PPL(H) – Skill Test Exam Flight

PPL(H) – Skill Test Exam Flight

Planning & Briefing

All steps up to this stage built one huge adventure with many unforgettable memories. And now the final day has arrived.

The Exam Flight, so called Skill Test Filght:  Briefing / Navigation / Exercises.

First, I get some waypoints for the navigation flight – based on this I have to prepare the Full MATED Brief.

Afterwards, I explain all the different parts of it in a briefing to the examiner. He acts like a passenger during the whole exam. You treat him like a total novice and he pretends to have no idea of flying helicopters at all.

This situation is a bit strange, but similar to other verbal exams at college or university. During the flight this will remain the same. He won’t say much – as long as you do a good job. That’s why it was very important, we had always trained to talk and verbalise all the different steps. The examiner has never flown with you before and he can’t look into your head.

The more you comment on what you are doing, verbalise your position, checks etc., the better he can judge your skills and will not start to distract you with questions. As for planning & flying in general: Always be upfront in the situation, lead it. It’s appreciated, good airmenship and makes everything way easier & relaxed and prevents any bad surprises.

Finally, I have to take the decision if the weather is good enough to go and fly the exam. It’s quite windy. And I know I do not do myself a favour but I have trained everything in even more wind and decide to go. He checks back almost five times and asks me, if I am really happy. “Yes. I am happy  – let’s go & fly!”

Part I – Navigation Flight

Leg One  & Two – Track Hold  & Track Crawl –  The Navigation Flight consists of all parts we trained during the training. Nothing is new but everything occurs. First we fly a Track Hold, straight into the edge of Gatwick‘s CTR.

The Radio shouldn’t be an issue any more and flying accurately is key at this point. Before arriving to the CTR area we are aiming for, I have to descend below a certain height to keep legal. And, I should not miss the field we are looking for – only a few miles behind is the CTR Airspace that goes all the way to the ground.

I had flown in this direction once before, but not exactly the same route. Of course, the moment arrives in which I am not exactly sure if I am really on track. Trying hard to find ourselves on the chart I simply continue to comment on what I see, pretending we are totally on track and hope to get there soon. Just trusting my heading – as learned & trained.

From here, we switch to a Track Crawl. Its direction is straight into wind and I have to really concentrate on flying accurately in these conditions. This leg takes more than twenty minutes and the examiner will just keep completely quiet.

It was really good that in previous flights I had continued to talk with my ghost instructor under the seat and later with Heclicopter Lady G. But I did not mention any sheeps this time and mentioned the amazing view only once!

Farm Spotting / OS Map  & VOR Flight – when we arrived we switched to the OS map and looked for a property on the hill. It is quite huge, but behind a forest. Here we talk about approaches to confined areas and start to follow a VOR radial.

I had no problems to tune into the VOR but afterwards the radial did not arrive for quite a long time. Again – know what you do and don’t get confused. It finally came in and we flew all the way back to the south to the area where we would start part II of the skill test.

Part II – Manoeuvres & Exercises

From here the examiner gets way more active, talks a lot on the radio, regularly takes control and it feels more like another really fun training session. First, he hands me over the foggles and we start instrument flying – 360° degree turns and then recovery back to normal flight from unusual positions. Straight from here we go for a practice forced landing.

On the way back to Goodwood he asks me about specific warning lights etc. Back down on the airfield we fly backwards and do different variations of spot turns. He does not have to test all the exercises from my training but a siginificant part of them. Of course we don’t waste time with the easiest ones.

From here he cruises the magic carpet over the field in a stunning way and lines me up for a nice Quick Stop, afterwards we land on the slope, take off again, fly a circuit and finalise the Skill Test Flight with an Engine Off Landing.


I had really enjoyed the training so far and I was almost a little sad to be finished now, it was such a great time. But of course I was proud too that it all went so well. It feels very strange walking back to the academy building, thinking that now the next step will be “hours building” – flying wherever I want to …

The training was not just fun, it was very straightforward. We never wasted time on unnecessary repetitions. We continously built up the skills until we started to fine-tune. We did all the steps so faithfully that after the mock flight I had absolutely no concerns about passing this exam.

The only thing I was afraid of was accuracy – flying out of the limitations (speed & altitude) happens so quickly – but we had also trained to continuously improve from flight to flight. During the whole exam flight I flew even better than before and could avoid some of the minor “fails” I did in the prior mock flight.

Still being a “newbie” the skill test flight feels really long, very long. All navigations on that level, then so many exercises etc. in just one flight. It is a major milestone to pass and is a major act of concentration. But, it feels absolutely great.

I have no idea why, and it sounds quite ridiculous, but the following night I had an intense dream about this (not very good) movie with George Clooney – Gravity – where he acts as an outer space cab driver. He is constantly listening to a radio station with some hillbilly music (which is not my preferred music really).

But also, he constantly talks on the radio like a “chef” and whirls around in space in an absolutely fantastic way.

Somehow, I had the impression that our exam flight just took place in space. And my examiner talked on the radio even fancier than Goerge Clooney does.

It was again: simply a fantastic flight!

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PPL(H)- Written Exams

Written Multiple Choice Exams


All written exams are multiple choice tests. There is always only one correct answer. Sometimes, it’s a set of correct answers but then they are listed as sets and only one of the sets is correct.

It is of major importance to read the questions very carefully, even though many answers are obviously wrong. Frequently, two answers can sound exactly the same and may only differ in one word or in their syntax. It’s a pity, but those little and tricky details make the huge difference between a lean fail and a brilliant pass. Assuming you understood the topic beforehand …



As English is not my first language and I tend to do things quickly, it happened to me more than once. I did not realise the difference at first glance. But, there is always lots of time, usually you are finished in half the time.

After my second exam I started to do all the exams twice. I just answered every question again on separate paper and compared my results. Usually, I found 2-3 differing answers, reread the question carefully and eliminated stupid mistakes. From here, I passed most exams with 100% rates.


Order, Grouping & Timing

You can pass the exams in whatever order you like, except Air Law and Operations & Procedures. Those two exams are mandatory before the first solo flight. This is really annoying but don’t get discouraged. They are more or less common-sense and, compared to the others, quite easy. Just try to see it as huge advantage, once passed you are allowed to start flying solo and focus on more interesting topics.

Afterwards, it is also completely up to you in what groups and timing you pass the exams during training.

However, it is really easy to move forward with flying up to skill test level, pass the Exam Flight and still miss many exams. The same as for studying & flying during training. You don’t want to pass the skill test flight and still have half the exams to pass and be unable to fly at all for a while  … It’s best to just group and spread them along the training.

Practical Radio Test

During the pratical radio test you sit in one room and talk over a radio-like piece of equipment to the examiner next door. Obviously, you are the pilot and he does all the different towers etc. It’s a full flight, from take-off to landing, that passes through different air spaces, different instructions to replay and includes mayday and PanPan calls.

After my first experience on the radio and all the following navigation flights up to the x-country flight this was not a huge challenge any more. My skills were up to a level that this test was quite easy. But, to be honest, I was also really lucky. The examiner talked extremely slowly and more clearly than anyone I have ever heard in the UK so far.

Anyway, it was again interesting how my own brain reacted in this situation. As I was used to having an enormous respect for the radio and, during training in the busy air space of London you get trained to answer quickly so as not to block the frequency, I was absolutely unable to treat the situation like a fake flight and take my time.

I generated myself a totally unnecessary stress-like situation and always answered as quickly as possible – just because my brain got constituted that way in relation to radio talks.

Finally, I can really recommend rehearsing the last section of the book about Radiotelephony before this exam. It contains five flights as practical examples in the form of conversations that cover all situations in a very similar way to what happens in the exam.


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PPL(H) – All Checks

PPL(H) – All Checks





“Just one page? To fly a helicopter – seriously?”

Yes. Seriously. No joke. That’s it.

All Checks needed to properly fly the R22 on PPL(H) Level.

BUT, you have to be able to reproduce them at a rate of knots in a handstand, taking a selfie of yourself and your neighbour shouting at you over the fence that your house is burning down – or …

… during flying, listening & talking to crackling radio talks and experiencing any kind of disrupting challenge.

Instantly, Sovereign & Smiling



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PPL(H) – Fine-Tuning the Puzzle

PPL(H) – Fine-Tuning the Puzzle

The Repetition Summary Briefing

Again, it all starts on the ground. Today, my instructor starts with a whiteboard full of shortcuts. Every abbreviation stands for one exercise. It’s the full PPL(H) Training – the same as the Skill Test Programm – without navigation. During training I rarely took any notes, usually I tried to directly memorise what he explained to me or just took pictures of his drawings.

During this brush-up we briefly talk about every exercise – I quickly tell him what I have to do. Most things I remember correctly but sometimes I miss a part. It is possibly one of the most intense briefings, 4hrs of full concentration.

So this time, I take notes about everything that does not spontaneously come to mind. Afterwards, I merge those details and create my final notes to “pimp” the pictures in my brain. It’s not many, but from here I mentally rehearse them once a day until the Exam Flight. They accomplish the remaining 20% needed to fly all of the exercises really smoothly.




The next day we start to fly again. It’s more or less all about improving the accuracy and speed of completing the tasks.

 – All exercises on the ground – spot turns, landing cross wind, flying backwards, slope landings, quick stops etc.

 – All types of Autorotations from positive airspeed to extended range, including 360+ turn etc.

 – All types of limited power take-off & landings, especially running take-off & landing

 – Power check, approaches & landing in confined areas , engine-off Landing etc.

 – Practice forced landing incl. 5s, mayday call, pax-brief, touchdrills.

 – Instrument flying – Rate 1 turns in climb, 30° angle of bank turns, recovering from unusual flight position etc.

Of course, we focus on the more difficult ones or the ones I did not fly for a while. But it’s basically everything. All together in two flights. Including a special eye on verbalising everything correctly and not forgetting anything.

Exam-Mockup-Flight with Chief Instructor

Now we come to the last flight before I will fly the final PPL Skill Test. It is split into two parts.

1st Navigation then 2nd different exercises. Same as the real exam flight.

It’s actually quite funny as my very first flight (the trial lesson) was with him, Captain Toby Chamberlain. We did not fly together until my first solo flight. Here, we flew some circuits before he would climb out & clear me to fly alone.

And now we are sitting here and fly into the sky for the mock flight exam. What a milestone. We have a good flight, talk a lot and I am really happy about my progression. There is always something of course but no major failure and remarkable improvements in accuracy thanks to the final fine-tuning flights with my instructor.

Toby gives me some further tips but is happy too and thinks I am ready. He finishes the debrief with the quote.

“We cannot expect perfection but we want to make sure that you are safe to learn to fly afterwards”.


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PPL(H) – Full MATED Brief

PPL(H) – Full MATED Brief

Full MATED Brief

One of the most important steps in puzzling together all the different parts that I had learned during the 1st Moves and 2nd Steps (taking over the full responsibility in order to fly solo, achieving and completing the Private Pilot License) was creating the full navigation planning in short time and with high accuracy.

MATED stands for: Meteo / Aircraft / ATC / Exercise / Duties

As mentioned, my instructor had introduced me to flight planning at a very early stage. We started to practice and talk about plans in detail during all the following steps. This way, we added more and more parts until we reached the full MATED Brief. All parts of this planning play a significant role in maintaining the constant learning curve and highly satisfying, enjoyable flights.

The first part – Meteo – changes all the time and no-one would ever question repeating it before each flight. Other parts, like the weight & balance calculation or checking the insurance policy etc. feel a bit unnecessary to be repeated every time. But, if continously repeated, they take only a few minutes. It is definitely a good habit to fit it into the routine without even thinking about it. Simply: Good Airmenship & significant help to concentrate on more important things.

Practice & Speed up – it is worth it

It’s all the small things and none of the steps are really difficult, but, altogether they sum up to several hours in the beginning. Practicing them on a regular basis reasonably reduces the time needed and with higher accuracy at the same time.

It is possible to postpone the full MATED, do it sloppily or only do parts of it for a while. However, I can only recommend and repeat what my instructor trained me to do – start to train early and practice the full programme. It’s worth the time.

The result is a full & proper preparation before each flight. This is also key to the start of the day of the PPL exam flight, quite relaxed and just as the usual routine. There are many other things to think about on that day anyway.

Added Note

On the day of my PPL(H) Exam Flight, I was able to write down the Full MATED Brief in 30 minutes. I was totally relaxed and had the confidence that there were no major errors or stupid calculation mistakes.


Ready to go and enjoy every flight – exam flight included.

Continued Practice Development …

During the period of puzzling together all steps from planning and the first navigation flights to the X-Country Qualiflying flight, I started to create a blank online form – just to make things quicker.

It‘s not very special and it’s best that every student develops it by himself. It’s through creating that the skills improve. But, if you would like to use mine as a base to start building yours – copy it form here





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PPL(H) – Planning Navigation Flights

PPL(H) – Planning Navigation Flights

Start to read this book EARLY!

From the 2nd week my instructor asked me every day: “Have you started to read “Navigation?” – “No, not yet.” – “You should really start it. You improve well in Airfield Work & Handling Exercises and if you don’t start now, we will have to take a break. Navigation flights are the next to come.”

At this stage, I significantly underestimated navigation. The importance of navigation in general, how long this book is, but, also how much time I will finally invest in simply practicing planning during all the next steps. I was on my way to not taking navigation that seriously because it sounded a little boring.

But his remark, that we would have to stop flying until I read it, wakes me up quickly. I love to fly and want to fly every day. The idea of not flying because I am lagging behind with studying was unacceptable !

PRACTICE Navigation Planing

A few days later, I have just finished reading the section about planning, he directly pushes me further and suggests that from now we slow down to only one flight a day and I start to practice and plan a navigtion flight.

This brings me literally to a dilemma. On the one hand, I really don’t like the idea of reducing flying. On the other hand, I don’t want to block my next steps. And as I heard from other students, in the CPL exams, navigation will be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.

The next morning he gives me 3 navigation points – small cities around Goodwood – my first exercise.

It’s not just a completely new activity with new tools (flight computer etc.), but is, of course, in tight connection with getting familiar with this mysterious London Air Zone South UK flight chart and area, which I still don’t know at all.

It takes me like two hours to find those 3 cities because I get so distracted by all the other information on the chart. All those lines and signs. I start to follow the lines, read the legend etc. and completely forget that I am looking up some specific places.

After a while, I start to draw some lines on the chart, measure distances and angles, use the flight computer and somehow end up with a piece of paper full of scribbles and crossed out numbers etc. It all looks more like a primary school maths exercise than a navigation plan.

Later, we talk about it in detail. I am surprised at how long we can talk about a navigation plan but it is really interesting and he gives many different inputs which I will take into account next time. It’s all small hints, but all of them will help to “better” plan the flight.

My next navigation plan to practice is the one we will fly as my first exercise. After my first navigation flight, he never had to convince me any further that it was of greater importance to plan as well as possible.

The sooner – the better

I am still very happy that he pointed out the importance of navigation & planning so clearly. I started to build up the necessary skills for safe and totally relaxed solo navigation flights at a very early stage.

Another reason to start early and practice regularly is that, like the flying exercises, more and more parts get added to the very first basic and rudimentary plan until we reach the Full MATED Brief.

This was the most important base for an ongoing and quick succession through the remaining 20% of the PPL training. Here, it’s more about “pimping” everything to a higher level: planning, flying, radio – everything.

Also, the following written exam about navigation, that some struggle with, was really a walk in the park this way.

And finally, once I started it, I really enjoyed navigation planning – I did not find it boring at all. It’s like starting a new adventure trip on paper and dreaming about the outcome. I have always loved dreaming about new adventures.

Enjoy your flight!

On every single navigation flight, before leaving the aircraft to let me go, he reminded me to enjoy it. On every single solo navigation flight, I was well prepared, felt totally relaxed and found some time to enjoy the view.

First attempts Practicing & Developments




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