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How many lessons do you need to get a pilot's licence? (2022 update)

How many lessons do you need to get a pilot's licence? (2022 update) Blog

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There may be fewer of them than you think. But there is more to it than that. Did you know?

First, about the question

We are often asked: "How many lessons do I need to get my pilot's licence? " It is as difficult as telling you how many driving lessons you will need before you pass.

How many lessons you need depends on a number of things:

  • Whether you have the time and money to follow a lesson at least once a week
  • Whether you are motivated enough
  • Your age also plays a role, younger people often learn faster.

Of course, aptitude also plays a small role and whether you can pick up theory quickly in general.

What does make a big difference is, which licence exactly you want to get. Depending on that, we can tell you what the minimum number of flight hours is that you need to have:

Types of licences

If we restrict ourselves to licences for aircraft, there are 5 types:

  • RPL: Recreational Pilot Licence
  • LAPL: Light Aircraft Pilot Licence
  • PPL: Private Pilot Licence
  • CPL: Commercial Pilot License
  • ATPL: Airline Transport Licence

The CPL and ATPL are licences for commercial pilots. They allow you to fly for a fee. The requirements for the training are different there because you often have to be able to act under greater pressure. We will not deal with these types of licences any further.

Private pilots

For private pilots there are the RPL, LAPL and PPL:

  • RPL-MLA: for flying microlight aircraft. The RPL-MLA licence is a nationally recognised licence which allows you to fly in aircraft with no more than two seats. The take-off weight of the aircraft may not exceed 450 kg. Due to their low weight, they are often more economical to fly.
  • LAPL: the first international licence, a light version of the PPL: your take-off weight may not exceed 2000 kg, a maximum of 4 passengers (including the pilot) and you may only fly with passengers if you have flown 10 hours as captain after your examination.
  • PPL: higher exam requirements, the mentioned limitations of the MLA and LAPL do not apply. A PPL licence can be extended with, among others:
    • Instrument Rating: for flying in low visibility conditions
    • Aerobatic Rating: for carrying out aerobatic flights (pilots are not talking about stunt flying, because these are controlled movements)
    • Night Rating: to fly in the dark.
    • Mountain Rating: required for certain airports in a mountainous area.

The RPL-MLA is a national licence. You are allowed to fly outside the Netherlands, but sometimes you have to ask permission from the country concerned. The LAPL and PPL are European licences. With this licence you may fly on an aircraft that is registered in an EU Member State. In the case of an LAPL, you need the permission of the country if you fly outside the EU. A PPL is internationally recognised.


The licences are always valid for one category of aircraft. There is an LAPL for aeroplanes (A), helicopters (H), balloons (B) or gliders (S). A PPL is for aeroplanes and helicopters. You indicate this after the type of licence. So for example PPL(A) is a PPL for fixed-wing aircraft.

Class ratings

A PPL licence or higher is always obtained in a certain class. These are the most common:

  • Single Engine Piston (SEP-land/sea): single-engine piston land or seaplane
  • Multi Engine Piston (MEP-land/sea): piston-engined land and seaplane aircraft with multiple engines.
  • Touring Motor Glider (TMG): motorised gliders.

You also have type ratings. These apply to a certain type of aircraft. There are no class or type ratings for the RPL-MLA and LAPL licences. These are part of the licence itself. After obtaining your licence, you can continue to study for additional classes.

How many hours must you have flown?

The absolute minimum number of hours you must fly to earn a licence is:

  • RPL-MLA and LAPL: 30 flight hours: of which minimum 15 hours with instructor and minimum 6 hours solo
  • PPL: 45 flight hours: of which minimum 25 hours with instructor and minimum 10 hours solo

The flight hours are counted in block hours. That is not only the time in the air, but also the time that you are starting up and taxiing. A part of the hours you are flying solo. This is very different from getting your car licence. When the weather is nice and you have mastered the basics sufficiently, the instructor lets you fly alone. Then he will get back in and you will practice more complicated conditions together.

What is not different from a car licence is that you have to pass your practical exam. Most pilots need more hours than the absolute minimum before they take the exam.

That's not all

In addition to passing your practical exam, you must also:

  • Be medically examined
  • Have flown a number of solo cross-country flights: you only fly to a number of other fields and back
  • Follow a theoretical course and pass the exams
  • You must also follow a course in radiotelephony and pass the practical exam
  • and pass an English language proficiency test

Theory course

Within the theory course you follow 9 subjects and take 7 exams. These are the subjects:

  • General knowledge of aircrafts / Principles of flying
  • Flight performance and planning
  • Aviation regulations / Operational procedures
  • Human performance and limitations
  • Meteorology
  • Navigation
  • Radio communication

You complete these exams within a maximum period of 18 months. You take your practical exam within a maximum of 24 months after passing the theoretical exam. Before you can sit the theoretical exams, you must also follow classroom lessons.

Previous education

You don't need any specific education or flying experience to follow the flight lessons. Knowledge of the English language is required. If you have studied mathematics and physics on HAVO level or higher, the theory is easy to do.

Minimum age

There is no minimum age, although most schools use the age of 8 years for a trial lesson. Training for a pilot's licence is often started from the age of 15. You may fly solo from the age of 16 and take an exam from the age of **17.

How long does it take to get a pilot's licence?

It took me a year and a half and 50 lessons to get my PPL-SEP. In 2009/2010 this cost about € 15,000 in total. After about 10 hours I was allowed to fly solo, but I was a bit late in applying for my medical examination, so I had already flown 14 hours. But again, I cannot say what it will cost you. It can be faster or slower and more expensive or cheaper than this.

Where to start

A bit overwhelmed? No problem. You don't have to do it all at once. You can just start with a trial lesson and then keep buying new lessons. Just like with your driving lessons. Everything else will come naturally.

My advice: see if you like it enough:

  • If you are sure that you want to get a licence, start with a beginner's course.
  • If you are still in doubt, start with a first test lesson. Click on the link below.

Sorry for the long post

Have fun flying!

More information

More information about our flying lessons, parachuting, flight simulations and fear of flying courses:

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Do you want to know more about flying?

Then download our theory book "How an aeroplane flies" completely free of charge. This booklet describes in an accessible way the background of a first flying lesson. So that before or after your lesson you can read back what happened around you. You will read about, among other things:

  • How lift is created and thus how an aeroplane can fly
  • How to make a turn with an aeroplane
  • What the traffic rules on the ground and in the air are
  • And what all the buttons and gauges in the cockpit mean

You can also order the book as a real book on or give it as a present with a flying lesson.

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About Eveline van den Boom

The author of this article is Eveline van den Boom. In 2006, she received her first flying lesson as a birthday present; a beautiful flight over Rotterdam. That tasted like more!

In 2010, she got her PPL licence in Lelystad. In 2011, an aircraft was purchased: an Aero AT-3. This aircraft is still flying in the fleet with callsign PH-EVB.

She wrote the theory books "Theory of Flying" and "Theory helicopter flying". These can be ordered with your flying lesson and are also separately for sale on

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