Why PPL qualification is more Einstein heed than Yeager speed

I must start by apologising for the gap in blog articles. The British weather has severely hindered my progress and, as I type I have gone over 6 weeks without a lesson. My bank manager and ‘Saint Nick’ are delighted with this; my inner Maverick less so!

I only have a 30-minute solo slot of ‘glide descents’ to complete to be ‘released from the circuits’ out to flyaways and cross-country flights and so the winter delay is causing real frustration at this stage. I really wish I was learning in South Africa, Cyprus or Miami 🙂

What else can I do?

Take 3 more exams quickly I guess with time ticking on my 18-months examination time-bomb.

I think the blog pictorial on the ‘magic of aircraft flight’ sums up just how little I know (knew) about what it really takes in terms of science and design to get our flying machines off terra firma……

EASA = Examinations Annihilate Student Aviators

When I started my PPL journey I totally underestimated the amount and depth of study required for the written examinations.

Indeed, the European aviation regulator (EASA) has kindly made things more challenging for me mid-stream by adjusting the exam format, question banks and, the number of permissible sittings. I never knew EASA was an acronym for ‘Examinations Annihilate Student Aviators” but, I have to say they are doing a sterling job in this respect…..

The next 3 ‘Exams of mass destruction’ that await this unsuspecting student are:

  1. Principles of Flight (The torture of Physics)
  2. Aircraft General Knowledge (Metalwork and chemistry obliteration)
  3. Communications (Foreign language written and oral despair)

My prior knowledge of the basic ‘principles of flight’ was somewhere between Newton’s 3rd law and the Quidditch technique of Harry Potter, my aircraft knowledge was a par with wing resilience design skills of Icarus and, my radio communications insight stemmed from the CB Radio exploits of Smokey and the Bandit.

What could possible go wrong? 🙂

Move over Einstein, Mavericks coming!

The imagined flying journey in my mind was that of Mavericks’ Top Gun’ or the 1940’s Mach-busting exploits of Chuck Yeager in his experimental X-1. The reality as we reflect during the dreaded flying downtime of the British winter is a training period more reminiscent of a secondary school GCSE department than the Rookie briefing room for the Red Arrows (The nearest I will get to ‘Red 1’ is next years Farnborough Air Show I suspect! 🙂 )

“If you cannot explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough!”

Einstein imparted these words of wisdom shortly after unleashing his theory of relativity and, to be honest I wish he had kept his mouth shut on both fronts. As I sit here buried in PPL training books I really feel if I had wanted his opinion, my wife would have given it to him! 🙂

Bernoullis’s what? Bless you!

Principles of Flight terms and bernoullis theorem  – Strike One!

My prior knowledge of ‘principles of flight’ was the ill-conceived flight planning from Icarus enroute to the sun and, my Air Cadet training books from the 1980’s and so, this was really starting from scratch. As a failed GCSE Physics student, this was always going to be my nemesis in examination terms. As I type, I am getting 75-80% pass marks in this subject on Airquiz.com and so, fingers-crossed I am nearly ready to take the exam for real.

Aircraft General Knowledge – Strike Two!

Nothing prepares the budding PPL student for the breadth if not depth of this subject area. To fly a general aviation aircraft you have to understand its operation from cockpit instrument to control surface, from engine induction to the magnetic machinations of the compass.

This is akin to a learner driver being asked to summarise the functions of the ABS Braking system, to detail how the speedometer functions and before being issued with the provisional license for ‘on-the-road’ learning being forced to describe every engine and chassis component in typical operation.

Maybe given the quality of driving on our roads this is not a bad idea! 🙂

Have you tried explaining the core components of an aircraft induction system as part of your party chat-up line routine? Any romantic sparks? No? 🙂

It is bloody boring although I concede essential to safe flight.

As I type, I am averaging 65% on mock-tests and so, a little more reading and PPL simplifier effort will be required to take this exam in the same EASA-Sitting as ‘Principles of Flight’

Comms Terminology – Strike 3

To be honest, the PPL1 AFE Communications training book by Pratt sums up the challenge of learning ‘pilot lingo‘ completely for me. To the unsuspecting and untrained outsider it sounds a little bit like this:

“Golf Michaelangelo Whispering Klingons, situation over bar the frying pan apron, free quest hair field de part-sure in formation taxy destruction. Over”

Followed by the ATC response of:

“Roger’s got that. Queue and ache ones hero two trees, quiffy ones hero one time, taxy two runaway in puce zero height, golf whis-key key low”

Lets be honest folks, its a language designed to snatch ‘defeat from the jaws of victory’ for an otherwise semi-competent and dare I say it confident student pilot in training 🙂

I found this UK PPL video useful as it covers departure, enroute and arrival exchanges on a typical PPL cross-country journey encountering both commercial (ATZ) and military (MATZ) airfields.

Outbound Leg

Inbound Leg

Yet, they say that first impressions count and, in the world of general aviation, terrible radio communications technique means you are a terrible and untrustworthy pilot.

This may not seem fair but, it is an irrefutable fact.

Such is my desire to be competent with radio communications, I have incorporated it’s practice into every available moment of ‘down time’ during the working week. I have recorded audio, YouTube videos, CD rom courseware and of course the PPL training materials close by whatever I may be doing from showering to lunch-breaks.

On a recent train journey into work, whilst reciting (I thought quietly 😉 ) airfield departure messages with my headphones on, a fellow passenger started laughing beside me. It turns out that he was a fellow but fully certified private pilot from a nearby airfield. We spent the rest of the journey talking in a language that made even the London-bound banking professionals take stock 🙂 .

Hopefully my next blog before Christmas (weather-permitting) will be the successful completion of ‘glide descents’ and the unleashing of this very frustrated students into UK airspace above 1000 feet for a change.

Until then, the skies are safe for the rest of you out there! 😉 Fly safe and here’s to a great 2016!


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