Ground school – Human Factors (11 June, 2009)

Human factors. At the end of the day the most important component in the plane is the pilot. Without a trained pilot making good decisions the flight runs a high risk of ending badly. However even highly trained pilots can make bad decisions and can be negatively influenced. This lesson was all about the human component in the flight.

Taught by my actual flight instructor, we went into the affects of alcohol on the body, illness, altitude and stress. All factors in accidents. Tiredness is a killer as is going too high without oxygen. There are regulations and guidelines to cover many of these.

Scuba diving is an issue. If you have to make depressurization stops on the way up, you cannot fly for some time afterwards. Dentistry is another issue some don’t think about. Extensive dental work can cause problems if you fly too soon afterwards. Similarly you cannot be in charge of an aircraft after giving blood.

Ground School – Navigation (9 June, 2009)

Navigation, the second most important ground school. Why do I say second this time? Well my instructor keeps telling me to do things in order. Aviate. Navigate. Communicate. Make sure you fly the airplane, then figure out you’re headed the right direction and are keeping safe, then speak to ATC if needed.

So, navigation. New ground school instructor for this one. Younger instructor than the rest but with a scary level of experience. Thousands of hours, airline rated, can fly an Airbus, has every add on rating you can think of; night, float, instrument, multi-engine and the rest. But he’s so young, early 20s. Still he has information I need, so lets go with it. Turns out he’s very good at his job, a great instructor, clear and good at explaining everything so no complaints.

Navigation ends up as three lessons of charts and plots, determining distances and direction. Just determining what direction to fly is trickier than it may seem. We’re in light aircraft, if we just point in a straight line towards our target then it’s fine if there is no wind or the wind is right along our path, however if it’s off then we’re not going to be over our destination when we get there. As a result we have to fly into the wind. This results in us having two headings; the aircraft heading and the track heading. The way we’re pointing and the way we’re actually travelling. Obviously this adds a level of complication.

We also learn how to use our E6B computers (which I showed before.) These are used to make our in air, and pre-flight, calculations. Wonderful pieces of card (or metal if you have a higher class one) that can tell you how much fuel you’re burning, speeds and distances, atmospheric densities, pressure readings and timings. I think there’s an option to work out how to travel back in time, but I could have been using it wrong.

Also information on flight plans; when to fill them out, how to fill them out, how to alter them and everything else related to long distance flying.

Three very involved lessons, but absolutely fascinating.

Ground School – Flight Operations (4 June, 2009)

Flight operations, most important etc etc. You know, I can’t honestly remember what this one was specifically about. All my ground schooling was completed over six months ago at the time I’m writing this, and since then I’ve sat examinations, read a lot and studied what I can. As a result I cannot remember the specifics about what was taught in this lesson.

I remember what I was taught in ground school, but which bits exactly where taught in this particular session, I’m drawing a blank. I’ll come back to you if I can remember.

Ground School – Meteorology (May 26 & 28, June 2, 2009)

Ah meteorology, the most important lesson. Well lessons, three of them this time. Same instructor as Airframes and Engines. Now this is a big topic, big and complex.

Cloud types, fog types, precipitation types, high pressure, low pressure, cold fronts, warm fronts (starting to sound like a Billy Joel song here.) Lets face it, meteorology is a huge topic, and possibly the one most pilots are weakest on.

I remember understanding it when I was there and studying it, I remember reading about it in between classes, however looking back now I realise I’ve forgotten a lot and need to revisit it. This is too important to gloss over, though I do remember the “don’t go near a thunderstorm” lessons.

Seriously, if anyone knows of a good book on weather, let me know.

We did some weather predictions, learnt how to read the various Nav Canada weather charts (here are some examples for your delight.) Very interesting class, very informative, and now so very gone from my mind. Best start reading it again.

Ground School – Air Law (May 19 & May 21, 2009)

The most important ground school lesson. Air law.

As you know they’re all important, and this is about all the regulations we have to live by. They’re there for safety reasons, regulatory reasons and sometimes maybe bureaucratic reasons.

I’ve put two lessons into one post here, because lets face it it’s not the worlds most exciting topic and you don’t want to read about it twice. Yes the rules surrounding pilot licencing are exciting and fascinating, but be honest, a lesson where you go through various CARs (Canadian Air Regulations) over two classes isn’t the most riveting in the world. And a lot of it comes down to, it’s your responsibility as the pilot not anyone elses.

Can’t really think of anything else to say. I’ll try and pick a more exciting topic for next time. Which I believe is an actual flight.

Ground School – Flight Instruments (14 May, 2009)

It’s Thursday, so this means I have another ground school. The topic of this one, flight instruments. Very important, easily the most important ground school lesson (just like all the others. You get the idea yet that every single thing you learn in flying is important. As the saying goes “It doesn’t matter, eventually will.”)

So flight instruments, all those dials and gauges that most people are passingly familiar with, even if they don’t know what they do.

  • Airspeed indicator: tells you your airspeed.This speed is relative to the air around you, not your ground speed. You need a GPS or some such for that.
  • Turn and slip indicator: tells you how coordinated your turn is, at what rate you’re turning, and whether you’re slipping to the side or not.
  • Altimeter: Everyone knows this one, it’s how high you are. Except it’s a bit trickier than just telling you that as it comes down to pressures, how you’ve set it and changeable meteorological conditions.  In other words, set it up correctly and it’s mostly accurate, set it wrong and you may suffer an unexpected knock on something.
  • Oil pressure: Easy enough.
  • Fuel gauge: In our case the amount of fuel in each tank (remember, two tanks mounted in the wings.
  • Heading indicator: Which direction you are pointed. Note there is often a difference between direction you’re pointed, and direction you’re going, especially in a small plane in strong winds.
  • Vertical speed indicator: Climbing or descending, and how fast.
  • Attitude indicator: Orientation of the airplane. It’s that little multicoloured ball with the small airplane in the middle (I really need to take some photographs of the interior.)
  • And several others depending on the aircraft such as angle of attack indicator.

Lesson explains the shortcomings of each instrument, how they operation, how to get the best out of each of them. A strange mix of when you have to rely on your instruments, and when you shouldn’t. How to tell when something is wrong, and how to interpret the wrongness.

A good solid lesson full of good solid information. And a lot of food for thought.

Ground School – Aero Engines (12 May, 2009)

And another ground school class. I know what you’re thinking, “he’s spending all this money and not doing any flying.” Well yes, that’s one way of looking at it, but I signed up for the ground school before the lessons. Also I do believe that getting a good educational grounding, on the ground, pays dividends when you’re in the air. If nothing else you are more aware of what is going on when you’re up there, so you’re wasting less time of that very expensive airtime learning things you could have learnt cheaper elsewhere.

Anyway, there was a flight the next day so we’ll discuss that in the next post.

Aero engines. Interesting topic, even for those who aren’t petrol-heads, and an important one. If you don’t know what your engine is doing and how it reacts to different situations, you won’t get too far flying. You don’t need to know how to strip the thing down and rebuild it, but educating yourself on the ins and outs of their functionality will make the rest of the job easier. After all simple things like carburettor icing kill may pilots each year.

There are many types of aircraft engines, and not even going into jets the basic piston engines are split down dependant on how their cylinders are configured. Radially ( arranged in a circle like on old biplanes and movie crop dusters,) in-line (situated in a line usually below the crankcase) and horizontally opposed (equal numbers of cylinders located on each side of the crankcase.) Each has their advantages and disadvantages.

All about the four-stroke cycle of a modern internal combustion engine. Fuel types, turbo charging, the effects of fuel mixture and why you have to adjust it at different stages of flight, the propeller, even the cooling systems and how you can’t continuously climb or the engine will overheat.

This is all vital stuff, as is everything in a ground school course. If you want to take up flying, pay attention. Everything you learn will matter at some point, no matter how dull or insignificant it may seem at the beginning.