Did you know?
The minimum age to get a private pilot's licence is 17.
There are numerous flying schools in South Africa but perhaps none offer as pretty a training ground as the flight schools of Port Elizabeth and the Sunshine Coast of the Port Alfred region.
This Eastern Cape city is blessed with stunning beaches that roll out toward the Indian Ocean in one direction, and a green patchwork of fields looking landward. And it's over this landscape that you can take to the sky and learn to fly in some of the best flying conditions the country has to offer.
Algoa Flight Centre, based at Port Elizabeth Airport, is a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)-accredited Private Pilot Licence (PPL) test centre. It provides full PPL training that also covers more advanced subjects like Cockpit Resource Management, usually only included in airline training, as well as full PPL theory testing.
The PPL course includes a minimum of 45 hours of flying lessons, conducted by Algoa's qualified instructors, and 15 hours of solo flying. Lessons are undertaken in Cessna C152 aircraft and the school also provides a fully equipped flight simulator.
Good flying weather means the course can be completed within five weeks, either full time if you're in South Africa on an extended holiday, or here to learn to fly, or just interested in a part-time option. Most countries, including the United Kingdom, allow pilots to fly with valid South African-obtained PPLs. Algoa also offers a service in the UK to renew licences obtained at its school.
43 Air School in Port Alfred, is the largest private, fully residential, pilot training institution on the African Continent. The school has over 60 full-time flying instructors and a training fleet of more than 70 aircraft. The training centre services the private, commercial and military sectors through a selection of Civil Aviation Authority-approved training courses. These courses range between fixed-wing and helicopter pilot training, air traffic control and aircraft maintenance technician training. They also have a secondary base in Bhisho and an advanced training facility in Lanseria.
The flying landscape and conditions here are especially good, with nearby towns offering excellent tourism infrastructure and attractions to keep you busy on your ground-based days.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
Fly direct from any of South Africa’s major cities to Port Elizabeth. If you’re driving from Johannesburg take the N1 south and then the N9 after Colesberg. Pick up the N10 at Middleburg to Port Elizabeth. From Cape Town and Durban, take the N2, east and west respectively, to Port Elizabeth.
Best time to visit
Port Elizabeth has flight-friendly weather and a generally sunny, temperate climate all year round.
Around the area
A day trip to Sibuya Game Reserve near Kenton-on-Sea, for a game drive and river cruise; a horse safari on the Fish River at Port Alfred; Jeffrey's Bay's Shell and Surf museums; and all the stunning beaches up and down the Sunshine Coast.
Hire a car or take a taxi to your flight school of preference. Some hotel shuttles will also be able to transport with prior arrangement.
What will it cost
Visit the flight school websites for a detailed breakdown of costs. Learning to fly is never cheap but costs in South Africa are very competitive.
Length of stay
Most basic flight courses take about five weeks to complete. There are also options to spread the course over a longer period.
Where to stay
Port Elizabeth and Port Alfred have a range of accommodation options, from cosy B&Bs to luxury hotels.
What to eat
Fresh seafood is a local speciality.
Hotheads will not want to miss the Chilli Festival in February. There's also the four-day Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Beach Festival in April and Fashion Week in September.