Sunday, 4 September 2011

And so it begins...


Monday saw the start of the dreaded ATPL examination process.

Over the next eight (now seven) weeks we will take on four of the fourteen subjects under the JAA ATPL programme. The idea behind the high level of ground based theory is to reduce the amount of time needed in the air before being worthy of an airline transport license which we are all working towards. The two following modules each contain five subjects.

The four subjects I am studying in this first module are:

  • Principles of Flight (Principles)
  • Aircraft General Knowledge (AGK)
  • Instruments
  • Performance
The past week's ground school has run for four days with different timings from 8am in the morning until 5.30pm in the evening. The course is very intense and involves taking in a serious amount of information in such a short time frame. Leading up to the start of this part of the course we have been warned of it's sheer magnitude however so far so good. I find it all very interesting (well...maybe not so much principles...) and the work load so far seems manageable. However, I cannot stress enough the words "so far." Having had a little look ahead in the four subjects each seems to get more in depth about more complicated and complex mechanisms from graphs and calculations to electrics and gas turbine engines.


Each week we will have a progress test covering the previous week's work. Over the course of these five weeks we must each attain an average in the class tests of 65% to be put forward for what is known as 'consolidation.'

Consolidation is what would otherwise be called a mock test. However, although it's what you would expect of a mock exam it is often considered harder than that of the real IAA exams. To be able to sit the real exams each student must attain a mark of 80% or higher in consolidation which takes place in week six.

Consolidation complete and passed (hopefully!) there is then a week of self-study and then week eight is the four IAA examinations held here in Melbourne.

This week we have started to build the foundations in most of the subjects and the majority is going over what we learnt in JAA PPL ground school thirteen weeks ago (it certainly doesn't seem that long!). 


Principles mainly covered the different types of forces and pressures we are going to come across over the next seven weeks and indeed the rest of our careers. The main subject covered this last week was focusing on the lift and drag ratio of an aerofoil (wing).

In AGK we learnt the different structure types of aircraft along with landing gear, brakes and anti/de-icing components. I find this subject one of the most interesting as it covers what we in the future will actually be using, working with and manipulating as we sit at the very front of our aircraft.

Instruments is very similar to AGK however it goes into far greater detail with regards to instruments in the cockpit. This week was mainly focused on how parameter measurement equipment worked such as those devices used to determine height and speed.

Performance is pretty much as said. We have been learning about how the pilots (or nowadays the computers) work out the take-off distances taking into account all relevant variables from aircraft weight, runway distances, weather, winds, pressures etc. and started to look into the performance during an aircraft's climb.


Tomorrow is labour day here in the US so we luckily have an extra day of study before two tests on Tuesday and then one on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. 

During the next six month's of ground school and exams the flying takes more of a back seat. The plan is to complete one flight a week minimum during the ground school stage so that come the end of the exams in February next year I'll have completed the required number of hours before the next (CPL) stage of the training. 

In other news, today I just watched my first game/match (?) of hurling. I'm not going to go into any detail about it because I know very little about the sport - for more information Google is your friend. I must say I did enjoy it and will be watching it again in the near future!

Back to the 'real stuff' next weekend though as the Premier League campaign continues...

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