Frequently Asked Questions

Recreational Pilot Licence vs Private Pilot Licence (RPL vs PPL)

So which one is better? It depends on you and what you are planning to use your licence for. The number of people obtaining a Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL) is growing very rapidly and many of those even with a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), or who fly commercial and military aircraft are choosing to fly recreational aircraft as well. So why is this happening? Simply because it’s fun and much more affordable!

So what is the difference between the RA-Aus Pilot Certificate and the Recreational or Private Pilot Licence?

Compared to the RA-Aus Pilot Certificate, an RPL or PPL allows you to:

  • Fly in controlled airspace, including Archerfield without restrictions.
  • Fly aircraft with more than two seats.

After further training beyond PPL level you are also able to:

  • Fly at night
  • Fly using instruments
  • Fly aerobatics

These things listed above cannot be achieved at Pilot Certificate level. However, there is also quite a difference in price between obtaining a RA-Aus Pilot Certificate and a PPL.

The best part – you don’t have to choose!

Even if you decide to start with the recreational licence, and after obtaining it you decide that you want to continue and complete your RPL, PPL or CPL, all of your recreational experience counts! A Pilot with a RA-Aus Pilot Certificate and experience won’t need to complete many hours to convert across to an RPL, PPL or CPL. The best part – you can then fly both types of aircraft. If you are doing a local flight by yourself, take the recreational aircraft, if you want to take the whole family away for the week, you can do that too in a bigger plane.

How do you operate RA-Aus Aircraft at Archerfield?

We hold an exemption to send our students (and former student) for solo flights during the Tower hours.

This allows you flexibility during your training to fly under the mantle of safety that the Control Tower provides.

Once you have your RPL or PPL then our supervision is not required.

Do my hours count towards my Recreational, Private or Commercial Pilot Licence?


All of the hours in our Sling2 aircraft count towards your RPL, PPL or CPL.

But I wear glasses....

Most pilots wear glasses or contacts. Your vision does not need to be perfect it just needs to be correctable to a sufficient standard. For most people this means that if you are allowed to drive a car then you can be a pilot.

Am I too old to be a pilot?

Probably not! We have trained people well into their sixties, airline pilots routinely fly all over the world in their sixties. Good judgement, which tends to develop with age, is more important to being a good pilot than the hair-trigger reflexes of youth. As long as you are realistic about your cognitive abilities and rate of learning there is no reason not to fly.

How old do I have to be to be a pilot?

You can learn to fly from any age. You cannot go solo before you are 15, so we don't recommend that you have lots of lessons before the age of 14 . Some of our pilots need their parents to drive them to the airport. At the airport the roles are reversed and the parents are flown around by the young pilot. How cool is that?

What if English isn't my first language?

All student’s undertaking flight training at PathFinder Aviation must be sufficiently competent in the English language to ensure a high standard of aviation safety. PathFinder Aviation is committed to offering its flight training programs to students from a broad range of backgrounds, cultures and languages. In doing so, it recognises its responsibility to ensure that students whose first language is not English, have sufficient proficiency to undertake the training of their choice.

The purpose of the policy is to set the standard of English proficiency required of a student, whose first language is not English and align with the CASR Part 61.B.5 requiring pilots to be assessed as meeting a standard of English language proficiency. Our company policy requires an English Language Proficiency of Level 5 or 6 due to the complex operational environment required for our aviation activities.

Students can learn more about aviation English here: https://www.casa.gov.au/standard-page/approved-language-test-centres. There are a number of training courses available around the country such as RMIT and Aviation Australia to assist students in preparing for their Aviation English Assessments

If you are unsure about the ELP requirements please contact PathFinder to learn more about the process.

Is it Safe?

What scares you most about driving on the road? Probably it is the other drivers. Flying eliminates this issue, with flying you are almost totally in control of your destiny. Pilots who plan their trips, ensure there is enough fuel in the plane to get to their destination, don't do stunts, and avoid known bad weather, can anticipate an enjoyable and safe experience. We recognise that the human element in flying is the least reliable part of the process. We provide specific training, tools, testing and assessment to help you develop safe habits, attitudes and decision making.

Where can I go once I have my Certificate or Licence?

If you have a Pilot Certificate you are limited to the Training Area (Stradbroke Island, Redlands, Logan and Beaudesert areas) or within 25 nautical miles of the airport, but outside of Brisbane Airport's controlled airspace. Showcase your skills and take your partner or best friend for a flight.

If you have a Cross Country Endorsement you can fly all over Australia but outside of the controlled airspace around the major airports. This allows you to do things like fly to the Birdsville Races, Longreach's Stockman's Hall of Fame, Lake Eyre, a weekend at Byron or visiting family and friends in Armidale, Roma or Bundaberg.

If you have a Recreational or Private Pilot Licence you can fly all over Australia including into and out of the major airports. You could be doing business in Sydney or Melbourne or take your family on holidays to Cairns or Darwin.

Can I hire a plane once I am a pilot?

Yes, we hire planes to qualified pilots. There are plenty of planes available for hire at Archerfield and there are also several Flying Groups that you can join to gain access to aircraft cheaply. Most aircraft hire is done on an hourly rate so that if you take an aircraft away for several days but only do 5 hours of flying you only pay for the hours spent flying.

How often must I fly once I am a pilot?

The legal requirements are simple. You are required to have a flight review with an Instructor every 2 years. If you are carrying a passenger you must have completed 3 take-offs and landings in the last 90 days.

However, in order to be safe you must fly regularly and in addition spend at least one hour per month working on your general handling skills and emergency procedures. As a low hour pilot your general handling skills are very perishable and must be constantly practiced.

What tips do you have for a new pilot?

Fly as often as you can. The longer the time between lessons, the more you have to re-learn at the next lesson, which draws out your time and expenses.

Watch the in-cockpit recording of your last lesson. Watching the flight again will help cement your new knowledge and prepare you for the next lesson.

Do your homework. Practice and rehearse your cockpit drills and procedures at home until you really know them. Write out a radio script and get someone else to play Air Traffic Controller so that you can respond appropriately.

Do your reading. Make sure you read all of the text pertaining to the next lesson you will have. The textbooks explain in great detail what you will later do in practice.

Give yourself enough time. Make sure you allow time in your schedule for the lessons so you aren't rushing around at the last minute to get there - this causes stress you don't need.

Get a hand-held aviation radio or listen to liveatc.net. Go to the airport on lunch breaks or when you can and listen to the conversations to get used to how it sounds and what goes on. This is also a great backup device for use in the plane.

Schedule lessons for early or late in the day. Air is smoother, and during the summer, the cockpit is cooler.

How do I Start?

Just give us a call!

Contact us on (07) 3255 5734 to make a time to come in for an interview with our Chief Flying Instructor, or fill out the form above on the right. You will get to meet us, see the aircraft and have all your questions answered.