Rod Machado’s Private Pilot Ground School – 2023 In-depth Review
457 views | By Senne Vandenputte | Last updated on February 16, 2023
In this review, we’ll take an in-depth look at Rod Machado’s 40-hour private pilot online ground school, discuss the different features of the ground school program and provide our opinion on whether it is worth your time and money.
Before we start, here’s a little ‘disclaimer‘. Rod was friendly enough to provide us with a free license to this course, so we could write an honest review about it for the Hangar.Flights website. We did not receive any financial compensation for this, so our review could remain objective and honest, in order to give you the most accurate and helpful information possible.
Also, we went through the course as a way to refresh our knowledge. As I have been a private pilot for 4 years now, I didn’t have to take the written exam anymore after finishing this course. However, I did my best to go through the course as if I was actually taking the written exam, just to make sure I could offer you the best possible opinion on the course.
Now with that out of the way, let’s dive into this ground-school course and see what it has to offer.
The course is divided into multiple modules, each focused on a specific area or topic related to flying. These include lessons on aircraft systems, weather basics, radio communication procedures, aerodynamics and more.
He then goes on to explain that the course is built on the Building block principle of learning, meaning that you need to start with the top module and then progressively work your way down through each and every module. You need to have completed one module in order to thoroughly understand the content of the next module. However, if you go trough the course, you are free to navigate between different lessons and videos however you like.
Furthermore, Rod gives detailed instructions and information about the video player and how to interact with the course materials provided, such as resources that may be helpful to use as additional study material and so on.
Every module of the course is also transcribed and can be found in the Notes section at the top left side of the course player. These transcriptions are useful because it makes it easy to to go back and review a module, without having to watch the entire video again.
The course interface includes an extensive pop-up glossary, with provides access to definitions for technical terms that will be useful in studying the training materials.
After each module, you have to take an interactive quiz, with questions that directly relate to the content of that module. These quizzes are particularly useful in helping you consolidate your understanding of each topic and can be taken multiple times until you feel confident enough with each topic. After the end of all modules in a specific course section, there’s a final quiz with a comprehensive test on all topics covered in that particular section. While the smaller quizzes usually have about 6-7 questions, these final quizzes often have about 15 to 20 questions.
Rod has set a minimum passing score of 80% on those final quizzes, in order to be able to receive the course certificate, which you’ll need to take the FAA private pilot written exam. However, you can take any quiz as many times as you like.
Finally, Rod emphasizes the general rule of his course: “The intent of this course is to know ALL the material before moving onto the next module. I expect you to keep taking the quizzes until you have a score of 100% before moving on“.
Funnily enough, Rod manages to use humor even in the most ‘boring’ part of his course: the technical help-me guide for your browser when using the course e-player.
Diving deeper into the course
After Rod’s course introduction, it was time to dive deeper into the course and see what it has to offer in terms of actual content.
When you log into your account on Rod Machado’s website, you will find an overview of all course modules included (just reading those titles already makes you chuckle):
- Introducing Your Airplane
- Aerodynamics: The Wing is the Thing Part-1
- Aerodynamics: The Wing is the Thing Part-2
- Airplane Engines: Knowledge of Engines is Power: Part-1
- Airplane Engines: Knowledge of Engines is Power: Part-2
- The Electrical System: Knowing What’s Watt
- Flight Instruments: Clocks, Tops and Toys
- Federal Aviation Regulations: How FAR Can You Go? Part-1
- Federal Aviation Regulations: How FAR Can You Go? Part-2
- Federal Aviation Regulations: How FAR Can You Go? Part-3
- Airport Operations: No Doctor Needed
- Radio Operations: Aviation Spoken Here
- Understanding Airspace: Part-1
- Understanding Airspace: Part-2
- Aviation Maps: The Art of the Chart
- Radio Navigation: The Frequency Flyer Program
- Understanding Weather: Part-1
- Understanding Weather: Part-2
- Understanding Weather: Part-3
- Understanding Weather: Part-4
- Understanding Weather: Part-5
- Understanding Weather: Part-6
- Weather Charts: PIREPS, Progs and METARs
- Flight Planning: Getting There From Here: Part-1
- Flight Planning: Getting There From Here: Part-2
- Airplane Performance: Know Before You
- Weight and Balance: Let’s Wait and Balance
- Pilot Potpourri: Neat Aeronautical Information
At the end of the course, you’ll also find a dedicated module explaining how to take the FAA knowledge exam and 3 FAA practice exams. Overall, the course includes 26 learning modules and 40 hours of e-learning material.
While the first module is targeted specifically at those students who have very little to no experience with small general aviation airplanes, the course gently progresses from the very basics to more complex topics.
As we progress through the modules, it quickly becomes clear why Rod’s course is so highly praised. The content is comprehensive, easy to understand and fun. Rod’s ability to explain complex topics in the simplest of terms and his use of humorous analogies makes it enjoyable to sit through the entire course.
In the very first course module, Rod explains that the modules and videos will not only be narrated by himself, but also by different other professional pilots and flight instructors. While this was a little unexpected, every single one of those narrators did a tremendous job, making the course all that more enjoyable. Even more so because they all put their own stamp on the learning material by adding their own stories, jokes, analogies and even self-composed music to the videos.
“Having worked in top comedy clubs nationwide, Alex [Cody] will pop in from time to time, reading in the voices of the rich, famous and funny characters from pop culture.” How Rod never fails to surprise us with his unique approach!
The ‘Rod Machado touch’ is of course evident throughout the entire course (he is the course author, illustrator and designer after all), but he also makes sure to let his colleagues shine in each module they narrate.
Course graphics & animations
Perhaps one of the most striking features of the course is the high quality of the videos, illustrations, animations and graphics. It’s immediately noticeable that a lot of care has gone into creating all these visuals. Each one was clearly designed with a specific purpose and to ensure maximum comprehension. And although most of them may look a little too 2005-ish, every single animation and graphic is very effective in helping to explain and highlight complex aeronautical concepts and principles, helping students understand and remember it all.
Besides the general animations and illustrations, Rod has a gift of creating easy-to-understand diagrams of electrical and systems in the aircraft. This makes it easy to comprehend and remember the intricacies of the aircraft, no matter how complex the system may be.
Throughout the course, you will find a combination of digital graphics and animations, photos and videos to explain the different concepts. All of this accompanied by the quality, enjoyable and usually humorous narration we talked about earlier, creates a very enjoyable learning environment.
Additional tools and materials
Besides the course modules, you will also find a few other interesting tools and resources in the course overview.
For example, there is an interactive HSI Simulator, which lets you virtually practice navigating by VOR. All while being narrated by the course instructor to guide and explain what is happening and why. So even though this is an online (virtual) course, a tool like this offers a learning experience that comes very close to being in an actual classroom with an instructor beside you explaining the different concepts.
Besides the HSI simulator, you will also find a virtual E6-B flight computer, with a similar voice guiding you through the different functions and uses.
Furthermore, the course currently comes with the following free extra learning materials:
- Rod Machado’s Private Pilot eHandbook (a $49.95 value)
- Rod Machado’s Private Pilot eWorkbook (a $19.95 value)
- Rod Machado’s How to Fly an Airplane eHandbook (a $44.95 value)
- Rod Machado’s Plane Talk eBook (a $24.95 value)
- Rod Machado’s Stick and Rudder Flight Training Syllabus
- Rod Machado’s Ground School Syllabus
Especially those digital handbooks and workbook offer a great way reference to dive deeper into different topics, and practice and review the material covered in the course.
Before reaching the final module of the course “How and Where to Take the FAA Knowledge Exam”, you need to go through one more module, titled “Pilot Potpourri: Neat Aeronautical Information”.
Starting with a quote from Lewis Caroll/Alice in Wonderland (how else), the course narrator goes on to explain that this module will cover a variety of interesting topics, all of which will be useful to your flying. A quick glance at the course contents indeed showed topics that range from fitness for flight and scanning for traffic, to filing a VFR flight plan, aeronautical decision-making (ADM) and industry publications.
All of these topics are usually only very briefly covered in other courses and training materials, or mentioned orally during actual flying lessons, but this module allows you to go into much more depth and detail. This makes it a great addition for those who want to get the most out of their training. The lessons on aviation decision-making, thought patterns in the cockpit and mental checklists are incredibly valuable, current and useful to any pilot, even very experienced ones.
Our thoughts on Rod Machado’s private pilot ground school course
Overall, we found that the modules are well-organized, with clear explanations and visuals. The videos are engaging and Rod’s, as well as the other narrators, teaching style is easy to follow, making it an excellent resource for those who want a more thorough grounding in the basics of flying. Additionally, the ability to take quizzes and test your understanding of key concepts is a great way to reinforce what you’ve learned.
“Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about aviation training is that we learn better when the experience is enjoyable and engaging.” – Rod Machado
As you watch Rod’s videos, it is evident that he has extensive experience and comprehensive knowledge in pilot training, not to mention his undeniable enthusiasm for helping students achieve their goals. There’s a well-known saying that goes something like “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”, and this is something that Rod embodies in his course. With clear explanations and practical examples, he walks you through each module step by step until you fully grasp the material.
While e-learning courses generally aren’t the most thrilling thing to take part in, Rod Machado’s Pilot Ground School strangely enough manages to make it not only incredibly educational but also enjoyable. He truly is a master at combining humor with knowledge, and does a great job of making huge and complex topics easily digestible and enjoyable.
Overall, we would highly recommend Rod Machado’s 40-hour Private Pilot eLearning Ground School to anyone who is looking to become a private pilot or simply wants to gain a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of flying, like we did. Whether you’re completely new to aviation or have some prior experience, this course will provide you with a solid foundation and help you prepare for the FAA written exam with confidence, or to simply brush up on your skills in a fun and effective way.
One final thing we would like to mention is that you get lifetime access to the course, allowing you to come back and review any topics whenever you need. A good pilot is always learning, and this course is a great way to keep your skills up-to-date.
Finally and to conclude this review, Rod has created a video introduction to his ground school course himself, which may be helpful to better understand the contents of his course (not our video):
All graphics, animations and screenshots in this review are copyright of Rod Machado, we do not own any of the rights to those visuals.
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About the author
As a 27-year-old digital entrepreneur, glider pilot, private pilot and tow plane pilot, Senne is passionate about aviation. He started gliding at age 14 and flew his first solo in a glider at 15. After getting his PPL about 10 years later, he mostly spends his weekends towing gliders into the air. When not flying, he runs his marketing & web design business, fun projects like Hangar.Flights, scuba diving, traveling and enjoying the outdoors.