Life after the NPPL – what’s next?
You’ve got your NPPL licence, what comes next?
Your new, shiny NPPL has arrived from the mother ship and you are ready to fly, literally! The wait for the right weather is over and you can take your first flight as a qualified microlight, flex wing or gyrocopter pilot. Without doubt, and quite sensibly, your first post skills-test flight will probably be on your own so that you can align your aviation ducks and get a feel of what it’s like to be the sole commander of your mighty ship. This adventure will naturally lead to passenger flights particularly when your nearest and dearest tells everyone that you are now Captain Fantastic.
I suggest that at this juncture and for the good of future relations, you consider quite carefully whom you select for this maiden passenger voyage (Titanic…). Your closest may only have agreed to be the first victim, sorry, delighted passenger because they know of your struggle to pilot hood and don’t want to let you down. However, they may not actually be that keen to slip the surly bonds of earth, even less so with the person they saw reverse their car into a lamppost the day before yesterday. I suggest you choose your first passenger with care; my wife first flew with me on our honeymoon 30 years ago, but only last year did she admit that she really doesn’t like flying – I rest my case.
Move on 6 months and you have now flown just about everyone you know and have also flown around more houses (that’s mine, the one with the blue front door with the white car outside…) than the police helicopter and it’s time to think about your next microlight, flex wing or gyrocopter quest.
Unfortunately, the dropout rate from general aviation is quite significant. Sometimes it is due to other commitments – family, work, financial or even health but it’s well known that there are a lot of licence holders out there who give up not through a conscious decision but because the aviation dream dies a slow death due to it becoming, well, just a little bit boring. Bashing the local field’s circuit in the club’s rental can become dull and expensively so particularly if you are just maintaining the school or club’s recency requirements. It would be a shame to let all that effort and expense go to waste though and this is where you need another challenge, another financial blackhole to fire-up your aviation desires.
How about using your skills to fly somewhere? Genius, let’s go cross country…
The true joy of flying for me is the ability to float above the traffic and go visit a different airfield. The ability to time travel and say things like “this journey would have been 3x as long in the car” even though you had no thoughts of going there in your car, this is where the fun really starts. The airfield doesn’t have to be at the other end of the country either, remember, it’s about the journey AND the arrival. Go spend £100 on a cup of tea and a toasted sandwich. Go scare the living daylights out of yourself by joining a circuit pattern that has more rules than the Air Navigation Order and more traffic than Oshkosh (which should also be on your bucket list). Do this along with other pilots in their aircraft and you have yourself the start of something special with added comradery.
What are the other choices? Many and varied and it depends on the depth of your pockets and dedication to the cause. Some will involve more study, some will just be outrageous fun but in my experience, we all started flying mainly because we are slightly on a spectrum that requires constant learning and challenge. As one of my flying buddies so eloquently put it, “we are all here as we are not all quite here”. Here’s my top ten list of “what next(s)” in no particular order:
- Go buy your own microlight, flex wing or autogyro and tour….read more about that here.
- If you learned in something austere, go out and fly something more adventurous – modern microlights are awesome machines.
- If you learned in a microlight, how about trying an autogyro? Cheaper with fewer moving parts than a helicopter.
- Throw all your cash at a helicopter lesson – see if you enjoy the dark side and try not to think about all the moving parts.
- Take an aerobatics course and maybe get a rating. Fly in a Pitts – let me know how scared you were.
- Fly a tailwheel, this will also improve your dance skills and make you far more attractive to the opposite sex which is why there are so many nosewheel pilots who never get swiped right – fact.
- Go gliding. Most definitely do this. Just do it, if you don’t enjoy gliding then all hope is lost and you are allowed to hang up your white, kid leather flying gloves. Beware, if you get the bug, most gliders are outrageously expensive.
- Get an instrument rating, an IR(Restricted) or an IMC rating as we used to know it. It could save your life and the challenge is something completely different.
- Plan a trip to Scotland if you live down South in the smoke. Flying up here is amazing, little in the way of controlled airspace and most of the natives are friendly. The scenery is awesome as well, just do me a favour and don’t tell everyone; I like the peace ;-).
- If you live in Scotland, fly down to the South Coast of England to remind yourself why you put up with the darkness, cold and square sausages. Use your favourite moving map application to stay out of the bits you aren’t invited into.
Look out for our future blog posts where we will expand on some of the above but in the meantime, don’t give up. Find your next flying itch and go scratch it. YOLO and all that.