Pilot License or Pilot Licence? It's an Atlantic thing. In the UK we say licence for the noun and license for the verb. In the US they're both license.
Actually, outside of the USA in all English speaking countries it's licence for the noun and license for the verb. It's only the USA that doesn't use licence.
Now that we've cleared that up, what about getting one and using it?
You've got a Private Pilot License - so what's next?
There are two points at which student or newly qualified pilots tend to drop out of flying altogether.
The first is after the first solo and the second is after completing the syllabus and obtaining the licence. The latter is often due to the fact that new pilots will take friends and family on short flights from their local airfield but thereafter they have no one else to take.
If they haven't developed any friendships within the aviation community, or if they haven't set themselves any new goals, they can soon find themselves flying less often. As time goes on, without fresh challenges their confidence goes into a spiral descent until they no longer venture outside the local area.
Eventually, short flights inside the shrinking comfort zone lose their appeal and they stop flying and the license is shelved. This is a sad state of affairs as it means lost opportunities for the pilot and the General Aviation sector loses another participant.
Here then are some suggestions as to what you can do as a private pilot to keep that licence current, develop new skills, gain confidence, and enjoy more flying.
1. Go Exploring
Get out your chart and plan trips to other airfields, large and small. Visit unfamiliar airfields and airports where the challenges might be the amount of traffic and radio calls or the approaches and take-offs. Check out the farm strips and consider dropping in, with prior permission confirmed of course. Plan a series of stops, perhaps with one or more nights away. There's a whole world out there to explore and a runway is all you need.
By flying in the aircraft type in which you trained and qualified you will consolidate and augment your confidence in; flight planning, weather decision making, radio calls, navigation skills, and approaches to unfamiliar airfields.
All this exploring can be enjoyed on your own but there are lots of advantages to flying with a co-pilot. For a start, there's an extra pair of eyes for the lookout, someone to point out anything you've missed inside the cockpit, and someone to fly alternate legs, giving you a break. There are plenty of clubs and associations made up of people who love to fly and many who don't have a license but who are eager passengers.
Take a pilot or a passenger (or more) and they can make a contribution to your costs. Flying can not only be sociable but cheaper too.
3. Change Your Attitude
If you learned to fly on a nose wheel aircraft do a type conversion to a taildragger, or vice versa. All the airfields and strips you've already visited now have the potential to teach you something new as you return in a different aircraft type. If you convert to a taildragger then you'll be putting down foundations for heavier vintage aircraft in the years to come.
Just imagine putting in logbook entries for a Chipmunk, Tiger Moth, Harvard, or even one day, a Spitfire.
4. Be a Night Owl
Flying at night is a whole new experience for the senses, not just your eyes but your ears too. With fewer aircraft airborne the radio is quieter. With the changes in temperature the air can be more still and the whole atmosphere in the cockpit changes.
Familiar landmarks and airfields take on a whole new look and once again, there are plenty of opportunities for developing your skills as you taxi, take-off, and land, guided by runway lights.
5. Get Complicated
Perhaps you learned to fly on a conventional training aircraft on which both undercarriage and propeller pitch are fixed. Consider converting to a more complex type that has retractable undercarriage and a variable pitch propeller.
Then consolidate that learning by visiting familiar airfields and noticing the difference in speeds and fuel consumption. All this training and experience will prepare you for the move from single engine to twin.
Alternatively, get a seaplane rating and learn all about the complexities of taxiing on water when there is a current and a wind. Combine flying with boating!
6. Win with a Twin
Once you're comfortable with retractable undercarriage and a variable pitch propeller you could opt for a twin rating, or simply throw yourself in at the deep end and deal with it all at once.
With the increases in speed and range your options for exploring are expanded. Suddenly those distant airfields look a lot closer, and you've got the room and the power to pack some bags for overnight stays.
7. Check Your Instruments
Expand your horizons by getting qualified to fly in worsening weather or through it to the clear skies above. Here in the UK you could go for an IR(R) (Instrument Rating (Restricted)), the replacement for the IMC rating.
Or you could go the whole hog and get yourself a full Instrument Rating for flights during which maintaining VFR is unlikely.
8. On Your Marks
Once you've got 100 hours PIC in your logbook you could consider entering air races. Given the fact that you're going to be flying at full throttle a lot of the time, with other aircraft in front, behind, and all around you, then you need to be a fairly accomplished pilot.
Like motor racing, air racing is a sport with different engine categories and handicaps. It's another avenue to explore, with all the characters, locations, and competitions that go with it.
9. Turn things upside down
Aerobatics are not everyone's cup of tea but flying some aeros has the potential to put a big silly grin on your face. A few 20 minute slots under the professional eye of an instructor will show you just how much fun flying can be when you're hanging in your straps.
Some pilots log thousands of hours without ever flying inverted, looping, or rolling, but if this is your bag then take it to the level where you are safe and competent to fly a few routines solo.
Once you have a routine worked out you could enter amateur competitions and dream of that podium and a collection of cups.
So there you have it - 9 ideas for things to do once you've got your PPL. Work through this list and it will keep you busy for years to come.
Got any additional ideas? Post a comment below and share them.