Getting a Canadian pilot’s licence [Part 2: Ground School]

For the rest of this series I will refer to the Private Pilot Licence as this is the one I am most familiar with. Feel free to post any questions you may have about higher levels of training as well. If I don’t know the answer I’ll do my best to find it out for you.

Check out the whole series:

There are two places where you will learn to fly a plane: on the ground and in the air. While it is desireable that you have at least some ground school knowledge before heading up in the plane, it is not necessary. In fact, many schools advocate flying and doing ground school concurrently. Depending on your learning style, this may work for you. I wanted to have as much information as I could before flying so I finished ground school, then started my flight training.

Ground school

Ground school covers all the rules, regulations and theory you need to know as a pilot. The order you cover the material may be different from school to school but you will go through From the Ground Up in its entirety.

From the Ground Up book
Things you will learn include:

  • Theory of flight (camber in wing creates more lift)
  • Air regulations and procedures (traffic patterns are left hand unless otherwise instructed)
  • Radio regulations and procedures (who you’re calling, who you are, where you are, what do you want?)
  • Meteorology (if you see a cummulonimbus cloud, should you fly towards it?)
  • Navigation (the ground looks nothing like the map)
  • How aircraft engines work (the four stage piston engine: Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow)
  • Human factors (if you had ONE drink in the last 8 hours, please don’t fly)
  • Many more tidbits from experienced pilots (remember, in order to be an instructor you must hold a commercial licence which requires at least 200 hours of flight)

Once you have completed ground school, you will have most of the knowledge you need to write the PPL written (it has an official name but if you refer to it as the PPL written test people will know what you’re referring to). This is a 100 multiple choice question exam with four main sections: Airlaw, Navigation, Meteorology and General Aeronautics. You must obtain at least 60% on the test overall and at least 60% in each of the four sections. Before you can write it, however, you must receive a letter of recommendation from your instructor. To get this, in most schools, you must obtain a high mark on two of the school’s practice exams.

Along with the written PPL test, there are other written tests which you will be expect to have completed before your first solo. For the sake of keeping this brief, I will give you more information about all the tests in a separate post.

Ground School Materials

While in ground school you will make extensive usage of the aforementioned From the Ground Up. Other books and materials you will need/use include:

  • From the Ground Up workbook
  • VNC (VFR Navigation Chart) and VTA (VFR Terminal Area Chart)
  • E6-B flight computer
  • Douglas protractor and navigation ruler or navigation plotter
  • Pencils, erasers and other writing utensils

Most schools put together a kit for their students and sell it for about $200. Before you go out and buy your own stuff, check out your local flight school to see what they have in their kits.

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From In the sky and around CYHM

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Next up: Flight training