Which licence is right for me?

Learning to fly

If you want to fly an aeroplane as a hobby there are three sorts of licence that you can train for:

  • A PPL(A) - Private Pilot Licence (aeroplane) - this allows you to fly single-engine piston powered aeroplane, is recognised world-wide and the easiest to upgrade to a commercial licence at a later date, or to extend privileges and add ratings to fly other types of aeroplane.
  • A LAPL(A) - Light Aircraft Pilot Licence (aeroplane) - valid in all EU countries to fly a single-engine piston powered aircraft up to a set weight limit (maximum take-off mass of two metric tonnes or lighter) and with no more than four people on board the aircraft (including the pilot). There are only a few aircraft normally considered to be 'hobby aircraft' which are not covered by the LAPL. A LAPL (A) can be upgraded easily to a PPL(A) and therefore could be upgraded via two steps to commercial level.
  • A NPPL (SSEA) - National Private Pilot Licence (simple single-engine aeroplane) - valid in the UK, and possibly in some other countries with their prior permission, to fly a SSEA with a set weight limit (maximum take-off mass of less than two metric tonnes), during the day and in good weather.

From 8 April 2015, the NPPL licence can only be used in non-EASA aircraft, which means mainly home-builds ('kit' or 'permit' aircraft), microlights, and a small number of ex-military light aircraft. Unless you wish to train and then be limited to non-EASA aircraft, the LAPL(A) or PPL(A) might be more suitable.

An NPPL gained before April 2015 can be converted into a LAPL or PPL.

If you only want to fly a microlight and you want to learn to fly in them you can train for an NPPL(M) - a UK National Private Pilot Licence (Microlight).

A microlight is a powered aeroplane at the very lowest end of 'weight' limits and can also be flown with a PPL(A) or LAPL(A) licence with a 'sign off' from an instructor after a small amount of extra training.

If you want to fly a helicopter for private use there are two main licences you can train for:

  • A PPL(H) - Private Pilot Licence (Helicopter) - an internationally recognised licence.
  • A LAPL(H) - Private Pilot Licence (Helicopter) - valid in EU countries to fly a helicopter with a set weight limit (maximum take-off mass of two metric tonnes) and with no more than four people on board the aircraft (pilot and three passengers).