If you are of average intelligence, reasonably mobile and look forward to learning a new discipline, you can learn to fly. You can start to learn at any age but to fly solo you must be 16 years of age and to hold a licence you must be 17. To fly solo you must also be able to pass a medical. The medical requirements are different for a Microlight Certificate, a Private pilot's licence and for a Commercial licence. You can continue to exercise the privileges of your licence for as long as you continue to pass the medical and keep current with your flying. The loss of your medical however does not stop you from flying, only from flying solo. Many pilots continue to fly with an instructor up into their eighties.
IS IT JUST A MALE THING?
Certainly not. Most people will have heard of Jean Batten who set a world record in 1936 by flying solo from England to New Zealand. New Zealand's first woman pilot was Aroha Clifford who gained her pilot licence in Christchurch in 1929. Ever since women have played a major role in aero clubs participating as pilot members, instructors, and competitors in National and International competitions. There is the New Zealand Association of Women in Aviation. Most women airline pilots were aero club trained.
IS FLYING JUST FOR THE ELITE?
Those who love flying come from all walks of life, from the high school student who works on the checkout at the local supermarket to earn enough money for the next flight, to the 777 captain who just can't wait to get back home and down to the local aero club to fly a "real" aeroplane. The common bond amongst pilots is not their wealth, occupation or social status but their passion for flying. A typical fly away group or club competition team may consist of a student, a butcher, a doctor an office worker, a builder's labourer and a teacher. They will all travel and compete together, mix socially and barrack for each other and for their team. Flying NZ clubs are incorporated societies and are run by an Executive of members for the benefit of all members. The diversity of the members backgrounds and their willingness to participate in the running of the club and the skills and knowledge they can bring to the club, is often one of the club's greatest strengths.
DO I NEED A MEDICAL?
You can learn to fly an aeroplane and fly all of your life without a medical, providing you always have a qualified instructor in the seat beside you. However, for most pilots obtaining their pilot's licence and flying solo is the ultimate achievement. The medical requirements for a Microlight Pilots Certificate and a Private Pilot Licence (PPL) Licence are different. You must have obtained your medical certificate for your instructor to let you fly solo. If you intend to train in a GA aircraft it is probably worthwhile obtaining your medical early in your training. Wearing glasses does not stop you from learning to fly and flying solo, providing you can meet the vision standards when wearing them.
IS IT SAFE?
The maintenance of certified aircraft is strictly regulated by the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) and aircraft can be maintained only by CAA-licensed engineers. All certified aircraft have scheduled checks every 50 hours of flying time. Airspace is also regulated ensuring that light aircraft cannot conflict with commercial traffic.
Flight Instructors employed by Flying NZ aero clubs are experienced professional pilots who have been trained to competently teach students. Instructors are tested by a CAA-appointed examiner to obtain their Instructor rating, then supervised by a more senior instructor for a period. After qualification, all instructors are required to undergo regular competency checks. Your instructor will take you through a structured training syllabus and only when you are competent will you be allowed to fly solo.
If you fly at a Flying NZ aero club, the guidance given by your instructor does not stop once you have obtained your licence. Your instructor will continue to help with planning and weather briefings as needed. The same service is usually available from instructors at other Flying NZ clubs ensuring that you are well briefed about local weather and topography. When flying cross country (away from your home aerodrome), pilots are encouraged to lodge a flight plan, which informs air traffic control of your intentions.