Student Help & Advice


Why Aviation?

Jenny Verwey

I’ve always loved the idea of travelling. It is amazing to see new places and experience what they have to offer. The fact that we can connect with people in places that are far away, makes the world considerably smaller. To board a flight and arrive at your destination a few hours later is simply magical.

I feel like we have a craving to be on the move and explore. While doing so, we learn and become people with a deep understanding of how the world works and how we can contribute to making it a better place. Isn’t it just so special to feel a connection when you are some place iconic that you have seen on social media or in a movie?

This urge to travel is often what brings people to pursue a career in aviation. Bedazzled with the idea of a lavish lifestyle. Living the dream while staying in the best hotels worldwide, experiencing local culture and cuisine by having fresh pain au chocolate for breakfast in Paris, roaming the streets of Tokyo during cherry blossom season, and going on expensive shopping trips to the fashion capital of Milan. Not to mention, European Christmas markets with mulled wine, breathtaking sunsets from Table Mountain and delicious lamb tagine in Marrakesh. The most common answer to the question, “Why do you want to become a Cabin crew?” is something along the lines of “Because I love experiencing different cultures and working with people from different backgrounds.”

I will admit that being a cabin crew for an international airline came with many benefits and granted me opportunities and experiences that I will cherish forever and would have never experienced otherwise.

The hard truth is that being an aviator is not like going on a holiday that has been planned out for months or even years. You don’t always get to decide where you are going or how long your stay will be. Duties are subject to change and along with that, your plans too. This means that you cannot always commit when on duty, and that it is better to plan trips or special occasions during your time off. There are also other factors that come into play. As someone who has been dreaming of scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef for as long as I can remember, I was never able to. It is not because I never went to Australia, but rather with the limitation of not being able to fly within a certain amount of time after scuba diving at a certain depth. Your body must have enough time to off-gas excess the nitrogen in your bloodstream after scuba diving and with the decreased ambient pressure in the cabin, air bubbles can form and lead to decompression sickness. This is life-threatening.

Bull Statue – University of Guanajuato
Thai River Market

Another example is the time when I requested a flight to Hong Kong to visit dear friends whom I haven’t seen in years. We spent the entire month planning activities and were extremely excited to see each other. I did not pack much, other than one outfit and my slops. When I signed on for duty, the system notified me that I was an hour late for sign-on. At the far end of the room, a crew controller called my employee number and informed me that I had a last-minute duty change and would now operate the sixteen-hour flight to snowy Dallas, Texas instead of the eight-hour flight to sunny Hong Kong. I was not mentally prepared for such a lengthy duty. Nor did I pack enough food or sleepwear to take inflight rest. My summer outfit stood no chance against the snowfall and in a word, I was disappointed! Once I got onboard, most of the pre-flight duties were already completed and the majority of the crew was under the impression that I was late for my planned duty. This caused some friction and could have led to unnecessary conflict. Luckily, I am easygoing and adapted to the situation. Even though I was disappointed that I would not get to see my friends this time, I knew that there would be a next, and I always loved a trip out to America. I was in no state mentally or physically to go out once we arrived at our hotel. The only thing on my mind was to pop out for some hot food and get into bed. As I had very little to choose from, my outfit of choice was a pair of Asics accompanied by the warmest items in my bag, a fluffy winter pyjama set and a wind breaker. These were staples that I always kept in my suitcase. Throwing caution to the wind, I headed out feeling slightly embarrassed about what I was wearing. The layover concluded within 24 hours, and we headed back home on another long flight. This time I was better prepared.

This industry is filled with excitement and wonder. It can grant amazing opportunities and bring people closer together. However, not everyone understands the nature of aviation, as it can be costly in many ways. It is expensive to get licensed and keep that license current. It also costs time. This can be time away from loved ones or missed special events like birthdays or holidays. For these reasons, many people decide to pursue a different career path after some time.

I do not wish to discourage you if this is your dream. Instead, I wish to share my experiences and stories in the hopes of creating a realistic understanding of what to expect.

About the Author:

Jenny Verwey

Based: Cape Town, South Africa

Jenny Verwey has worked at various airlines and has a combined experience of ten years within the aviation industry. She graduated Cum Laude with a Business Management Degree in Aviation Management. Her most visited country is Italy and still wishes to visit South America. 

Classroom Based Ground School!

SkyLearner Aviation – Northern Ireland Ground School

Enrol now for our 6th February 23 intake

10 Week PPL/LAPL Course

With The New Year almost upon us we are happy to announce our first in house, classroom based PPL/LAPL Ground School!

The course will be hosted by a dedicated SkyLearner Theoretical Knowledge Instructor and will take place over a 10 Week period.

Our course includes the following:

  • Ground School for all 9 CAA subjects
  • Knowledge Check
  • CAA Exam Fees for all 9 subjects (All Fees Included for your first attempt)
  • R/T (Radio Telephony) Course and Oral Exam
  • 3 Month SkyLearner Subscription For New Students

Existing SkyLearner Students

If you have been a SkyLearner Student for 3 months or longer, you will receive a reduced rate of £1099.00 if you join our classroom based Ground School.

Not Based in Northern Ireland?

Online learning is what we do best! If you are based outside of Northern Ireland and cannot make the classroom lessons, fear not! We will be streaming the lessons live and all active subscribers are welcome to join in!

When & Where

Our classroom based ground school courses are run from our dedicated training rooms in Carrickfergus.

  • Classes will be presented Monday – Wednesday
  • 6PM to 10PM


  • £99 enrolment fee secures your seat!
  • 3 instalments of £389 payable each month from the commencement of the course.

Find out more

To find out more & to book your place, follow the link below!

Finding the Gap

Lawrence has recently started flying the King Air B1900 For a local South African Airline, the initial conversion from General Aviation Instruction to an Airline Multi Crew environment can be rather challenging! Lawrence took this short video from the flight deck! We wish Lawrence all the best as he starts his airline career, but fear not, Lawrence is still with us, and we will from him again soon! Blue Skies Lawrence!

“As summer season approaches in South Africa, the thunderstorms are starting to make their presence known. On a recent flight from Durban to Bloemfontein, we had to do our fair share of weather deviation. Luckily, we found a gap between two cells”.

About the Author:

Lawrence Lagaay

SkyLearner TKI
Based: South Africa

Lawrence is a Commercial Airline Pilot based in Port Elizabeth South Africa, and TKI for SkyLearner Aviation, with experience in both GA and airline training environments, First Officer on the B1900.

My Journey Down The Aisle

Why we fly

Jenny Verwey

The topic that I would like to discuss today is passion. We all have something that creates a spark which pulls us in, to do the things that we love doing. For many us of, that includes aviation on some level. Whether it is flying, attending air shows, or simply the thrill of travelling. 

With that being said, I would love to share my story with you about how I got into aviation. I grew up in Pretoria, South Africa nearby Wonderboom airport. I used to sit and watch aircraft come and go for hours. To seven-year-old me, the idea of being able to move from one point to another, without having to walk or use my bicycle was simply amazing. It was so remarkable that I decided to build a set of wings using sticks and leaves that would attach to my arms so that I can also fly. Birds can do it, right? Needless to say, my efforts were in vain and sadly the wings that I had spent weeks constructing were thrown in the rubbish. My big flying trip to visit a friend down the block was also postponed indefinitely. 

When the time came to decide what career path I would like to pursue, I said that I wanted to be a Pilot. Unfortunately, that was not an option at the time. Therefore, I decided that I would become a Flight Attendant. I applied to all local airlines and was lucky enough to get a position as a Ground Handling Agent. This taught me about how the industry works and how everything fits together. From how your ticket is booked, to check in, boarding and arrival procedures. I was exposed to various role players within the industry and quickly made new friends. One of the beauties of this industry is that most of those friends are pursuing aviation careers around the world.  

After a few years, I was promoted to work in the operations department as a Flight Dispatcher which challenged my skills. I learnt all about flight planning, weather, fuel, and everything that is required to get that flight out safely and on time. Safety and on-time performance are extremely important to airlines.

However, I was still not content as I wanted to be up in the sky, travelling the world like so many of my friends. Consequently, I started applying to international airlines as Cabin Crew. Within a few months, I proudly wore a lovely burgundy uniform accompanied by an oryx and walked down the aisle of various Boeing and Airbuses with my head held high.

This was a dream come true and I was lucky enough to travel all over the world within a few years. Visiting those dear friends that I had once met at the very start of my career. Working as a Cabin Crew, I learnt about people, different cultures, how other airlines work and so much more. This was an experience that no book could teach. I ended up using that environment for my final research paper on the causes of conflict among various nationalities that work together. 

Today, I am back in South Africa, working for a local airline with a Business Management Degree in Aviation Management, which was completed while flying on a full-time international roster.  

The message that I would like to share with you is to always remember why you started and what sparks that flame inside of you. Remembering that, will keep you motivated during the tough times when you must sit down and study for that next exam. I spent a fair share of layovers in beautiful cities studying from my hotel room. That made graduating at the top of my class so much more rewarding. I did not see my friends or family for months. This made our time together so much more meaningful.  

It is not always going to be easy, just remember what keeps you going and you will achieve your dreams. Always remember that the sky is not the limit, it is only the beginning. 

About the Author:

Jenny Verwey

Based: Cape Town, South Africa

Jenny Verwey has worked at various airlines and has a combined experience of ten years within the aviation industry. She graduated Cum Laude with a Business Management Degree in Aviation Management. Her most visited country is Italy and still wishes to visit South America. 

Legal, Competent & Comfortable

Instrument Flying & Aviation Decision-Making

Antonie Gouws

When you start flying, you are as safe as you will be as a pilot. You have an instructor on hand, clear skies, and a healthy fear of things going wrong. You also take checklists seriously and generally do things “by the book”. As your experience grows, you will encounter situations where you will find that certain things in flying are not covered in “the book”. This can result in potentially dangerous situations. I want to discuss this occurrence as encountered during IFR flying.  

In this article I will discuss the Instrument Rating, IFR flying pilotage, the contents of an IFR course, and decision-making.   

IFR flying pilotage

There are many components to being called a pilot – there is the flying side of things. “Stick and rudder” skills, like a human imitating a bird. You need clear skies and these skills that are often relived by fighter, aerobatics, and weekend-warrior pilots through elaborate hand gestures at the bar. The second major component of flying is the “piloting” skills. These include checklist, procedures, standardized radio calls, your controlled, almost boring flight paths, and your passenger comfort considerations. These aspects form the basis of IFR flying, and many solely VFR pilots will not understand the allure of IFR flying, mostly on the basis that it does not require “flying” skills. Many IFR aircraft these days have a three-axis autopilot that does the flying for you.  

The ability that IFR flying gives a pilot is empowering. Most pilots received a big confidence boost in knowing that bad weather will not prevent the safe landing of an aeroplane. The doing of checks and following of procedures whilst executing timed, rate-one turns in a complicated sequence with no visibility, and then to suddenly break through a cloud layer with the runway on your descent path is as exhilarating as a high-G loop, barrel-roll, or reverse Cuban-eight.  

The basis of IFR flying is founded in the trusting of instruments and procedures, you should value these above things that you “feel”. Do you feel like you are straight and level, but the Artificial Horizon (AH) is indicating a turn? Do you feel like you are climbing, but the Vertical Speed Indicator (VSI) is showing no change?  This sifting of relevant information and using the correct information to make the best possible decision is one of the skills of IFR flying and was given the name of Aviation Decision making (ADM).  

As an IFR pilot, I have been taught about ADM since my initial training in the South African Air Force. It was re-iterated during my CPL + IFR training, and the same lessons were repeated when I started flying in Australia. I have been trained how to fly IFR on an aircraft with an old NDB and RMI, which is hard work, and maintaining situational awareness is all but impossible. (It is in any case way more difficult than when flying with a GPS on board). I have flown aircraft with ILS and VOR, but no GPS, and aircraft with GPS and ILS, but no VOR or NDB’s and always the concept of good ADM formed the basis of training.  

Contents of IFR course

The teaching methodology in general aviation with regard to IFR is to teach based on the ANC principle – i.e. Aviate (flying skills), Navigate (have a plan), Communicate (make sure everyone knows what you are doing). These skills are taught on the principle of “simple to complex” and the IFR course is divided into sections. The sections are roughly divided into rules and law, IFR flying, Homing, and Approaches. 

For IFR flying, the focus is on controlling the aeroplane solely by reference to instruments – i.e., can the pilot fly straight and level, climb and turn using only instruments. The ability to recover to normal flight when things go wrong forms an important component of training, and thus unusual attitude recovery by referencing only instruments are included. The “Aviate” component of the ANC principle is covered. The next logical training will be to navigate.  

Thus, the next step of training centres around getting the aeroplane to a suitable airport. The simplest form of direction in an aeroplane is beacon homing. A pointer/arrow indicating where to fly to. This indicates some sort of “pointing” to an appropriately tuned navigation aid – NDB/VOR beacon, GPS point, etc. To “home a beacon” can be as easy as selecting “goTo” on GPS, or in the worst-case scenario, trying to remember the QDR/QDM calculations of an NDB. With modern GPS systems and many NDBs and VORs being decommissioned, this form of navigation probably will not survive another decade, and it is with a bit of sadness that “Push the head, pull the tail” will become obsolete. At this point in IFR training, the pilot has mastered IFR flying and homing and will move on to approaches.

An aircraft that is overhead an airfield is in a much better position than one that is simply in a cloud somewhere unknown. However, even with just a beacon and some smart timing and turns, a pilot could descend and line up with a runway. This is the approach phase of training. Approaches tend to be the bulk of the training, as getting down below the clouds and landing is a very important part of having a successful flight. There are many types of approaches, NDB/VOR approaches, VOR approaches, ILS, RNAV (with many iterations), and radar-guided approaches. These approach procedures become easier the better equipped your aircraft is. The easiest approach I have flown is the RNAV approach (GPS), and the most difficult is the NDB approach.

During an approach procedure, the designers of the procedure guarantee that an aircraft will be safe if flown according to the tolerances of the approach – i.e. the approach will bring you safely to a position from where you can land the aircraft, most often visually. Approaches also have different levels of accuracy, and the higher the accuracy, the closer to the ground an aircraft can get before the approach becomes unsafe. For example, an RNAV approach can get an aircraft down to about 400ft above ground, whereas most NDB approaches have 800ft limits. Cloud base limitations become important when planning an approach, as a cloud base of 600ft AGL will be problematic for an NDB, but no issue at all for an ILS. This is just one of the myriad rules that form part of the IFR course.  

Training for IFR flying has a major “rules” section. Hundreds of stipulations exist on the aircraft, pilot, operation, weather, and many others. To further my point, I want to list a few factors that I will check before flying IFR – does the aircraft meet instrumentation and radio redundancy, transponder requirements, and lights? Am I as the pilot – licensed, current and recent? Are there appropriate approaches for my destination and alternate aerodrome? When looking at the weather, is the departure airport above minima, is the en-route section safe and within the limits of the aircraft, is the destination airport above minima in terms of clouds, visibility, crosswind, and storms? As a part of the IFR course, you will also have meteorology and aircraft technical lessons.  


Decision Making

IFR flight training is a lot of information to process. Training someone to be proficient in flying under IFR conditions takes years. There is a lot to be considered. And ADM surfaces again and again.  

Most of my IFR flying was done on a Cirrus SR22T with FIKI (anti-ice) in a single-pilot IFR private operation. The Cirrus has two GPS systems and VOR/ILS, coupled with an excellent Autopilot. I had to fly the executives of a construction company between towns. The important thing for executives is the outcome. If they need to be somewhere, and you as a pilot cannot deliver, a good reason will need to be provided. Thus, I encountered the following situations and had to decide go-no go.  

  • Cloud base of 800ft at the destination  
  • Freezing level at 4500ft and overcast stratus 
  • Widespread rain with TCU’s (towering cumulus clouds) and potential Embed CBs   

I opted to fly in every one of those situations. A Cirrus is not a big airplane, it does not have weather radar. I did not “know” where the bad weather was. I could make a relatively accurate guestimate based on the datalink, but the information was potentially 10 minutes old (the refresh rate). I followed a method of decision-making based on three factors. Is it legal, am I competent, am I comfortable?  

On the legal front, there was no guidance.  There are no rules on what clouds can be flown through. The aviation authority (in Australia it is CASA) advises that one should fly as many miles around a cumulus cloud as it is high in thousands of feet. i.e a 5000ft cumulus cloud should be avoided by 5nm. That is not always possible, and when in terminal airspace around a major city, ATC will often assign a heading that will take you through clouds. Some are quite big, avoid by more than 5nm big. There are Boeings around, and ATC cannot accommodate all deviations. So when can I fly through clouds? The advice given by CASA is not good, because it is overly restrictive.   

IFR training is already so big a subject that one cannot fit in any more information without breaking the course into years of studying. I do not think that more theory needs to be added to pilot training, what I think one wants to focus on is that many decisions will come down to the pilot. The title of captain was not idly awarded, and a pilot should earn it. ADM is directly linked to one’s ability to interpret information. Stress, pressure, and uncertainty lead to a marked reduction in the pilot’s ability to practice good ADM. The unfortunate thing is that the pressure of performance, coupled with scarce/unrealistic advice, often leaves the pilot in a position where the decision is not based on good ADM, but rather on feelings. As a pilot, you need to be aware of this phenomenon and take the time to develop a strategy to combat it. I use the three questions because it mostly provides me with an acceptable outcome.  

The questions might look something like this: Can I take off without an alternate planned in the current weather? Secondly, am I competent in what I am planning on doing, i.e. can I fly an ILS down to minima’s in bad weather even though it has been more than two months since I last flew one? The last thing – am I comfortable? This is so difficult to judge and comes with experience. It is well documented that if you are not comfortable with the flight, you will be experiencing aggravated levels of tension, and it will affect your ability to gather information, process information, and your ability to translate the information into good decision-making.  

Credit: wikimedia

I used the example of cloud penetration on an IFR flight in this article, but the principle is applicable across all aspects of aviation. As you fly, you will encounter situations where you need to decide things with very little to no guidance, and you need a model that will guide you. No model is fail-proof, and as you grow as a pilot, you will develop your own methods of ensuring good ADM. I have never enjoyed a flight when I took off with one of the three questions answered in the negative.  

In the scenarios mentioned above, I knew I was legal. I had been recently tested in IFR and was competent, and so was the aircraft – having multiple back-up systems, anti-Ice and in worst case scenario a parachute. On the comfortable side – I was comfortable taking off and seeing what the conditions were like. Should I at any moment have become uncomfortable, I would have turned around and landed back. That course of action would have been legal, in my competency and would not make me uncomfortable.  

Thus, be sure you will encounter scenarios that you do not have the knowledge as to what to do. Before that happens, make sure you have a method to ensure good ADM is practiced. And always, fly safe.  

About the Author:

Antonie Gouws

SkyLearner TKI
Based: Sydney, Australia

Antonie is an ex South African Air Force Pilot, SACAA CPL & Instructor, CASA CPL, based in Sydney, Australia.

Emptying My Bag of Luck

Emptying My Bag of Luck in ZS-Echo Lima November

Antonie Gouws

There is a saying the older, wiser pilots at the flying club used to tell me: “You start your career with a full bag of luck & an empty bag of experience, try not to run out of luck before you fill up your bag of experience!” it’s one of the sayings that you hear the old boys at the flying club mutter between briefings or whilst at the bar, but you never truly appreciate it until you have filled up your rather empty bag with some (often frightful) experience.

I started my career in aviation in the South African Air Force, after completing my flight training I made the decision to leave the SAAF and complete my Commercial Pilots License and later my instructor’s rating. I had all the confidence given to me through my Air Force training & I had just completed my CPL – this is where our story starts.

Having recently been signed off on a Cherokee, I attacked my “Bag of luck” in a manner not dissimilar to how Agustus Gloob would a chocolate fountain. I immediatly conducted a cross country flight across the South African Republic in a plane I had less than 2 hours of experience on, over a weekend where the snow fell in November (this is a strange occurrence  because it was summer in Africa) with a relatively new (and first) wife.  

On paper it was simple. Fly from Secunda to Margate and then keep the blue (ocean) on the left all the way from Margate to Plettenbergbay. There is one somewhat stress inducing part on this journey and that would be to cross the Drakensberg (dragon) Mountains East of Lesotho. Slightly complicated, but not overly so, my ancestors had done it bare-foot in an oxen wagon, armed with only a slow firing rifle. In a modern (1970s) Piper Cherokee armed with a constantly updating GPS (and backup tablet), I endeavored to emulate those heroes of the Groot Trek. It was to be a great adventure where we would meet up with the parents in Plet for the long weekend before flying back to the home base in Secunda!

You start your career with a full bag of luck & an empty bag of experience,

Planned Route

As I commenced the preflight inspection on my modern ox-wagon, I realised that the left tyre was somewhat deflated. No problem, the AMO across the taxiway will fix the tyre in no time at all (surely). Three hours later, and far behind schedule, the Missus and I finally take flight.  We climb to FL 115 which was interestingly colder than expected,at a brisk negative 5 degrees. Passing Lesotho we see the snowcapped mountains & I remember smiling sheepishly at the Missus as I gave her a  double lift of my eyebrows, she giggled and I thought to myself, “this is the life”.

For thoroughness’s sake, I shall mention that the engine is running perfectly. No problems for the reliable Cherokee who is thoroughly enjoying the cold, dense air. On the way down to Margate, and with the mighty drankensburg mountain range looming ahead I start to notice a buildup of developing cumulus clouds, and only then do I realise that I had never checked the updated weather after the 3hr tyre delay.

Just as the build up intensifies over the mountains, & nervousness starts to creep in, I spot a nice gap and punch through the clouds, boom, we are through them, the danger is behind us & soon we are on a final approach to Margate. I have already used up some luck and added some experience to the other bag.

There were some strong crosswinds, but I nail the landing. I turn my head to the right and suddenly the wife is giving me a wolfish smile. Now I blush. Groot trek done, it is time to keep the blue on the left!

My training history will soon become relevant, and as such, getting a basic understanding of my background will be good for reference. I was trained in the Air Force, on a complex turbine aircraft trainer, in a restricted airspace, with full ground crew support and in a highly controlled environment. I recieved excellent training in general flying,  aerobatics, navigation, formation and instrument flying.

However my piston engine management & knowledge was non existant. Total time in piston engine aircraft at this point in my career is around 8 hours. I had a total time of 190 hours. This makes me an awkward pilot, I know how to fly IFR, my general flying skills are excellent and heck, I was even a half decent aerobatics pilot. I was thus way “too good” of a pilot for my young flight instructors to insult by trying teaching me about engine management or general flying into far away airports around the country, about which I know nothing. There is a lesson in there, and once again I use up some luck.

Continuing with the tale, after landing at Margate, I find that I am lucky that there is only one taxiway, no chance of getting lost at this airfield. I pull up to the bowser, refuel and get ready to depart once more. The plan: A 500ft AGL flight from Margate to Plettenberg Bay. Or at least no higher than 1500ft. Drawing from my bag of experience I even check the updated weather this time, and it looks like a nice headwind all the way to plet. No worries, I have full tanks and low level flying is nothing new to me. I close the doors and we are airborne within 90 seconds from start up.

Experienced pilots should be thinking, “that sounds a bit too quick”, and they are correct. I am emptying my luck bag quicker than I should.

I do no run-ups, water down the checks, no safety briefing. I lean the plane on a fuel flow as advised by the owner – I never check CHT’s, EGT’s or oil temp (correction, my wife was watching the oil temp) and off we go.

We fly low-level past the Wildekus (Wild Coast), it is wild and windy and wonderful. Some excellent photos and we exchange a sufficient amount of “ooh’s”, and “aahh’s” as we admire the view. A few moments later and I realise that I have no maps, only a rapidly dying Ipad which was loaned to me last minute by a friendly instructor and the dashboard GPS (absolutely no good for VFR really).  I am also not really sure how the GPS works either or where we are, but it is fun and beautiful and the wife and I keep grinning at each other like sheep in the field while the hungry wolf eyes out a chop!

The flight is amazing, but the rapidly disappearing sun is starting to worry me. We should be very close to East London by now, but the GPS is still showing a respectable cricket score of miles to fly. Hmm. I had hoped to just miss the big airports. I have no info for East London airport with me, but I manage to find the correct frequency on the tablet. I can fly at night, but not legally as I am not night rated (There is strange disconnect between the military night rating and the SACAA views on whether I should be flying at night).

Being a diligent and safety orientated pilot I opt to play it safe. We have friends in East London so will spend the night with them. I call up approach & they clear me in via a specific VFR route which I have never heard of. I make it up as I go (The only reason I get away with it is thanks to the big blue ocean I keep on my left). “ELN, report Hemingsway mall” – the ATC controller is firm but sounds friendly. I have never been to East London, I don’t know Hemingsway Mall. Quick wife! Google it! The signal is marginal, but at least the blue dot showing our position is there. No luck, ok, time to get help:

“Approach, ELN not familiar with the area. What am I looking for”

“A big building with a blue roof in your 11 o’clock, report final runway 06”.

Still firm, but now somewhat less friendly. Google finds it about the same time I see it. We route for the mall, and soon I land beautifully on RWY 06. What a landing! What a man! What a pilot! What now and where do I taxi to?

The Next morning after a quick refuel, we are off once again, keep the blue on left, stay below 1500ft.

Such a quite a piece of coast land – no houses, or people. Ah, the national park, truly wonderful! I need to be at least 2500ft above the highest point, else a potential 5 million Rand fine or 3 years in prison. Thinking of my finances I decided that should I be charged, I will opt for prison, but opting to keep a clean criminal record I climb to 2500ft.  I further distance myself from any association with poaching and fly as far out to sea as I possibly can, with no idea what airspace is above me or whether I am indeed in gliding range. I have mentioned before that the engine was running beautifully, and I had no doubts as to this particular engines’ reliability (in future I might discuss the different personalities one encounters in engines – but for now I shall not digress)

At Port Elizabeth, I knew about the VFR routing, as I had decided to study that before departing Secunda – I even have the routes printed out. Other than flying straight through the circuit at Progress, I get past with minimum drain on the luck bag, and add a fair bit to the bag of experience.

On a side thought, my wife saw some wind turbines on our 12 o’clock around that area. She trustingly asks me whether we will encounter any turbulence, since we were downwind of the rotating blades. I had studied engineering and confidently explain to her that there is no fear of the blades affecting the airflow at about the same moment as we hit the first bump. Who could have known?

We arrive at Plettenbergbay. There was a little bit of drama with CemAir taxying onto the runway with me on a 3 mile final, but we land safely. In the next few moments you will think of me as irresponsible so I need to defend myself by bullet pointing a few of the thoughts that I am assailed with:

  • I plan to take the family for a quick flight, but they are not yet at the airfield.
  • The refueller looks at me expectantly.
  • I desperately have to take a leak
  • The wife had given me a wolfish grin yesterday, bolstering my confidence, but now too many things were happening at once.

Ok, “fill up” I nod at the refueller – I instantly know that is a bad decision, as I want to load 4 people into the  plane. I start walking to the terminal to relieve the building pressure on my bladder, but at that point the family arrive and I need to display a license to get everyone past security. I now desperately need a toilet, but it is such a struggle to get there, I might as well get the family flight done with first.

There are only two headsets in the plane though but that will have to do – Everyone just hop in! No briefing, no explanation, no run up, no good plan, the only plan is, fly up and down the coast and land to admiration and awe…

With Murphy looking down on me we accelerate down the runway & the door pops open, I never checked that it was properly latched.

“focus on the take-off, run through all the checks, join the circuit on a downwind, and land back, close the door, and take off again”.

That would be the correct actions to follow. I, on the other hand, with about a 100ft between myself and the ground, chose to yank at the door, completely letting go of the controls. I frighten the hell out of my passengers – two of whom start to cry. The door does not close, but neither is it open a great deal. I decide to fly the scenic flight with the hope that the passengers enjoy it. They did not.

We land back after the flight, I finally get to the bathroom crossed legged, we then tie the plane down and we are off to the hotel. Two of my passengers scared and one well and truly scarred for life.

The visit was fun though and seeing the family was great.

On the way back, I plan an inland routing which is hours of flying across vast empty space. It is warm, and the engine is running hot. I am tired, and no longer in a state of mind where I am overly caring. I just want to get back to the hangar and hand back this plane.

One last happening for educational value – my wife drank two cups of coffee before our flight back to Secunda, I never thought to warn her against such behavior. The first leg of our flight was 3.5hrs. I don’t  know how she managed, or why she puts up with me but I had to empty three quarters of a bottle after we landed in Bloemfontein, not a pleasant experience for any passanger to have to face.

Thus, after three days and close to 18 hours of flying we were safely back in Secunda again. I was lucky to not have anything go really wrong, and I reflected for a significant time on this trip. Did I do right by taking the risks I did? Would better planning have benefited the experience bag more? Can you truly fill the experience bag without ever testing the limits of your luck bag? I can’t answer these questions but I can say in the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, I learned invaluable lessons and I lived to tell the tale. Something about that just rings right when talking aviation.

With all that being said, aviation is serious business. Its called a “luck” bag for a very good reason. One of my colleagues, a 22 year old, had his luck bag run out tragically one day on a routine & easy flight. So to wrap up, I do consider myself lucky to have survived this trip. I could have easily mitigated a lot of risk by applying the principles taught to me by my instructors. I strongly recommend that you fly into unknown airspaces, but, do it safely, conduct proper planning & stick to what you have been taught without taking shortcuts.

No amount of humorous experience can mitigate the unnecessary loss of a single life. Fly safe

About the Author:

Antonie Gouws

SkyLearner TKI
Based: Sydney, Australia

Antonie is an ex South African Air Force Pilot, SACAA CPL & Instructor, CASA CPL, based in Sydney, Australia.

One, the other or both ?

UKCAA or EASA Post Brexit

Stefan Wagner

One, the other or both?

Anyone who has been within hearing range of an airfield, flying club, flight school or aviation-themed café has heard mention of it: EASA, UK CAA, nightmare. Next time you do, seize the opportunity to join in and vent your frustration in a safe environment to get yourself ready for the next step before returning to this brief confuser to help you figure out what to do where and how. 

Political background 

All of us who are “lazy slippers” and seldom bother to untie and re-tie their laces have arrived at the front door ready to go out only to find our favourite shoes tangled into a neat bundle. Indeed, anything which relies on being intertwined for a prolonged period of time will be difficult to separate. The United Kingdom’s (UK) extraction process from the European Union (EU) is no different and especially in aviation, an industry whose regulation has become centralised and standardised heavily across Europe, there has not been a shortage of challenges during the endeavour. Unlike other European countries which are not EU-member states, like Norway or Switzerland, the UK government made a decision to also part with EASA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, leave some European regulations behind and copy-and-paste a lot of other European regulations into UK national law – at least for now. 

The official extraction date was midnight between 31st December 2021 and 1st January 2022. As of that date, any automatic recognition of EASA licences, ratings, certificates, approvals, documents and other paperwork by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is restricted to certain exemptions for pre-existing, “grandmothered/grandfathered” items; in short, if something is issued outside the UK after that date, it will not be recognised for use in the UK by default. 

Leaving aside the increase in licence tourism between the UK and many EASA member states by already qualified pilots who flew in one jurisdiction using a licence from the other, this leaves a lot of us who have not started training wondering what we should do. After all, the decision on where to start PPL training is a decision for life. Isn’t it? 

Training considerations 

Well, no, not quite. To get into the age-old discussion of integrated versus modular training would bust the scope of this article and there is a lot of information available on what is ultimately a matter of personal preference and considerations of time and finance. You may also want to have a look at some of the airline programmes on offer before you start, some companies help finance your training and some are willing to make a commitment to you with part-sponsored training or a cadetship approach with either guaranteed employment or at least better employment prospects at the end.

For the purposes of “choosing a side”, we need to understand that integrated courses are faster-paced, more flight-school driven and often (part-)sponsored by the airline industry and therefore leave less wiggle room. This is where we have to put a strength on the pro-list of modular training because it allows for more customisation and a pick-and-mix approach which lends itself better to training towards both licences. Both, really? 


First of all ensure that you have the right to live and work in an EU country which is often contingent on a job offer and sometimes you may not be eligible. If it is likely that you are not permitted to work in one or more EASA countries, getting a commercial licence there would cost a lot of extra money and make no sense. 

Without putting the cart before the horse, let’s start with three simple scenarios regarding your commercial career plans: 

1. I’m in the UK and here to stay, I can’t see myself moving abroad for work. Sorted, shop around, find yourself a training organisation in the UK to get a UK licence and read Lawrence’s article on how to do that methodically! Your first few jobs at least will be flying aircraft on the UK register (G-XXXX). 

2. First half of a chance, I’m outta here, the south and the sun are calling. Sorted, find yourself a flight school in Europe (in your case Southern Europe if it’s sun you’re after) to get an EASA licence and read Lawrence’s article too! You will not be allowed to fly a UK-registered aircraft. 

3. I’m in the UK and wouldn’t say no to a home base but if something comes up across the water … and what about Ireland, north and south? Okay, it can be done, stick the kettle on and we’ll look at the challenges together: 

  • It will take you slightly longer. 
  • It will cost you more. 
  • t will take some more research and self-organising. 
  • It will make you more familiar with the nitty gritty of regulations than the average pilot. 

All is not lost 

We have kept scenario 4 quiet: I’m in the UK and have a flight school nearby which would suit me to start my PPL (Private Pilot’s Licence) course. Tell you what, as long as you don’t insist on a zero-to-hero fully integrated programme, jump in there and do it, you won’t look back. The big decision now will be where you do your commercial courses (ATPL theory, instrument training, etc.) and generally a UK PPL will still give you access to most EASA countries for commercial training. The pre-entry requirement under EASA, as in most countries around the globe, is a PPL which is compliant with ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) standards and the UK Part-FCL PPL is in that category (unlike the UK national PPL or NPPL, beware!) and that should not change any time soon. 

So whatever your decision for your Part-FCL PPL course, remember that nothing is set in stone until you start training for a commercial licence. In many ways, there are benefits to having at least a PPL in the UK if you’re planning on holding a commercial EASA licence – like being able to fly around in your favourite Piper or Cessna when you’re home for a few days. 

Last but not least, there are good conversion options from a CPL (or PPL with a minimum amount of hours) in one country to a PPL in another without too many hoops to jump through. For fear of opening another can of worms, we will let conversion of existing licences be the focus of another article … 

About the Author:

Stefan Wagner

SkyLearner TKI
Based: Northern Ireland

Stefan is a qualified Commercial Pilot, Flight Instructor & SkyLearner TKI, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. With 10 years of aviation experience, Stefan has a passion for flight, training & aviation theory.

Is now the best time to become a pilot?

Opinion Piece

Lawrence Lagaay

There is no denying that Covid-19 has had an utterly devastating effect on the aviation industry. At the height of the pandemic, economic losses to the global aviation industry amounted to $200 BILLION. The effects were felt far and wide and one doesn’t have to look far to come across someone who is either unemployed or has left aviation completely.

Even now, 2 years on in 2022, the repercussions are still being felt and will continue to be felt for years to come. The war in Ukraine and inflation troubles many countries are experiencing has only added to the difficult situation that aviation finds itself in. With all this doom and gloom, you may be forgiven for thinking I have gone completely mad when I say now is probably the best time to become a pilot. During the course of this article I’ll be explaining why I think the time is right to become a pilot.

The recovery has already started to take place.

Global flight volumes have already started to regain pre-Covid levels and on occasion even surpass 2019 figures. While aviation still has a long way to go until one can consider the industry as having “recovered fully”, there are definite signs of recovery.

A quick look on popular flight tracking website, Flightradar24, at the time of writing (May 2022) reveals statistics of daily flights in the tens of thousands. This is all very encouraging I’m sure you’ll agree.

The current pilot shortage.

Before the onset of Covid-19, the aviation industry was facing a major pilot shortage. Covid-19 had the effect of temporarily masking this shortage, but now that the industry attempts to recover and get back to profitability, the pilot shortage is becoming a fast reality. In fact, it is firmly believed that the shortage will be even greater than before Covid-19! There is strong evidence to back this up.

At the onset of the pandemic, many airlines were forced to retrench staff in an effort to remain in business. Some airlines unfortunately went out of business altogether. There were mass levels of unemployment amongst pilots. Many of the older pilots who were retrenched have either decided not to come back to aviation or have reached retirement age. Large amounts of younger pilots have also moved away from aviation completely.

So across the board, large numbers of pilots have been permanently lost to the industry. As the industry begins to recover, airlines are facing shortages already. It’s not that there are no pilots available, but rather a case at the moment of pilots needing to undergo recurrency training to legally be able to fly.

This training is time and resource intensive and means that several airlines have had to start cancelling flights because they simply have no pilots available.


Let’s use a typical airline as an example and consider the make-up of the pilot pool within that airline. In order to cater for operational needs and to fulfil the schedule, an airline needs an average of 6 crews per aircraft. So, for each plane in the fleet, an airline needs about 12-15 pilots.

If 50% of the pilot pool was retrenched, the airline will need to conduct recurrent training for this 50% of pilots if they want to have a full schedule. The problem is, within the remaining 50% of operational pilots, there will be a large amount of the airline’s instructors and check captains.

These pilots are unable to conduct the training and fulfil the operational needs of the airline and this is where the choke point is at the moment. The result is that the airline is desperately short of pilots, and they find themselves needing to hire crew who are already current (it is cheaper to hire someone who is already current than it is to re-train a pilot who hasn’t flown for a while).

We are seeing higher levels of airline hiring at the moment as the bigger airlines seek to hire crews to fulfil their operational constraints. This has a knock-on effect on smaller operators throughout the industry.

The looming pilot shortage.

Several studies and forecasts have been carried out by various companies and aviation agencies regarding the future outlook for the aviation industry. Most of them seem to agree on one thing: there is going to be dire need for pilots in the years to come.

One of these forecasts was carried out by CAE Aviation (the largest flight training organisation in the world) in September 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic was it its most severe. Their report looked at the global pilot forecast for the 10-year period between 2020 and 2030 and their forecast makes for startling reading…

According to the CAE Aviation forecast, the global aviation industry will need an EXTRA 264 000 new pilots over the next 10 years. This equates to SEVENTY newly qualified pilots A DAY for the next ten years. Yes, you read that right; 70 pilots a DAY for the next 10 years. This is just to keep up with the expected growth of the aviation industry and to cater for natural pilot attrition due to retirements etc.

This figure is backed up by the main aircraft manufacturers, Boeing and Airbus. Both manufacturers have order backlogs amounting to thousands of aircraft. Boeing forecasts that for the 737MAX alone, they will be ramping up production to 59 planes a month. If each aircraft that gets produced needs an average of 6 crews per plane, it is clear to see that a massive pilot shortage is on the not-too-distant horizon.

Starting now is good timing

With the anticipated need for pilots in the coming years, starting your flight training now is a good idea. It typically takes a student pilot an average of 18-24 months to go from beginning to fully qualified commercial pilot. In 2 year’s time, the industry is expected to have fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels and healthy growth should be starting to be seen in many parts of the world.

A word of caution though: Upon qualifying as a commercial pilot, you won’t likely be immediately eligible for employment as an airline pilot. The step-up to transport jet operations is not an easy one and a newly qualified commercial pilot simply just doesn’t have the competencies required to operate large transport aircraft. Do not despair though; through structured training programs such as jet bridging courses or APS-MCC, you’ll be equipped with the competencies to make the step-up. One of these previously mentioned courses will stand you in good stead with potential employers.


The past two years have been an incredibly tough time for everyone in the aviation industry and a lot of negative sentiments still remain. It is plain to see from the evidence that there will be a need for pilots in the years to come. The fact that it takes time for a pilot to be fully trained and fulfil all the regulatory requirements means that this shortage cannot get filled overnight. If your goal is to end up flying professionally, starting your training now will give you a competitive edge in an industry that is extremely dynamic. As they say in the classics, “you snooze, you lose!”

About the Author:

Lawrence Lagaay

SkyLearner TKI
Based: South Africa

Lawrence is a Commercial Airline Pilot based in Port Elizabeth South Africa, and TKI for SkyLearner Aviation, with experience in both GA and airline training environments.

Balancing Theory & Flying

The Great Balancing Act

When learning to fly or upskilling our General aviation skills, we often forget the need to balance practical flying alongside theoretical knowledge studying. The combination of theory and practical flying, helps us to retain and understand our knowledge, whilst refining our skills. It is important however to recognise that spending time on theory content, such as the SkyLearner System, must be considered as active learning (duty) time.

Combining Ground School & Theory Time

There are many different ways to integrate theory knowledge and practical flight training, and schools use a variety of different programs. At SkyLearner we recommend that students should normally begin a period of focused ground school after completing approximately 5 hrs of practical flight training. This allows students to begin to familiarise themselves with aviation concepts that can be useful when answering your exams and learning that all important theory.

Understandably, not everyone likes to do this, and often students mix their ground school and theory training, alongside practical flight training. This can help break up the ground school content and help act as a stress reliever while you try to wrap your head around the exam subjects. The large downside to this, however, is that it can be easy to become tired, stressed and possibly even fatigued, more easily due to the high workload of the ground school environment.

Remember it is all cumulative

It is important to recognise that you need to account for your hours of ground school learning alongside your practical flying time, as these will both have an effect on your sleep, stress and fatigue levels.

There are legal limitations to the amount of duty time, for safety reasons, that pilots must work within. Your operator, flying school or club may be more stringent, and it is important that you account for your practical and theoretical learning time, when considering your compliance with these limitations.

How Much Sleep Do I Need ?

The amount of sleep we need, is subjective, and therefore varies from person to person. In general, however, studies show that the amount of sleep varies through the various age groups.

It’s important to know how much sleep you naturally need, and then work this into your work / life schedule. You can do this by having a week of no alarms and allowing your body to awaken naturally.

How Much time to spend on SkyLearner

We understand, how much some of our students want to keep up the learning pace and make their way through the learning content, getting through those tricky tests and finally passing the instructor knowledge checks.

It is important to recognise however that you should aim to spend a maximum of 8 hours per day on the system, and plan to give yourself at least 2 days off every week, free of flying and studying. When mixing your SkyLearner Ground school with flying, the combination of both, should remain under 8 hrs per day and comply with any legal flight time limitations.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you remain compliant within any flight time or duty limitations, and to actively monitor your sleep and fatigue levels, to help ensure adequate and safe flight performance.

Article Prepared by:
SkyLearner Aviation Safety Department

The importance of having the right Flight Instructor.

Insights From an Instructor

Edition 2

In our last article, we spent some time discussing why it is so important to choose the right flying school and I gave some pointers on how to go about choosing the right flying school for your needs.

If you’ve found the right flying school for your needs, then congratulations! You’re already well on your way to a fulfilling a rewarding aviation journey. This article deals with the next aspect of flight training and one that is so crucially important – your flight instructor. Over the course of this article, we’ll discuss why having a good instructor is important, what to expect from your instructor, what your instructor expects of you and what to do if you’re not happy with your instructor.

What does a flight instructor do?

Well… They teach you to fly. Duh! Setting aside the obvious for just a moment, let’s explore the role of a flight instructor in a little more detail.

A flight instructor is primarily responsible for conducting ab-initio training. In other words, they are responsible for conducting training towards the issue of a PPL. This training consists of ground and flight training, so the instructor needs to be able to deliver both aspects of the training.

During flight training, the instructor remains the pilot-in-command which means they are ultimately responsible for the pre-flight preparation, in-flight safety and aircraft management, communication, and post-flight duties.

Since your training will qualify you to act as pilot-in-command as the holder of a PPL, the instructor will start shifting some of these responsibilities to you at the appropriate times, they however,

Your flight instructor is the most important person you’ll work with. Choose them wisely.

remain ultimately responsible for the safety of the flight. This means that in addition to teaching you how to fly a plane, they are also constantly monitoring the fuel state, engine parameters and looking out for traffic.

When not flying, an instructor could be expected to deliver ground briefings pertaining to the flight exercises being undertaken as well as theoretical lectures and post-flight debriefs. In fact, the debrief is one of the most important aspects of the whole training process as this is when the student and instructor can review the lesson and discuss what went well and what needs to be improved. The duties of the instructor don’t stop there though. Every training session must be documented in a training file, and it is the responsibility of the instructor to ensure that the student’s training file is kept up to date.

So, while you may only deal with your instructor for a short time per day, you’ll often find that an instructor has an incredibly busy work schedule and works tirelessly to stay on top of things.  

Why a good instructor is so important.

Have you ever had that one school teacher who inspired you to want to do better and learn more than just the basics? I’m guessing that teacher had a profound impact on your life and played a pivotal role in shaping who you are as a person today? A good flight instructor is no different.

If you consider that your flight instructor is most likely the first person in aviation that you’ll deal with on a regular basis, it stands to reason that they will very likely set the tone for how your training will go. If you and your instructor don’t get along well, then you’ll feel less comfortable around them and be less receptive to learning from them.

On the other hand, the two of you get along well, it makes the whole process much more enjoyable and allows you to feel comfortable enough to ask questions about things that you don’t understand.

It goes beyond a feel-good factor though. You are entrusting your life to your instructor whenever you get into a plane together. Flying with someone you don’t like has an impact on how much confidence you have in that person – even if only at a subconscious level.

An instructor very often becomes a role model to new students. I still do some of the same things my first instructor did. Luckily, they were all good habits! If an instructor has an unprofessional attitude, doesn’t take safety seriously and treats you like you know nothing, then immediately you are given the impression that it’s okay to behave in a similar manner. The saying “first impressions are lasting impressions” is painfully accurate here.

A good instructor recognises the vital role they play in the development of a new pilot’s career and makes every effort to always ensure they role model the appropriate behaviour.

This may all seem wishy-washy and full of nonsense, but I have seen it all too often in my 10 years as an instructor. There are countless aspiring pilots who have given up on their dreams of becoming a pilot because of their instructor.

A really good instructor can be thought of as more of a mentor than a flight instructor.

What makes a good instructor?

A good instructor doesn’t need to be some all-knowing god of the skies who never makes mistakes. In fact, these types of pilots often make the worst instructors. Because all students have different personalities, motivations and aspirations; what one student thinks is a “good instructor” may be seen by another student as a terrible instructor. Below, I’ll discuss some traits that set good instructors apart.

1) The student is King/Queen

By far and away the most important thing for any instructor to remember is that they are there to provide a service to a student. The focus should never be on the instructor, but rather on the student and their needs.

A good instructor puts their ego aside and refrains from showing how much they know or how well they fly unless there is a direct benefit to the student’s learning. There is no place for showboating.

2) A good instructor takes the time and effort to get to know you.

By knowing what motivated you to become a pilot, what other interests you have, how you react to stress and where your strengths and weaknesses lie, the instructor knows how to get you to perform to the best of your abilities. The simple act of taking 15 minutes to get to know you a bit better does wonders. On the one hand, the instructor is armed with information that will help them to develop you as a professional pilot. On the other hand, you as a student feel like your instructor is taking a genuine interest in you – you feel like more than just a number.

3) A good instructor is continually looking for valuable teaching moments.

Be it during the flight or whilst walking around the airfield, there are always opportunities to learn about something extra. As an example, say you and your instructor are walking past a plane that is different to the one you fly.

There are bound to be components of that plane that you may have learned about in your groundschool. A good instructor will take the opportunity to show you how this component works in real life. It’s these small details that give you a broader understanding of the aviation environment.

4) A good instructor is honest.

We don’t have all the answers all the time. The hallmark of a good instructor is one who admits if they do not know something and makes an effort to find the correct answer. Very often this turns into a valuable learning opportunity.

5) A good instructor is professional.

Flight training is serious business where large amounts of money are spent by customers and where the time pressures are ever present. An instructor who conducts themselves with a good degree of professionalism is a must for several reasons.

Most important of these is the fact that from day one, an instructor’s every move is being picked up on by the student who has little to no foundational knowledge of what is expected of a professional pilot.

The instructor becomes the student’s barometer of professionalism. Any bad habits that the instructor displays in an aviation environment invariably gets copied by the student. Instructors must always ensure they are role modelling the appropriate behaviour.

The key is to find an instructor who suits YOUR needs the best.

What does your instructor expect from you?

The working relationship you and your instructor will have is a two-way street. In order to get the best out of your instructor (and by extension, the best value from your training), there are some things that your instructor will expect from you.

1) Be Prepared

As mentioned earlier in the article, your instructor is usually incredibly busy training several students. Your instructor often doesn’t have the luxury of time to postpone a training session because you are not prepared for the session.

By far the biggest complaint that you’ll hear from any instructor is that their students were not prepared for the session. Try to ensure that you have all the equipment ready and in working order before you attend class or go for a flight.

Also make sure you have read through any prerequisite training material before the lesson. In short, please come to the lesson prepared!

  • POOR

2) Be Punctual.

This goes in hand with my previous point. Flying schools need to ensure that all their aircraft and staff are utilised in the most effective manner. This means that flights are booked back-to-back. So are the instructors. There is usually not a lot of time available for delays as this causes a knock-on effect. Arriving late to a lesson or flight is not only unprofessional, but also causes delays that could have an impact on your fellow students. We’re counting on you to play your part in ensuring the operation runs smoothly.

3) Ask questions.

Ever since the Wright Brothers first took to the skies, there has never been a single instructor who has been able to read minds. So, if you don’t understand something, the onus is on you to say so. An instructor would far rather have a student who admits they don’t understand something than a student who pretends to know everything. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Like anything in life, there is a time and place for this (asking your instructor a question about altimeter setting procedures on short final approach is probably not the most appropriate place to have the conversation!)

4) Do your best!

All your instructor wants from you is for you to do your best. Acknowledge your strengths and make an effort to improve your areas of weakness. Your instructor is not expecting you to be the next Sully Sullenberger or Chuck Yeager. Perfection will come in due course; just work to the best of your ability.

5) Have fun!

It is proven that learning something happens best when a person is enjoying the experience. Don’t forget to have fun during your training – you’re learning to fly an aeroplane for goodness’s sake! If you are not finding the training enjoyable, discuss this with your instructor to try and find out why you’re not enjoying the training and what could be done to make the process more enjoyable for you.

What should I expect from my instructor?

We’ve had a look at the characteristics of a good instructor and what is expected from you, but now we will discuss what you should expect from your instructor.

1) Your instructor should be punctual.

Quite simply, being late for a lesson sets a bad tone and leads to the lesson being rushed or postponed altogether. I’m sure that would frustrate you immensely. Don’t settle for an instructor who is constantly late for lessons or flights. This just places unfair pressure on you.

2) Your instructor should be respectful towards you.

Nobody wants to be treated like a fool. Do not tolerate an instructor making you feel like an idiot for making mistakes. There is an appropriate way to address mistakes and an inappropriate way. Being yelled at is certainly a red flag, as are snide comments.

3) Your instructor should not put you in a situation beyond your capabilities or set you up for failure.

This is a fine line for an instructor to follow because there are times when we can see a student is grasping a concept quicker than normal, and so we decide to raise the stakes to develop your higher order thinking skills. There is a difference between this and making you land the aeroplane at maximum crosswind limits on your first landing. The difference here is that you are being put in a situation that you have no hope of successfully carrying out; whereas an instructor getting you to do something a little more complex than what you’re used to makes you use all the skills you have learned so far to achieve something that required a higher order of thinking. If you feel your instructor placed you in an unfair situation, discuss your concerns with them. They may have a good reason for doing it that way.

I don’t seem to get along with my instructor. What can I do about it?

We’re all humans. We don’t always get on well with everyone. Personality clashes in the training environment is not conducive to the learning process.

Most of the time the flight school will make every attempt to pair you with an instructor of a similar personality. Sometimes this doesn’t work out as planned but have no fear!

If you and your instructor don’t seem to get along, you are well within your rights to request a change of instructors. It is perfectly normal to do so and is done often at flying schools the world over. This is best brought up with the Chief Flying Instructor or Head of Training, as appropriate. If you find the school unwilling to facilitate an instructor change without a valid reason, think very carefully about whether this is the right school for you.

Do not be afraid to request a different instructor!


As we’ve seen from this article, choosing the right instructor is one of the most important choices you’ll make in your flying career. An instructor can make or break your aviation career in the sense that a bad instructor can very easily turn you off flying and cause you to abandon your dream of becoming a pilot. I have seen it happen more times than one would like. Similarly, a good instructor will help you get the best value out of your training and provide a solid foundation for a long and successful career in aviation. Hopefully this article has provided you with some good pointers to help you choose the instructor that best suits your needs.

Happy flying!

About the Author:

Lawrence Lagaay

SkyLearner TKI
Based: South Africa

Lawrence is a Commercial Airline Pilot based in Port Elizabeth South Africa, and TKI for SkyLearner Aviation, with experience in both GA and airline training environments.