Earning my keys to the sky, the PPL test

It took six tests (five theory and one practical), a lot of hard work and many nervous moments for me to obtain my Private Pilot’s License  (PPL), and the keys to take myself and my friends and family flying!

My first flying lesson was out at Caboolture Aerodrome in a CT-LS, a small two seater recreational aircraft (read about it here!), and after a few lessons I was set on becoming a pilot. However to do so I decided to do my pilot’s training with Aero Dynamic Flight Academy at Maroochydore airport, as it’s close to home and is a controlled airspace (which means there is an air traffic controller directing the traffic).

Flying a stock standard Cessna 172, flight training began with basic manoeuvre, followed by some more advanced manoeuvres such as stalls (putting the aircraft into a configuration where it no longer produces enough lift to fly) and recoveries. I then moved on to flying circuits, finally getting to actually land the plane myself instead of the instructor, stuff was getting serious.

Once the basics were covered off I then got to move on to my navigation training, the stuff I was most excited for – it meant getting out of the Sunshine Coast area and hitting the open skies.

My first navigation flight was to be from Sunshine Coast to Tairo, then Wondai and back to the Sunshine Coast. It all began with the planning, and there was so much to think about! With my instructor we planned around the winds, distances, headings, tracks and ground speeds, which were all so confusing, and then there were airspace restrictions and radio calls to think about. As with all things practice makes perfect, and I eventually became more comfortable with navigation planning and flights to the point where I was able to take my first solo navigation flight!

I got ready and planned it to death until I was just waiting on the aircraft to return back from the last student, then the news arrived…the previous student walked in stating there was no pressure in the left brake pedal. Sure enough, the left brake had leaked it’s hydraulic fluid out. After waiting up in Hervey Bay for half an hour the aircraft was fixed I eventually got leave on my solo nav, now a whole lot more nervous as the wait just got me thinking about all that could go wrong. Despite my concerns the flight went relatively smoothly and I returned home happily after a beautiful flight.

Following one more solo nav I began my lead up to my PPL practical exam. The PPL would allow me to fly as ‘Pilot in Command’ of an aircraft and to take passengers with me.

My flight test was to fly from Sunshine Coast to Nanango, over to Toowoomba, down to Archerfield (Brisbane) and then back up to the Sunshine Coast and encompassed everything from a small grass airstrip on a slope, to military airspace, to controlled airspace with big jets. After getting home I was thrilled to hear that I passed and couldn’t have been more excited!

Of course there were also the multiple theory exams. The first was a flight theory test before my first solo, to ensure I had the basics of flying circuits and also a radio communications test. Another was making sure I knew the procedures. After that was the Basic Aeronautical Knowledge  (BAK) test and then my nav training and finally, the PPL test itself, making sure I knew everything the private pilot needs to know.

Next stop, Wings Around the World

– Lachie