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EASA PPL vs. LAPL – What license should I get?

By on 20/09/2020

There are cool little two seater aircraft in Europe called Ultralights. If your only intention is to fly them within Europe then save yourself some money and get a LAPL license. If you have poor health and don’t think you will pass a Class 2 medical then consider obtaining a LAPL licence. For all other reasons I would recommend getting a PPL.

Why did EASA established the LAPL License?

As the name suggests, the Light Aircraft Pilot License (LAPL) was introduced by the European Aviation regulator EASA to standardise all the different national recreational pilots licenses within the EU. Its intention was for light, simple and slow aircraft and hence the training and medical requirements were lightened to reflect that.

Having said that there are some very fancy and fast light aircraft and the LAPL license can also be used to fly aircraft up to 2000 kg, which in practice, is most of the General Aviation fleet.

What are the differences between LAPL and PPL?

The main difference is the Flight training time required, the medical requirements and restrictions put on the LAPL. Theory and exams you have to pass will be the same.

PPL LAPL
Region Worldwide (European registered aircraft) Europe
Validity PPL: Lifetime

SEP: 2 Years

LAPL: Lifetime

SEP: N/A

Medical Class 2

Under 40: Valid 5 Years

Over 40: Valid 2 Years

Over 50: Valid 1 Year

LAPL Medical

Under 40: Valid 5 Years

Over 40:  Valid 2 Years

Additional Ratings Multi-Engine, Instrument Ratings, Night Rating, Aerobatics Night Rating, Aerobatics
Minimum Training Hours 45 hours of which,

10 hours Solo of which,

5 hours Solo Cross Country

Including 1 Cross Country of 150 NM landing at 2 airfields

30 hours of which,

6 hours Solo of which

3 hours Cross Country

including 1 Cross Country of 80 NM landing at 1 other airfield

Aircraft Restrictions Max Take-Off Weight: 5,750 Kg

Max Passengers: 19

Max Take-Off Weight: 2,000 Kg

Max Passengers: 3

Source of table

A key difference with the LAPL license is that every type of aircraft is a seperate endorsement, while with the PPL, a Single Engine Piston (SEP) rating allows you to fly all aircraft within the SEP class without separate endorsement (in practice though you will be checked out to fly every aircraft you fly regardless of if is an endorsement on your license/log book or not)

Another important thing to note is that EASA has drawn a very thick line in the sand between Ultralights and SEP aircraft. Hours  are tracked in 2 separate log books. Fortunately though as of 2020 Ultralight hours can now be used towards PPL SEP renewals. (Details here)

Is LAPL a good stepping stone to a PPL?

No, unless you are a really poor bastard who can’t afford the extra 15 hours of training to get a PPL. SEP aircraft are by design more complicated aircraft and you need time to properly learn to fly them. Soon enough you will find yourself in a bad situation and every bit of training you got will help to save your life.

If you do go down the route of LAPL and later decide you want a PPL, there is a straightforward route to a PPL license. It will require an additional 15 hours of instruction under the supervision of an EASA Certified training organization (ATO/DTO), some additional paperwork, a Class 2 medical and an Examiner checkride.

Final Thoughts

In my case, after some advice and consideration I went down the route of PPL and am very happy with the decision. My license is recognised around the world and I can fly EASA aircraft to any ICAO member country. If I want to convert my PPL for a PPL in another country it is very straight forward.

Most importantly though, I really value the extra training I got from my instructor. Finland can be a difficult place to fly with icing and unpredictable weather. After 30 hours of training it would have been a stretch to pass a skills test regardless of the aircraft. It ended up taking me around 50 hours to get the PPL as it does for many students.

Whatever you choose you will be embarking on a great adventure. Invest in all the training you can, it will make you a better and safer pilot.