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I am aiming to get my PPL(A) licencse next year, the official start will be around spring, when my savings plan is due.

I have lately been able to free up my schedule a little for the current year, and I am thinking about using this spare time to prepare for the PPL course.

To not make the question too broad I've compiled three core questions:

  • Does it make sense to start practizing with a flight simulator?
  • The theoretical part of the license can also be taken as an online course which I can afford financially already. Should I do this now, or attend regular classroom training with a FI next year?
  • How meaningful are trial lessons?

For completeness, I am in Europe.

Thank you for your advice in advance.

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    $\begingroup$ Your first question should be covered here: Can Microsoft Flight Simulator help me learn to fly (or make me a better pilot)? $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Commented May 23, 2022 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Bianfable: Thanks, I already went through that post, but felt like including it here for sake of completeness. $\endgroup$
    – pat3d3r
    Commented May 23, 2022 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ If you haven’t taken at least one intro flight I recommend it. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 2:46
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    $\begingroup$ Don’t do anything in a sim that you haven’t already done in a real plane with an instructor. Unlearning bad habits can waste a lot of money. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 13:06

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Much of this depends on how quickly you plan to get your PPL. If you are going to try and get through it in a few weeks then it makes sense to get all your ground work done ahead of time, including taking the exams. Most people self-study the material, which really isn't that hard to learn. A good deal of material you read won't make sense until you are actually flying, which is not a problem as it will later. If you are going to do your PPL over a longer period of time then there's no point in cramming it all before you start and you can take it at your own pace.

When I started my PPL I had self-studied a great deal about the mechanics of flight and understood the basic controls, which I found really helped me get started. My many, many hours on flight simulators was both a help and a hindrance as I had to un-learn some bad habits. If you do flight simulator by all means enjoy it, unless it's instructor-led you won't get that much out of it.

One thing that comes in useful is learning the in-memory checklists (for instance engine failure, fire, etc) and the relevant speeds for the airplanes you will be learning on.

At the end though my advice would be not to overthink it, many people start their PPL with no preparation at all and do just fine.

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    $\begingroup$ @pat3d3r worth noting: checklists can be operator dependent and "fluid". If you know what plane(s) you will be flying and have access to POH, learn the memory items as suggested, but leave the checklists untill you know how the flight school manages them. During my PPL there were several updates to checlists. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 9:39
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    $\begingroup$ Agree with this. The training covers it well, you don't need a lot of prep. But, personal opinion, two areas that just 'take time' to master are weather and radio comm. Understanding weather patterns takes time. Study up on aviation weather and practice reading forecasts and seeing what it really means. Also listen to an aviation radio or LiveATC to get used to the phraseology and following the conversations. $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ For completeness: Read some material about radio communication. +1 $\endgroup$ Commented May 24, 2022 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ Watch some YouTube videos from reputable flight instructors $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ @pat3d3r - I’m probably not supposed to give actual links to specific resources but there’s a YouTube channel named “FlightInsight” that has some pretty good content. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 21:01
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From my flight instructor:

  • most pupils they get who claim to have time in MSFS have ingrained very bad habits that are dangerous and really slow them down in learning to fly properly
  • It CAN help with cockpit familiarisation, but you tend to rely on instruments way too much, rather than on piloting and your surroundings (simply because of the limits of the computer simulation, I noticed that myself, forcing yourself to look out rather than down can be hard in the beginning)
  • It certainly helps understanding how the control surfaces affect the aircraft, but as there is way different control feedback on the computer this can also be a hindrance.

Overall, he prefers pupils with either no simulator experience or very extensive simulator experience using high quality models and simulators (not the gamified stuff that's default in MSFS) and using real life manuals and procedures in the simulator rather than just hopping in and going.

ATC procedures in EASA airspace at times being quite different from the US centric ones in MSFS (especially for VFR) doesn't help either.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, this is very helpful! $\endgroup$
    – pat3d3r
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 18:15

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