10K on getting the licence and my aircraft.

            I too am an ex-air cadet and bitten by the aviation bug wanted to pursue my aviation interest into flying/pilots licence after my time as a Cadet (I am now a Staff member).
            I am since married and now have an even larger mortgage having sold a 1 bed flat and bought a large family home with my wife – all occurring this year (tip don’t move house and get married the same year #stress!)

            But back to the beginning
            It wasn’t until a bonus at work when I had some money to burn did I ever consider a pilot’s licence (at the time I had a mortgage and was single) knowing a PPL was out of my reach and by fluke considered microlights and found out at the more affordable flying.
            I started March 2012 and by July 2013 had my licence.
            I then asked around the club/school if anyone was looking for a syndicate. Long story short I went in with a 50% share with another pilot, a student ready to amass solo hours. We got a Quantum 582 (2 stroke flexwing) for 5500 and was immediately great fun building hours and putting into practise what I had learnt. Sometime later my syndicate partner wanted more from his flying, and wanted to upgrade as he often joined others flying from the club and was often left behind. I was fine as I was so bought out his share and been the sole owner since.

            I was fortunate in that I had a cash injection to get me going and bought a “10 hour package” at the school, this was a reduced hourly rate buying in bulk and came with some training aids (maps, flight bag, navigation tools etc). I then saved up another grand for the second “10 hour package” which included my exams. This helped keep the costs down and predictable.
            I was then able to top up the remainder as I was building up the required solo hours which at almost half price I could afford.

            Once I had my licence it was then just a case of finding the money for a syndicate.
            Each year I was able to put ~1k aside for flying which allowed for gaining my licence and then towards a share and later sole ownership. I never considered the costs in the same way you are now. I simply knew I could afford the lessons and could see ownership was within my grasp (it is true it is comparable to owning a second car).

            I chose flexwing over fixed for two reasons – 1 the exposure to the elements and “raw” basic flying experience. I wanted to have that “back to basics” approach, and even today still navigate by map on my knees rather than digital tablet, and 2 - affordability of ownership.

            I appreciate that the costs for Flexwing vs Fixed are completely different, there is often a higher training costs, and are most noticeable in the cost of ownership which is almost always syndicated. But it gives you an idea of what to expect and perhaps a route to consider.

            Aim for the your licence. Ok so it will cost something but you’ll have plenty to gain and show for it.
            In the time it takes you, be that weeks, months or years you’ll make contacts at the school and club, gain a better understanding of the flying you want to do/what Microlights can offer you and from there what aircraft will suit your needs – With that information you can then determine if a 80k aircraft is within reach or if a 1/10th share of the same aircraft is more realistic, or perhaps a 1/4th share of something less desirable but more suited to your needs.

            I can’t comment on the medical side of things, but I will say make sure you know and fully understand the situation. Once you have the green light, there is nothing in your way so why not give it a go??


            • #7
              Peter's made some good points. I'll stick a line of my old hobby horse in**, though; 3-axis microlighting doesn't need to be in a syndicated bank-breaker, nor does it have to be enclosed pipe'n'slippers flying (though it can be. The only trouble is that the pool of instructors who can teach people to handle a Thruster TST or a Cyclone AX3 properly is rapidly diminishing.

              Your first privately owned aeroplane doesn't have to be squeaky clean from the factory - there's a thriving second-hand market out there. See [AFORS]

              Meanwhile, back at the OP - I wonder how Harry's getting on.


              ** PS not getting at Peter here, it's a common misconception (hence it's become a hobby horse of mine)
              Last edited by Joan Walsh; 11th December 2018, 14:14.
              The pilot formerly posting as MadamBreakneck
              R examiner and TST pilot.
              and now a Tai Chi instructor


              • #8
                To Joan's point - I bought a 3 axis machine, a Thruster T600N with a Jabiru four stroke engine, for under 7k. I've had to do some work to get its permit re-validated, but all of it was minor, mostly requiring my time to clean up and repaint the scruffy bits. The most expensive parts were getting the starter motor rebuilt and the prop serviced. For me, working on the aircraft is part of the hobby and I enjoy it almost as much as flying.
                Pete T.

                "A closed mouth gathers no feet".


                • #9
                  I completely agree with Joan, and if I was supposed to take offence to anything then sorry I missed it…

                  My Quantum is a 1994 model, ~550 hours.
                  It isn’t new at all, although to look at it you’d think otherwise. It is in far better condition than a car of similar age!

                  When friends find out I am a pilot, they are amused. When I tell them I own an aircraft they are amazed – often their smile turns to concern when they see a photo, but then intrigue. Then when I take them flying they are all entertained.
                  It doesn’t matter what you fly in, flying is flying!

                  That said having taken my wife in a C42 (I hire one occasionally) she said she much prefers Flexwing, has sworn blind she’ll never get in in a Thruster/AX3 or Shadow as “they don’t look right” (this coming from a Flexwing passenger!) and has her heart set on a Eurostar as/when I convert full time to 3-axis!

                  I recently moved from a microlight to a “GA” airfield, where the strip manager flies off to Poland or Jersey for an overnight stay – he scoffs at my sedate slow 55mph cruise, but is in awe at the relatively cheap cost of my flying. I want to fly and microlights allows me to do it at a cost I can afford.
                  I have often been asked do I want to add to or upgrade my licence, and my answer is always the same – no.
                  I would rather fly 25 hours in a microlight than 10 in a Cessna 152 – my point? I’d rather time be a limiting factor (or weather!) than cost. When I want to go flying I don’t want to consider if I can afford it that month.

                  Consider a car purchase and you’ll be thinking the same along the same lines
                  We drive a car we can afford, be that the fuel, insurance, servicing and/or tax costs, otherwise we’d all be driving around in 4.0litre Range Rovers! Or at least have one parked on the drive but unable to afford to drive it!


                  • #10
                    As it has been said, it all depends on what you are looking for from your flying. For me it is all about the sensation of flying, thus my ole TST is for me unbeatable. It is open with a fantastic view and handling is light and delightful. It has the feel of something almost alive as it reacts to the air it is flying through. Being slow only extends the pleasure, whereas the light aircraft that I've flown, and now some microlights I'm afraid, I find boring.

                    Thankfully not everybody is the same or aircraft like the TST, T300 or Phantom would command premium prices . Each to their own but I have not the slightest envy of the posher machines, nor I dare say have they of me.


                    • #11
                      Hi all, huge apologies for the delayed response. What a way for me to enter the forum, ask a question then not thank or reply for week.

                      Let me first say thank you for the huge response. Very good advice and I can tell I'm in the right place. Since I posted, I have had another lesson/experience, this time flying the Flight Design CT2K. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am most likely hooked. Comparing it to the C42B, the first thing I noticed (and I was warned first) is the greater responsiveness in the controls, and the astonishing climb rate. We took off into a ~10kt head/crosswind and we were almost immediately at 1500fpm! I had the chance to try coordinated turns, and whilst I'm very familiar with the concept, having flown RC and simulators (granted, I fly Falcon BMS where the F-16 does not require use of the pilot rudder control in flight) for two decades, it was a fun new challenge doing it for real in a plane that gives feedback etc. So of course, they were FAR from perfect, but I understood it which is a good start I think . The only thing I didn't love about the CT2k was the cockpit/dash; it didn't feel like that of a 'proper' plane - flame suit is now on

                      I have been watching countless hours of videos on YouTube, with my two favourite channels being Plane Old Ben and Rory on Air; they're both great for showing the passion of flying whilst being informative and educational. These have improved my understanding of basic radiotelephony and what squawk codes are for. I have purchased online ground school resources from QuizAero and The Micropilot's Handbook and started my studies.

                      With regards to where to take my flying 'career', I honestly don't know. The dream would be to fly for a job, and turning a true passion into a career, but there are several things in the way, mainly cost, bravery, and, well, myself. I frankly have got the guts to chuck everything into one basket and go the whole way, and I don't think I'd be allowed to. My T1 control is improving, but I've just received a concerning letter about my eyes which could indicate deterioration over the years. Anyways, not going to dwell on that until I know more. So yeah, I'm going for the hobby route for now. As said above, I think the best option for me for now is to treat it like a hobby. I've purchased a logbook and have my official first hour in and I'm not afraid to admit I'm feeling a bit chuffed ha. I'm still a bit torn between going NPPL or LAPL; I know myself that I don't want to fly flex wing. I mean no disrespect to those that enjoy them, but I want to fly three axis, as to me flying is also about flying the plane and I like the traditional 3 axis controls.

                      Here's the next lesson, which probably won't be until about February, as they're pretty much fully booked.

                      Peter Davies, you're not wrong about cars! My last car was a 2009 Skoda Octavia VRS. I was paying ~1600 a year for insurance, tax, MOT/Servicing, parts etc, on top of the ~100 month in fuel. I had enough of that faff when I realised I could lease a brand new BMW 530e for 380 a month. In terms of direct monthly outgoings, it's more than the Skoda, but I don't have to worry about any other costs; there's no up front cost, no worry of having to sell it, tax, insurance, and servicing etc. is all included. Literally everything except petrol is covered in that 380 salary sacrifice. When that lease expires in Jan 2020, I will go back to a normal car; this was a very nice two year treat It is actually saving me petrol costs, as with it being a PHEV, I can do all of my to and from work commute on 5 of leccy a week; the Skoda was costing me ~25 per week, averaging ~26mpg. The BMW is currently on 41mpg average over the last 10 months, and that is lower than it should be as the recent weather has prevented me from charging it as much as I'd like.
                      Last edited by Harry Marshall; 18th December 2018, 10:28.


                      • #12
                        Am I right in saying that I can no longer go for an NPPL and then upgrade it to a LAPL? I gather that was what the April '18 deadline was about?


                        • #13
                          Yes. That door is now shut. There are whispers that it might reopen in some form one day but don't hold your breath. Aviation legislation moves glacially slowly.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by tomshep View Post
                            Yes. That door is now shut. There are whispers that it might reopen in some form one day but don't hold your breath. Aviation legislation moves glacially slowly.
                            So does that mean if I go for NPPL (M) and decide that LAPL is inf act for me, I essentially have to start training again?

                            I need to be realistic; NPPL is probably best for me but I can't help but be tempted by the 4 seat Pa28


                            • #15
                              Which on a hot day and equipped for a lengthy journey is actually 2 adults and two children. That might suit you but expect to spend a lot more money up front and then a lot more money maintaining your licence. It is your money, of course but you have to be honest with yourself. Is this a burning desire to fly, or, bluntly, an ego trip? Wouldn't it be cool to fly a Spitfire, Jungmann, Pitts etc versus sitting in your single seater on a Friday evening after an hour of having the sky to yourself to play in for a tenner, listening to the engine ticking as it cools, the satisfaction of a good landing sinking in before putting the toy back in its box and going for a reflective pint. Microlight flying is the latter. It will never be the former.
                              (Comparison is odious but the PA28 is solid, reliable and very dull to a microlight pilot. The microlight's power to weight ratio gives faster climb rates and better manoevreability.)
                              Price the two out over five years at 25 hours a year. Most people who qualify are gone inside three years. 70% of them.
                              The club aircraft at 150 to 180 an hour will eat a large chunk of your money very fast. Do those hours in a microlight and you will save enough to buy a third share of something modern, economical and capable of distance. You stand a good chance of being in the 30%.

                              I would love to own a nice vintage twin, a Gemini or DH88. I can't. But I have a privilege that only about one in 2500 people have. I am an ordinary working bloke but I have a tiny aeroplane that I can fly. If I ever get rich, I'll buy one with two seats but my glass is pretty well overflowing as it is.
                              Last edited by tomshep; 25th December 2018, 20:20.