Ever since I was "little" I have always been fascinated by aircraft. Though my father's work, I was lucky enough to start experiencing air travel from an early age, we lived on one of the approaches to Cape Town International Airport (FACT), and we drove past Yesterplaat Air Force Base (FAYP) on a regular basis. Around 1996/7 I started playing with flight simulation. From October 2005 to October 2006 I was working in Francistown and I met a pilot there who came over to "fly" quite often. He took one look at me and said that the bug had bitten. My ex-girlfriend was also very supportive of my taking flying lessons. So, this year, I am taking the plunge and going for it!

Flying Schools

My first problem was to find a flying school and instructor. My pilot-friend's advice was to find the oldest instructor as they would still be alive, and have developed a sense of humour by that stage in their flying career. My criteria for the airport I wanted to learn from, were that it had to be reasonably close to home and have reasonable amount of traffic to fly in. The closest airports to me are Lanseria (FALA), Rand (FAGM), and Grand Central (FAGC). Grand Central is advisory flying only and the Midrand road traffic is terrible, so I took it off the list. That left Lanseria and Rand. I interviewed three flying schools at Rand (Air Safety, Rand Flight Academy and Johannesburg School of Aviation), and two at Lanseria (Wits Flying Club and Lanseria Flight Centre). All of them were about the same price, looked to have the same professionalism, and about the same quality of aircraft.

The only school I that asked me what I was going to really do with a license was Wits Flying Club. All the rest were quite happy to take my money and get me a license, and there is nothing wrong with that, as they are all businesses there to make a living. I think I was also very lucky to speak to the person I did at WFC, as he fits the profile of an ideal instructor described by my pilot-friend. So, I have found a flying school and an instructor. It turns out that my instructor was also one of the people who taught my friend to fly: small world!

Initial Hurdles

There are four main hurdles to starting flying lessons. The first two are time and money, and I have solved them. The next two are the insurance and flight medical. Flying schools have insurance on their aircraft, but there is an excess amount that I have to get cover for. The excess at WFC for a Cessna 172 is R20000, and I have organised cover for R116.00 per month. The flight medical was a lot "nicer" than I though it would be. The medical covered my history, motor skills, flexibility, reflexes, hearing, sight, and an EGC and took just over an hour. The doctor also asked for some blood tests for baseline monitoring on a few items. The medical cost R750.00, and the blood tests were R340.10. I also had to go for chest X-rays which cost R244.40 at the N17 private hospital in Springs. But the big thing is that I passed, so I now have a South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Aviation Class 2 Medical Certificate stating that I am fit to fly, as long as I wear my glasses.


I purchased Worthington's Private Pilot's Handbook (R240.00), South African Air Law for Private Pilots (R120.00), a logbook (R165.00), and a 1:500000 Johannesburg sectional chart (R40.00). I now have more reading to do. I purchased an Avcomm AC-454 PNR headset (R1450.00). It is a middle-of-the-range headset, but it has all the necessary features including a built-in Push-to-Talk (PTT) button. This was about 15% cheaper than other prices I'd found, so I went for it. It will also be the last major expense item for now. I purchased Dietlind Lemmp's Pilot's Radio Handbook (R130.00) for the radio course. I finally have the correct Cessna 172 manual (R125.00). I bought a fuel tester for just-in-case (R55.00). I have finally managed to get a Johannesburg 1:1000000 sectional chart (R40.00). I got the Johannesburg VFR 1:250000 (R69.00) map today, which has lots of extras like radio masts, more ground detail, and will be very useful for cross-country flying. I got the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP), which is basically everything you ever wanted to know about flying and airports in South Africa but were too afraid to ask. It comes in two volumes with updates every three months (R400.00). I bought a WFC cap this weekend (R114.00). It's a very nice embroidered cap and I'll post a pic of it sometime. I bought a combination ruler and protractor and a flight computer (R202.00). The computer is basically a circular slide rule used for wind drift and converting between speed and times, fuel and endurance etc. It doesn't need batteries. I have finally bought my backup tranceiver. I settled on a Vertex Standard VXA-300 (R3095.00). One very nice feature is being able to tune the VOR navigation beacons, so it is a backup navigation radio as well. My AIP subscription (R310.00) and SPL currency fees (R295.00) came through). This is so that I keep on receiving updates and my license stays valid. My latest purchases were a set or PPL notes and worksheets from Aeronav Academy (R832.20), the updated air law book including the new Part 61 information (R145.00) and a flying bumper sticker (R11.00). I also purchased a pair of dividers (R220.00) and a Douglas (square) protractor (R110.00). I got the Avex Ppl notes (R500.00). I purchased a proper flight bag (I have collected too much flying "stuff" for my current one) and a Lightspeed Zulu Active Noise Cancellation headset. I can feel my hearing is not quite what it used to be and I should protect what I have left. In total, the bill came to just over R9000, but it is still a better price that I would have been able to get locally. I used Sporty's in the USA, their product range, prices and service is good.

Courses and Exams

I've attended the Restricted Radio-Telephony License theory course. This license is a must-have for flying in South Africa. The restricted license covers pretty much everything the General license does, except for IRF radio and instrument procedures. The theory behind the course is very interesting as actual R/T procedures are only about 30% of the course material. The rest covers the different types of airspace, how to file flightplans, the different types of navigational beacons and instruments, emergency procedures when radios stop working, and a whole lot more. There is still more studying that I have to do in my own time (Morse code etc), but when I am ready, I can do the exam which has a written and practical parts to it. When I have passed that, I can go to the CAA and get my Student Pilot's License and Radio License at the same time.

I have now written my Student Pilot License exams. I passed all three of them (Air Law 80%, Aircraft Technical 100%, Restricted Radio 82%). The exams were harder and easier than I thought they would be. There were some trick questions, some you just had to know, and others where you had to apply knowledge to situations. I've also been to CAA in Midrand to get my Student Pilot License (R310.00) and my Restricted RT License. Now I'm legal to fly solo.

I have written five out of the seven PPL Theory exams, two to go.


For those of you have been asking, here is a photo of one of the aircraft I have been training on. It is ZS-ODA, a 1970's Cessna 172B Skyhawk. The second one is of me starting up for a lesson. If you look really closely you can see me in the cockpit with my instructor. The photos are courtesy of Grant Ward.

ODA parked

10 June 2007 11h03

Click for larger image

Me starting ODA

10 June 2007 12h24

Click for a larger image

Flying Lessons

Lesson 1 (18 Feb 2007): The first part was in a classroom and covered the effect of controls on an aircraft. Next came a detailed lesson on how to do the pre-flight inspection. I got the procedure for checking the levels in the fuel tanks wrong so we ended up going to fill up as well, so at least I know where to get fuel from. Avgas is R6.92 per litre. Jet fuel is about a Rand cheaper. The actual flying lesson involved practically testing the effects of the different control inputs on the aircraft, turns, climbs, descents, cruise descents, how speed affects the effectiveness of controls, and how to get out of a spiral dive. Quite a mouthful for my first time, but I was getting "bakgat" comments from my instructor so I must have doing reasonably ok. I did the take-off, but he did nearly all of the landing. Afterwards he wanted to give his Piper Twin Comanche a quick run to turn over the engines etc, so he invited me to join him. He did the take-off and landing and controlled the engines, but left the rest of the flying to me which was quite nice.

Lesson 2 (23 Feb): I headed over to my instructor's home for a radio lesson. This involved my first look at the 1:1000000 Johannesburg sectional chart, which is a map showing all the controlled airspace for Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Freestate and Natal, and Southern Botswana. It has the frequencies for the various controllers and the airspace they control. The idea behind this is to plan which controllers and frequencies you need to have, and knowing which airspace you will be flying in for the flight you are going to make. After that, my instructor hauled out his training kit which involves two battery-powered boxes, each with socket to plug in a headset, a PTT button and connected by a long cable. He disappeared off into his lounge while I stayed at the dining room table. He took on the role of the controllers, while I practised the various radio calls. This was very good practise to prepare me for doing radio work for real.

Lesson 3 (25 Feb): This morning I headed back to Lanseria for my next flying lesson. I did the whole pre-flight and only had to be reminded on one item. Unfortunately this was a critical item. I did get to see what water in the fuel looks like, as a little had collected in one of the tank check points. After the preflight, we climbed in and started up. I then got to make my first radio call to Lanseria Ground requesting taxi clearance. The radio work was interesting, and it added another item to the list of things to do and keep track of while flying. The new things in flying lesson consisted of climbing and descending turns, and steep turns, where the bank angle is almost 60 degrees. It all went a lot better than I thought it would, and I was starting to get more accustomed to the flying work as well. My instructor did some of the radio calls in the training area. Heading back to Lanseria, I had to do all the radio calls again (with some prompting here and there). I actually saw and participated in more of the landing this time, compared to the first lesson where it went by in a blur. My next lesson will be a recap of everything done so far plus stalls, and then after that I will be starting on circuits.

Lesson 4 (18 Mar): This morning there were a few problems with the pre-flight inspection: the aircraft manual was missing from the flight bag, the flight folio had not been updated by the previous pilot (easy to fix), the left main tyre was a bit flat (pumped the tyre), and there was a leak from one of the fuel test valves on the left wing tank. The fuel leak was stopped with some prestik (wonderful stuff), but these problems were still enough to ground the aircraft. Instead, we had a ground lesson on stalls, with some practising for me to do at home before we try again next weekend. I have also been practising radio procedures by doing imaginary flights from FALA to FAGM and then to Benoni-Boksburg (FABB), Springs (FASI) or Dunottar and back while commuting to work. I am feeling a lot happier about the radio work. The radio license course and exam is going to be held early in April.

Lesson 5 (25 Mar): The sky was very hazy, the worst I've seen so far. It was so bad we had fun making out the runway at first when approaching to land (I almost thought the N14 was the airport as it was a straight paved area). The pre-flight went without a hitch. My taxiing is a lot better. I am starting to get the hang of using differential braking to stay on the !#$%^&* yellow line in the middle of the taxiway in sharp corners. My radio work was also a bit better this time, practise makes perfect I hope. My flying is starting to get a bit more natural, as opposed to thinking about everything. The new thing to start remembering now is checklists, but there are some nice acronyms for them, just have to use the right one at the right time. Now the fun part: stalls. Stalls in a Cessna 172 are relatively benign, and the stall warning goes off a good 5-10 mph before the aircraft actually stalls. Recovery was relatively easy too, and I only went into an incipient spin once; not terrifying but not fun either. I'm amazed how low the stall speed (depending on mass etc) actually is. Also, for a full-power stall, I was getting a bit worried about the almost 45 nose-up attitude and the airspeed indicator registering almost nothing. It is also very hard to actually make the aircraft stall, although I'm sure it is a lot easier to make a mistake and stall, but at least I know what to look for and how to correct it. The last new thing was starting to use radio beacons for navigation.

Lesson 6 (1 Apr): Today we started with circuits. A circuit involves taking of, doing a rectangular loop (upwind, crosswind, downwind, base and final leg) around the airfield and landing again. The landing can be a full stop or a touch-and-go. This is to develop landing skills and co-ordinating everything learnt previously (turns, climbs, descents, radio) at a much faster pace. The first three landings today were assisted, but the last two I did on my own, yippee! The first one was bounced, but the second one was a bit better. The problem is that I'm rounding out a little too high above the runway. This I can practise at home though. I got another "bakgat", and my instructor commented that if anything happens to him during a lesson, at least I will be able to get the plane back on the ground in one piece. This coming weekend is the radio course (and more circuits). I have the prescribed book and I have started reading it. There's a lot more involved in it than I thought there would be. This will be another elephant: one bite at a time.

Lesson 7 (8 Apr): Today was more circuit training. This time I did four out of the five landings, and they were generally better than last time. I am still working out at what height I should be rounding out, but the circuits themselves were better. I had a problem with my take-off trim setting which made the initial flying more difficult, but once that was sorted out, the flying part was better. Hopefully next time things will be even better. At this stage it's practise, practise, practise. Once I get the landings right, my instructor says he's going to start making things more difficult. Yippee?

Lesson 8 (1 May): More circuits today. As promised, they were made more difficult today, with a little help from Mother Nature: there was a 10-15 knot gusting cross-wind 60 from the left of the runway. While doing the run-up checks I could feel the wind pushing against the control surfaces. This also involved turning the yoke so that the ailerons were into the wind while taxiing to limit the effects of the wind possibly lifting a wing and tipping the aircraft. To practise rounding out at the correct height, the first three touch-and-goes were more for practising flying as close as possible to the runway without actually touching it. This was also practise for landing in a cross-wind. This entailed right rudder to keep the nose straight, left aileron to stop the aircraft being blown over and throttle to maintain altitude. The first time around was "broek-kak", but then I started to get the hang of it. Lots more practise is still needed, but that I can work on at home on flightsim. The fourth circuit was a landing which went quite well, and for the last one my instructor threw a simulated "engine-out" emergency landing at me. For this one, the engine was idling the whole time and I had to glide to the runway. The main idea with these is to get back to the runway in as short a distance as possible. I have been promised at least one of these every time from now on, and some other surprises. My instructor says my radio work is pretty much up to the standard required for PPL.

Lesson 9 (2 June): More circuits. There was not that much wind this time, nothing like last time. It was quite chilly, so the air density was higher, so better climb rates and more oomph from the engine. This time I did all five landings unassisted. My flying was a bit better, but I did get distracted looking out for traffic, so my circuit altitude drifted a few times. Need to work on multi-tasking. The landings themselves are not too bad, getting better slowly though. We still both survive and the aircraft is still usable afterwards. My instructor wants me to write the student pilot exams in the next few weeks (aircraft technical information, radio and air law), without which I cannot fly solo. I think this might mean that I might be sent up solo in the not too distant future. Something to look forward. Oh well, more studying to do, but the reward should be worth it!

Lesson 10 (10 June): I got some taxiing practise this time. During the run-up checks, the one magneto had a 250 rpm drop which was too much to fly safely. I spent the rest of the time working on the club's flight simulator. There is a concerted effort on the go at the moment to get it running again.

Lesson 11 (17 June): More circuits, but today was some of the busiest traffic I've flown in. Talking to the ground controller was fine, but it was hard to get a word in edgeways with the tower controller. We did two extended downwind legs trying waiting to turn onto base. My circuits are better, I am keeping my altitude close to 5500ft, I still need to work a bit on my glideslope, but it is getting better. The interesting part of the lesson was two simulated engine failures, one after take-off and one in the circuit. With the problems of talking to the tower, we could not get permission fast enough to do an emergency landing back onto the runway after takeoff, but my instructor had me looking for fields. The emergency landing while in the circuit was better than the previous time, I just rounded out a bit too high so we landed with a bit of a bump. Overall my landings are getting better. My instructor says he's confident enough that I wont break a plane, and I got another "bakgat". I am going to write my Student Pilot Exams next weekend, hope it goes well.

Lesson 12 (24 June): More emergency procedures today. We managed to get an engine-failure-on-take-off back onto the runway emergency, and some aiming for fields past the runway. We also did some emergency landings in the circuit. I got my first taste of wake turbulence. A Boeing of some sort came in to land on 06L, I was the next one in on 06R, but the last part of the approach was very bumpy. Now I know what to expect next time. The landings are still improving.

Lesson 13 (30 June): This lesson was more circuits, but also a check-ride with a different instructor. My instructor today is also a designated PPL examiner and a captain with SAA/Mango. This time we did 6 circuits: 3 normal and 3 low-level. Low-level circuits are more a race-track pattern than a rectangle, and they are also flown at a circuit altitude of 500 ft compared to the normal 1000 ft above the runway. This instructor has a slightly different approach to landings, and I learnt some good tips from him which will help me improve even more. My flying hours have now made it into double figures.

Lesson 14 (15 July): Today we went for a flight out to the general training area to do spins. The first thing is to gain a lot of altitude. Then you stall the aircraft, kick in some rudder, one wing drops and you look directly at the ground and start spinning. I did not enjoy the first one at all. The next ones were better when I started understanding the explanation given during the briefing and the recovery procedure. Kids, don't do this at home! Spin practise is excellent aversion therapy. But if it ever does happen to me, I will know what to do. The Push-to-Talk button failed today, so I had to use the one built into my headset. Many thanks again to my instructor for recommending that feature. I now have my spin endorsement in my logbook. I will be praying for wind the next time I go flying, as landing in bad coss-winds are the only outstanding item on the list before I can go solo. I'm visiting the nice people at CAA on Tuesday to get my licenses. Oh, I almost forgot, my landing was the smoothest one I've ever done. I still need to put the plane down on the nice stripy white line in the middle of the runway.

Lesson 15 (12 August): Today I was hoping for wind so we could do cross-wind landings. Unfortunately it only started blowing near the end of the lesson, so I'll be having at least one more lesson of circuits to get cross-wind landings right. At least I have been shown the techniques in low winds. After that I should be able to go solo.

Lesson 16 (26 August): The wind played along today so we managed to do cross-wind landings. It was only about a 10 knot cross-wind, but it was enough to do some practise. Unfortunately the wind dies down a bit into the lesson, so we only did four circuits. I was concentrating a bit too much on keeping on the centre-line and not enough on rounding out and holding off so the plane could land itself so the landings were a bit bumpy. The actual circuit flying was good. But the big thing is that my instructor reckons I'm ready to go solo. So, if the weather is good next weekend, I might be going up alone. I'm feeling excited but also rather nervous. I will probably be a lot more nervous ("broekkak") when I do go up alone.

Lesson 17 (2 September): Today my instructor first did 4 circuits with me, including a simulated engine failure on take-off and a go-around. The he had me drop him off at the control tower and sent me off to do a circuit on my own. I was very aware of the empty seat next to me as I taxi'd to the runway, but after that I did not have time to worry about it or feel nervous. My first solo landing was actually the best one of the day. The tower controller even congratulated me (I think they do that for everyone). So, I have finally gone SOLO!!!!!! For the next three lessons, I have to do more solo circuits to make sure I can do it on my own.

Lesson 18 (9 September): Today was more solo circuits, first two with my instructor and then three by myself. My first landing was a bit hard, the second one I floated a lone way, but the third one was quite good, I even got to do some crosswind correction.

Lesson 19 (23 September): Today I flew with a different instructor. We did four circuits together and then I did three more solo. Today there was a crosswind, but it was variable between 12 and 18 knots, so every circuit was different. Because of the wind direction, the circuits were all left-handed for runway 24. Previously I had always done right-handed circuits for runway 6. What made it even more fun was that I was given landings on both runways 24L and 24R. I finally realised on my first solo circuit that I was crossing controls (ailerons) the wrong way to compensate for the crosswind while doing left-handed circuits, which explained why I was being blown to the side of the runway.

Lesson 20 (30 September): Today was more solo circuits. The weather was not the greatest. The wind was constantly changing direction. I'd be correcting for crosswinds changing from either side of the runway on final, and then landing straight into the wind. It also started raining on the last circuit. I also learned a good lesson about slower aircraft and how you can creep up on them over a few circuits. Only one more set of solo circuits, then I should be off to the training area to practise everything I did there earlier by myself again.

Lesson 21 (12 October): Today was supposed to have been part training and part finishing solo circuits. It was the first sunny day in almost 2 weeks, and I think everyone else was out making use of it too. It was one of the nicest days for flying I have had so far; the visibility was incredible. The circuit was very busy coming back so there was no time to do my last few solo circuits. I'll do them next time. Today was the first lesson on forced landings which was "fun". This involves the instructor pulling all the power off. Then you have to find somewhere to land (field or road), figure out how to get to it, do fault-finding to try and figure out why the engine died, try and restart it, do a Mayday call, brief passengers, get the plane ready for the landing and eliminate the possibility of fire. Very busy. I also did some steep turns, and I was surprised by how well and how badly I did them as I haven't done any of those for many months. The flight back was fun as we did some low-level flying. My instructor's idea of low-level is 200ft AGL, mine is more like 500ft AGL, but we got a great view of some very nice houses near Hartebeespoort. My brain was getting rather tired near the end and I fluffed one radio call which I was rather annoyed about, but to make up for it I apparently caught one my instructor didn't.

Lesson 22 (28 October): Today was more practising simulated forced landings and we did a simulated precautionary landing too. My flying was a bit sloppy today and my approach and landing was kak. I need to do some circuits again.

Lesson 23 (11 November): Today was more emergency procedures in the general flying training area. The wind picked up a lot coming over the Magaliesberg mountains and made flying not very enjoyable at all. In the end we packed it in and went back to Lanseria.

Lesson 24 (25 November): Today was some brushing up on circuits as I had gotten very rusty on landings. There was a good crosswind blowing (12 knots) so I had to work at them. Apart from the middle one which was rather hard, the others were not too bad. The last time I did circuits was 8 weeks ago. It went a lot better than I thought it would.

Lesson 25 (1 December): Today was my first solo flight to the general training area. For me this was much more significant than my first solo flight (circuit), as I was away from Lanseria with no nice long tarred runway right there in case of trouble. I had a much bigger grin on my face when I got back this time. I did some medium and steep turns and a simulated forced landing. My landing back at Lanseria was ok.

Lesson 26 (17 December): The weather was rather dicey for most of today but it ended up a beautiful afternoon for flying. I went off to the general training area again. I did more turns, and practiced another forced landing, and I would have made it if it was for real. I forgot the passenger briefing though. Back at Lanseria I did three circuits which were ok, and it also involved a change in wind and a go-around to position for landing in the other directions.

Lesson 27 (16 February 2008): Two months since my last lesson. The car unfortunately swallowed my January flying budget. I had done some flying on my simulator setup at home, but I was still very rusty. I went out with my instructor to the general training area. I did some medium and steep turns which weren't too bad. Then we did stall and spins again. These went better than I though they would. The really bad part was my approaches and landings. They were terrible. Next time I will be doing circuits again.

Lesson 28 (23 February): This morning my instructor gave me a choice between doing circuits at Lanseria or Brits. Brits is also about the closest decent alternative uncontrolled airfield to Lanseria in case of communication failure, so off to Brits we went. Brits airfield is a narrow short runway alongside a mountain, so it was interesting to do circuits at. Once again, my approaches and landings are still bad! I will be doing circuits for a while still.

Lesson 29 (22 March): Once again a while between lessons. This time was circuits on a cool, wet afternoon after the rain finally stopped. I was expecting my circuits to be terrible, but it actually turned out to be a pretty good session. My instructor threw five emergencies at me, and with a few pointers I was handling them all well at the end. My instructor reckoned I should do one dual session in the general training area and then I should be good to finish my solo exercises. Then it's on to cross-country and navigation. I need to find somewhere I can do a ground school course.

Lesson 30 (24 March): Today was a refresher trip out to the general flying area. Medium and steep turns, and forces and precautionary landings. It all went reasonably well, so I am again cleared for solo flights out to the general flying area. Another two or three fights the and I should be up for a check-ride and then onto navigation exercises. It's nice to be back on track again.

Lesson 31 (30 March): Today was supposed to be a refresher trip out to the general flying area to do exercises. Unfortunately the weather came in so I flew back to Lanseria.

Lesson 32 (5 April): Today was my first cross country navigation exercise. I had to do the flight planning for a trip from Lanseria to Brits (FABS), Rustenberg (FARG) and then back to Lanseria. This involved planning the route, calculating the corrections for wind, planning fuel consumption, completing the weight and balance sheet, and filing a flight plan. The flight itself was not too bad, the touch-and-go's at Brits and Rustenberg were actually quite good. My timing was a bit out as the one leg involved climbing for a long time at lower speeds. Next time I get to the same route in reverse solo. After the flying, I was put on the simulator for some instrument flying training. This involved practising climbs, descents, turns, combinations flying by instruments only. I have done this a few times at home before, but this was a much better lesson as my instructor gave me more information on turn rates and how to use the instruments properly. Much more practise is still needed.

Lesson 33 (13 April): Today was supposed to have been my first solo cross-country navigation exercise, but the weather decided against it. Lanseria and surrounding were fogged in. Instead I spent an hour with my instructor on the simulator doing more instrument flying procedures. This time he included a lesson on how to navigate using NDB's (non-directional beacon), and how to do an NDB-approach. It went a lot better than last time!!! I took a picture of my track on the instructor's station which I will download off the phone and post on here. It looks almost like the track of a VFR approach. I was quite impressed.

Lesson 34 (27 April): The weather finally played ball this weekend. I did my first solo cross-country, flying to Rustenburg for a touch-and-go), flew over Brits and then back to Lanseria. I found Rustenburg right where it should be, but I drifted off course a bit on the way to Brits. The road I used as a reference was the wrong one, but I realised that something was wrong and corrected for it. My landings weren't too bad.

Lesson 35 (28 April): Today the flying club had a fly-in to Kittyhawk (FAKT) for breakfast/brunch. There were two of us flying with an instructor so we were allowed to log the time. The route took us over Midrand and to the south of Waterkloof (FAWK). The first part of the flight went well, but then we spent about five minutes looking for the airfield. The gyro in the Direction Indicator had drifted a few degrees which I didn't pick up, which is why we ended up a mile or two to the north. My landing wasn't too bad, only bounced once.

Lesson 36 (18 May): Today was a quick flip over to Rand (FAGM) for me to get used to joining a controlled airspace at a different airfield. This was in preparation for my long solo cross-country. The route I have been give is Mafikeng - Pilansberg - Lanseria. I will be doing the planning for it this week.

Lesson 37 (8 June): Today was supposed to have been my long cross-country. Unfortunately the DI had been misbehaving and Uncle Trevor hasn't coughed up yet so I don't have my GPS, so no cross-country on just a magnetic compass. Anyway, I still went to go and practise procedures, but the DI ended up working anyway. Maybe next time. I practised medium and steep turns, stall and spins, a precautionary landing and did some circuits as well, so the time wasn't wasted. I also met one of my site's readers, which was interesting.

Lesson 38 (15 June): Today was the big day! My long cross country finally happened. It was rather hazy when I took off though and slightly below the acceptable visibility limits for VFR flying but ATC gave me a special VFR clearance. The haze did make things more difficult, but I used the VOR beacons at each airport to navigate. I was very gratifying seeing waypoints coming up where they should be. The whole flight including fuelling lasted 4 hours which is the longest (and most expensive) I've had so far. The one thing that a long trip also made very clear is that proper trimming is vital, or you get very tired very quickly.

Ground School (10&11 November): The studying for the PPL written exams has not been going that well. But, Wits has organised some ground classes to help cover the material. I unfortunately missed the meteorology one, but I found out in time to attend the human performance lectures. This is one of the new subjects on the syllabus. The two evenings were very informative and although I knew some of the information already, a lot more was covered in the lectures and I'm very glad I went.

Ground School (1 to 4 December): Aircraft Technical covers how every last piece of kit on an aircraft works, and also how they can go wrong. The syllabus includes the electrical, fuel, hydraulic and other systems, and goes into great detail about how all the various instruments work.

Ground School (16&17 December): Flight Planning covers how to read aircraft performance charts and knowing which charts apply to each stage of planning a flight. The subject includes weight and fuel planning (very important) and aircraft efficiency.

Ground School (12 to 14 January 2009): Navigation and Plotting has been my favourite subject so far. This covers the different types of charts, where they apply, and how they are drawn. Plotting bearings and distances using the two main types (rhumb lines and great circle), and determining the shortest course are covered. I enjoyed the plotting exercises the most as these include the effect of wind.

Lesson 39 (17 January): The club was looking for some hours on one of the aircraft so I went to do some circuits. I was not quite as bad as I thought I would be, mostly due to the practising I have been doing at home on my simulator. Most of the circuits were using runway 24L, which is not the usual direction at Lanseria. This is an uphill runway and it was a hot day so the instructor showed me some rather useful short-field procedures which also worked very well for the day's conditions. I am also current/recent again.

Ground School (17&18 February): Meteorology this time! From the books I have been reading I had always been dreading this subject. Coriolis force always puzzled me, but the lecturer had very good explanations for how it all works and I now feel a lot happier about it. Synoptic charts and weather reports are also nothing to be frightened of and are actually quite easy to read.

Medical (24 February): Today was my flight medical which I passed (R1100.00). It was everything except the X-rays and blood tests. This is my last time of every second year as I turn 40 this year. From next year it will be an annual medical.

Ground School (25 to 27 May): Air law for three days! It was actually fun! Lots of facts to learn, but the lecturer showed the practical applications and some very good mnemonics which helped. A lot of the information is important from a safety perspective so it has to be learnt.

Ground School (11 to 13 August): Principles of flight! This course was very interesting as it goes into why an aircraft actually flies (or doesn't sometimes). There was quite a bit of physics including lots of force diagrams. Some things did not appear logical at first, but then made sense once the mathematics was applied. It helped having an ex-maths lecturer giving the course.

Lesson 40 (16 September): I went to go and do some circuits to get current again. There was quite a cross-wind blowing which was very good practise. I was rather nervous not having flown for so long, but it went very well, all things considered.

Exams (11 December): I went and wrote two exams today, FINALLY!!!! Air Law (passed with 95%) was relatively easy, most of it is parrot-fashion learning, but there were still some tricky questions where I needed to weed out the incorrect answers and some where the questions trick one with spurious information. Human Performance and Limitations (passed with 85%) was trickier. The paper I got had quite a few of the psychology questions and illusions which I don't particularly like. I am very grateful for the Swales Mock Exam system which has been well worth the money spent on it. I am now feeling much more motivated for the rest of them.

Exams (29 January): The nice people at CAA were hit 7 times by lightning on 11 December. My two exams (and about 500 others) were lost! I went in to re-write the two that were lost as well as Meteorology and Principles of Flight. Wow, what a suprise! Friday again and CAA's exams systems were not accessible AGAIN!!!!!! It looks like lots of people study during the week and try to write on Fridays. If you writing exams at an outside testing centre, DO NOT WRITE ON FRIDAYS!!!!! CAA CANNOT HANDLE IT! I will be trying to write again in February, and NOT ON A FRIDAY!!!!!

Exams and Medical (23 February): I wrote again today. I failed Air Law (lots of license time requirements and distance from clouds questions) which is a pity seeing as I passed it the first time, but I obviously need to do more work on those two sections. I passed Meteorology (which I was actually the least confident for), Principles of Flight and Human Performance. I even got 100% for one of them. In the afternoon I went off for my annual flight medical. Now that I'm 40, I have to go every year. According to the doctor, my eyes and ears are still working, I still have a pulse, and my blood pressure was very slightly down since the last time it was tested.

Lesson 41 (6 March 2010): I'm back to flying again now that I've started passing exams. Today was a session of circuits to see how much I've forgotten, which wasn't too much, although I was somewhat rusty. Having a simulator at home certainly helps with practising procedures. More circuits next time, but these will be short-field landings. I'm starting with Flight Planning, Navigation revision and touching up on Air Law. Hopefully I'll be able to write those this month. I also tried out my new headset (the Lightspeed Zulu's). I was a little worried about the noise cancellation cutting out too much of the engine noise (hearing the engine running is a good thing), but I was still able to hear what was happening in that department. I only noticed how much noise they take out when we parked and shut down, and WOW!!!!!! If you get a bonus and can afford it, I can thoroughly recommend this headset. It also had Bluetooth so you can hook it up to your cellphone (my instructor phoned his wife on his pair while we were flying), and you can plug in your iPod for long trips.

Lesson 42 (20 March 2010): Short-field take-offs and landings at Brits were great fun. It is amazing in how short a distance you can actually stop a C172. It is also very important to make sure you touch down as close to the threshold as possible to make sure you have enough runway to take off from as well.

Exams (20 April 2010): I re-wrote Air Law and passed (86%) and Flight Performance and Planning (88%). Only two to go and then I am finished with the theory exams. I really enjoyed Flight Performance as it is a lot of working of graphs and tables and doing calculations which I am reasonably good at (with my engineering background).

Exams (23 September 2010): I wrote Aircraft Technical and passed (85%). Only one left!

Lesson 43 (23 September 2010): I did some circuits with our new instructor today. There was a nice 10kt cross-wind as well. Next time should be more circuits and also out to the GF for emergency procedures.

Lesson 44 (9 October 2010): The wind was quite strong today, so I did a re-cap of instrument flying so far: straight and level, turns, descents and NDB intercepts.

Lesson 45 (10 October 2010): Today my instructor decided that doing cross-wind landings in very strong winds might be a good idea in case I ever have them for real. It was very hard work, but very satisfying to do landings on 06 at FALA in winds 300/25kts in a Cessna 172. I may be sending Cessna an email to le them know what their aircraft can actually do.

Lesson 46 (16 October 2010): Today was my first time back to the general flying area for a long time. On the way out, my instructor made me put on a pair of foggles (frosted goggles with only a tiny clear portion at the bottom). These hid everything except the instruments, so I got some instrument flying experience on the way out. He told me which headings and altitudes to fly. Then we did a precautionary and forced landing at Aviators Paradise (800m runway, so it was some short-field practice as well). After that was some low-level flying back to Hartebeespoort Dam and the we flew into the Magaliesberg GF for some turns, stalls and ended up doing some incipient spins. Then it was back to Lanseria with the foggles on for some more instrument flying. My instructor got me lined up on final and then took the foggles back for a normal landing. This was a very busy but very satisfying session. I also got to realise what I was rusty on and what goes onto the "more practise needed" list.

Lesson 47 (24 October 2010): It was raining today so we spent some time on the simulator again doing more NDB intercepts and an NDB approach with a hold.

Lesson 48 (30 October 2010): Off to the GF with foggles again today. This time is was pretty turbulent and I experienced the disorientation where your body (ears) tell you you are going one way but the instruments tell you something else. More stall and spins, and a stall recovery under instrument conditions as well. My instrument flying is finished, yay! These last few lesson have been the most intensive learning I have done since I was fighting with circuits.

Lesson 49 and Exams (11 November 2010): I wrote my last exam today (Navigation). I'm so glad I'm finished with all of that. I flew afterwards, more emergency procedure practising. Then I went off to CAA to "try and" renew my Student Pilot License.

Lesson 50 (11 December 2010): Today was a flight with another instructor for a progress report. We did a lot of work on planning around forced landings and he gave me some good tips on how to fly to make passengers more comfortable.

Medical (17 February 2011): Today was medical time again. I passed with no problems, yay!

Lesson 51 (26 March 2011): Back in the air again, doing refresher circuits. This was a great session as we did all sorts of landings (short field, glide, flapless) and some emergencies.

Lesson 52 (2 April 2011): Off to the GF, refresher on exercises. Forced and precautionary landings, stalls and turns. I didn't realise it at the time, but my instructor also threw Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) problems at me which I managed to work out properly.

Lesson 53 (27 April 2011): This was a solo session to the GF to practise exercises. The forced and precautionary landings went very well (good final height/speed/distance). The air was very turbulent so I stopped practising stalls, but the steep turns also went well. I need to do more work on emergency checklists though. I did a circuit or two when I came back in and I definitely also need to practise my landings.

Lesson 54 (7 May 2011): This lesson was supposed to be a short cross-country to Wonderboom but the weather was not co-operating. I ended up having a flight planning review session with my instructor which was well worth the time spent.

Lesson 55 (14 May 2011): This time the cross country did happen. It was amazing how close Pretoria actually is by air. There was very little time for sight-seeing. Each check-point came up in about 7 minutes. I ended up very close to my original time planning for the actual flight, so that means that my flight planning was good.

Lesson 56 (24 July 2011): Today was a set of varied circuits plus one solo to finish off my solo hours.

Lesson 57 ( August 2011):

Lesson 58 (22 January 2012):

Lesson 59 (

July 2012: I have finally passed my flight test! I will update the last 6 months when I have time. I am now on about 80 hours.


Here I will be keeping a running total of expenses and flying hours.

Medical: R5584.50

Insurance: R3112.50

WFC membership: R2000.00

Equipment: R17172.20

Courses, exams, and other fees: R5497.00

Flying: R58949.75

Total: R90005.95

Dual hours: 45.4

Solo hours: 15.1

Instrument hours: 1.2

Simulator hours: 3.8

Total: 56.5

Website Details

Website Owner: Charles Kohler

Last Update: 19 August 2012

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on this site are in no way sanctioned or supported by any other flying associations I may be a member of.