Part of learning to fly is dealing with the frustration of cancelled flights, and waiting with baited breath to see if your lesson will actually go ahead. In this post we discuss reasons your flight could be cancelled.

Part of learning to fly is dealing with the frustration of cancelled flights, and waiting with baited breath to see if your lesson will actually go ahead. Here, we find Five Reasons Your Flight Lesson Could Be Cancelled.

In this post we discuss reasons your flight could be cancelled, and what your instructor may be looking at to make their decision. – it all centres around aircraft ability, safety and legality.

Beforehand however, keep in mind that there are other ways to learn without being airborne. Ground School is an important part of a PPL and general flying!

For the majority of people, the physical act of flying is what gets them interested in general aviation. But there are some really interesting subjects when it comes to ground school. If you allow yourself to enjoy the theoretical parts of flying you will become less frustrated with the journey.

A good rule is to expect ground school and be pleasantly surprised if the weather is good enough to fly!

Here’s a list of reasons your flight could be cancelled:

Five Reasons Your Flight Lesson Could Be Cancelled

1 – Visibility

Flying under VFR rules means you have to see where you are going! If visibility is going to be lower than VMC Minima (the legal minimum level to fly VFR rules) then your flight will be cancelled due to safety. As a general rule, VMC Minima for training flights is 5km, although you’d want visibility to be above that and know that it will stay above for the duration of your flight. Officially you should use the Met Office to find weather information, including METAR and TAF (requires registration). SkyDemon is a useful tool and shows this information. You’ll be looking for visibility of 10km or more across the whole route you are taking for good flying conditions.

Visibility is a Reason Your Flight Lesson Could Be Cancelled
The MET Office produce weather information for aerodromes

2: Ceiling

For similar reasons to Visibility, if the cloud cover above you is too low you will be unable to fly under VFR rules. VMC Minima. Usual lessons take place between 1000-3000ft aal (as long as there are no obstructions), therefore you’d be good to fly with a cloud ceiling above 2000ft aal. Anything under that would be classed as dangerous and your flight could be cancelled!

As well as low cloud, wind affects your ability to get airborne. Aircraft have a maximum wind threshold – especially crosswind.


Simply put, the NoticesToAirmen (NOTAMs) is a list of temporary warnings and notices that are published by NATS. These could include temporary restrictions that would affect your aerodrome, or events such as airshows that would make the local area both busy and very dangerous for a novice pilot.

You can check NOTAMs using this link (free registration required).

NOTAMs is a Reason Your Flight Lesson Could Be Cancelled
An example NOTAM list showing departure and destination aerodrome NOTAMs

4: Future Weather

The skies are clear blue, no wind, and you’ve checked NOTAM’s. So why have you been cancelled? One good reason is the weather that is about to happen. Pilot’s check future weather reports to see what the situation will be predicted to be once you are airborne, and way past your percieved landing time. It may be blue skies at 8am when you are eager to leave for the airfield, but you probably won’t be airborne until 10.30, and may land afetr midday – by which-time a dangerous weather front could be overhead! The MET Office have regularly updated maps that you will need to understand before becoming a licensed pilot.

The MET Office produce regular weather updates for pilots

5: Wind Direction

OK, you’ve checked all weather, NOTAM’s, and forecasts and STILL you’re cancelled. Because of an 18 knot wind. Seriously!? Well, another possibility to have your flight cancelled could be the direction of the wind. Cross Winds are an integral part of flight training and light aicraft have a usual maximum crosswind capability of 15knots. However, training flights need a little more of a conservative allowance.

Check your runway direction using the EAIS tool from NATS:

  • Log In/Register
  • Select PART 3 – AERODROMES
  • Expand AD3 to find your departure aerodrome,
  • The scroll down on the right hand screen to AD 2.24  CHARTS RELATED TO AN AERODROME
  • Select the link at the top of the table marked ‘ AERODROME CHART – ICAO
  • Breathe a sigh of relief when your hard work pays off with a beutifully illustrated chart of your aerodrome.
  • (Alternatively simply look up your aerodrome in the Pooley’s Guide if you have one)

The runway length is shown both in a table at the bottom corner of the chart and on the runway itself. The above example shows Lee-On-Solent’s aerodrome to have a runway direction of 05/23 – or a takeoff direction of either 50 degrees North East, or 230 degrees South West.

With the example of Lands End below there are up to four runways that can be used, giving greater flexibility on windy days.

Lands End Aerodrome Chart showing useful information including runway length and direction

So next time your flight is cancelled, hopefully you’ll be able to tell your instructor why it is and gain some much needed brownie points!

Other Factors that are less likely but can happen are listed below If you can think of any more let me know and I’ll add to the list.

  • Mechanical Issues
  • Instructor Illness


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