By Anthony Foxcroft
How often have you heard this: “Just learn the questions and answers, so you can pass your exams and get back to the flying”?
Too many aviation students, regardless if they are at PPL level, CPL level, or even at ATPL level treat theory as a ‘tick box’ exercise.
In the aviation industry, the quality that matters above all else is competence. You will find yourself being called upon at regular intervals to prove that you have attained and maintained your competence. The Civil Aviation Authority exams won’t be the last time you will be questioned on these topics. Each licence renewal, line check and job interview will delve into your technical knowledge. And it’s not just theoretical – every flight will require you to make decisions related to fuel planning, loading, weather, navigation, take-off and landing performance etc. that will materially influence the safety and efficiency of your aircraft.
Imagine a model of the elements which make up the quality of competence as a pyramid. Knowledge is the base of that pyramid which we will build upon, adding layers of Skills and Attitudes that add up to a competent pilot. Without a sturdy base even the most skilful pilot will be caught out.
EASA recognises the importance of this base level of knowledge and attendance at a registered ground school is compulsory in these states before you will be allowed to attempt the exams. There is also a trend in EASA of changing many mathematical questions away from multiple-choice towards typing in your answer to the required number of decimal places and showing the examiner how you arrived at that answer - you can't memorise these questions from a database.
Students who don’t attend a structured ground school or consider a Computer Based Training (CBT) course, such as the ones offered by Aviation Training, a registered SACAA ATO, often take a year or two to pass their theoretical examinations. This additional time in your training comes at a cost, in accommodation and food, lost opportunities and earning potential. The competition to secure your first job as a pilot can be intense. At this level there are generally more applicants than positions available. For many employers, the first filter will be to rank candidates by their number of first-time passes and overall percentage in the exams.
With all this in mind, the time you invest in your studies at this stage is fundamental to your success and safety for the rest of your career.
CFI of Aviation Training, with 20 years’ experience as an airline pilot and instructor
Aviation Training, a registered South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) Aviation Training Organisation (ATO) offers comprehensive Computer Based Training (CBT) courses for PPL, CPL, IROP, ATPL, and General Radio exam