In praise of the NPPL - And holders thereof
A few weeks ago a friend of mine, an
experienced glider pilot, used his newly acquired National Private Pilots’
Licence to take me for a flight in a Slingsby T61F Venture T Mk2. I'm not very
familiar with the NPPL and it interested me that he had needed only 10 hours
conversion from his Glider Pilots’ Licence to obtain what seemingly has all the
advantages of a full PPL. Ten hours total, including an hour dual instruction in stall/spin
awareness and avoidance, not less than an hour dual instrument appreciation and
not less than 1 hour supervised solo flight.
It seems a
very cost effective way into powered flight, but I was curious about the
limitations and so I looked into it more.
NPPL you are restricted to Visual Flight Rules (no bad weather or night
flying), to only flying UK registered aircraft and you are restricted to no
more than 3 passengers. As with a full PPL, you start with simple aircraft and
can move onto more complex aircraft types, so wobbly props and retractable
undercarriage are yours for the taking. You'll have to stay with single engine
aircraft under 2000kg, but that includes some pretty serious kit including a
With only 6
hours per year (4 of them as pilot in command) needed to keep you ticket
current, keeping your licence shouldn’t be too expensive. A check ride with an
instructor is needed every two years and you must have done 3 take-offs and
landings within the last 90 days as solo pilot before you can fly with a
passenger. None of this sounds too onerous.
requirements? You need to be signed off by your own GP with the standards
required similar to a UK Professional Driver's licence and the clearance only
needs to be updated when you reach your 45th birthday.
restriction seems to be that the NPPL is not an internationally recognised
qualification, so no hopping over the English Channel for lunch. For
recreational flying in the UK, however, it seems ideal.
convert to a full PPL? You can carry over 30 hours of training. Have a PPL with
an expiring medical? You can get an NPPL level medical clearance and carry on
flying with NPPL restrictions.
from scratch you would need 32 flight hours plus check-flights, compared to 45
hours for a UK PPL, and you too could be enjoying evenings soaring over the
British countryside with your friends. Don't take my word for it, start with nationalprivatepilotslicence.co.uk
for more information.
As for the
aircraft, the Slingsby is a self Launching Motor Glider mostly used by the
gliding club to teach glider pilots how to safely land off-field, without
actually landing off-field. Fortunately for me, it also makes a great aircraft
for passing an hour suspended between rolling green hills below and imposing
grey cloud above.
This is an
aircraft the 1980s and I'm sure the interior is mostly the curtains from the
house my family had at the time. It feels a world away from the Eurostar
Microlight I blogged about before. Generally more stable, heavier in roll,
light in pitch, the monowheel undercarriage with outriggers and flying from a
grass strip (rather than nose wheel gear flying from tarmac) added to the sense
of difference. The patina of use, worn seat pads and lightly scuffed paint on
the cockpit rails gave me the warm feeling of familiarity, like a well loved
and well used classic car. It seemed a nice contrast to the seemingly
I had great
fun taking advantage of my friend's qualification and I had great confidence in
his abilities - in my mind any pilot who normally starts the flight with an
engine-out (or rather, one not actually fitted) is well equipped to deal with
most emergencies our flight might encounter. The flight reminded me again how
beautiful our country is and just how varied is our pilot community.