L3Harris Airline Academy

How to become a private pilot

Are you looking at how to become a private pilot? At L3Harris Airline Academy, we can help you take the first steps to fulfill your passion for flying.


Learning to fly and obtaining your Private Pilot Licence (PPL) could be one of the most rewarding challenges you set out to achieve. Not only will becoming a private pilot give you the freedom to command a private small or ‘light’ aircraft with non-commercial passengers, it also lets you visit new places near and far!

What’s more, becoming a private pilot can be a stepping stone to becoming a commercial airline pilot. If after obtaining your PPL, you decide flying for one of the UK or EU’s most iconic airlines is for you, you could embark on our Modular ATPL programme. This enables you to pay and train for your ATPL qualification in bitesize chunks.

How long does it take to become a private pilot?

With L3Harris, your Private Pilot Licence will be split in to 45 hours of flight training, 5 hours of Night Rating as well as PPL theory examinations.

How much does it cost to become a private pilot?

At L3Harris Airline Academy, we offer a Private Pilot Licence (PPL) with Night Rating course at a cost of £13,000.

In this article, we’ll take you through the steps to becoming a private pilot and how much it will cost.

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Stage 1: Experience a trial flight

If you have never flown a small aircraft before, now is the time to arrange a trial flight with an instructor. This will help you find out whether you enjoy flying and want to take the leap of faith and start the process to obtaining your PPL.

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Stage 2: Research Private Pilot Licence (PPL) training programmes

After you have experienced a trial flight, research Private Pilot Licence (PPL) training programmes.

With many flight schools to choose from, it is important to select an academy that will equip you with the knowledge and practical skills to pilot a private aircraft competently.  Not forgetting, it is important your flight school offers access to state-of-the-art facilities as well as experienced instructors.

At L3Harris Airline Academy, cadets will learn on a single-engine piston aircraft at our UK-based flight school in Cranfield. Cadets will also complete Night Rating which enables pilots to fly at night exercising visual flight rules (VFR).

Private Pilot Licence course

Stage 3: Entry requirements

To apply for our Private Pilot Licence course, you must meet the following criteria:

Age and height

  • Aged 17 to apply
  • Aged 18 to commence training
  • Minimum height 5 ft. 2 in. (157 cm)
  • Maximum height 6 ft. 3 in. (191 cm)

Education and English language

  • Students must possess a sound basic knowledge of mathematics and be competent in the use of the English
  • Non-native English speakers must achieve at least level 5.5 in all sections of the International English Language Training System (IELTS)

Visas - Studying in the UK

  • Have the unrestricted right to live, study and work in the UK (e.g. UK national, EU national with settled or pre-settled status, etc); OR
  • Meet the United Kingdom Visa & Immigration Service (UKVI) requirements to qualify for a Visitor (study for six months or less) or Student visa (study for more than six months).

Background and selection

Produce a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate.

Obtain your Class 1 Medical

In addition to the above entry requirements, cadets will also need to obtain a Class 1 Medical certificate prior to starting their training to become a private pilot. Find out how, here.


To start your journey to become a private pilot licence, click apply. You will need to register for an account with L3Harris Airline Academy before you can start your application form.

Private Pilot Licence selection process

Cost: Currently free of charge

  • (6x) Cut-e pilot aptitude test
  • Interview

Selection is mandatory and prospective cadets will be required to attend an interview.

Qualifications needed to become a pilot

Get in touch today and start your journey!

Do you have any questions about starting your pilot training journey at L3Harris Airline Academy? Please send us a message and our Airline Pilot Careers Advice Team will be happy to assist.

Stage 4: Training

To apply for our Private Pilot Licence course, you must meet the following criteria:

PPL theory

The first step in your training to become a private pilot is to complete 9 PPL theoretical subjects with exams. Your PPL theory aims to equip you with the foundational knowledge of aviation. The nine theoretical subjects include:

  • Air Law*
  • Operational Procedures*
  • Human Performance*
  • Navigation**
  • Meteorology**
  • Communications
  • Aircraft General Knowledge
  • Principles of Flight
  • Flight Performance & Planning

* = required before first solo

** = required before first solo cross country

Learning for your PPL theory examinations will be a combination of self-study and supported learning from instructors at L3Harris Airline Academy.

How many flight hours are needed to become a private pilot?

Your flight training will last approximately 10 weeks and consist of 45 hours in a single-engine aircraft:

  • 5 hours will be dual flight instruction
  • 5 hours will be supervised solo flying, including at least 5hrs of solo cross country with at least 1 cross country flight of at least 270km that includes full stop landings at 2 aerodromes different from the departure aerodrome

Your PPL training programme with L3Harris will also include 5 hours of Night Rating training; 4 hours will be dual training & 1 hour will be solo training to ensure you have the capabilities to fly at night.

Your training will be completed at our flight school in Cranfield, UK.


Licencing skills test

At the end of your PPL training course, you must complete a skills test which demonstrates your ability to perform the procedures and manoeuvres which acting as pilot in command (PIC) you have learnt during your training. 

During your skills test you must demonstrate how to carry out the appropriate checks and duties for the aircraft including pre-flight preparation checks and post-flight checks.

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Stage 5: Congratulations, you’ve become a private pilot!

Congratulations, you have completed your PPL training. Upon successful graduation from the programme you will obtain:

  • PPL
  • 45 hours total in a single-engine aircraft
  • Night Rating

You can now take your passion for flying to the sky!

Modular ATPL

Stage 6: What next?

Add 'ratings' to your PPL

Once you have completed your PPL theory and flight training, you may want to consider adding some ‘ratings’ to your PPL.

As previously discussed, your PPL training with L3Harris Airline Academy includes Night Rating which will enable you to use your PPL at night using visual flight rules (VFR). However, there are a variety of ratings to choose from, the common being:

  • Instrument Rating Restricted (IRR): The Instrument Rating Restricted (IRR) is the next step after you’ve gained your PPL. This rating allows you to fly in adverse weather conditions restricted to UK airspace
  • Instrument Rating (IR): Instrument rating attached to your licence will enable you to fly under instrument flight rules. This means you will be able to fly in cloud and other circumstances of reduced visibility
  • Competency-Based Instrument Rating (CBIR): Competency-Based Instrument Rating enables experienced pilots to train for their full IR in a way that takes into consideration their previous experience

Continue onto commercial flight training (optional!)

Once you’ve become a private pilot you may want to take this to the next level and embark on a journey to becoming a commercial airline pilot.

There are two routes following your PPL to become a commercial pilot, these include:

  • Integrated ATPL training: This is a structured and direct route to securing your frozen ATPL. Our Integrated ATPL course is designed to prepare you for the role of Co-Pilot with a global airline. The course is approximately 70 weeks long and can be completed in the UK or the EU depending on where you want to train and licence you wish to obtain
  • Modular ATPL training: This is a highly flexible route to securing your frozen ATPL. You can train to become a commercial airline pilot in bitesize chunks and pay as you train. This is greater for cadets which have other commitments and need to work alongside their training
Pilot training courses

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