How do I become a pilot?

GoFly12 Sep, 2019

Pilot training at large flight schools starts with a Private Pilot Licence but you can also start with (and save money on) your Recreational Pilot Certificate.

Step 1: Recreational Pilot Certificate

The first thing you will do is sign up for temporary membership of Recreational Aviation Australia (RA Aus), which covers you for your first 3 hours of flight training. The RA Aus syllabus consists of the following lessons:

Lesson 1: Trial Introductory Flight

An introduction into the basics of flight training.

Lesson 2: Effects of Control

Teaches you the primary and secondary effects of the controls and how they affect the aircraft.

Lesson 3: Straight and Level

Teaches you how to fly the aircraft straight and level and at varying air speeds.

Lesson 4: Climbing and Descending

Teaches you how to climb and descend the aircraft at varying speeds and varying rates of climb and rates of descent

Lesson 5: Turning

Teaches you how to turn the aircraft at varying angles of bank at a constant height and climbing and descending turns

Lesson 6: Consolidation of all sequences learnt so far

this lesson is a summary that all you have learnt so far

Lesson 7: Stalls

Teaches you how to recognise the impending stall and to recover with a minimum loss of height

Lesson 8 to 14: circuits and circuit emergencies

Learn how to take off and land and fly a predetermined circuit in the sky. These lessons bring together everything you have already been taught us you will learn to use the radio and we will prepare you for your first solo flight

Lesson 10 to 18: Your first solo flight (estimate only)

Once you have demonstrated that you are capable and consistent, your instructor will allow you undertake one solo take-off and landing on your own. (You will never forget this flight lesson!)

Lesson 14 to 18: More solo circuits

You will fly a predetermined circuit in the sky, practicing all you have learnt.

Lesson 15: Cross-wind circuits

Learn to take off and land in gusty and cross-wind conditions

Lesson 16: Training area familiarisation and practice forced landings

Learn the procedures for departing and arriving at any aerodrome and how to handle an emergency in the training area.

Lesson 17 to 20: More solo practice

Lesson 18 to 19: Pre-flight test and revision

You will undertake your pre-flight test and revision of all sequences and advanced emergencies. This lesson is a revision of all you have learnt plus the addition of other emergencies you may encounter.

Lesson 20: More solo or Flight test

More solo or proceed to your Flight Test. If you pass your flight test you will obtain your recreational pilot certificate. If you fail (and many people do at the first attempt), you can redo the flight test whenever you are ready. All training is based on competency of the pilot and not on hours of tuition. A student will only receive their certificate or licence if they have passed all tests and the Instructor deems their flying to be satisfactory.


Your Pilot Certificate allows you to fly a 2-seater recreational light sport aircraft within 25 nautical miles of the aerodrome in day VFR conditions.

Membership and materials for the RPC

During your RPC training you will need to do and buy the following things:

During Lessons 1 to 3: Apply online to RA Aus to obtain your Recreational Student Pilot Membership at a cost of around $268 for 12 months. To speed up your learning, you could consider purchasing a monthly subscription to  GoFly Online video lessons to assist with flight training and revision. You can watch the informative videos at any time, on any device and new lessons, blogs and videos are added each fortnight.

During Lessons 3 to 6: Purchase  your BAK book online. Purchase your logbook online or from our office.

During Lessons 4 to 8: Start studying: Rules of the AirAerodrome Markings from the Visual Flight GuideVisual requirements for VFR Flight, Learn your Radio Calls for your area. Also study the requirements for the issuing of a Pilot Certificate at section 2.07 of the RA Aus Operations Manual.

At GoFly Online we recommend we recommend Pilot Practice Exams for getting ready for your exams.

Lesson 10: Around lesson 10 you will sit your Pre-solo exam and radio exam (multiple choice).

Lesson 14: Sit Air Legislation Exam. Start studying BAK and Human Factors book

Lesson 16: Sit BAK exam.

APPROXIMATE TIME: 3 weeks full-time or can be done part-time

APPROXIMATE COST THROUGH GOFLY AVIATION: $5,980-$7,500 (20-25 hours flying @$299/hr) plus $400 for materials and membership.

Step 2. Passenger Endorsement

A passenger endorsement enables you to fly with one passenger. You can watch the full Passenger Endorsement video at GoFly Online.

You must have:

  • completed your Recreational Pilot Certificate
  • a minimum total of 10 hours of solo command time (5 in addition to the 5 done during RPC)
  • a briefing with a senior instructor and a 30 minute dual flight with an instructor to ensure sure you understand the privileges and limitations of flying with a passenger.

APPROXIMATE TIME: 5 hours of command time plus one hour for the check flight

Step 3. Cross Country Endorsement

A cross country endorsement enables the pilot to fly anywhere in Australia outside of controlled or restricted areas. You may like to purchase access to the Cross Country Endorsement videos on GoFly Online. Before you begin nav training you must have:

  • 16 hours of dual flight training (8 x dual navigation lessons)
  • 10 hours of instructor briefings

A navigation multiple choice exam will be completed before the first solo navigation lesson.

The lessons consist of:


First navigation lesson includes a 2 hour theory lesson on obtaining weather, CTA, basic map reading skills plotting a line and measuring a heading and distance. Also look at aerodrome info and how to join. Student to learn how to read a compass, hold height and heading and join an unfamiliar aerodrome. Map reading technique to be introduced.


The student is to revise what has been learnt and briefing is to include accurate time keeping and estimates and completing an accurate flight plan. 60 minute nav to be completed in simulator as part of actual flight. Time and distance, Big picture, small picture and time will be the focus, as well as flying above 5000 ft,  rules and leaving SAR note and emergency locator transmitter (ELT).

NAV FLIGHT LESSON 3: FUEL AND REVISION OF GROUND SPEED (accurate fuel log keeping and ‘CLEAROFF’ checks)

Briefing to include fuel calculation and how to revise ground speed in the air with the use of way points and geographical features. 30 minute simulator session to practice.



Brief student on low level navigation and diversions. student should be able to divert within 2 minutes and estimate within 60 seconds. By this stage the student should be able to obtain weather, flight plan and lodge SAR time by themselves. Diversions should be given during flight and theory exam should be completed.


Send solo in good weather conditions. 

NAV FLIGHT TEST: Be able to do accurate flight plan, lodge SAR time, depart and hold heading plus or minus 50 feet. Identify off track within 4 minutes. Estimates within 1 minute and diversion to be completed immediately if required. Good use of ‘CLEAROFF’  checks and airmanship to a high standard. Good situational awareness and able to maintain visual meteorological conditions at all times. Good use of fuel logs.


The following supplies are ordered online from The Flight Store:

Bob Tait RA Aus Cross Country Theory $94.50. Plotter protractor for $19.95. Flight computer for $49.95.

VNC MAPS ERSA booklet $34.95

Step 4: Obtaining your Recreational Pilot Licence or Private Pilot Licence (with Controlled Airspace conversion)

A Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) is the next step in your pilot training, after your RPC. You can upgrade from your Recreational Aviation (RPC) Licence to your Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL). Your RPL conversion enables you to fly a heavier aircraft with more than one passenger, providing you hold a class 2 medical.

An RPL is often the obvious choice when you either want to get a General Aviation licence or fly larger/heavier single-engine planes. Of course larger planes cost more to fly so it can be cheaper to do the bulk of your initial training in cheaper recreational planes and then converting to RPL planes. It’s an easy transition and more cost-effective than going direct to your Private Pilot Licence (PPL). It allows you to have both a Recreational and General Aviation licence and fly into Controlled airspace.

Every flight lesson will start with a classroom briefing on the techniques before they’re put into practice. You’ll need to pass some theory exams as well as complete practical flight training. With a Recreational Pilot Licence, you’ll be able to fly as a Pilot in Command of a single engine aircraft up to 1500 kgs.

You will be able to use your Recreational Pilot Certificate and Navigation Endorsement towards this conversion to save you time and money. You will need to apply for an ARN and an ASIC card before your training. Adding a Controlled Airspace Endorsement allows you to fly into controlled airspace. Adding a Constant Speed Endorsement allows you to fly any aircraft with a constant speed propellor. Adding a Retractable Endorsement allows you to fly any aircraft with retractable landing gear. We follow the Part 61 Syllabus outlined by CASA and extend this with helpful Videos & Books. We recommend Bob Tait Theory or the Aviation Theory Centre for study material.

As with most Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) licenses there are more stringent conditions including:

1. Have a current flight review for the aircraft being flown

2. Meet the medical requirements

3. Have conducted three take-offs and landings in the previous 90 days if you wish to carry passengers (All General Aviation training is conducted by Air QLD operated under AOC CASA.TAAOC.0734).

You must be at least 16 years of age, be proficient in English and have 25 command hours flight time. There will be 7-10 hour of dual instruction, 2 hours of circuit work and 2 hours of instrument flying and some ground briefing.

Lesson 1: Intro into the Cessna, understanding weight and balance and understanding constant speed operations and retractable landing gear. First flight consists of upper air work including stalls, practice forced landings and emergency procedures.

Lesson 2: Standard and circuit emergencies

Lesson 3: Standard and emergency circuits in the Cessna

Lesson 4: Basic Instrument flying.

Lesson 5: Controlled airspace briefing and radio practice and flight into Sunshine Coast Aerodrome (Class D airspace)

Lesson 6: Controlled airspace briefing and radio practice and flight into Archerfield (Class D Airport) Aerodrome and transit through Gold Coast controlled airspace (Class C Airspace)

Lesson 7: Revision of controlled airspace and pre-flight test review

Lesson 8: RPL Flight test

You can also add a constant speed propellor endorsement and a retractable landing gear endorsement.

To upgrade from RPL to PPL all that is required is for you to pass the PPL Theory exam. After your RPL/PPL you can go on to study for your Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL).


Step 5: Private Pilot Licence

You can start your PPL on Recreational Aircraft to minimise your flight training costs. You do not have to choose between completing a Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) or a Private Pilot Licence (PPL) as they are actually two milestones on the same journey. So it’s less about which licence you choose, but more about how far you want to go with your flight training. Each licence and endorsement you earn along the way will provide you with different skills and expand your freedom.

After completing your RPL, you can continue on to get your Private Pilot Licence (PPL). The PPL training focuses mainly on navigation and will enable you to fly all over Australia and indeed anywhere in the world. During the PPL training, you will learn how to navigate to and from different airports.

Similar to the RPL program, you will need to pass several theory exams as well as complete practical flight training.

Once you have received your Private Pilot Licence, you will be allowed to act as a Pilot in Command and be endorsed. You will be able to carry up to five passengers and fly all over Australia. The benefit is that you end up with a Private Pilot Licence plus GA licence and a recreational licence. It would be far more expensive to do this training from start to finish through a GA school. You can also obtain the following endorsements: Constant Speed Unit, Multi Engine, Night VFR, Under Carriage Rating, IFR Rating.

Step 6: Obtaining your Commercial Pilot Licence

There are lots of savings to be made by doing the first 85% of your Commercial Pilot training in light sport aircraft, saving you around $30,000 compared to other flight schools. To read about how to do this, go to this informative blog.

Requirements before training begins:

  • Recreational Pilot Certificate with cross-country endorsement, or RPL with cross-country and navigation endorsement
  • Minimum of 100 hours of command of an aircraft
  • Completed all commercial theory subjects and passed the exams
  • Completed 20 to 30 hours dual advanced commercial flight instruction course
  • Minimum of 200 hours in total before completing the CPL flight test

APPROXIMATE TIME: from 0 hours through RPC to CPL would be 8-12 months

Optional Step: RA Aus Instructor Rating

Becoming a Certified Flight Instructor is a great way to share your passion for flying with others.

If you’ve got the right demeanor to teach, to enthuse, and to support learner fliers then you might like to consider broadening your flying skills, and helping others achieve their dream of flying. Not only is teaching a great way to to pass on your knowledge but your own flying skills will also skyrocket as you work through the best way to convey complex matters to novices.

Achieving your Instructor Rating opens new opportunities for you as an aviator.  Not only can you earn money in the aviation industry, but you get to fly more often and become a valuable part of a flying business.

At GoFly Online we have filmed all our board briefings and in-flight patter, for you to watch in the comfort of your own home (or listen to while driving to the hangar!) to help you get your Instructor Rating more efficiently.


  1. RA AUS Pilot Certificate & Class 2 Medical Certificate
  2. Cross Country Endorsement
  3. Passenger Endorsement
  4. Minimum flying hours are 150 hundred hours total time RA Aus (including 100 hours total command – of which 25 hours must be in command of a recreational aircraft)

This is an edited version of an article on the GoFly Aviation website, which includes pricing and videos.

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