Learning To Fly In New Zealand

cessna-cockpit-1525974-640x480Learning to fly is a unique and rewarding experience – quite different to other recreational activities. Being in complete control of an aircraft and learning to safely perform the required manoeuvres both in the air and on take-off and landing is a challenging skill.

Always wanted to learnt to fly and don’t know where to start? Read on for a handy guide on learning to fly in New Zealand; what it takes, how to get started and what you need to know.

Where Do I Start?

Whether its hobby flying, a career choice or just something to tick off the bucket list, learning to fly in New Zealand all starts at the same place – the PPL or Private Pilot’s Licence. This training can be undertaken at various aero clubs and flight training schools around the country, it is really up to you.

However, it is important to think ahead – if you are planning to make flying your career it may be a good idea to choose your flight training school with the view to improving future employment prospects. This is particularly important if you intend to seek employment within Air New Zealand.

There are four institutions across the country that are Air New Zealand Preferred Flight Training Organisations. These are; Southern Wings Flight Training in Auckland, The International Aviation Academy of New Zealand (Christchurch), Massey University in Palmerston North and The Nelson Aviation College.

Getting Your PPL

To qualify for your Private Pilot’s Licence you must complete a minimum of 50 hours flight time. This time is made up of some time spent flying solo and the remainder with a qualified instructor. There is also a theory component which requires a pass in the following papers; Aviation Law, Meteorology, Aircraft Technical Knowledge, Navigation, Human Factors and Flight Radio.

Having your PPL means you are able to hire small aircraft, plan and complete flights across New Zealand with or without passengers. If seeking paid employment however you must continue flight training by moving on to the CPL (Commercial Pilots Licence).

Can Anybody Learn To Fly?

Yes! Anybody can learn to fly, however to complete your first solo flight you will need to be aged 16 or over (17 years old for the PPL), and have successfully gained a medical certificate from an approved medical examiner. It is also necessary to be able to speak and understand the English language fluently.

While an interest in subjects like Physics, Maths or Science can be helpful particularly with understanding the theory of flight, they are not crucial. As long as you fulfil the legal requirements set out by the CAA there is nothing to stop you from becoming a pilot.

How Much Does It Cost?

Costs will vary depending on institution, aircraft type and the amount of time it takes you to become proficient. However as a very broad guide, based on a 50 hour flight time-target costs will come in around:

  • $30,000 – $35,000 for Helicopter Flight Training in a Robinson R22 or similar (around$600 – $650 per hour)
  • $12,000 – $20,000 for Fixed Wing aircraft training in a Cessna 152 or similar (around $250 – $300 per hour)

There are also usually additional costs involved which may include things like exam fees, CAA fees, manuals and stationery, headsets, medical insurance and a pilot’s logbook.


If you wish to fly different types of aircraft you will need to do a bit of extra training in the specific aircraft and gain what is called a Type Rating. This is because every aircraft has its own handling characteristics and systems. This process will involve some flight time with an instructor and familiarising yourself with the aircrafts performance and safety procedures.

It is also possible to get flight skill ratings, for example an Instrument Rating (allowing you to fly through clouds while relying on the aircraft’s onboard instruments), an Instructor Rating (Qualifying you to teach others to fly), and Aerobatics Ratings.

Please note all facts and figures used in this article are intended as a guide only, for more detailed information it is advisable to contact a professional flight training school in New Zealand.