Learning to fly in Australia is easier and cheaper than you might think, recreational pilots say
Learning to fly in Australia is cheaper than you may expect. As are the costs of building and maintaining an aircraft. It costs Martin Hone less to fly and maintain his two aircraft than it does his old farm ute.
- It can take as little as $4,000 and 20 hours to get your recreational pilot’s certificate
- The certificate allows you to fly a two-seat recreational registered aircraft in uncontrolled airspace during daylight hours
- There are 10,000 recreational pilots in Australia, the most there has ever been
He is one of the 10,000 Australians who have worked out how to fly for fun, and on the cheap — with a recreational pilot’s certificate.
With safer aircraft, cheaper training and relaxed rules, flying schools and hobbyists are reporting that more people are taking up flying for recreation.
At least those who know about it.
“It’s a well-kept secret,” Mr Hone said.
Turns out you do not have to be Richard Branson or John Travolta to own your own plane or fly to Crab Claw Island for breakfast.
Flying is a pastime just about anybody can afford
Mr Hone grew up riding his bike to Moorabin Airport to watch the planes take off.
Worried his eyesight was not good enough or he would never be able to afford it, he put his flying dream behind him. That was until he found Recreational Aviation Australia.
Formerly the Australian Ultralight Federation, RAAus provided a window for Australians looking to fly small aircraft for fun in 1983.
“Before that, if you were rich you could hire a plane or buy one and fly around the patch. But really you were limited,” Mr Hone said.
“It wasn’t for the average person effectively to go flying for fun,” Mr Hone said.
“Now it’s a pastime that just about anybody can afford.”
Recreational Flying has Exploded in Popularity
Under the recreational pilot’s certificate, pilots can fly with one other person in a recreation registered aircraft weighing under 600kg at take-off. They cannot fly at night or charge for their flying services (unless instructing).
RAAus CEO Michael Linke said it was not until 2007 when light-sport aircraft — heavier and more sophisticated than their ultralight predecessors — came on the market that Australians took to the air in droves.
“That fit perfectly in the niche we’re at, the low cost, high-reliability group of aircraft that could come onto our register, and we exploded in popularity,” Mr Linke said.
When it comes to medical requirements, RAAus CEO Michael Linke said the same Austroads private driver’s licence health standard applied for recreational pilots.
So if you are fit to drive a car, you are fit to operate a RAAus aircraft.
You can assemble your own kit plane
There are thousands of aviation enthusiasts who and currently flying, or building their own recreational aircraft. The most popular of these is Van’s Aircraft, based in Oregan,USA. Around the world, on average, 1.5 RVs are completed and flown for the first time each day. These sports aircraft are reliable, fast and affordable to build. The average RV costs less to build than a top range 4WD car.
It took Josh Mesilane 32 hours and $5,760 to get his certificate.
The 34-year-old had just bought a house, started a business and was looking to start a family when he realised his flying dreams in 2018. Before that he had no idea recreational aviation existed.
The certificate requires a minimum of 20 hours, five of which are solo hours.
With schools typically charging between $200 and $300 an hour, you are looking at a bare minimum of $4,000 for your certificate.
A Cross Country endorsement will take an extra 12 hours and allows you to fly anywhere in uncontrolled air space (about 95 per cent of Australia).