Courtesy of EAC-m (https://www.eacm.nl/2021/04/11/milos-is-geslaagd-voor-zijn-brevet/)

Private Pilot License – My journey to PPL!

Everyone: *being silent, minding their own business…*

Miloš: Last week I passed my PPL (pilot) exam!

And this is how my story starts… If you are the one of those people who at some point had a question in their mind: How does one become a pilot? Then this story might be interesting for you…

But, before I get to the point, a quick intro… I was born and raised in Kraljevo, Serbia. City that in 1927 got the first airplane production factory in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (more details on Wikipedia), producing the French Breguet 19 airplanes for the Royal Air Force. After The WW2, in 1967, the city gets the Military Air Base Ladjevci, which at that time was the home of the 235th Fighter-Bomber Squadron of Yugoslav National Army, consisting of F-84 Thunderjet planes. Nowadays this airbase is home to the 98th Air Brigade od Serbian Air Force, and it has been converted to allow the civilian traffic, under the name Morava airport. In parallel to the military history of aviation, Kraljevo has a long history of leisure and sports flying, with the first aeroclub “Mihajlo Petrovic” founded in the 1927, which continues to function to the present day, at the Brege Airport (LYKA) in Kraljevo. With all of this, you can imagine, how as a kid, I would go to all the aero-shows, and climb and sit in all kinds of military and other planes.

One would say that my interest in aviation started there… However, I would add two more moments in my life that took me closer to flying. First one is when I started working on a project with Airbus, which opened a new world for me in terms of understanding how (comercial) aviation works. Second and more important moment happened in January 2020, when a trip across the US led me to San Diego, and to my friend Ivan (sdpilot.org). He was at that time going through his training to become an FI (Flight Instructor). Ivan took me for a flight, in Cessna, and at one point said “Would you like to try flying?” and that was the moment after which I knew, this would be my goal, to become a pilot!
Some months later, after returning from holidays in the US, I found out that there is an aerclub in Eindhoven and that I can fulfill my dream there. And basically from there my journey as a student pilot within EACM (Eindhovense Aero Club Motorvliegen) begins.

In order to get to the point where I can call myself a (private) pilot, I had to pass through eight steps (not necessarily in this order):

  1. Medical exam  
  2. PPL theory training
  3. PPL practical training
  4. Radiotelephony training & exam (VFR)
  5. LPE (Language Proficiency exam)
  6. PPL Theory Exam
  7. PPL practical exam
  8. Apply for the licence with relevant authority

Among these some are straight forward like Medical examination (Class 2 for PPL), which I did at the Sky Medical Center in Eindhoven and which consists of a few different medical/health checks, which should be nothing special, if you don’t have any underlying medical conditions.

Second thing that I did was to enroll as a student (member) at the EACM (and become a member of the family), and got my PPL (practical) training syllabus. The syllabus contains 37 lessons divided into four phases:

1 Introduction & Taxiing
2 Effect Of Controls
3 Straight & Level
4 Climb & Descent
5 Take off & Turning
6 Slow flight & Approach

7 Consolidation & Circuit
8 Slow Flight & Stalling
9 Slow Flight & Stalling
10 Spin Avoidance
11 Take-off & Landing
12 Air Experience

13 Consolidation & First Solo
14 Air Experience
15 Air Experience
16 Advanced turning
17 Solo training
18 Air Experience
19 Solo training
20 Forced landings
21 Solo training
22 Precautionary landings
23 Solo training
24 Basic Instrument Flying
25 Solo training

26 Instrument Flying
27 Cross-country Navigation
28 Cross-country Navigation
29 Low level Navigation
30 Air Experience
31 Solo training
32 Air Experience
33 Solo training
34 Radio Navigation
35 Cross Country Navigation
36 Qualifying Solo Cross Country
37 Exam training (optional)

As you can see the first two phases are focused on basics of flying and safety, while phase 3 is started with the first solo. This is one of the most amazing moments in the life of a student pilot. I did my first solo after a bit more than 16 hours of instruction on 29th of August 2020.

Before that there were plenty of nice moments, some of them scary and some overwhelmingly amazing like doing the lesson ‘Spin Avoidance’ on the acrobatic plane (more info and my bad haircut here). If we exclude that lesson on Decathlon, I have been doing my training on CZAW SportCruiser PS-28 aircrafts (PH-NBA and PH-ZLV) that are in the club’s fleet

In parallel to my practical training I also did the theory training and exams (steps 2 and 6). I did these with the Orbit Groundschool and AustroControl. Advantage of this approach was that I could take the theory in English through their online platform, and exams were also in English. This is something that I found extremely valuable, especially taking into account flexibility which online learning gives you. However, the thing to note here is that even though you use the e-learning platform, there is a certain amount of classroom (brush-up) hours that you have to do with the teacher/instructor. And of course, once you are done with learning and all the classroom hours, you can apply to theory exams… 9 of them… (in Dutch system, some of these are combined so total is 7 there). But for me these were the exams I had to pass with a mark of 75% or higher:

  1. Air law
  2. Human performance
  3. Meteorology
  4. Communications
  5. Navigation
  6. Principles of flight
  7. Operational procedures
  8. Flight performance and planning
  9. Aircraft general knowledge

Once I was done with these, I could fully focus on my practical training (which you have to finish within 2 years of passing all the theoretical exams).

You would think this would be it for the exams (until the final PPL checkride), but no… Although it is not required for obtaining the PPL, in order to be able to fly in the Netherlands, you are required to have the RT (Radiotelephony) licence and the LPE (Language Proficiency Exam), to prove you can use the radio in the proper way, and in decent English. These I took at ATC-Comm and CAVOK B.V. respectively. And I must state it was a great experience, and I would suggest you do at least the RT training asap, as it will be of great help to any new student pilot. This is especially useful for the students that are flying within the controlled airspace(s), like the one at the EHEH. 

So, after some setbacks due to Covid lockdown, bad weather and U/S (unserviceable) aircraft, I managed to schedule and finish my exam on 9th of April, with one of the clubs examiners Tjeerd! After some 54 hours in my Log Book (before the exam) and one extremely exhausting day, I finally could say I was done!

That all being said, my suggestion, to anyone thinking about getting the licence, would be to find a nice aeroclub in your vicinity, and sign-up for a trial flight(s). And if you like it after this, then go obtain the medical certificate, and start your theory and practical training! 

Few considerations here… Make sure that you have enough time for these things! If you can not manage to fly at least 2-3 times per week on average,  it will take you significantly longer to reach the proficiency level required for the exam. Also, at the end everything is about planning, make sure you time to finish your theory exams asap, so you can fully concentrate on flying. Also, take into account weather at the location where you would do your training… Don’t count on too much VFR flying in the Netherlands in January. For other more detailed info I would recommend that you contact your aeroclub, as there might also be the club specific rules for new/future students. Until then, you can find more info on the EACM’s page (for Dutch, Google Translate works well) 

And of course, I would not be able to finish this post without giving thanks to Evelyn and Bart, who were there for me through the most challenging parts of the process. And of course my instructors Ton and Dennis! Cheers!

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