Exams – Part of The Pilot Way of Life

Prior to taking on the incredible journey that is learning to fly, whether it be for private flying or whether the aim is to build a career within aviation, one thing you need to understand is this – exams are a big part of the pilot way of life.

If you don’t understand this when you start, you will learn very quickly as almost straight away you will have ground school exams to study for. Of course, private fliers won’t have as many exams as those of us building a career in aviation however there are still many to complete.

For commercial flying, amongst various flight tests – Private Pilots Licence, Commercial Pilots Licence (single engine/multi engine), Instrument rating (single and multi engine), any check flights in between these and any aircraft type specific ratings, there are a lot of ground school exams.

You’re required to complete all of the PPL ground school (around 7 subjects), then you are required to complete the Air Transport Pilots Licence ground school consisting of 14 subjects, some harder than others. Any aircraft that requires a type specific rating, in particular turbo prop, turbo fan (jet) and sea plane for example will require ground school study and examinations.

If, like myself, you hate exams or get really nervous for them, all of this can put you off quite quickly. I feel exam fear and have doubt in my ability to pass them 99% of the time. The thing is, when you love something so much, it doesn’t matter how many exams you have to take, you just get on with them and study hard. Fortunately up until this point I’ve never failed an exam but if I didn’t feel that exam fear coupled with my love for flying, then I don’t think I would study as hard as I do and as a result would probably fail.

When joining an airline or air taxi, flying passengers around, the airline will carry out checks of your ability as often as they deem necessary, you will always have your Instrument Rating to renew every year however, they will want to ensure that you are up to scratch on your normal and emergency procedures. Most often than not the airlines set these tests every 6 months for the company required checks however the IR is a yearly requirement.

Why am I talking about exams? Well, since finishing my training a couple of years ago, besides keeping my Multi-engine Instrument Rating current every year (with no flying in between as it is way too expensive), I’ve not had any tests – until today. Currently I’m working my way through an Airbus A320 type rating and upon completion I will be jetting off to Qatar to take on a permanent contract with them to start flying as a Second Officer.

So today, after 2 weeks of intense ground study I’m very pleased and surprised to say that I passed with quite a high mark! It seems like only 2 minutes have gone by since the first day back in the training centre, looking through the study guide thinking to myself “wow, that is a lot to learn!” and I can tell you that it’s very nice to be out at the other end.

It doesn’t stop there of course, the simulator phase is yet to come and that starts on Sunday. I’m really excited and eager to get in the simulator and get flying. My last Virtual Flight Deck lesson yesterday was quite successful, my simulator partner and I were able to pull off the set route without a hitch and I came away feeling very happy with it. With all of the ground school study I’ve found it hard to justify learning the SOP’s properly as the most pressing studying has been to get the Airbus information learnt for the exam and I’m glad that I’m now able to direct my focus towards the SOPs now.

I’m very sorry that it’s all words at the moment, there just isn’t anything to take photos of during ground school lessons!

I’ll leave you with a photo I took whilst flying in New Zealand, hopefully that will suffice! 🙂

Happy Landings,


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2 Responses to Exams – Part of The Pilot Way of Life

  1. rjwhiskey says:

    Congratulations! Those not in the industry don’t have a clue about how many exams it takes to fly the big birds. It seems like there is always another something to study for. Which, don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing. Knowledge=Safety

    • Journeym4n says:

      Thanks! I just hope the actual flying goes well! Haha you’re right, you study hard for an upcoming exam, you just want the exam to be over and done with and very soon you’re back at square one – another exam to prepare for! Yep safety is the best – although I read a news report today where a couple complained that an aircraft did an emergency descent from 30,000-10,000ft because of a decompression and it hurt their ears. Pathetic.

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