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Mandatory training: why?

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Do we really need mandatory training for private light (or perhaps ultralight) GA?

Many of us learned to drive cars, motorcycles, tractors etc. without mandatory training. The same goes for chain saws, kitchen knives, guns, lathes and all the other tools and machinery which set the human race apart from other critters. We mostly learned to drive, ride, shoot, do carpentry, peel potatoes etc. from parents and siblings – and some of us survived. As children, we learned to make muzzle-loaders from watching the live display at Gettysberg, and as grown up children we taught ourselves how to make target rifles and set records with them. In the process, we learned a measure of responsibility, to recognise when we might need help or advice and to shy away from infringing the laws of physics.

The US ultralight community manages quite well without mandatory training – albeit with the occasional Darwin award for some who overestimate their innate abilities.

The first aviators taught themselves; no longer necessary or wise, to my mind (especially with a helicopter ) but why not leave it up to the individual private pilot to decide what training he needs and when?

Glenswinton, SW Scotland, United Kingdom

This is a very good question.

I am a sailor, an engineer, flew model airplanes, and spent thousands of hours playing with simulators prior to learning to fly. I am certain that I could have taught myself to fly. My recollection is that my instructor did not touch the controls on my first flight, and maybe had the controls for perhaps 45 minutes of the 25 hours of dual instruction that it took me to get my license. However, this does not necessarily mean that I could have learned all of the subtle aspects of flying by myself. I suspect that good habits acquired early in one’s aviation career will play out such that your life expectancy is extended :-). But how to acquire these?

The trick is finding the right instructors and mentors along the way. A lot of us could do this own our own, but the structure of most PPL programs delivers syllabus that works for pretty much everybody.

I found the Canadian (and very similar US) system to be quite good. I understand the UK system is not that different, but I find it annoying that they have one book for each category and (Air Law, Human Performance, etc) and an exam for each. It just seems over the top and unnecessary, like the authors were trying to draw the subject out… The US and Canadian systems only have one book and one exam.

This all being said I don’t really object to the PPL programs; but what does irritate me is when the governing bodies start mandating training for this, checkout for that (constant speed prop, etc). I think pilots should be able to use their own discretion…

Last Edited by Canuck at 22 May 16:42
Sans aircraft at the moment :-(, United Kingdom

I think a skills test and written test without any mandatory syllabus would be fine, particularly if limited to Class E or less. FAA practice is a little more elaborate, a minimum number of training hours, cross country hours etc without any additional specifics, but even then its just a ‘license to learn’ that obviously does not attempt to make you a skilled pilot. From there you learn from other pilots and from your own experience.

From first principles, I think the skills test only needs to be in relation to operating within government controlled airspace, i.e. Class D and up. Outside of that, the current law has very little purpose except protecting the public from itself, which is arguably not a great benefit – that’s a matter of opinion, not fact.

I taught myself to ride a motorcycle off road without supervision, starting at age 9 when I bought my first (broken) minibike for $25. My dad had to pay to get it running, which cost another $12 I later taught myself to drive off road cars at age 15 and don’t remember doing much other than driving around on the streets with a licensed driver before taking the driving test at 16. I had to take a written test, I’m sure, but I don’t remember. I also rode motorcycles on the street starting at 15-1/2, but didn’t get a motorcycle specific licence for several more years – nobody here including the police cared much at that time. I remember taking the motorcycle skills test on an 83 HP Honda, I think I was about 20 at that time, with 11 years of intense motorcycling experience. I’ve never been hurt on a motorcycle over the subsequent decades, so it seems to have worked for me.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 22 May 17:09

Jacko wrote:

Do we really need mandatory training for private light (or perhaps ultralight) GA?

As far as I’m aware you don’t need any license to fly a single-person paraglider or paramotor in the UK.


Every year I take many highly motivated and selected young(ish) individuals through the LAPL and PPL course. Even on intensive training, the course minimums are pretty much spot on to achieve licence issue (and test) standard so I am very supportive they are about right. Many people take more.

As an FI/FE I get a lot of the ‘don’t see why I/they have to do that’ but that is either from experienced people who aren’t really remembering what their skill/knowledge level was like before, or people who “don’t know what they don’t know”.

We aviate in a shared environment and get the privilege to fly third parties who do not have the same ability to assess the risk to themselves, so I don’t think it isn’t surprising that some baselines are laid down.

Posts are personal views only.
Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

You don’t need a licence to fly a glider in the UK (including self-launch) but you will need insurance and they like to see some BGA/CAA papers

ESSEX, United Kingdom

I should perhaps have put « mandatory » in boldface. My own feeling is that flight instruction is useful and often more convenient than learning by one’s own mistakes, but, to paraphrase Silvaire, that the law has no business protecting individuals from themselves. That, incidentally, aligns closely with the formally stated view of the UK CAA.

The problem is this twin argument that “we aviate in a shared environment and get the privilege to fly third parties who do not have the same ability to assess the risk to themselves”.

That all pilots operate in a shared environment is, at best, a misconception by people who live in crowded places. Most of the time, I have all of Dumfries & Galloway’s 20,000 -odd cubic kilometres of uncontrolled airspace to myself and I know a few local pilots who have never strayed out of this region. They only share their local environment with buzzards, kites and gulls, none of whom give a flying fig for Part-FCL or SERA.

As for the proposition that “all non-pilots are so stupid that they don’t understand the risk of flying with a private pilot”, well, that’s also far from my experience and I think the burden rests on anyone advancing such a proposition to substantiate it.

Glenswinton, SW Scotland, United Kingdom

Jacko wrote:

Do we really need mandatory training for private light (or perhaps ultralight) GA?

It’s only 45 hours for PPL. 40 for LAPL (I think) and 30 for UL. That’s less than a week’s work.


LeSving wrote:

40 for LAPL (I think)

It’s 30 hours for the LAPL only. Less applicants make it in minimum hours than PPL students, as the reduction in required training and skills is not “worth” 15 hours difference IMHO.

Friedrichshafen EDNY

Jacko wrote:

Do we really need mandatory training for private light (or perhaps ultralight) GA?

Then why bother with a license? A license is just one part of safety system. Sure some could learn completely on there own (very very rare IMHO), but many could get around a circuit with fewer hours or less hours to make a flight from A to B, especially on a good day, but what about a less good day?

From an instructing perspective it serves as a guide for an instructor. I could often get a student through their first flight with patter only, but that just proved they were human. If there was no minimum training, it becomes a more difficult judgement call for instructors as student moves through the program and it is more difficult for the examiner.

For the proponents of no mandatory training would you accept a higher test failure rate ?

As far a protecting the public, many laypeople actually consider a basic pilots license as someone with the equivalent of a CPL/IR

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