Archive for the ‘Ground School’ Category

IMC written exam done

April 16, 2010

I’d been originally working on the basis that I’d do the IMC Flight Test, followed by the written exam. However, recent conversations questioned the legality of doing things this way round, so over the last few days I’ve been doing my best to get up to speed and get the exam out of the way.

Got myself ready and went and sat the exam today. Spent a couple of hours revising at the club, before sitting the exam.

On my first pass through, I skipped one of the questions regarding the effect of a blocked pitot head on the ASI, and all of the questions relating to the flight plan that needs to be filled. I was pretty confident about the ones I did answer, and then concentrated on getting the flight plan done. This was all just basic whizz wheel stuff, and apart from a slight hiccup where I forgot how to calculate fuel weights based on quantity and specific gravity (I finally worked it out!) it all went smoothly.

One question regarding the flight plan was particularly nasty though. It basically boiled down to “If you overfly Blackbushe at 2400 feet, are you in their ATZ or not?”. The elevation of Blackbushe is something like 350 feet, and I couldn’t remember if ATZs were 2000 feet AGL or 2500 feet AGL. If it was the former, you’re not in the ATZ, if the latter, you are. In the end I plumped for the former, and chose the answer to the effect of “You’re not in the ATZ, but you should call them anyway”.

Once all the flight planning related questions were complete, I went back and completed the one about the blockage of the pitot head, before having a final read through of all of the questions.

I found what I thought was an error on one of the questions (relating to determining the position of the aircraft relating to a VOR) that ended up being caused by a common problem I’d had during revising, incorrectly assuming that the track we were flying to the VOR put us on the same radial (it doesn’t, it puts us on the reciprocal radial). I was a little reticent to change the answer, as I’ve done this before and changed the right answer to a wrong one! I stuck with it though, and made the change.

Was barely half way through the allotted time, but decided that after a double check I was happy, so took the paper to Bob to mark. Before he marked it I asked him about the dimensions of an ATZ, and luckily I had picked the correct answer (for future reference, 2nm radius and 2000 feet AAL). Bob went through the answer sheet, and didn’t find any wrong answers!

He quizzed me over a couple of related questions regarding ATZ dimensions, MATZ dimensions etc., and I was surprised how little of the actual detail I’d forgotten. In reality I would always err on the side of caution (even flying over an airfield at 3000 feet, I’d still contact them despite it not being strictly necessary) but perhaps a re-read of the Air Law textbook might be in order to refresh my memory?

Anyway, that’s one hurdle out of the way. Now all I need is the RAF to open for business again after the ash cloud and I might be able to sort out the Flight Test!

R/T Practical

May 19, 2008

The last ground school hurdle was the R/T practical. This is required for the issue of a Flight Radio Telephony Operators License (FRTOL). While not a requirement for a PPL, it is a requirement if you want to use a radio in an aircraft, and it’s a little hard operating out of controlled airspace (like the Class D that Brize Norton is in the middle of!) without one.

So I headed over to Enstone to spend some time with Owen. We’d agreed he’d give me a bit of a ‘brush up’ on some of the elements that I hadn’t actually covered in practice during my training (Special VFR, MATZ Penetrations and the like) before going into the test proper. We chatted for an hour or so, going over the bits I wanted to cover before embarking on the test itself.

The R/T practical is a slightly odd test. I ended up sitting in one room by myself, wearing a headset and with a box in front of me with a selector knob to select between 8 channels, and a push-to-talk button. Also on the box was an ominous red light marked ’emergency’. At some point during my ‘flight’ this would light up, and I would have to make the appropriate Mayday call.

I was given a sheet of paper containing my route for the flight. As others have said, this appears to have been planned so as to make the flight as difficult as possible! However, the idea is to check that I know how to make pretty much all of the radio calls that I might need during my own flying, so everything needs to be covered.

Another sheet of paper contained a list of all the frequencies I would need (including some I wouldn’t!) and their mapping to the 8 selector positions on the control box. Finally there was a list of instructions as to what I needed to do on the flight, including pretending to be lost at one point, having a rough running engine and the like.

We launched into the test, and almost immediately the ‘simulated’ nature threw me slightly. Normally, the first call in any flight is a radio check, of the form

‘Brize Ground, G-BPAF radio check, 121.275’

However, on this flight I didn’t have a radio in front of me, and hadn’t dialled in a frequency. All I’d done was move the selector knob to position ‘B’. So, my first call was something along the lines of

‘Someairfield tower, G-ABCD radio check, errr…ummm…rustle rustle….126.0’

Good start!

The bad start continued however, as not long after I had to provide my aircraft type and route. Again, usually this isn’t too difficult, as you’ve just climbed in to the aircraft (so hopefully know what type it is!) and planned the route yourself, so have a rough idea of where you’re going. Again, after some umming and errring and rustling of paper, I finally dug out the correct details and passed them. Owen later said that if I’m ever in this situation for real in the air, then the phrase ‘Standby’ sounds a lot better and more professional that a lot of umming and erring!

The rest of the ‘flight’ continued pretty well, transiting a MATZ, having an engine failure, getting ‘lost’ and requesting a true bearing and finally gaining a Class A zone transit to my destination field.

This was when I made my biggest cock up, but didn’t realise it until afterwards. Throught the flight, Owen had been ‘simulating’ other traffic, and as I was transitting the Class A zone, another aircraft came on frequency for a ‘weather diversion’. Obviously this was supposed to be a hint for me, but I completely missed it. The instructions I’d been given required me to get the weather for my destination as I was crossing the Class A airspace, and to divert to the airfield in the Class A if the weather wasn’t suitable at my destination. Whoops!

Owen went over the few fluffs I’d made when we were done, and reminded me about the weather call I should have made. He seemed happy that it was just an oversight and that I did know how to ask for the weather, so signed off my R/T practical test. He also signed the ‘new’ bit on the form, certifying that I can speak English to Level 6 (this is a new ICAO requirement, and Level 6 is the top one). The CAA application form helpfully already has the number 6 printed in it, so I guess they’re assuming that anyone living in the UK should be able to reach this standard!

So, just one more hurdle, the skills test!

Last exam done!

March 1, 2008

I’d been reading the book for ‘Aircraft General Knowledge and Principles of Flight’ for a few weeks now. This is the biggest subject in the series of ground exams, this one containing 50 questions covering  Principles of Flight, Powerplant, Airframe, Electrical System, Instruments etc.

I was happy that I was getting good 90%+ passes from the Confuser and the AFE Q&A book, so arranged to do the exam with Indi today. Was very surprised how quickly I got through the exam, only taking about 20 minutes for my first pass through. This first pass left me with 9 questions that I couldn’t immediately answer. This wasn’t bad, and as long as my confidence on the other 41 questions wasn’t misplaced meant that I should pass!

Went back through the remaining 9, and relatively easily answer 7 or so of them after a bit of thought. The 8th didn’t take me too long to resolve, leaving me with 1 final question, relating to the operation of the compass. This was a list of 5 statements, and you had to pick the ones that were correct in applying to the compass.

As is often the case, it was a toss up between two of the answers, with me being unable to pick out which of these two statements were true:

Deviation is applied to the compass heading to get magnetic heading

Variation is applied to the compass heading to get magnetic heading

As it happened, I picked the wrong one, but the rest of the answers were correct, giving me a total score of 98%.

So, what’s all of the written exams out of the way now. Got to think about doing my R/T practical in the next few weeks, and then all that’s left is the QXC and Skills Test!

Another one down, only one more to go

January 20, 2008

Another ground exam today, Flight Performance and Planning.

I’d been struggling with a couple of aspects of this one (or so I thought). There were some sample questions in the Confuser and AFE Question and Answers books that I just couldn’t get my head around how they’d arrived at the answer they had.

Went over these with Indy today before sitting the exam, and we both came to the conclusion that in fact I was answering them correctly, and that the answers in the books were in fact wrong! Very helpful.

As per usual, followed my normal exam routine. 1st pass through the paper answering all the ones I was sure about. This left me with 3 questions I wasn’t 100% sure about. A second pass through removed one of these, but the other two were still a little bit up in the air.

As is often the case in these things, I could immediately discount two of the four possible answers as being obviously wrong. Then it was just a question of making an educated guess as to which of the two answers was correct. One of them was particularly nasty, something along the lines of:

‘Rate of climb is defined as the altitude change in’

Two of the answers were:

c) feet per minute
d) unit time

Now, I knew that the ‘correct’ answer in this case was ‘unit time’, but I wasn’t sure if the CAA people were expecting you to give the unit that rate of climb was typically measured in. I plumped for the technically correct answer and passed it over to be marked.

Indy went through the paper, and announced the results. Another 100%!

So, just ‘Airplane Technical and Principles of Flight’ to do. This is the biggy (the book for Flight Performance and Planning runs to about 65 pages to cover a 20 question exam, whereas ‘Tech’ is more like 200 pages, for a 50 question exam). I’ll start hitting the books and try to get this one out of the way in the next few weeks.

I also have to consider doing the R/T practical, and there’s a rumour that this is going to change in the next few months to require a yearly revalidation, so I might try to do this sooner rather than later.

Now I know how to navigate!

December 22, 2007

I’d been reading up on the Navigation exam text for a few weeks now. Was a little worried because on a few of the ‘practice’ questions I’d done, some of the multiple choice answers seemed incredibly precise (difference in magnetic headings of just 3 degrees for example) give the fact that you’d never be able to fly a heading to that degree of accuracy anyway.

So, turned up at the exam and sat myself down. Completed the plog, and started to make my way though the questions. My fears were immediately realised! One of the questions required you to calculate the total flight time. Two of the answers were just 3 minutes apart, and my calculated flight time was slap bang in the middle of the two!

I went through the entire exam as I usually do, completing answers I was sure of, and leaving the ones I was less sure of. The exam consisted of 25 questions, and the 75% pass mark meant you could get 6 questions wrong. When I counted up the ones I was unsure of, there were 6!

This wasn’t looking good, but I made my second pass through the questions, and re-calculated the plog and managed to move the total flight time by half a minute towards one of the two answers that were very close. I completed all the answers I was unsure of, and then made my final pass through, checking that the answer I’d written down matched the one I meant to.

On this pass through, I was suspicious that one of my answers was in fact incorrect. The last exam I did this on, I actually changed my answer from the correct one to an incorrect one, so I was loathe to second guess myself! However, I made the change, and took my answers over to John to get them marked.

As he worked through the answers, he wasn’t making any marks on the answer paper, and after about 2/3 of the way though he said ‘It’s looking good’. He got to the end without making a single marked, and said ‘Yep, you’ve aced it!’ Another 100%.

Next exam is ‘Flight Performance and Planning’, which looks quite limited in scope (the AFE book only contains about 70 pages on the subject) and then I just have the ‘Aircraft Technical’ one to do, which looks a whole lot more involved.

Another exam out of the way.

November 24, 2007

So, John had put me on the spot by offering to allow me to do the Met exam today. While I felt I was nearly ready, I wasn’t completely confident.

He had someone coming in for a trial flight, so suggested I hit the books for an hour or so, and see how I felt once he got back.

This I did, completing all 3 practice papers in the AFE Q&A book, and about two thirds of the questions in the Confuser. I was relatively confident by this point, so decided to go ahead with the exam.

I used my usual technique, making a first pass through the paper answering all the questions I thought I definitely knew the answers to. After this, I was left with 4 or 5 questions, that I went through and answered on the second pass.

I made a final pass through, re-reading all the questions, choosing an answer and checking that this matched the answer I had actually noted down. One of the questions at the end I came up with a different answer, and on further study decided that the new answer was the correct one.

Big mistake! I got 95%, with the only incorrect answer being the one I’d changed. And my first answer was correct!

Oh well, next exam will be Navigation.

I suppose it couldn’t last!

September 22, 2007

Human Performance exam this morning. Followed my usual routine, having a last read through my notes immediately before the exam. Then worked through the questions answering all the ones I was sure of on the first pass.

In this case that only left one question, and again there was a choice between two answers that I thought were correct. I made an educated guess and passed the paper to John to mark.

Well, my 100% record is now gone. I scored 95% (one question wrong). Annoyingly it was one of the ones I thought I had answered correctly! It was a question regarding how your approach would be affected on a runway that was narrower than you were expecting.

In hindsight, I knew the answer, but ended up picking the exact opposite. Oh well, perhaps I should take a bit more time over it in future.

 So, what next? Met? Or Aeroplane Technical? Hmm, decisions decisions…

Communications theory

August 25, 2007

Trying to work through the exams I need before solo, so went in to Brize early today because John (an examiner) was around. He didn’t seem too sure we would fit in the exam, but as it happened someone didn’t turn up for their slot so we managed to do it.

30 questions this time, and there were only really 2 that I couldn’t immediately answer on the first pass through. As in the previous exam, both of these ended up with only two possible correct options, so it was a matter of choosing the most appropriate from those.

I made what I thought was the correct choice, and after a quick double check of the answers I’d written (after getting several wrong during the practice exams purely because I’d ticked the wrong box) I handed the paper over to John for marking.

Had a quick look over his shoulder when he was about two thirds of the way through marking to see no crosses on there, so was relatively confident, and he later confirmed it by saying ‘Yep, no problems with that one’. On checking the form after he had completed it, I found I had got another 100%!

Surely this can’t continue!

Human Performance next. Will try to slot that one in next weekend if at all possible.

Air law

August 4, 2007

Arrived early at Brize today, and the weather wasn’t playing (low cloudbase that stopped even circuits happening). So, I took the chance to take the Air Law exam that I’d been studying for over the last week or so.

On my first pass through the paper, I answered 30 of the 40 questions that I was pretty convinced I knew the answer to.

Of the ten questions remaining, I went through them again and there were a few I was *pretty* sure I knew the answers to. I answered these on the second pass.

Final pass was the last 5 or 6 questions. On each of these there were two obviously wrong (to me at least) answers. I then made an educated selection from the two remaining answers. One of the questions I was particularly unsure was regarding when you had to carry a life raft. The 4 answers were a combination of 100 and 200 nm and km.

I *knew* that it was one of the 100 somethings, I just couldn’t entirely remember the units involved. I think this is one of the questions (and indeed the regulations) where the mixing of units (km, feet, metres, nm etc.) is particularly confusing. I’m surprised they didn’t standardise on one set of units.

Anyway, at the end of the day my revision and the advice I received on various forums obviously worked. I scored 100%! 🙂

6 more to go!