Road to the Right Seat 15 – Ground School
Story series: Road to the Right Seat
We've all had a crazy childhood dream and mine was becoming an airline pilot. Many young people who aspire a flying career are unaware of the content of flight training and the preparations which are needed. On November 23rd, 2015 I started my ATPL(A) training. Time to realize my childhood dream. I'd like to take you along on an adventure and I'll happily answer all your questions on the way. Let's do this!
July 16, 2016 – After 235 days of ground school, it is time to finish the first chapter of my flight training. The past few months were exhausting and nerve-racking, but I’m happy to announce that I made it. A strange, yet amazing feeling to be writing this. Off to the United States of America!
My expectations for phase 2 were quite low to be honest. The previous promotion made it seem that the workload would be low so we were everything but stressed for the continuation of our training. And indeed, phase 2 was more practical, but that didn’t necessarily make things easier.
Besides the more practical courses, we still had Air Law and Operational Procedures. These two are the pure definition of theory but are important nonetheless.
The second phase didn’t cause too much trouble, but the exams were a whole different story…
EASA did it again
We knew the system, studied well and the School Finals gave us great hopes for the official exams. On June 28th we started our final exam period, finally!
Some sleepless nights and a whole lot of coffee later we received our results. Results weren’t as good as we expected, but luckily there were only 11 out of 16 students who failed Performance… Wait what?
In my previous blog post, I mentioned that Performance was one of my favorite courses throughout the theoretical phase. I achieved more than 90% on both Progress Tests and School Finals which gave me great confidence for the official exams.
As I said before the exam database is currently being changed and this is the result. Results varied between 73% and 52% which is very strange, knowing almost everyone achieved over 90% on all internal tests. Oh and that 52% score? That was mine.
But how is it possible that our results made such a sudden drop? The answer is simple and frustrating: the exam system isn’t working properly and needs to be improved.
To test our knowledge for the exams we used AviationExam, a website filled with both old and new possible exam questions. Since this website is fully dependent on student input it takes some time before the new questions appear online.
The consequence of this system is that the exam results slowly increase and eventually this rings a bell at EASA. New questions will be added to the database resulting in poor exam results. And so the game continues.
You can study your books as much as you want, but it will never give you any certainty of passing the official exams. The books we study do not contain all the information required to correctly answer all exam questions which is problematic.
EASA does not publish any books of its own, but they decide what knowledge is required to pass their exams. The only information EASA provides to our instructors is what they have to teach us, but this info is quite vague. “Explain how thunderstorms work” can be explained in the most simple and most complicated ways so in the end it’s a big guess for both the instructors and students.
We study our books with our fingers crossed, hoping that it will be enough to pass the exams.
The only solution I have is for EASA to publish its own books with all the information they require us to obtain to pass the exams. This will make the system fair and students won’t have to thank websites such as AviationExam for their good results.
Because there were 11 retakes of one particular course, only 3 students could depart to the US. The school has done everything to quickly plan our retake in order to send 8 students to the US on July 14th.
Time for a fun fact! I’m writing this blog post at 36,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.
After our official exams, we had to do a few simulator sessions to obtain basic flying skills. This took some time, but we were still able to prepare well for our retake.
On Monday, July 11th, I went back into the exam room together with 10 other students, hoping that this would be our very last exam. I was seated next to the window and had a clear view of the United Boeing 777 which would hopefully bring me to the US.
Just like the first time, we were well-prepared, but now we knew more about some of the rather absurd questions we could expect. I was relieved when I left the exam room, but now the waiting game began.
Seeing that I passed my exam filled me with many emotions, but happiness was protruding. The theoretical phase of my training is now completed! I didn’t get any holidays and had 2.5 days to pack and leave to the US. The stressful days weren’t over just yet!
It’s a shame that everything had to go so fast in the end. It would’ve been great to spend more time with family and friends and I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to everyone. Anyway, I am very happy to be leaving to the US and to start the practical part of my training. Let’s fly!
When I started my training I was scared of the theoretical phase, but I passed. The instructors were professional, the lessons were interesting, the planning wasn’t too extreme and the staff was always actively helping us. Now it’s time to leave Brussels behind for a while and start a new chapter in Phoenix.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me and my fellow students in the past few months!
If you have any further questions about my training, feel free to leave a comment below. See you next week!
This story is part of the series Road to the Right Seat