The biggest challenge that faces all new pilots on completion of their licences is keeping the licence maintained. By this, I mean flying the required amount per year to stop your licence expiring. One way many pilots achieve this is to try new things, which is a great way to keep your flying hobby interesting and varied.
The most basic requirements that the CAA require from you to keep your licence current is to fly 12 hours every 2 years, of which a minimum of 12 hours must be in the second year. In addition there is a requirement for a minimum of 1 of these hours to completed with an instructor, who will sign your logbook/licence to confirm this flight has happened. This requirement might sound a little strange, but essentially you could fly 0 hours between gaining your licence and the end of your first year of flying, so long as there is 12 flying hours completed in year 2 you are good to go.
If you let it lapse, no big deal, just a renewal test with an instructor will fix that. But what if you keep your licence valid, but find exploring your local part of sky gets a little tiresome after a while? Fear not, there is plenty for a pilot to do if you’re happy to keep learning! From Aerobatics to Instrument ratings, there really is no end of learning when it comes to flying and if you’ve got the desire to keep training then you can almost never become bored of this wonderful hobby.
Is flying the right way up a little too boring? Aerobatics is often seen as the ultimate of freedom in the air, the ability to fly in 3 dimensions, doing complex manoeuvres and seeing the ground above your head is a huge draw to many pilots. Plenty of schools in the country provide training for aerobatics, all you need to do is get in contact and book a trial lesson. From there you can progress into getting Aerobatics ratings, participating in aerobatic competitions and when you have sufficient experience even becoming a show pilot. Simple maneuvers such as loops and rolls, all the way up to lomcevaks and tail slides, often your imagination and your ability to cope with the G forces is your limit with high powered and super-nimble aircraft.
Instrument Rating / IMC
Ever wanted to fly above the clouds? Want the safety net of being able to fly when the conditions become poor? The standard PPL licence is a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) licence, meaning you must be in sight of the surface at all times, with visibility no less than 5km. There are two types of instrument rating; the full blown Instrument Rating and the slightly slimmed down Instrument Rating (Restricted), originally and regularly referenced to as the IMC Rating. The main difference between the two is the fill IR contains an element of “airway” work, meaning you fly in the imaginary highways in the skies within class A airspace, under full control from ATC and mixing it up with jet transport aircraft from all around the world.
Tailwheel / Farm Strip
Not an official “rating”, more a differences course with no minimum requirements of time to complete. These courses cover the handling of an aircraft with a tailwheel, think Piper Cub, or Spitfire. The course will cover things from taxiing to taking off and landing. Air work is not the focus of this course, apart from the usual stalling and practice forced landings that are a given on a new plane, but the ground aspect is so completely different to normal “tricycle” aircraft that you will spend a lot of time doing touch and goes and landings.
Often these tailwheel courses incorporate a “farm strip” element, effectively learning to land on short, less prepared landing strips with approaches potentially littered with obstacles. From a hand flying point of view, the tailwheel and farm strip courses are exceptionally good fun and test your skills as a pilot. Whilst not as exciting as aerobatics, or as high speed and precise to the numbers as the IR(R)/IMC, these are great for pilots who just like to look out the window and enjoy flying at its most basic.
The multi engine rating, often seen as a step on the way to a Commercial and IR licence, is actually a PPL rating. The course itself covers the differences between flying single engine planes and multi engine. It’s a minimum of 6 hours in length, where you will cover items from ground checklists, all the way to single engine approaches and go-arounds. A lot of the multi engine rating focuses on flying with only a single engine operating, using the rudders to keep the aircraft in control. All aspects of normal flying are completed with only one engine operated to see how asymmetric thrust effects the aircraft.