When I started this course in 2017, I was full of energy, during Phase 2 the halfway blues set in and finally 9 months later (Aug 2018) with a week till my final 7 exams in Gatwick, mental fatigue kicked in. My ATPL theory took me 9 months and 20 days to complete, and culminated with 14 ATPL first time exam passes. I will remember Friday 10 August 2018 as a traumatising and a relieving day.
My final seven subjects where these glorious seven:
I don’t want to go into the detail of these subjects as you will be reading here for a while but for those that want to know more about the subject matter of these please see this useful youtube link. I used this video library extensively in self learning for all subjects.
Instead what I thought might be more entertaining is reflecting through some of the lessons learnt and entertaining experiences encountered during my time on Airways Ground School.
Memories of Ground school – Class EPP09
Lesson 1: A period of continual learning requires frequent stress relief – exercise, meditation or whatever takes your mind off it. I picked up Les Mils’ Bodypump with a classmate and found 30-60 minutes sessions 2-4 times a week did the job nicely.
Situation: Two of us exercising in an empty exercise studio, on the hottest and most humid day of the year. The inevitable tops came off – expect copious unexpected and awful photos of that one time you did exercise followed by a barrage banter which will never be let down. Favourite clean quote:
Uhh lads….. the strange this is, that studio has 3 air con units.
Lesson 2: Mix solitary study with group study, celebrate success together and have a few drinks every so often.
I was blessed with a good group of switched on individuals with an average age of around 24. This meant we all actually liked each other and no one was singled out or isolated. At times, we did want to kill each other but most phases we emerged unscathed due to a mutual respect and willingness to help each other.
Situation: World cup 2018, England Semi final against Croatia, a class sweepstake and everything to play for. For the first time most people were more fixed upon the TV than looking up in the sky. Following a tearful England defeat, carnage involving a paddling pool ensued a few weeks before mock phase 3 exams. Favourite quote in describing the antics in the paddling pool post consuming firebombs:
It was like being at Sea world…….at the sea lion enclosure
Lesson 3: If you have a PPL, join a local flying club and challenge yourself to do a few hours. Apply context to what your learning, take people up that haven’t flown before or just for fun. If you don’t have a PPL, find someone that does or take a few lessons at a local club.
This will keep you sane, by ensuring you remember why your doing this and its a lot of fun. I saved 7 hours of hour building to do whilst at ground school. I joined Pilot Flight Training at Oxford Airport flying their PA28s and in doing so flew to: Goodwood, IOW Sandown and showed 3 classmates, that had never stepped into a light aircraft before, why they chose this career. I will remember with fondness, their reactions to holding the controls for the first time and the enthusiasm they displayed.
Lesson 4: Accept there will be those more able to grasp concepts quicker than you, take frustration in your stride and do NOT let exam stress get the better of you.
Phase 2 was a hard set of subjects and you will naturally place a large expectation upon yourself. When you feel like you have failed an exam or set of them, that can spiral and quickly lead to resentment. This happened to me after doing both Met and POF, save yourself the stress and strain on loved ones and accept what comes. The likelihood is you did better than you thought, continue optimistic and do not let it affect other exams. Easier said than done.
Lesson 5: Do not study for more than 16 hours a day, take at least one day off a week, escape aviation where possible and maintain a routine.
During the past year the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have been changing the question bank, altering the testing structure and introducing new content whilst not changing the learning objectives (LOs) for each subject. This is set to get worse with the LO changes in 2020. This is a wearisome time to be an ATPL student as some exams may not reflect what has been taught. As such, it is hugely important to understand the content rather than memorising question banks. Above all, if you don’t feel ready for an exam ensure, you defer it or get more time. You can cancel an EASA exam 7 days before without charge.
Lesson 6: Create your own opportunities, ask for guidance, mentorship and use instructional resource to its fullest extent.
This is an underestimated and important lesson. All of my instructors have 20+ years of experience and connections beyond count. They have guided me both on the taught subjects but also on future training and career decisions.
A few memories from Ground school in Oxford: