Training for a pilot licence
Before you apply for a licence, you will need to complete a training course at a flight school.
Courses are designed to train you for a specific licence. During your course, you will obtain the theoretical knowledge and skills needed and complete the flying time required for the licence. When you finish your training, you will be given all the documents you need to apply for a licence.
In addition to UK approved schools, you can choose to complete your training abroad, as long as your chosen school is CAA approved. This ensures you meet the required flying standards.
Types of flight school
There are two types of flight school. They are known as Approved Training Organisations (ATOs) and Declared Training Organisations (DTOs) You can train at either type of flight school.
DTOs are generally smaller organisations and only offer courses for private flying, such as for a LAPL or PPL licence or ratings such as Night or Aerobatics.
ATOs are approved to deliver a wider range of courses. They can still offer all of the courses that the DTOs do, but in addition they can teach on twin engine aircraft and for Instructor and Instrument Ratings. Some ATOs also offer training towards Commercial licences. As they are generally larger more complex organisations, they are subject to more oversight by the CAA.
Things to consider when looking for a flight school
Please note that the CAA is unable to recommend a flying school
Here are some things for you to consider to help you make the right choices to achieve your aviation ambitions.
Visit some schools
A good first start is to visit some schools, talk to the staff and instructors, ask lots of questions and get a tour of the facilities and aircraft. This will give you a good idea of the options available to you and will help decide if the environment is right for you.
Those currently learning or qualified pilots are also a good source of advice. Most schools should be more than happy for you to talk to some of their members and students. From this, you will likely gain some valuable impressions as well as answering questions you may have about the process and what to expect.
Take a trial lesson
Before committing any significant time and money to flying, a sensible option when you are researching schools is to take a trial lesson to make sure flying really is for you.
The relationship with the instructors that you fly with will have a big influence on the quality of the experience. It is important that you feel comfortable with them and that they appear motivated and interested in you learning effectively. Do not be afraid to ask to talk to a few different instructors when visiting the schools.
Prior to starting training for any pilot’s licence, it is worth considering the medical standards required. Please see the Medical page for more information.
Contact a flight school near you
See our lists of Declared Training Organisations (by region)
Gliders, microlights and balloons
Governing associations for each kind of flying hold details of their affiliated clubs and schools. Please follow the links to their websites below:
The CAA is unable to give advice on how much schools or training courses cost. You will need to contact the flying schools directly to ascertain this.
Most flight schools advertise a complete price for the qualifications they offer and also a training rate by the hour. Whilst some schools will offer ‘all inclusive’ packages, this is usually based upon the minimum number of flying hours set out in the licence requirements.
Many students require additional lessons/hours to complete their training. It is important to understand what is included in the pricing and what is not – for example there may be additional costs such as landing fees or ground training instruction.
Protecting your investment
The CAA’s approval of a flight school means it complies with all safety requirements and is able to provide training to an agreed standard. The CAA does not regulate the financial viability of flying schools or clubs so CAA approval to conduct flight training does not imply any certification of financial health or stability. For this reason, the CAA advises all prospective student pilots to take precautions to protect their financial investment.
Many flying schools may offer a discount if you pay more money ‘up front’. Whilst you can make a saving, it should also be considered what will happen if the school or club ceases trading. If payments are made in advance, using a credit card will usually protect the payment up to a certain amount, whilst cheque or bank transfer payments may result in you losing your money.
However, paying upfront by credit card for your training may result in the upper limit of protection being exceeded by the total cost of training. Guidance should be sought from your credit card provider as to the level of protection offered in your credit card contract.
Some students may elect not to pay in full for the training in advance, but to control the flow of payments to the ATO/DTO. This can be done by means of setting up an escrow account. In such arrangements, the ATO/DTO and the student agree to a schedule of payments that ensure that funds are released from the account to the ATO/DTO only at certain pre-agreed points in the training programme. Payment is made only for the training that has been provided.
Alternatively, many people pay per lesson which limits their financial exposure and also gives added flexibility should they wish to call a halt to their training or want to change schools.
Issues with your flight school
Changing flying schools
If you find it's not the right fit for you, you are able to change your flying school. If you decide you want to change schools before you finish your training, you must ensure that your training records are transferred to your new school.
Dispute with a flying school
The CAA regulates the safety practices of training organisations. We are not an ombudsman service so are unable to intervene in personal issues or grievances.
We recommend that you follow the complaints process at your flying school or contact Citizens Advice.
If you have a concern over the safety practice of your school, you can report a potential breach of aviation law.
What to do if your training school ceases trading
In the event that your ATO/DTO ceases trading before your training is complete, it is important that your training records are secured and retained by an independent body. Unfortunately, the CAA does not hold individual's training records and therefore would be unable to assist in this situation.
It is recommended that, in such circumstances; you contact the liquidator for a copy of your training records, or your instructor who may have kept your records.
It is not recommended that you secure your own records as it may subsequently prove difficult to demonstrate to a Licensing Authority that the records have been kept independently.