The light aircraft pilot licence for aeroplanes is issued by the Irish Aviation Authority IAA and meets the standards and requirements of the European Aviation Safety Agency EASA. It is valid throughout Europe but not necessarily Worldwide.

The LAPL(A) allows the holder to fly;

  1. Single pilot aeroplanes SPA. That simply means aeroplanes that are certified to be operated by a single pilot (do not require multicrew).
  2. Single engine aeroplanes designed to operate from land as opposed to water. These are known as SEP or single engine piston landplanes or TMG or touring motorgliders.
  3. Flying in good weather during daylight hours. This is known as Daylight VMC or visual meteorological conditions. It also means that you fly using the natural horizon and the surface as your reference for the attitude of the aeroplane. The alternative would be to use attitude gyro instruments to fly in cloud or at night.
  4. To fly but not for HIRE OR REWARD. The licence is for the private use of aeroplanes. However your passeners can share the costs with you provided that you pay an equal part of the operating cost.

The training for the pilot licence is provided by an organisation that is often a Club. It will be registered with the Aviation Authority (IAA) as an RTF or registered training facility or possibly an ATO (Approved training organisation).

Your LAPL(A) will initially be issued with an endorsement for the class of aeroplane used in your training and during your skills test. This will be either SEP (single engine piston landplane) or TMG (touring motorglider). However it is a simple process to get an endorsement for both. This entitles the holder to fly a wide range of SEP/TMG aeroplanes up to 2000 kg (2 tons) with a maximum of 4 seats (3 pass). Note that the vast majority of light aeroplanes weigh less than 1200 kg. You can fly factory built machines, vintage and classic machines and amateur built machines. You can also fly microlights (three axis). Note that on the initial issue of your licence you must fly 10 hours on your own before starting to carry passengers.

To maintain the validity of your licence you simply need to hold a current aviation medical certificate and to have logged 13 hours in the previous 24 months including one hour’s flight instruction. If for some reason you don’t manage that requirement, you can still revive you licence by passing a skill test with a flight examiner or simply flying the required 13 hours under the supervision of a flight instructor. In reality you will want to fly more than 13 hours in 24 months because the lure of the skies is far too strong to ignore.

The training for the licence involves at least 30 hours flight instruction (more typically 50 to 60 hours) covering 19 exercises and 100 hours study for the 9 technical knowledge subjects. This is split 65/35, classroom/self-study. Training concludes with multiple choice exams for the technical subjects and a flight test for the air exercises. For most people, the frequency of flying is very dependent on competing demands of family and work and therefore it is not uncommon to take a couple of years to complete. Note that during your training, you do get to fly on your own, known as solo flying under the supervision of your instructor. Of course there is no need to go the whole way and get a licence. Some people are quite happy to fly with an instructor with just the occasional ‘solo’ flight under supervision. This does mean that you cannot carry passengers and are limited to flying under supervision but does remove the pressure of exams and skills tests.

Flight exercises:

Ex 1

Familiarisation with the aircraft

Ex 11

Spin avoidance

Ex 2

Action before and after flight

Ex 12

Take off

Ex 3

Air experience flight

Ex 13


Ex 4

Effect of controls

Ex 14

First solo flight

Ex 5


Ex 15

Advanced turning

Ex 6

Straight & level

Ex 16

Practice forced landing

Ex 7


Ex 17

Precautionary landing

Ex 8


Ex 18


Ex 9


Ex 19

Engine start/stop while airborne

Ex 10

Slow speed & Stall

Technical knowledge subjects:


Air law & ATC procedures


Operational procedures


Human performance


Flight performance & planning




Aircraft general knowledge






Principles of flight

Let’s look at some of the activities that you can enjoy as a licensed pilot.

  • Local flying. Ireland and in particular the South East, has some spectacular scenery. Coastlines, mountains, river valleys. Historic sites and buildings. There is much to see and to show your family and friends. Simply taking local flights starting and ending at the same airfield offers tremendous entertainment. It also keeps the cost under control.
  • Visiting other airfields. This usually involves airfields within Ireland but light aeroplanes are well capable of going further afield. Do remember though that weather plays a major role and longer distance touring requires ‘spare’ days to allow for being grounded due to poor weather. Long distance touring is of course a good bit more expensive. Touring of any nature is best done by sharing the flying and the costs with another pilot. One aspect of touring is attending ‘Fly-ins’. This is where pilots and aviation enthusiasts gather to talk about their obsession and to inspect/critique other people’s aeroplanes.
  • Soaring. The TMG or touring motorglider is simply a more efficient single engine ‘piston’ landplane. This means that it burns less fuel when cruising engine on and also has a better glide performance engine off, that SEP or single engine piston types. Typically when you turn off the engine, the TMG has a glide ratio of 1:22 and a sink rate of 220 feet per minute. This means that if the pilot can find areas where the air is rising at a rate of more than 220 fpm, she will be able to soar. I.e. to maintain or gain height. This opens up an entirely difference motivation for flying. The challenge is to maintain or gain altitude without engine power. Soaring pilots get a double benefit in that even on days when they have no opportunity to go flying, they are still watching the sky for suitable soaring conditions and imagining …. What if.
  • Aerobatics. One of the greatest attractions to flying is the freedom to manoeuvre in three axis without the risk of hitting an obstacle. Aerobatics simply takes this to another level. Loops and rolls, steep turns and spins. The feel of increase ‘G’ force and the tilt of the horizon all make for an exhilarating experience. Of course mastering aerobatics also improves a pilot’s basic handling skill and with that comes greater confidence. Relatively few aeroplanes are certified for aerobatics. This means that if you get hooked, the likelihood is that you will need to join a group that owns an aerobatic aeroplane.
  • Amateur built aircraft. The Irish Light Aviation Society (ILAS) is the sporting body responsible for co-ordinating the efforts of those who like to construct light aeroplanes for themselves (as opposed to factory built). There is a wide range of plans and kits on the market and if you have the skills you can design one for yourself. There is also a second hand market, so you can buy an amateur built machine made by someone else. It has to be said that a lot of time, expertise and money goes into building your own aeroplane and therefore this option is not necessarily a quick or low cost way into flying. On the other hand, what greater satisfaction than flying in an aeroplane that you have built yourself. There is of course a much wider choice of aeroplane type than is available from factory built machines.
  • Vintage and Classic aeroplanes. Factory built aeroplanes designed before 1/1/55 and out of production since 1/1/70 qualify for exemption from the normal regulations. This means that they operate on a Permit to fly rather than a Certificate of airworthiness. The owner has more freedom to be involved in their restoration and maintenance than would be the case for a modern factory built machine. Remarkably, there are many pre 1970 light aircraft still flying and indeed some from as far back as the 1940’s. The high standard of design, materials used and maintenance means that aeroplanes do tend to last much longer than cars and other items of modern machinery.
  • Microlights. These are basically ultra-light single engine piston landplanes. Your LAPL entitles you to fly these machines within Ireland. This limitation exists because European regulation delegated responsibility for these machines to the National aviation authorities of each state. There are no Europe wide regulations as there are for other classes of aircraft. These machines are designed and constructed to less stringent standards than heavier aircraft and have a maximum weight of 450kg (some exceptions). This does rather limit their capability as two seaters as the useable load (what you can carry) rarely allows for two 90kg adults plus any worthwhile amount of fuel. In addition, microlights are more challenged in windy weather than their heavier counterparts. That said, there are a wide range of microlights on the market, many of which outperform the standard light aircraft by a considerable margin. Ease of handling on the ground and in the hangar, low operating costs and the ability to operate from very short runways are some of the advantages.
  • Aircraft ownership - Flying Clubs vs Private ownership
  • Aeroplanes don’t have to be expensive. A simple single seat aeroplane might cost €5000 to buy and maybe €50 per hour (50 hours per year) to fly. At the other end of the scale, a modern factory built 4 seater could cost €250,000 or more and upwards of €250 per hour to fly! In between, of course is where the majority of aeroplanes lie. A typical second hand two seater might cost anywhere between €15,000 and €50,000 depending on general condition and particularly the state of the engine. Besides the purchase price, you also have to consider fixed annual costs. These include Insurance – Hangarage – Maintenance. It would not be unusual for these three costs to be of the order of €2000 to €5000 per year. Then you have to consider the hourly costs. These include the fuel and oil and the running maintenance. Aeroplanes are maintained at 50 flying hour intervals. There will also be some landing charges. A typical 100hp engine light aeroplane will burn about 18/22 litres per hour with a fuel/oil cost of around €30 per hour. Lastly, the engine requires overhaul after a specific number of running hours (TBO or time between overhaul). This means that there is a ‘depreciation’ cost linked to the utilisation. Typical engine fund would be €15 per flying hour.
  • What this means is that the cost of operating an aeroplane per hour depends quite heavily on the annual utilisation. This in turn means that the best option for most people is to join a Club and share the fixed costs. This is also often the best way to get started. It is very easy to get carried away in the first flush of excitement with aviation and commit to aircraft ownership before you really know what it is you want from flying. Best advice is to start by flying a Club aeroplane and meet, talk to and fly with as many other pilots and aircraft owners as possible before you consider ownership yourself. Also remember that the most common form of ownership after Club membership, is Group ownership. This is simply sharing but with a more select group (apologies to club members).
  • Progressing on to a career in aviation.
  • The LAPL(A) can be converted to an EASA PPL(A) and this is really the first building block towards a commercial pilot licence. It allows you to add further ‘Ratings’ to your licence such as the Night rating, Instrument rating and Twin rating and to build the experience required to start training for the Commercial licence (CPL). This conversion from LAPL to PPL requires a further 15 hours of flight instruction and a skills test.

1.European Aviation Safety Agency – EASA


Main reference document: EU 1178 Part FCL – Flight crew licensing

2.Irish Aviation Authority – IAA


3.Irish Light Aviation Society – ILAS


4.Aircraft for sale – AFORs