The National Private Pilot Licence [Microlight] (NPPL-M) syllabus is produced by the British Microlight Aircraft Association (BMAA) and consists of 18 defined exercises leading to the grant of a licence to fly microlight aircraft in the UK. The licence is also accepted in a number of European countries subject to certain conditions (details available from the BMAA). The final licence is granted and regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and authorises the pilot to carry a passenger on most flights. The following is a description of the exercises in the syllabus.
Normally the first entry in your logbook - though, if you took a trial flight with us first, we may put Exercise 3 in before it - this is where you first get to meet the aircraft you will be training in. We will show you all of the various controls, instruments and the main component parts of the aircraft and explain, briefly, what they are for. You will be shown how we use check lists to ensure everything is done in the correct order and briefed on action to be taken in the event of a fire - both in the air and on the ground. This exercise will normally be combined with Ex 2 and either Ex 3 or Ex 4.
Normally combined with Ex 1 and logged right at the start, this is an ongoing part of your early training. We will show you the correct way to check the aircraft prior to its first flight of the day and also how to conduct a 'transit check' if it has already flown. You will learn how to fuel the aircraft and check the fuel quality prior to flying, where the fuel is stored and where the nearest fire extinguishers are in the event of a problem. We will cover starting the engine both warm and cold and the correct rpm ranges to be used while it is warming up. Normally, from your second flight, you will be starting and shutting down the engine and we will show how the use of checklists makes this safe and simple. You will learn to park and tie down the aircraft, complete the necessary, post-flight, paperwork and how to assess the best runway for takeoff. All of this will be covered over the first few flights, a little at a time.
If you took a trial flight with us and have elected to buy a logbook to record your flight then Ex 3 will be the first entry we record. The time is counted towards your pilot licence and it will be countersigned by the instructor. If, alternatively, you have decided to start training with us then we will probably combine this with Ex 4.
Either way, as long as the conditions are suitable, you will be offered a chance to handle the controls as you begin to feel how the aircraft responds to your inputs (Note: if you are on a trial flight and feel you do not want to handle the controls just say so - its not compulsory and you can still log the time toward your licence)
This is the first exercise where you will receive a formal briefing from your instructor. This will normally be about 20-30 mins and will be held in one of our fully equipped briefing rooms. It will be based on a whiteboard with additional use of specially prepared models and templates to improve your understanding of the concepts involved. Don't be fooled - 'effects of controls' may sound like a simple title but there's a lot to this exercise and it will take the full hour (or more) of your subsequent flight(s) to fully cover all the aspects of the briefing. The briefing is your best chance to ask questions if your understanding is not completely clear and this is encouraged - nothing says you can't ask them while flying as well but they tend to be easier to answer while in the classroom.
Once complete you should have a good understanding of how each control affects the aircraft both in flight and on the ground. Duration is normally 1 or 2 flying sessions.
There is no briefing for Ex 5 and this exercise is carried out every time you fly but we will likely only log it once or twice. You will learn the correct way to safely manoeuvre the aircraft on the ground with consideration for the current weather conditions, other aircraft and people in the vicinity. You will also learn what to do in the event of an urgent situation developing while taxiing (throttle jammed open, fire etc).
Another simple title - the exercise itself is quite comprehensive. After an initial classroom briefing by your instructor you will take to the skies and will be shown how different factors can affect whether the aircraft flies in a straight line and at a constant altitude. Obviously 'straight and level' is the most efficient way for an aircraft to go anywhere so we will be working to ensure that you are able to counter any adverse external factors and keep the aircraft flying where you want it to go. Normal duration is 1-2 flying sessions.
It makes sense that we can't really do one without the other so exercises 7 + 8 are combined. The briefing is a bit longer than normal because there are 2 distinct exercises in play here. You will learn to climb and descend the aircraft accurately at several different 'key' speeds and discover how each speed affects performance differently. All of our aircraft now have flaps so you will learn how flaps affect the climb or descent performance. By the end of this exercise you should be able to competently climb or descend to a given altitude and also select the required altimeter setting for your phase of the flight. Normal duration is 1-2 flying sessions.
By now you will have learned how to make a 'balanced' turn in the aircraft and will be able to send it in the general direction that you need. This exercise is all about allowing for external influences (wind, turbulence etc) when making turns in relation to objects on the ground. It begins with a briefing from your instructor and you will then fly a number of turns learning how to adjust the aircraft's path and speed to allow for wind. Normal duration is 1-2 flying sessions.
Aircraft do different things when turning depending on whether they are climbing or descending (your instructor will explain more about this in the briefing but, for now, take our word for it). In this session you will practice climbing and descending while turning at various bank angles and will be able to anticipate what to expect when entering one of these fully 3 dimensional situations.
Sufficient airspeed is crucial to flight but there are times, mainly when landing (but there can be other reasons) when we need to slow the aircraft down to a point where we may have less than ideal speed for safe flight. This exercise explores the area of 'slow flight' and its subsequent effects on control of the aircraft and safe recovery techniques to restore normal flight as quickly as possible. The exercise covers the special checks made prior to adopting this mode of flight and, by the end, you will be able to recognise the 'symptoms' of slow flight and how to restore the aircraft to normal flying in the minimum time.
Contrary to what the press may try to tell you - an aircraft does not simply stop flying when it stalls (nor is this, in any way, related to engine problems). A wing will stall for a number of reasons but, generally, this will be due to losing too much airspeed - it doesn't stop flying but it does stop producing enough lift to keep the aircraft flying normally. This exercise explores the regime of the stall and the various recovery possibilities that exist. You will learn that a stall is not such a big event as long as it is correctly, and immediately, recovered and the fastest way to recover the aircraft to normal flight in a number of different flight configurations. It is essential, prior to commencing work in the circuit (Ex 12 + 13) that this exercise has been properly completed. Normal duration is 1 flying session and may be combined with Slow Flight (Ex 10a)
Spinning is a dangerous condition for an aircraft and can occur as a result of mis-handling of the controls. All of our aircraft operate under a 'permit to fly' which states, as part of its conditions, that intentional spinning is prohibited. This means that we are unable to demonstrate a spin and the actions required to recover from it - instead we focus on training our students to instinctively avoid any of the combinations of conditions which could lead to an unintentional spin. This is continuous across all of our flying training but the formal part of this exercise (when it is placed in your log book) is a discussion with an instructor to ensure the student understands the flight conditions which could lead to a spin.
Once you are ready for 'circuit' work your instructor will deliver an in-depth briefing (this one is about 30-40 mins) detailing every step of the circuit [the pattern we fly around the airfield to be predictable to other aircraft and to set up for a consistent landing]. Your first circuit will normally be a demo circuit where your instructor will fly the whole circuit and talk you through each of the points which were briefed - you may ask him to do more than one if you feel it was a bit much in one go. After that its time for you to have a go - the aim is now to start teaching you to fly a consistent circuit and set up a good approach to land on every one - this is where you will now learn to land the aircraft.
These two exercises are the most crucial (and certainly the most frequent) in the whole syllabus and you can expect to spend quite a few hours on this [we will, occasionally, use a later exercise to give you a break from 'non stop circuits'] until you have landing down to a fine art and emergencies in the circuit nailed. Duration of this exercise depends entirely on student aptitude combined with conditions at the time of flights and no estimate is possible.
The licence privileges say pilots can fly at up to 60 degrees of bank and 45 degrees of (node up/down) pitch. Turning at such high bank angles, whilst very efficient, requires a lot more control on the part of the pilot and this exercise introduces you to some of the more extreme edges of the 'permitted flight envelope'. You will learn to handle changes in 'what controls what' as well as the difference in your view of the world as a pilot when executing such manoeuvres. As part of this exercise you will also learn how to avoid entry into a 'spiral dive' and also how to safely exit one should you enter it inadvertently. Duration is normally about 1 hour but you will revisit this exercise as required until it is second nature.
Sounds scary but isn't as bad as the title suggests. As a logical extension of the previous Ex 14, Ex 15 aims to take the student to the absolute edge of the permitted flight envelope. You will, by now, have experienced 60 degs of bank so we will now introduce up to 45 degs plus/minus of pitch and also full power/no power scenarios. Again this exercise will be revisited as often as needed but the end result will be that you can recover the aircraft to safe flight from just about any position we can put you in - and that you will have the confidence to fly to the edge of the envelope without worrying that you may not have the necessary skills to get out of any trouble you may find yourself in.
In the General Aviation world they train for what to do in the unlikely ('if') event that the engine fails. Microlight aviation was born with quite unreliable engines (2 stroke, 2 cylinder engines that tended to stop on a whim) - things have changed a lot since the introduction of the Rotax 912 and we now enjoy engines as reliable [if not more reliable] than our friends in the GA world of larger, heavier aircraft. one thing that hasn't changed, however, is our attitude to train for 'when' it fails rather than 'if'. You will be taught how to assess a suitable landing field for the aircraft type, accounting for the wind direction and strength and how to set the aircraft up for a safe and successful approach to your chosen field. Calming your passenger and shutting the engine, fuel and electrical systems down prior to landing are all part of this exercise and you will revisit this one until you have it to a tee. You can expect to spend several sessions on getting this right since this is the one that will save you and your passenger's lives when the unthinkable happens - you can also expect this to be the theme of any 'revalidation' flights after you have your licence. Part 2 of the exercise works on what to do when you still have a working engine but you are still compelled to land (sick passenger or pilot, rough running engine, fire etc) - we will look at how to assess a suitable field, check the surface and surroundings and set up for a safe 'precautionary' landing.
British weather is quite unpredictable and its not uncommon to find yourself flying into areas where the clouds are getting lower. We are not allowed to climb through the clouds so its important to be able to decide whether to continue, turn round or even land to remain safe. This exercise looks at how to handle the job at very low level - there are huge differences in how the land appears when low down and also rules on how low we can fly in certain circumstances. You will learn how to navigate with a restricted view of the terrain, how to ensure you always have an available landing area, the rules you need to comply with to continue and how to approach the airfield in such conditions. We will normally simulate an engine failure at low level as part of the session so that you are prepared for such an event even under the additional pressure of flying so low down.
There is no prescribed time for this one. You will have carried out numerous circuits (Ex 12+13), several sessions of practice engine failures (Ex 16a) plus a number of sessions where we simulate engine failure whilst in the circuit. You will be doing all of the flying without any assistance, your checks will be faultless, your ability to handle any emergency situation will be without question and all of your take offs and landings will be consistent. When you reach this point in your flying training the instructor will decide that its time to let you have a go on your own and will ask you how you feel about trying this. If you feel at all unsure then you should say so and we will carry on until you do feel ready. If you are happy to go then your instructor will brief you on the flight, carry out a radio check before you depart and will be on the airfield with a radio on hand for the whole of this first solo flight. This is a defining moment for any pilot and you will never forget your first time - you will only ever log Ex 17a once.
Once you have reached solo standard (and assuming the weather is suitable) you will embark on several hours of solo flight. This will normally start with one or two sessions in the circuit and then you will begin to move further out into the local area. Your instructor will brief you on each flight and will help you plan a route and mark it on a chart (map). As you progress with these exercises you will learn the local terrain and landmarks and will develop an instinctive knowledge of how to return to the airfield from any given point.
There are two licences available - full and restricted. The restricted licence places limits on the weather conditions you can fly in and the distance you may fly from the airfield. Generally we will try to take you straight to a full licence but, at certain times of the year or depending on your own time availability, it may be better to put you through the General Skills Test before you have completed everything required for a full licence. If this is the case then you will begin Ex 17c after completing 7 hours of solo flight - if we are going for the full licence then you will have completed 10 hours of solo flight including no less than 3 hours of navigation training (Ex 18). The dual revision takes the form of a 'mock test' and we will take you through every part of the syllabus in one session - you will need to demonstrate a high standard in all of the exercises and your instructor will work with you to iron out any bad habits which have crept in or areas where your understanding of the concepts involved may be lacking. This can last for a number of sessions until all of the aspects of the syllabus are up to 'test' standard. By the time this is completed you should be ready to face the General Skills Test.
Working with your instructor you will plan a cross country flight to another airfield. You will learn how to calculate the effect of wind on your flight, assess the en-route weather for suitability, contact the destination for permission to land, calculate the fuel required, plan a diversion in case your destination proves to be unreachable and check for any airspace restrictions in the area. You will fly, with your instructor, to the destination, land there and complete the necessary paperwork and then return to Clench Common. During the flight you will be learning how to ensure you stay on track, maintain the correct speed and altitude and join the circuit at an unfamiliar airfield. It may take more than one of these 'dual' flights before your skills are suitable for you to do it on your own. Once you have reached the required standard you will fly the same route solo. The second cross country flight will be to a different airfield and may or may not be completed with an instructor first. By the time you have completed this exercise you will have flown at least 3 hours of solo navigation training flights.
This is the culmination of your initial flying training. One your instructor(s) are satisfied that your skills are up to the sufficient standard for a test you will be booked for a session with our Flight Examiner. You will be required to prepare the aircraft for flight and will then be briefed, by the examiner, on the general content of the test along with the possible outcomes. You will then fly the aircraft following instructions from the examiner who will ask you to demonstrate every part of the syllabus. You will be responsible for the whole of the flight (legal compliance, weather considerations, safety factors, navigation etc) and the examiner will observe [and take notes] on your performance. You will need to demonstrate a high standard of handling, knowledge, navigation and general awareness. At several points during this test the examiner will simulate an engine failure by reducing the engine power to idle and you will be expected to demonstrate a safe approach to a suitable landing area in each case. By this stage your approach to the airfield, circuit discipline and landing should be excellent. Assuming all goes well the examiner will tell you that he is happy to pass you and will take you through the paperwork required to complete your application for a licence. From here on you can truly start the task of learning to fly ....