EASA ATPL Exams: AGK, RadioComm, PoF, Performance, HPL

This is the second EASA ATPL session for me: as I mentioned, I already passed 6 EASA ATPL exams. Yesterday I passed two more subjects – Human Performance and Limitations and Aeroplane Performance. In my ranking these are the easiest subjects after VFR/IFR Communications.

Today I am taking three exams: Aircraft General Knowledge, Radio Communications, and Principles of Flight. Of course it’s not Operational Procedures and not even Air Law, but they still contain a lot of information to memorize.

I am way less nervous since it’s the second day of the second session, so I noticed some details. For example, in Czech Republic ECQB3 is used (in July 2019), but it seems to be highly modified ECQB3. I haven’t met any type-in question yet, all questions are multiple-choice with 4 available options. Paper materials are all dated by 2018 and older, so my old books from 2014 were still relevant for the exams.

I also haven’t met any “what option is wrong” question, so basically it’s a decent knowledge test without too complicated traps. There were a lot of questions with two statements and 4 answers like “true/true”, “true/false”, “false/true”, “false/false”. Basically I don’t remember any obvious RTFQ (Read the F**cking Question – pretty common abbreviation for a very tricky question when you need to be extremely attentive).

Now some more details about the subjects.

Aircraft General Knowledge

80 questions, 2 hours, my result is 93%. It’s more than enough time for the subject, almost zero computational questions.

There were a lot of questions about turbines and props, some easy questions about electricity and fire detectors.

There is no possibility to leave a comment (I saw some advice to leave a comment if the question seems ambiguous), so in that case just try to figure out what examiner wants to check and fire the best guess.

For example, there was a question about the reaction turbine. I know that the pressure is constant on nozzles and drops at a rotor, but sometimes EASA considers impulse-reaction turbine where the pressure drops everywhere.

Apart from knowledge-related questions, there were some computational tasks like bypass ratio computation.

The subject is very well covered by popular question banks, so it should not be too hard.

Radio Navigation

66 questions, 1.5 hours, my result is 88%.

Initially I became a little frustrated: was not sure in the first question, in the second one, in the third one… What’s the hell? OK, after the fourth one it came back to normal, but it’s really unsettling.

About the questions itself – skip-zone, night-effect for NDB (who is still using NDB?), a lot of questions about GPS (totally understandable), some questions about GALILEO (is it already working?). Some questions about MLS (the project was a failure though), a lot of questions about ILS-markers and frequency bands. Some questions about reflection-refraction-diffraction. A lot of questions about the position with RMI/ADF/HSI.

One question was about TACAN which required General Navigation supplements. I asked the surveillance person, and she gave me the materials, so don’t be shy to ask if you’re uncertain.

Sometimes the wording is ambiguous or uncommon. For example, something like “bending of light beam while passing around impenetrable obstacle”.

The timing is OK if you’re good with quick position/course/direction computation.

Principles of Flight

44 questions, 1 hour, my result is 95%. Everything is logical and familiar: props, wings, stability factors, wing polars, different forces. There were some questions with strange wording, but nothing special.

I remember very well a question about load factor: the airplane’s speed is 1.4 Vs, and the airplane experiences a gust of load factor 1.7. What would be the load factor for the same gust for speed 2 Vs? The answer options were “2.0”, “1.96”, “1.4” и “irrelevant because for 1.4 Vs and LF 1.7 the airplane stalls”. I know the proportion, but I still don’t understand why load factor is proportional to speed and not the square of speed. Probably I just need to study the questions in detail.

The timing is OK, but better to track the time on computational questions (good advice for all subjects actually). Apart from that, the subject is not so hard.

Performance

35 questions, 1 hour, my result is 79%, which is the worst among all other exams so far. This is still a pass mark, but a personal failure for me since the subject is extremely easy. The key is proper plots reading and interpretation, and quick computation. There were a few ambiguous questions, but just a few.

The reason of that result is very simple: I had a very time-consuming project at work during this topic in my ground school, and even there I got about 80%. And, of course, it is not a miracle that I got almost the same result at the exam.

The advice is very simple: just solve enough questions for this subject, and that will do the job. Almost no memorizing, just practice.

Human Performance and Limitations (HPL)

48 questions, 1 hour, my result is 95%. There are almost zero computational questions for the subject, it’s all about knowledge. A lot of facts for memorizing, but the subject is actually very interesting even for general purpose. For example, some questions were about Maslow’s and Rasmussen’s models, risk factors, aviation-related body state problems (hypoxia, hyperventilation, optical and vestibular illusions, abdominal problems etc.).

From my opinion, the subject is relatively easy, but requires remembering some facts. I suppose that it requires to remember even more facts than Air Law, but that’s some sort of general info instead of some numbers.

For example, in AviationExam it’s possible to flag a question if it makes sense to review it later once more (or more than once). I flagged about 60% of the questions in HPL, and for other subjects I had about 30% flagged questions.

This session is over now, I passed all the planned exams, and I am very happy that I’m done with the most difficult subjects. I still have Meteorology, Instrumentation and a bit of less challenging subjects ahead, but I definitely passed the equator in my sessions 🙂

EASA ATPL Exams: VFR communications, Air Law, M&B, Operational Procedures, General Navigation

The most difficult subjects for me in the EASA ATPL theory course were Air Law, Operational Procedures и General Navigation. Meteorology is also rather challenging, but much more interesting. I don’t know what was in my mind when I booked the exam slots, but I have all these three in my current session.

Today I am taking the General Navigation exam. Yesterday I passed Operational Procedures and Air Law. I think that was the most challenging day in my entire EASA ATPL session, and I am so happy that it’s done now!

I’d like to describe all subjects in the session:

VFR Communications

The exam contained 24 questions, the time limit was 30 minutes, and I passed with 95% mark. It’s the easiest subject if you already have a PPL (Private Pilot License, which means at least 45 flight hours), and everyone who takes ATPL theory exams definitely must have a PPL. Of course, not all of these 45 hours were in the controlled airspace, but even on circuits we use some radio callouts.

There was some strange question about instruction sequence: clearance delivery, startup request, engines ready, request departure. I don’t remember exact wording, but isn’t it possible to get a clearance after startup?

Air Law

44 questions, 1 hour, my result is 93%. That’s one of my “favourite” subjects. The only way to pass is to memorize all the required information (which is really a lot). Of course I optimized it a little which led me to about 4 A4 pages of the most important facts, but the entire subject is a bunch of some information to remember. There is more than enough time for answers though.

Mass and Balance

25 questions, 1 hour, my result is 96%. The subject is easy, just requires very careful calculations. I am a little nerdy and meticulous, so I prefer to check and re-check everything, so it was greatly important for me to track my time and don’t sped too much on a single question even if I am not totally sure in the final result. Thank to my time management I made it on time, but barely on time, so I could say that proper time tracking is crucial for this subject.

Operational Procedures

45 questions, 1 h 15 min, my result is 84%. That is my second “favourite” subject. Again a lot of facts for memorizing plus some extraction from Meteorology, Air Law, Mass & Balance, Human Performance and Navigation. I had a strange feeling of taking the FAA CPL exam. I feel so relieved that it’s done!

General Navigation

60 questions, 2 hours, my result is 79%. The subject is not very hard and does not require a lot of specific knowledge. It’s totally enough to know how to solve about 10 types of typical problems, and that’s it. But you should think fast, be extremely careful and thorough, and pay close attention to the timing.

Actually I like the subject, it’s all about thinking and calculation. And I am ashamed of my result. But I believe that I was just too confident or even presumptuous about the subject. It’s not enough to KNOW how to do it. The subject requires to do it FAST, and the best way to succeed is to solve 5-10 problems of each kind before the exam. I concentrated on the questions which required knowledge – GPS, astronomy, gyrocompasses etc., but the exam mainly contained computational questions, and I spent way too much time not being used to the methods.

I advice everyone who is going to take the exam to create a table with problem types, find some question bank, and fill the table with question numbers. At about a week before the exam solve once more at least 5 problems of each type from the very beginning to the final result. It is not about knowledge only, it is also about a habit or skill. And it is not only about computational tasks, this is also applicable, for example, for timezone tables. You will spend one or two days for that (of course I assume that you were already ready for the exam knowing the methods).

Another advice for booking the slots – try to equally spread difficult subjects between sessions. Of course there are several attempts available, but better to pass from the first time. And good luck 🙂

EASA ATPL Exams: IFR Communications

I started taking my EASA exams in the Czech CAA. Public transportation is very convenient in Prague, so it is not necessary to rent a car here. The CAA is located near the airport terminal 3. I am getting used to this building 🙂

It is still impossible to pay by card, only cash is accepted, and only in Czech crones. But all the tests for ATPL are computerized (PPL exams are still on paper). Like for the FAA exams, there are additional materials like paper charts and plots.

I was taking the IFR Communications exam today. This subject is relatively easy, all questions were in multiple choice form (no type-in), and I saw the majority of them during my preparation with question banks. The subject understanding is critical though, as like the very careful reading the question and answers.

Pro-tip: it’s possible to take another subject exam even without booking it in advance, if there are available spots. I was extensively studying only this session subjects, but it was possible to pass everything earlier, probably in two sessions rather than three.

I made two mistakes. I still don’t know how, the questions seemed very easy. The system does not allow to review the mistakes, so you know only the quantitative result. Mine was 91%, which is a pass rate, and I am a little disappointed and happy at the same time.

Question Bank for the FAA CPL written

I am in doubt: I feel that generally I am ready for the FAA CPL written test. I went through the official FAA materials, but I’d like to use some question bank for the evaluation.

With EASA subjects it is pretty easy: there are only 2 providers (bgsonline and aviationexam), and both are really cool.

So, after some research I found these services:

  • sheppard air. It seems that it is a leader in terms of materials quality, but they don’t have an online version, and they are kinda expensive.
  • ASA. Users’ feedback is pretty good, slightly worse than sheppard but still acceptable. They have android version, online version, offline version… Possibly it can be a better option.
  • Dauntless. I found some mentions, but nothing more. They don’t look alive.
  • Gleim. It was great for my IR, but not sure about the CPL materials.
  • Aviationexam. Their interface is great and works on any teapot, their EASA materials are astonishing. But I am not sure that they are OK for FAA tests, not so many questions exist in their database.

Possibly somebody has any experience with these providers? Does it make sense to buy Sheppard Air? They seem like state-of-the-art.

FAA IR(A) Written Test

What to do in a bad weather? Of course, the best choice is studying! I felt pretty confident about my knowledge, so I decided to take a written test. The exam itself is not so hard. The program interface looks exactly like gleim’s software, the pictures are the same as the ones available in all popular question banks (for example, gleim, jeppesen, sportys, aviationexam).

The questions are not exactly the same as in preparation books, but nothing special. Take your time, read the question very carefully, don’t hurry up, and you’re done. The point is knowledge.

One more advice for those who prepares for the FAA IR tests: apart from reading the books (which is essential), use question banks to get the idea about your knowledge. I heard a lot about Sheppard, but less expensive alternatives work too. For example, I used gleim and aviationexam (both are good, the latter also offer monthly subscriptions – very convenient if you want only refresh your knowledge) and got 87%. Not an astonishing result, but not bad too.

EASA PPL Written Exam

Today I passed the rest of my written exam subjects. There is a nice point: retaking is totally free. I supposed that I have to pay for all attempts, but I was wrong, in Czech you pay only once.

This time the exam was easy for me. I was better prepared, I knew what to expect, and I went through all of questions in aeroweb.cz. Nevertheless, I am happy that I read the books. I heard that every pilot should do that not just for passing an exam but for solid knowledge, and I am totally agree with that.

Today I saw some students from Hong Kong with graduation certificates from “Flying Academy”. As I know, they did not pass all subjects from the first attempt. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to ask about that school.

I am happy that now I can study in English! ATPL subjects are approximately the same in all EASA countries, but PPL varies significantly. The exam questions in Czech are perfect, but there is not enough evaluation tools in English before the exam. British resources do not work: you can have 95% result in average there and still fail that subject in Czechia. British books help though. Nevertheless, now I am on the ATPL track in terms of theory. I believe that ATPL books and Question Banks match the questions in all EASA countries. Of course, I am not talking about FAA: English is a first language there. I still did not make a final decision about EASA vs FAA track.

EASA PPL Written Exam

Today I took a written test. Actually there were multiple tests, because the whole exam contains 9 subjects. I remember my student years, when I used to not sleep at night before exam, and tried to fulfill all possible blind spots in my knowledge.

Generally speaking, I am a passionate leaner, if the subject is interesting for me. That’s why I don’t suffer from the theoretical part of my education. Possibly only Air Law bothers me a little bit: I don’t understand why I should remember a year of Rome convention on something like that. But to be honest, most of information is relevant and important.

Every time I am very nervous before an exam. I can do nothing with that. This time it was the same: I entered the room, got the question list. Initially checked every question multiple times. And, as usual, after some minutes my brain starts working on the subject itself: I am pretty well prepared, and I should just carefully read the question and select the best answer.

At about 6th subject I felt like that: “ONE MORE? Oh, I supposed that it was the last one!”

Generally I got a very unexpected result: I failed the subjects I was the most confident in before the exam. Of course, during the exam after getting the question lists I approximately understood that I am in danger with those subjects, and possibly I have to retake.

I failed Navigation, Aircraft General Knowledge and Principles of Flight. About Navigation – everything is OK with charts and computations, but compass turning and acceleration errors, magnetic north drift, AIP GEN 1-2-1… Uhh. About Aircraft General Knowledge and Principles of Flight – I just have to study some more, it is not so simple as it seemed to me.

I have to tell some words about question banks. I used to read the books, but I also use question banks to estimate my level. For PPL I used ppltutor.com (heh, now they provide only FAA version, but in 2017 they gave EASA) and pplcruiser.co.uk. None of them is a good idea for Czech. Later I also found aeroweb.cz, and it is great. The only problem is that it is in Czech, and google translate works (or worked in 2017?) terribly with that language. Anyway, oxford books works in any case.

I am not very disappointed. Of course I am not happy, but not a big deal. The main point is that I passed Air Law: I have to do it before the first solo. I am still not ready to fly solo according to my instructors, but it is always good to finish at least the paperwork. The next exam is in one month, so I have plenty of time to prepare just 3 subjects. Especially because now I better understand my weak points.