How Easy is it to Fly in the UK?
In spite of ever-changing legislation and rising costs, it is still surprisingly easy to get flying in the UK as a private pilot and aircraft owner. Some of the realities of venturing into the joys of aviation in the UK are highlighted below (courtesy of Pilot Magazine).
- Costs of getting your licence: In truth, getting a private pilot's licence from scratch is not all that difficult or expensive. The cost in relation to average disposable income is a lot lower today than in most of the decades since the Wright brothers taught themselves to fly. Bank on spending what one might spend on a family holiday, or whatever a new family car may have depreciated by in just a year or so.
- Cost of ownership: To operate an aeroplane, you used to need the income of a lawyer - nowadays private aviation is open to anyone able to part with a thousand or two a year. It isn't cheap, it costs more than running a car, but it's affordable to most people prepared to make minor sacrifices. Parking a light single-engined aircraft at Oxford Airport costs little more than £80 a month with free landings. That's less than the cost of parking your car each weekday at a local train station.
- Freedom to fly: We do have an amazing amount of freedom as pilots. Anyone can use any piece of land as a private airfield for up to 28 days a year without planning permission, providing they own the land or have the owner's permission. You can take off, fly around and land in most of the UK, including in areas close to towns, without informing anyone or talking on the radio.
- Build your own: Amateurs can build an aeroplane and there has never been such a wide choice of mouth-watering designs and quick-build kits. Amateurs can even design their own aircraft and build it, and do so very successfully.
- Aircraft Maintenance: Whether your aircraft has a Certificate of Airworthiness or a Permit to Fly, you can do all your own maintenance, or even take the entire aircraft apart and rebuild it. The only (very reasonable) requirement is that your work should be overseen and signed for by a licensed engineer, and that you use approved parts and materials.
- Aerobatics: We are still allowed to fly aerobatics without an aerobatic rating, though the aeroplane must be cleared for it.
- New technology: New technology has been a huge benefit to pilots. The mobile phone and GPS are terrific boons to navigation and safety. Carbon fibre and advanced composite technology have dramatically increased airframe efficiency and the speed with which kit aircraft can be completed. And a new generation of light aircraft angines are cheaper and much better than their predecessors.
- Choice and costs of aircraft: You only have to look in the classified adverts in the magazines to appreciate a wonderful range of second-hand aircraft ranging from a slow and graceful 1930's Tiger Moth to a retractable, constant-speed propeller 'wonderplane' with glass cockpit that can whisk you and your passengers around Europe in virtually all weathers. The variety of aircraft on the UK register is extraordinary, from gliders to ex-military jets,all still flown with an ordinary PPL.
To take off from a small 250 yard strip next to your house in an aircraft you might have built yourself, fly aerobatics, then land and put the aircraft away all without having to ask anyone's permission is extraordinary. Even more amazing is that you can do this in an aircraft that might have cost no more than £6,000 and costs under £1,000 a year.
Those dreams can begin to be fulfilled at Oxford Airport by taking that first trial flight or signing up for a training course.