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CONTENT













HOW TO BECOME A PILOT


  1. Learn some theoretical stuff
  2. Pass a theoretical exam
  3. Get some money
  4. Practice some flying
  5. Pass a practical exam
  6. Have fun




ABOUT THIS COURSE


This is a selfstudy course.


This course consists of theoretical learning in the subjects and topics described in EASA part-fcl req-uirements for the PPL(A).


The main theme of this course is aided discovery. Aided discovery means that you are asked to find the answer to various questions. Along with the question is a reference to a place in some source material where you can find the answer. The questions are of-course designed to lead you to all the topics required by the regulation.


Two important effects are utilized: 


  • You will be able to acquire knowledge faster than you would if I had to tell you in a traditional classroom setting and you will be active in the process the entire time.


  • You will determine yourself in what areas you need assistance and in what areas you do not since you yourself have mapped your own know-ledge. Therefore I don’t have to tell you stuff you already know.


When you have answered all the questions, you will have a long list of essential statements that you must know in the 9 required subjects. 


All the asked questions are relating to the syllabus for the PPL as set out by EASA and the theoretical know-ledge you have acquired, should be compatible with the authority exams, - however subject to the compatibility problems described in the “Rabbit hole” section below.


This PPL theoretical course is free to use for non-commercial purposes if credit is given to the author, but no feedback is available and some features are locked. Free users may be deleted without notice due to limited capacity.



THE PREMISE OF THE COURSE


The premise of this course is that you must be exposed to the facts that form the theoretical foun-dation of the leisure pilot.


Most of these facts, are self-explanatory or are something you have heard before, but you need to have then shown to you in order to understand that they are important. You could achieve this by atten-ding a traditional classroom course, but instead, this course offers you the freedom of doing it at your own pace. 


I have ensured that you will be exposed to the appropriate facts by asking you to find the answer to some questions. You will gather the facts your self and write short statements, that may form a refe-rence list at the end of the course.


Reference to the resource is made so that the answer is to be found at, or near, the chosen reference. If you find that you are reading a whole lot of text and not finding any answers, something went wrong, it is meant to be close by. 


By design, you should not read for longer than 1 minute to find the answer, once you have located the reference.


Don’t let your self be distracted by the complexity of some of the Wikipedia content, as mentioned, the reference is chosen because the answer is there, easily available.


Try to read extensively rather than intensively and look for wording similar to the wording in the ques-tion and feel free to use “ctrl+f” inside the articles. 


It is not the intent that you should have a reading experience, but that you collect data, that, together with the question, represents the required know-ledge. That being said, you may choose any metho-dology that you like, but that may result in that you spend more time to complete the study than is in-tended.


All questions are validated against these resources, but you may use any other resource of your liking.


You should ask for help whenever you need it and from where ever. But you should keep in mind that if it is not you who are answering the questions in the course, you will not be exposed to the learning process, and you will not learn the topics you need. 


So: Ask for help, if you are stuck, but don't ask for someone to answer the question.



WHAT IS NOT IN THIS COURSE

 

Feedback.

On the basis of this course, you will probably like to have feedback on your progress. 


Such feedback usually serves the purpose of giving you confidence in your results and giving you the opportunity to ask questions in areas you are having problems with or where you need perspective. 


You can answer the questions to the best of your ability or you can read the provided reference and verify or learn about the topic. If you are a disciplined learner, this course will be adequate theoretical training to pass the exams.


If you are still insecure in topics, you can compare results with others following the course. You can probably find lots of practice exams online and try your abilities on them, if you find that you answer correctly, you are alright. 


Level of abstraction

On completion of this course, you will need to learn what kind of problems the local authority will present you with at the exam.


Normally the exam questions have a level of abstrac-tion that is not evident from the syllabus and you will most likely feel sucker-punched if you attend the exam without some feel for the level of abstraction.


Several solutions to this problem exist. In many European countries, the community has released apps with representative question banks, some flight schools have compiled their own representative question bank and some authorities have released samples of their questions for everyone to see.


How to take the exam

Once you have completed the theoretical knowledge course, you may want to take the exam at the auth-ority.


In order to attend the theoretical exam provided by the authority, you must be recommended by a declared or approved flight school according to Air-crew Regulation, FCL.025. 


I cannot recommend you for the exam (yet) but I can help you find someone who can.


If you approach a flight school and ask to be recom-mended for the exam, they will most likely ask you to pass a “dummy” exam, to show that you are com-petent, so they can recommend you. They will proba-bly require a fee for that, but this should be a lot less than the fee for attending a regular course.



COURSE STRUCTURE


In principle, you will not be adequately prepared to take any of the exams, before you have completed all the subjects, since you may very well be exposed to “compound questions” that combines knowledge from several subjects.


There are 9 Subjects in the syllabus. They are num-bered for management reference reasons, but that does not signify the order they should be studies.


  1. Air law
  2. Human factors
  3. Meteorology
  4. Communication
  5. Principles of flight
  6. Operational Procedures
  7. Flight planning and performance
  8. Aircraft General Knowledge
  9. Navigation


It is not without significance which subject you begin with since some subjects require that you have knowledge from other subjects before you attend.


This course is designed to be studied in the following order:


PART 1

- Navigation 

- Aircraft General Knowledge 

- Principles of flight


PART 2

- Meteorology

- Human factors

- Flight Planning and performance


PART 3

- Air law

- Operational Procedures

- Communication


You can study the subjects within each set in the order you like.



STUFF YOU NEED


To follow the course, you need to acquire the following tools:


  • A flight computer - CRP1, CRP5, or equivalent.
  • A ruler or a set of compasses.
  • A protractor, preferably with a 360-degree scale.


You will need the following resources, available online free of charge:


  • Access to Google
  • Access to en.wikipedia.org
  • Access to Skybrary.aero


Download the following (now or when instructed in each subject introduction):


  • aim.naviair.dk: download the 1:250 000 VFR chart PDF.
  • aim.naviair.dk: download the 1:500 000 VFR chart PDF.
  • faa.org, download “Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge” 2008 edition (FAA-H-8083-25A).
  • faa.org, download “Airplane flying handbook” 2004 edition (FAA-H-8083-3A).
  • taf-metar handbook” (I found it with Google)
  • Cessna 172 SP, Pilots Operating Handbook (I found it with Google)
  • Cirrus 22, Pilots Operating Handbook (I found it with Google)
  • Piper 28-161 warrior 2, Pilots Operating Handbook (I found it with Google)
  • Diamond 40, Airplane Flight Manual (I found it with Google)



RESOURCES USED


All the knowledge resources required (books, articles etc) for this course are also free.


For some technical topics, you are directed to the FAA Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. This volume is compiled by the American Aviation Authority and is available online for free.


There are some inconveniences associated with using this resource, such as; most examples are with reference to American geography, nomenclature, and units of measurements, as well as the US require-ments, are not identical to the European.


However, when you look over your list of essential knowledge statements you compile, at the end of the course, you will have all that you need.


Other than the FAA books, I have limited the source material to Wikipedia, not because it is the best source, but because it has some guarantee of longevity.


For subjects very particular to aviation I use Skybrary as the source when Wikipedia fails - for the same reason.


On a few occasions, I have had to resort to non-mainstream sites when neither of the two has the required knowledge. 


No one book contains the knowledge you need to the level of detail you need, presented in the order and manner you like.


In recognition of this, the course is designed around information availability, rather than presentation quality.


You may, therefore, feel from time to time that you are sent running from place to place to find information.


I suggest you try not to let this distract you. The references given are not there to give you a reading experience but to gather information and expose you to a particular fact. 



THE SYLLABUS


To ensure compliance and identify deficiencies the syllabus is referenced in the course.


The syllabus is not numerically referenced in the documents provided by the authority. 


Get the referenced syllabus here (not ready yet).



FOR SCHOOLS


If your students are using this course and you have questions or suggestions or requests, feel free to contact me for a collaboration.



THE RABBIT HOLE

Looking at the course content you may wonder why some content is included to a very specific level of detail and why some items are covered only briefly, if at all. If you reflect on this you may find some lack of consistency in the content altogether - well I do. I have been employed with the civil aviation admini-stration for 9 years, working specifically with theo-retical exams and I thought I would offer some insights  from "behind the scenes" to offer an expla-nation to why the training may feel a little academic:


Why do you need to attend a theoretical training course?


Short answer: To pass the theoretical exam.


Long answer:  Learning to fly, is a process of learning quite a bit of knowledge that is not familiar to most people. It is also a process of learning a lot of proce-dures, that in themselves are not complex, but must be committed to memory and that are numerous. Lastly, learning to fly is very exhilarating since it is something that most people have no prior experi-ence with. 


Because flying is expensive, you can't afford to “just” fly - and learn as you go. Most flight schools will or-chestrate a flying program that is optimized to the average student pilot capability, presenting you with a progression where each lesson builds on the previous.


Because flying, in some areas are high risk, you cant approach it without discipline. You can't “just” fly and then not have the necessary learning experience, relying on having a safety pilot on board. You must take responsibility for every flight - including training flights. Flight training is designed to hold a level of complexity suited for your training progression.


Because of this, it is important that you have some formative basic theoretical knowledge, enabling you to grasp the foundation of each practical training activity. If you appear without a basic understanding, you will not be able to take responsibility for the decisions and exercises presented to you during the training and ultimately, the unforeseen challenges you will meet as a certified pilot.


The ideal method to learn to fly would probably be that students and instructors discuss the necessary knowledge prior to the flight lesson, fly the relevant lesson, evaluate the experience and observations made during the flight lesson and plan the ensuing activity. In such a way, the entire learning process will be tailored to the individual student, his or her predisposition, and needs.


However such method will probably result in that each session will last way longer than most people can allocate during a day and in that the student must keep a focus on a much larger range of topics, removing the focus from the essential and safety-critical elements of the session, 


So you should accept that it is desirable to establish the basic theoretical knowledge foundation, that will support your understanding of the practical flight training, before committing to a flight training prog-ram, though it may be desirable to have a few lessons to relate to if you are a stranger to the …



Tradition

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has de-vised the theoretical knowledge syllabus. 


The aviation authorities in Europe operate from one of two schools of thought:


  • Regulatory activities should be as safe as possible, or;


  • Regulatory activities should be as safe as necessary.


Traditionally the authority follows the first school since such a position is unassailable, but after the establishment of common European regulations, au-thorities have started to change their position to the later.


Because of this development requirements for the theoretical training (and the exam) have changed. Before the common European requirements, the required theoretical training was very loosely defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO - a UN subsidiary), leading to that each national au-thority had to expand and operationalize the general training requirement. From this, the pressure was put on the authority not to make the requirements too rigid.


Later, in 2008, the regulation was handed over to the EU and when drafting the common requirements, they attempted to fix a relatively detailed set of rules to avoid debating the legitimacy of the requirement. In this process, however, they lost track of what is needed to support flight training and instead opted to have a great level of detail, that enabled each member state to uphold part of the regulation suited for their tradition and ignoring parts that were not, rather than agreeing to a common level of detail.


The syllabus, therefore, appears as a long line of academic topics that have a degree of detail that makes it appear to be relevant but is not designed to support flight training and that have almost no logic core.


The problem with this is that one is not able to fore-see how each member state is enforcing the theoretical training requirement. Flight Schools are therefore only able to supply training that is app-licable to the local authority requirement and what may be sufficient training in one country, may not at all be useable in another, because of the different interpretations and weighting of the syllabus content. This is definitely contradicting the principle of con-trolling the training by learning objectives since there is no or little correlation between the informal req-uirements and the formal requirements.


As the European regulations have had runtime, most authorities are shifting from the first school of thought to the later. This happens because the EU politically wishes to make the leisure pilot require-ment less stringent and more importantly because member states are discovering that they have be-come competitors and that organizations choose to move to the area with the most advantageous con-ditions.


In reality

Authorities take no interest in the quality of the theoretical training you receive. And the exam provided to ensure the adequacy of your training is not designed to promote good training programs since it contains no clear training requirements lead-ing towards the needs of practical training. 


Many years of theoretical training have shown that you need (at least) 100 hours of classroom training to obtain a sufficient level of knowledge in the 9 sub-jects of the PPL course, to enable you to pass the exam held by the authority AND most important of all, to have a meaningful progression in the following segment of practical training, where you will be required to draw upon your reservoir of knowledge, to make sense of why things are done the way they are on the flight line.


Since the apparent value of the theoretical training is depreciated by lack of relevance, many flight schools choose to approach theoretical training as a neces-sary evil and aim the theoretical training directly at the authority exam by focussing courses on training on solving problems from a question bank which is representative for the one used by the authority, rather than giving you the insight you need. 


You should make a note of all this since you should be aware that you cannot determine relevance from legal requirements. Subsequently, you should recog-nize that flight schools are required to show com-pliance with legal requirements and you should therefore not rely on that the authority approval signals quality nor relevance. 


The only one with a genuine interest in you acquiring the appropriate level of knowledge is then you! 


To sum it all up: You are required to attend a theoretical course, that was meant to support your practical training, but that has been corrupted by bureaucracy. The course is then optimized towards compliance rather than illumination. You should accept this, take away as much as you can, and realize that you are not fully equipped by the theoretical training, but that you will be supplemented during your practical training.


I invite and advise you to find and chose a flight school that recognizes these problems and supports you in the growing of your competences to be a proficient pilot. They exist. 


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