Passing a PPL Skills Test

In the days that passed following my initial failure (or partial pass!) I kept beating myself up over making such a stupid mistake as messing up the overhead join. It took about 5 days before I finally calmed down and put it behind me. It had already happened, nothing I could do could change it. The only positive really was that I am pretty unlikely to ever make the same mistake again!

I had re-booked the final part of my test twice, each time was cancelled either due to weather, or aircraft availability. Six days had passed before I was actually able to re-take my test, and as I only had to take off, fly out of the ATZ and return again, I was feeling pretty relaxed on the drive to the airfield.

My test was booked for 1pm, but I arrived around midday so that I could check the aircraft, fuel if necessary and generally relax a bit before starting. As it happened, the aircraft had already been flown a couple of times and had a decent amount of fuel in it, so I didn’t need to do anything but wait.

Soon enough, the examiner arrived and we had a quick brief. No need to recover everything that was said before, today would simply be about doing a successful departure, rejoin and landing. Although he did say that he’d like me to do a couple of circuits too. Not a problem, I thought.

The wind was favoring runway 27, the best choice of runway at Gloucester as it’s the longest and has the familiar GCHQ as a visual landmark directly to the East of the threshhold.

This time, he watched me as I checked the oil and fuel, then asked me a couple of questions about the different parts of the plane. “What’s this bit called”, and “what does this do”. That sort of thing.

Soon enough we were in the cockpit and I was obtaining the ATIS. After a short taxi, and even shorter hold, we were cleared for take off. After a slight turn to the right for noise abatement, I turned to the north and flew towards Tewksbury. Overhead Tewksbury, I called Approach and asked to re-join. “Make a standard overhead join for runway 27, right hand” they said. So that’s what I did, not making any mistakes this time, executing a nice descending turn to cross the 09 numbers at 1,000ft. Whilst descending I asked Tower for approval to do circuits, which were approved, so when calling downind it was for “downwind, touch and go”. This was to be a flapless circuit, which went well, followed by a performance landing.

Everything went well, I had nearly done it. After slowing down, the examiner took control and asked Tower if we could do an aborted takeoff. They approved, so then he asked me to proceed as if I was taking off, but then abort on his command. Now, this isn’t something I’ve ever done before so I was feeling a bit apprehensive, but thought it through and figured I’d need to throttle back and brake hard. On his command, that’s what I did, and he was happy. He took control, then said “congratulation, you’ve passed”. Hoorah!

Back in the briefing room, we spent the next hour or so filling out various forms and paperwork. By the end of it, I had an envelope full of documents ready to send to the CAA to apply for my licence. I was very excited!

It takes around 2 weeks for the CAA to process your application. During which time, you can fly solo with an instructor’s approval, but you can’t take any passengers. As soon as the licence arrives, I’ll be able to take passengers.

Luckily I’m away next week with business, so the wait wont be quite so agonising. With any luck, I’ll do a solo flight before the licence comes through, and then go on my first flight as a licenced PPL with my wife. I’ll spend the next few days thinking about where we might go.. Oh, and celebrating. Lots of celebrating to be done!

I did it!
I did it!

16 thoughts on “Passing a PPL Skills Test

  1. Congratulations! It must feel amazing to have passed, what a great achievement! I’m learning at Kemble at the moment, fairly early into my training (gone solo a few times, 4 ground school exams out of the way so far). I’ve found your blog really useful as to what to expect next, and how the entire course plays out.
    Thanks for explaining everything so well. Happy flying! [=

    1. Hi Chris, thanks for the congrats. I’m really pleased you’ve found the blog useful and hope you continue to fly through your course at Kemble.

      Are you learning with Freedom? I keep meaning to pop by and meet the guys there – they seem really friendly on their Facebook page. Maybe I’ll see you there!

      1. Yes I’m learning with Freedom!
        They’re a lovely club, and really make you feel like part of the family. [=

        All 9 ground school exams passed now, I should be doing my QXC in the not too distant future (if winter is kind to us).

        Hopefully I’ll bump into you at some point Nic!

  2. Congratulations on passing your big day mate. I got a little question for you, I’ve passed my skills test on the 26th May and then sent my application to CAA a few days after.
    Do you know how long it takes for your licence comes through the post?

    Best wishes on flying


    1. Thanks, and congratulations to you too!

      It took about 4 weeks for my licence to come back to me… Seemed like the longest month of my life!

    1. Thanks. Good luck with your funding mission – great idea! If you ever want to right-seat when I’m flying, let me know – you’d be more than welcome. Best, Nic

  3. Great read thanks Nic, it’s great to get some thorough anecdotal experience to think about. The irony that I stumbled upon this after a general Google search and we just so happen to use the same flying club – I did my first solo in MB and I’m currently sat (im)patiently awaiting my QXC – whilst anxiously anticipating my skills test too!

    As soon as I read your failure post I knew what was coming, Gloucester is actually a pain at times with it being right hand circuits 9/10 times with the rare day when the wind changes direction. Fortunately it’s something I’ve been wary of since day 1. What I never realised though is the length of time they keep you waiting to send your license back. You’d expect the CAA to be rather more efficient given the industry.

    Possibly bump in to you sometime if you’re still flying out of Aeros.

    Best wishes,


  4. Hi Nic,
    I have been learning to Fly at Aeros (PPL) for the last 10 months or so.
    This website has been a valuable resource throughout my training, I have enjoyed reading your blogs and watching your YouTube videos.
    My PPL skills test is tomorrow (weather permitting).

    If your ever at EGBJ – let me know, would be great to grab a beer or coffee at the Aviator and catch-up.

    Dan Jones

    1. Thanks Dan, I’m pleased you found it useful.

      Best of luck with your skills test (and fingers crossed the weather improves a bit). I’m rarely at Gloucester nowadays, but no doubt we will bump in to each other at some point! I keep meaning to update my blog and get it going again with details of what I’ve been up to since passing, which seems like a long time ago now.

      Happy flying and good luck!

  5. Hi Nic,

    A quick line to you,it’s a big thank you to you for this site, i had been wanting to learn to fly for years and it wasn’t until i saw your blogs and videos here that i made the decision to go ahead, mainly on the content you posted,it took away a lot of the mystery for me and it has been also a very good “heads up” on the various stages of flight training, the videos were particularly helpful.
    So, i completed my LAPL skills test Sunday the 6th of August and passed.
    I fly in the suffolk area so i doubt we’ll ever meet,happy days and blue skies to you!!

  6. Hi!

    Thanks for the wonderful website. It’s really given me a superb overview of what learning to fly entails at every stage.

    How is the flying going? Have you done any ratings yet, night flying, IMC, tail wheel for example?

    Despite having two trial flights many years back, I’ve just never gotten round to learning. After recent coffee pit-stop at an airfield cafe, the bug has bitten me again – this time indescribably hard, just as we head to autumn! I don’t want to throw away another opportunity!

    I’ve a few questions I hope you won’t mind answering. How often did you have a lesson? I know the lessons get longer over time and depend on the flying skill, but typically how long were they (flying time) in the first half of your ppl (0-20hrs say)?

    Over that first winter of flying how appreciably the did the weather affect your flying and lesson frequency? I’m trying to get a sense of where a lesson a week might get me and whether over the winter I will get a lesson a week or not.

    I know it’s different for everyone, but how many hours did you do before going solo, passing your license?



    P.S. You’ve not come across someone called Tim Hodgetts at your aeroclub? I worked with him years back and remember he flew out of Gloucester

    1. Hi Martin, thanks for the feedback and it’s great to hear you’ve enjoyed the blog.

      I really should update the blog with some posts on what I’ve been doing post-ppl, as I have gone on to do some great stuff, including obtaining my IR(R), getting a share in an aircraft, and flying all over Europe – as far as Romania!

      Answering your questions, I aimed for a lesson every week, but as you can see from the blog, the weather didn’t always play ball, but largely it worked out ok. When we started practicing flying circuits (about 10 hours in) and preparing to solo, I concentrated that training and took 3 or 4 lessons in a week. After going solo, I went back to once a week. That approach worked well for me. I obtained my licence after doing 45 hours.

      Best of luck, be sure to come back and post another comment once you get your licence!

  7. Hi Nic
    I must say I found this very useful during my time learning – right up to the morning of the skills test where I was still reviewing things!

    I’d love to know your journey after your pass, how you went about the IR(R) etc, as I’m interested in carrying on myself (if only for fun rather than a change in career!). I’d also love to hear what it was like flying across Europe – sounds pretty daunting!

    Thanks for the blog, it’s been very very useful!

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