To get a PPL you’ll need a category 3 medical certificate. To get a CPL you’ll need a category 1 medical certificate. To get either you’ll need an initial examination with a Civil Aviation Medical Examiner – usually a family doctor or clinic doctor who has a side gig in aviation medicine. They will weight and measure you, test your eyes, hearing and reflexes, prod you, poke you, quiz you, make you pee in a bottle, and possibly subject you to an ECG.
After the examination the doctor sends a report about you to the Transport Canada office at 4900 Yonge for a decision to be made about whether you meet the licensing criteria. If you do then they’ll send you a certificate in the mail. Issues that can be a barrier for medical certification are things like heart conditions, neurological problems, diabetes, colour blindness, and anything that means you have to take prescription medication.
Before the pandemic, and assuming no medical issues that required follow-up, the wait time for a medical certificate (after your examination) was somewhere between 3 and 5 months. Right now, it could be a month or nine months – I don’t have any way to know. Therefore I strongly recommend that you book yourself an appointment with a CAME as soon as you think you might want to have flying lessons – don’t wait until after your first lesson.
Use this Transport Canada search engine to find a CAME near you. The fee should be around $250.
Prior to the pandemic I used to have a headset for students to use, so you didn’t need to buy your own. Sharing a headset is not a wise thing any more, so students will have to provide their own, even for their very first lesson.
Headsets divide broadly into two types: regular, and noise-cancelling. The regular ones have foam or gel seals around the ear cups to try to keep out the airplane noise. Noise cancelling ones do too, but they also play “anti-noise” into your ears to muffle the engine and airplane sounds further. I strongly recommend that you get a noise cancelling headset. Small airplanes are noisy and that makes it difficult to concentrate and to learn. A noise cancelling headset will provide a better learning environment for you.
If you want a regular headset look at the David Clark H10-13.4, which used to be the industry standard. They last a lifetime.
If you want a noise cancelling headset there are a few options. The premium choices come from Bose (A20) and Lightspeed (Zulu PFX and Zulu 3). The budget options for noise-cancelling are the Lightspeed Sierra and the David Clark DC PRO-X2.
You can find all these models and many more at, for example, Aircraft Spruce, in Brantford (if you want a drive or to order online) or a couple of pilot supplies stores on Carlingview Drive (adjacent to Pearson Airport): Threshold Aviation and AvWorld. Hammond Aviation at the airport in London, ON, also has headsets.
Whichever headset you get, make sure you get one with “dual GA” plugs, not the helicopter or panel-powered options if they’re available.
While you’re waiting for lessons you should sign up for an online ground school. Attendance at a formal ground school is required for a Private Pilot Licence, and both of these options will provide you with the necessary certificate stating that you have completed the course when you’ve finished your studies:
Computer, microphone and webcam
Every flying lesson has a period of ground instruction beforehand, where we discuss and I teach you what we’re going to be doing in the airplane. This is now being done online (instead of in a small room at the airport) so to have lessons you will need a quiet space at home and time for these briefings. You’ll need use of a relatively modern computer or laptop, which has a microphone and a webcam, and up-to-date browser software (Google Chrome, for example.)
Other things to buy
There are some other bits and pieces to purchase around the same time as starting lessons. You won’t need them immediately, but you’ll want them soon.
- The Flight Training Manual. You can download the PDF but I recommend a printed copy.
- A personal log book, in which you keep a record of all your flights. I recommend this one.
- Charts – for flying around here, you’ll want a copy of both the Toronto Visual Navigation Chart (VNC) and VTA (VFR Terminal Area) charts. You can get them from Hammond Aviation too, or the same places that have headsets.
- An E6B flight computer. This is more of a ground-school item, but you’ll need it for preparing cross country flights later in your training.