I have flying in my blood. My father was in the R.A.F for 15 years on Lincoln bombers, and went on to fly VC10s and Tristars with British Airways, just passing up on Concorde as he was nearing retirement by then. So, I was delighted to get the chance recently to fly over Malta on an hour-long trial flight aboard a light aircraft with Diamond Flight Training.
However much big jet flying you do, you won’t really be prepared for the experience of a light aircraft. I’d been in a glider once, on a swelteringly hot day in southern England, and had felt the worse for wear. I imagined a light aircraft to be a similar ride. Thankfully, it was a stable affair: the weather was fine, wind light, and the visibility excellent. The optimal conditions for a trial flight and prospective learner.
Why Malta makes sense for learner pilots
The beauty of learning to fly in Malta is that you get ideal conditions almost all year round for flight training. Jeremy Tan, chief flight instructor at Diamond Flight Training, said that the Islands had a lot to offer those training for their pilot’s licence in an intense period, as well as qualified pilots seeking to log hours and refresh skills. “Malta has fantastic weather conditions and great scenery from the air. It also offers a value-for-money base for someone wanting to learn to fly over two to three months. We’ve a location geared to a holiday as well – a flexible choice of accommodation, as well as other leisure options. So a social life comes with your course too.”
What it takes to train
Diamond Flight Training is Malta’s newest flying school. Based at Malta International Airport, on the outer reaches near to the old airport buildings, it uses two new DA20 and DA40 planes (two- and four-seater); the type used by the US and other military for flight training. Jeremy explains that getting a private pilot’s licence requires a minimum of 45 hours of flight training, with an average in Europe for most people of about 55 hours to gain a private pilot licence (PPL). Training involves a minimum of 100 hours ground school – or studying the theoretical aspects of training – using computer-based training facilities under supervision at Diamond Fight’s centre, Luqa.
“We customise the training to suit. I would reckon on taking around 10-12 weeks to complete training if you study hard and get the hours in. Luckily, since we’ve such good weather in Malta, you can expect to get up flying more often early on in your course than in some other locations,” Jeremy says.
On a trial flight, you get to taste flying the plane immediately, with the reassurance of the dual controls. Before setting out though, Jeremy takes you through the safety procedures, explains use of the radio and intercom (don’t speak while air traffic control is on, and so on), as well as giving you a run through the key features of the cockpit. You can see why the DA20s and 40s are used for training – they are sleek and trim and have cockpits with the ultimate in usability in mind, and therefore designed for learners’ needs.
Once up, and once you’ve a feel for both the horizon outside and on the cockpit screen, you get to nudge the joy stick and bank the aircraft, gently circling landmarks like Grand Harbour and Mdina. Later, we head to Gozo. The islands’ airspace is divided in sections, and to fly each, we require air traffic clearance.
I have to admit I spent a lot of time clicking photos. I discovered parts of Malta I never knew existed – a far greener and pleasanter land below than my regular car routes reveal. Even if you don’t go the whole hog and learn to fly, a trial flight is an experience and one not to pass over whether you’re visiting Malta or living here.
For full details of pilot training for JAA PPL (Private Pilot Licence) and trial flights, see: Diamond Fight Training (Malta).
Trial lesson rates:
DA20 Euro175.00 per hr
DA40 Euro200.00 per hr