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How To Get Your Private Pilot License in Canada

The Private Pilot License

To get your private pilot license in Canada you need to learn two things. One is to learn how to fly an airplane well enough to pass a flight test. The other is to learn enough about flying that you can pass a written test. In my experience it’s easier to learn how to fly a plane than it is to learn the stuff you need to pass the written test.

I have three pieces of advice:

  • Start early on the written test;
  • take a few flight lessons;
  • buy an airplane or a share in an airplane that you can learn on early in your education.

Buy Your Own Plane

I bought a 1/4 share in a Cessna 150 before I soloed. I haven’t regretted it. The advantage of buying is that you build some equity in an airplane with money that you’d otherwise pay to a flight school. Once you have your Student Permit you can fly anytime your instructor signs you out. There is a downside – you have to pay for insurance and operating costs, including repairs, but in my experience it’s still a worthwhile investment. You’re going to have to pay for an airplane and it’s associated costs one way or another, so the question is really just one of risk. If you take the risk of ownership you’ll probably pay less (as long as you fly 50 hours per year).

Learning to Fly

Generally speaking, younger people learn to fly in fewer hours than older people. However, skills degrade if you don’t fly frequently. Get ready to take advantage of weather and any available daylight. Put money aside if you have to, so that when time and weather permit you are in the sky. The biggest obstacle to your first solo is learning how to land. That requires practice, and flying lots of circuits is how you develop the skills for taking off, talking on and listening to the radio, and doing your downwind checks.

Landing, however, is something that you just have to practice until the nickel drops and you get the feel for where the airplane is and how you bleed off the energy and settle calmly on the ground.

My advice: try to fly at least once a week. Fly more if you can.

The Written Tests

There are three written test you need to take to get your private pilot license. There is the Radio Operator’s Test (easy), the Pre-Solo Test of Aviation Regulations (PSTAR – still easy) and the Private Pilot License written exam (harder). You’ll do the radio test in ground school and then forget all about it – it’s that easy. The PSTAR is a test you’ll write later. All the questions are publicly available, so you can simply memorize the answers and pretty much assure yourself a passing grade. Go ahead and do exactly that if you want. Don’t worry – all the PSTAR stuff you memorize you’re going to learn later for the Private Pilot license written exam.

The questions on the Private Pilot license written exam are not made public. You can write practice exams that are close, or use The Sharper Edge’s Exam Preparation Guide (it has practice exams as well), but you will have to actually learn the material to write the test. Your flight school will probably require a 75% grade on the practice exams before you write the real exam. You’ll have to write the Private Pilot license written exam before you do the flight test.

Don’t so what I did! I dragged my feet on studying, and learned to fly first. Why? It was more fun. What happened? When I was just about ready for my flight test I had to stop flying ans start studying. Late summer ended, the fall rains came, and I missed some great flying opportunities.

That’s It

It’s that simple. Buy a plane, learn to fly, study the written material. For the plane you can go to Barnstormers.com, but the best idea is to put the word out around your home airport. For learning to fly just pay an instructor and get up there. For passing the tests start studying now. I’ve made some study resources available here:

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor and pilot based in Vancouver, BC. I AM NOT A FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR AND I AM NOT OFFERING FLIGHT INSTRUCTION! I am sharing my study notes and other things I’ve learned while getting my education as a pilot. You’re welcome to make use of this information, but do not treat it as expert advice.

I really enjoy flying, real estate and the Chilcotin.  My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting or concerns selling remote property in British Columbia.

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