Top Fly

Top Fly was actually the first school I found out about. At the time it seemed my only two options were Top Fly in Sabadell or Centervol in Girona. As it turns out, it is a good job they were not.

I’d heard from Marcel at Aerolink that Top Fly had financial difficulties, although I was willing to put this down to bad mouthing the competition. I thought I would at least see what they offered.

I popped into see them in their rather impressive looking glass fronted building, but the chap who I needed to speak to was out on lunch. Instead of waiting I said I’d pop back in later in the week.

When I did, I found the place deserted, with what appeared to be a large group of smokers hanging around in the car park. It turns out that this group of smokers were the staff of Top Fly who were on strike. I was amazed to discover that they hadn’t been paid for the last four months, and were therefore going on strike for the rest of the month.

So there it was confirmed, big financial problems… Won’t be touching that place with a barge pole. Do, however spare a thought for the staff who will undoubtedly not have a job for much longer and will have to fight very hard to get what they are already owed.


Third stop on my tour of the local flight schools was AeroLink, also based in Sabadell Airport, they offer flight training for fixed wing and rotary both private and commercial as well as offering cabin crew training. They also run Aeronautical course at the local university.

Welcomed by a very friendly chap called Marcel we spent well over an hour talking about the course, the school, flying and, oddly enough, cars. Put two petrol heads together in the same room, and there is little to stop them talking all day… One of the non car related facts I garnered was that the JAR PPL is not only valid for the whole of Europe but the commonwealth as well. Travelling and flying in Australia and NZ? Yes please!

Marcel is clearly a good sales man, as I left this place with a very good feeling about them. As well as the private course they run the full commercial course and are one of few schools to offer this in the modular approach which is so common in the UK. This would allow me to work towards my commercial licence without having to go at it full time.

A lot of the commercial licence is done in association with Taf Helicopters with the offer of working as a co-pilot during the summer’s forest fire fighting season.

I was surprised to learn that 5 hour the 45 hours ‘flight’ time were actually done in a simulator. I wasn’t aware that these would count towards the actual required flight time, but apparently so. In theory this keeps the costs down, but I can’t help but feel at this stage as many hours as possible in the air is the best way to go.

The theory course does seem more comprehensive than what the other schools offer, with 170 hours of classes, possibly because I’d find myself in a classroom full of students who are working directly towards their commercial license. The classes take place, either from 09:00 to 13:30 or 17:00 to 21:00 Monday to Friday and last 10 weeks.

The price structure is very simple, with one price for the whole course which includes the theory, course books which they can get for me in English, 40 hours flight time, 5 hours simulator time and all landing fees included.

Prices: exempt from IVA

Course Fee €18,500

Aeroclub Sabadell

My next visit was to Aeroclub Barcelona Sabadell, based very conveniently in Sabadell. I’d not given this any thought before, but as a club, their prime objective is to provide aircraft for their members use. No business profit agenda keeps their costs down.

It took two weeks for them to arrange a time for me to come in and see them, and then when I did the lady who greeted me was clearly not in a very good mood, and told me to wait for the instructor who was running late. Once the instructor turned up we had an uncomfortable few moments when he wondered what I wanted, when all I wanted to know about was the course. He assumed that the staff upstairs would have filled me in. They did, but only once he took me back upstairs after discussing the practical side of the course with me (why they couldn’t have done that while I was waiting for the instructor to turn up I don’t know).

Initial frustrations aside, this does seem like a good option. The 120 hours of theory classes are taught in groups, with courses starting at various intervals throughout the year. There is the option of the two month course of studying Monday to Thursday 6pm till 9pm or the three month weekend course of 5pm to 9pm Saturday and Sunday. Actual flight time is arranged with the instructor as and when.

There is a membership fee to join the club which is an astounding €900, although they do offer a 50% discount to all students, and then there is a monthly fee of €43. As a member of the club after completing the course I could then hire helicopters as and when I want / can afford to.

There is the added bonus of the social aspect that comes with the club. Useful for someone who has just moved to a new city.


Club Membership (50% discount) €450.00
Registration €295.00
Theory classes including course books €1,767.20
45 hours flight time €15,006.08
Landing Fees ~€400.00
Total €17,918.28

Prices include IVA.
There is a monthly club membership fee of €43.


I’m taking the time to visit all of my local flight schools. Choosing which school to go with is a pretty big decision and I want to be sure I get this right. It seemed prudent to check them all out to get a feel for what they offer.

First stop was Helipistas, a family run company set up by a father and his two sons, all of whom fly. They used to be based at Sabadell airport, but set up their very own heliport in the rather picturesque hills around Ullastrell.

As a business they offer tourist flights, aerial filming for news stations and sporting events, aerial inspections, construction work, air advertising and of course a flight school. Fingers in many pies one might say although I was surprised to learn that they don’t offer self hire, but will hire helicopters out to ex students at their discretion. They have their own maintenance facilities and are one of only four certified Robinson service centres in the country.

Vincenç, one of the owners, first showed me round and told me all about their business and then handed me over to their cheif (ex military) instructor Luís who explained in great detail how the course works and how they teach it. They can be completely flexible on the hours, both for the theory as well as the practical, which certainly works well for me. As an added bonus, they will be opening a heliport in Valencia next year. Definitely a novel way to visiting the in laws.

The only negative I could think of was the fact that as a private heliport there would be very little interaction with other traffic, traffic control or at least the tower, as you would get at an airport of a reasonable size.


Course Books * €590
Theory Classes €2,124
45 hours flight time €17,523
Total €20,237

* They are happy for me to purchase my own course books in English.

Getting Started

I’ve just moved to Spain, which has cut down my choice of flight schools considerably. Not aided by very poor SEO on Spanish flight school websites it has taken me a long time to find out about any of the options open to me. At one point I’d begun to think that there were no helicopter flight schools near Barcelona. Slowly I started finding more useful info, and as a result, decided to created a page listing all of the schools I did find. Hopefully this may one day save someone the effort I went through: Flight Schools in Spain.

Contrary to my initial thoughts, it would appear that I’ve picked the right area to move to. There are seemingly more flight schools in Catalunya than anywhere else in the country, with three based in Sabadell. The very same town I live in! Coincidence? Yeah, pretty much.

Some schools only seem to offer the commercial licence rather than the private one that I’m after. Time to make some proper enquiries and visit the following schools to see what they can offer me:


Aero Link Air Services

Top Fly

Aero Club Barcelona Sabadell

Which Flight School?

Given the amount of money involved, picking the right flight school is a pretty important decision. So what needs to be considered?

Is it close by? How much time does it take to get there? Making a lot of trips, the time soon adds up, and what if the lesson is cancelled due to weather or any other reason? You’ll be pretty hacked off if you’ve driven an hour only to find you can’t fly and have to turn home again. You also want to be fresh, and alert for the lessons, which is something you wont be after sitting in traffic for 40 minutes.

Do you get on with the staff and the instructors at the flight school? Make a point of meeting them before signing up. You’ll be spending a lot of time with them, so if there are personality clashes, it might be worth looking elsewhere.

Busy Airport?
The busier the airport, the more time you’ll have to spend waiting around for other traffic to get out of your way. Landing taxes will probably be more expensive too. That said, if you go somewhere too quiet, you won’t get the benefit of controlled air space and interacting with other air traffic.

Can you refuel at the flight school, or do you have to taxi over to the airports fuel pumps to get fuel, thus using up valuable lesson time? What about maintenance? Does the school have  a maintenance hanger, how many helicopters do they have? Will you have to put your classes on hold while the school’s only helicopter is off somewhere else being serviced? Does the school have a simulator? Learning on a simulator can save on costly hours in the air.

This is of course a big one, but don’t just go on the hourly rate. What about landing taxes, accommodation (if required), transport getting there, your time? Do the school charge for the theory lessons? Weight it all up before making a decision based on cost.

One option for bringing the cost down is to learn abroad where it can be a lot cheaper. In the US you could do an intensive course in four weeks, pay for you accommodation and return flights for less than it costs just to get the PPL(H) in the UK.

Personally, I’ll be avoiding this route, as cramming so much into such a short period of time is tiring and not efficient. It took me over a week to absorb everything I was shown in my first 2 hours flying. On an intensive, you don’t have the time to absorb fully what you’ve learnt one day, before more is thrown at you the next.

Besides, the cheap hours in the US can be saved for hour building once you’ve got your PPL.

where am I going to sign up? By having just moved to Spain the choice of flight schools available to me has just been drastically reduced. Time to do some research to see what my options are.