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” ะธ “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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ะธ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

EASA ATPL Exams

I finally decided where I am going to take my EASA ATPL exams. I am going to Prague, Czech Republic. I’ve chosen Prague mainly because of the following reasons: they have a great online booking system, I already have my PPL there, and I am going to get my CPL there.

The application was easy, and I got access to the booking system very quickly. There are not so many available slots though, but I managed to book Air Law, Operational Procedures, General Navigation, Mass & Balance, IFR Communications and VFR communications in the beginning of June.

Performance, Human Performance, Aircraft General Knowledge, Radio Navigation and Principles of Flight were available in the beginning of July.

Meteorology, Instrumentation, Flight Planning and Monitoring were available only in the beginning of August, but that’s probably even an advantage since I will have more time for preparation, these subjects are not so easy.

So, if everything goes well, I would be able to obtain a frozen EASA ATPL by the end of the summer.

My EASA SEP rating (Single Engine Piston) was about to expire too, so I flew 1 hour with the EASA FI. I met the flight time criteria as well, so I just asked for administrative revalidation and got a new rating for the next 2 years.

I still was not able to get my night rating (which is required for the EASA CPL with IR), but it is not critical for now.

For different jurisdictions license holder it’s critical to keep all papers in order, and the main problem is a pilot’s logbook. EASA and FAA count PIC hours differently. Now I have a separate columns for FAA and EASA PIC hours, but instrument time, amount of approaches and some other specific stuff should be logged too. I use the ‘remarks’ section for as much additional info as possible, and fill both electronic and paper logbook versions. Electronic logbook greatly helps to count different kind of flights, and the paper one contains all primary info and signatures.

At the Controls Again

It’s been quite a long time I did not fly: my previous flight was in Warsaw in October. I was studying ATPL subjects since then and did not practise at all.

Today I made a flight to renew my SEP (Single Engine Piston) VFR rating. We used Cessna 152, and I remembered the feeling of acceleration with 2 people on board on a grass runway – it seemed way too slow.

The weather was not perfect, but nothing critical, so we performed all required maneuvers. It’s so good to feel the flight controls again!

The bird
The weather does not look so good

ATPL Theory is done

Finally the EASA ATPL theoretical course is done and I got a certificate of completion. I can take exams in the CAA with this document.

The course was really tough. 4 months is definitely not enough without any prior knowledge, but even with some preparation it’s challenging. I took tests every day except Mondays, and I was studying about 7-8 hours per day. It was a nightmare.

From the other hand, I completed everything in less than 5 months: 4 months of online studies and 2 weeks in class. But, again, I already had some prior knowledge.

I was making some notes (actually I am still doing that), sort of condensed knowledge for each subject. Basically it’s some numbers and facts for a quick checkup before the exams. I have no more than 3-4 A4 pages for each subject, so it’s not a big deal to go through them in some minutes. I am adding some info to this website too, but I don’t have enough time for that.

ATPL Theory

It’s been a while I did not make an update, but I am still on the way to my first pilot job.

From January 2019 I am studying EASA ATPL theory subjects in a Polish flight school. Actually the online part is already finished (in April 2019), and it was very tough: you really need to study for about 7-8 hours per day to make it happen. I still did not quit my main job, so it was even worse for me. I was sleeping for about 6 hours per day on weekdays.

I had a test every day except Monday and an exam every 2 days. They are very similar, but the exam covers more topics than a test. They are all multiple choice questions.

I had a sort of day-off on Monday (the only day in a week without tests), but actually I used it to study.

Each test contains 30 questions, and the time limit is 50 minutes. It’s barely enough for General Navigation and Performance, but for other subjects it’s OK. Sometimes I needed only about 10 minutes (for example, most of Air Law questions require only knowledge).

Sometimes I submitted my result literally within the last minute (fortunately only a few times). Bu finally I made it! I made it all, and I succeeded! I can’t believe it!

Now the offline part is going on. That part lasts 2 weeks (70 hours). Every day I have offline classes in Poland.

EASA theory exams can be taken in any EASA member state. With some preparations it’s true for practical exams as well. I have 2 obvious options: Poland and Czech Republic. I prefer Czech Republic – there is less bureaucracy there, and it’s just better to fly. There are much more schools and instructors, more aerodromes, more English-speaking ATS, more aircrafts available. Czech aeronautical online services are also much better than Polish ones.

What’s next? I am going to obtain the EASA IR and CPL. And now I need to obtain a medical, renew my SEP (Single Engine Piston) rating and pass theoretical ATPL exams. Then probably MCC (Multi-Crew Cooperation) and JOC (Jet Orientation Course) – they are required for airlines. If I have some free time and money, it would be fun to get an EASA SES (Single Engine Sea).

As a result I will have standalone FAA and EASA commercial licenses. Hopefully it increase my value as a potential candidate.

And what’s now? I am going to fly, of course! It’s the greatest part of all this stuff!

Free Flight

The blog is still alive, as like the idea ๐Ÿ™‚

Last week I traveled to Prague. It was not related to my aviation progress, but I did not want to miss the opportunity to fly while being in Europe, so I tried to find an airplane. Unfortunately I had a very tight schedule, and it did not happen.

I had a day in Warsaw though, thus I signed up for ATPL theory course there. It is a distant learning with just 2 weeks on site. I signed the papers, and now I am waiting for the Polish CAA approval.

At the aerodrome I realized that I still have some time, and there are some planes available ๐Ÿ™‚ I tried to hire a plane, but did not succeed. Neither Ventum Air nor Salt Aviation could help me with that. When I had almost lost my hope I spotted a small building with the label “Runway Pilot School”. I entered there and asked for a plane, and voila! They provided both an airplane and a safety pilot in some minutes!

I got a nice Cessna 172, but it was a fuel injection modification with 180hp engine. It has fuel pumps, and does not have carb heater. It climbs faster than I used to in C172, and it flies nicely ๐Ÿ™‚

One more flight hour, and my first flight in Poland!

Priorities Update: FAA CPL

It looks like I have to change my priorities compared to my December plan.

Currently I have to stay in Moscow due to my job, so I am not flying now. Meanwhile, it is becoming some more difficult to obtain the US visas, and risks of not getting F1 at all are becoming pretty high. So it is safer to obtain my FAA CPL now, using my M1 visa, and postpone (or even abandon at all) CFI/CFII/MEI programs. Anyway FAA CFI(I) license is useless anywhere out of the US.

I need about 100 more flight hours total time for meeting CPL minimums, including about 15 complex hours (retractable gear, constant-speed prop, flaps) and 2 night hours. It is not so much, and with a proper dedication it’s doable in two months. I am pretty well prepared for a written test, so I can fully utilize my free time for flying.

I contacted some Polish flight school for the ATPL theory classes, and they have a program starting this October. That perfectly aligns with my current schedule!

So, my new plan is the following:

  • FAA CPL under M1-visa before the end of this summer;
  • EASA ATPL theory before spring 2019;
  • EASA IR after passing ATPL theory exams;
  • EASA CPL after obtaining the EASA IR.

Of course, I will try to find a job just after getting my FAA CPL, but it seems highly unlikely for a brand new pilot with a FAA license who is not a US resident. I knew that even before start. But currently it’s better to concentrate on getting my license than on thinking about far future: I will think about it later. Our life is challenging, and flying is fun just the way it is ๐Ÿ™‚

Where to Learn to Fly

For every professional pilot the first step is a Private Pilot License (PPL). The second usual step is an Instrument Rating (IR) which allows to fly in worse weather. Currently I’m at this stage, what’s next?

For various reasons I decided to learn in Europe and in the US. Australia or New Zealand are incredibly expensive and very far from me, and India or other Asian countries do not provide many options for foreign students.

European countries have a lot of flight schools. The most obvious choice was the UK: a lot of aerodromes, native English instructors, rich aviation history. But the weather and prices are not so attractive.

The second option was Spain: the weather is mostly good, the prices are reasonable. But I found only two schools there easily accepting foreign students, and Spain is still pretty far from Moscow.

I considered Germany and Austria, but they are are pretty expensive, and it’s better to speak German there.

I even checked Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Netherlands, but they are even more expensive.

Italy and Greece did not provide a lot of options too (but the climate is so good there!)

I was not completely satisfied with my results, so I started to check Eastern Europe.

Lithuania seemed to have only one school, the feedback is controversial.

Latvia did not provide any good options too.

Polish, Czech and Hungarian schools provided very attractive offers, they were pretty close to Moscow, and the weather there allows to fly most of the time. The options there were comparable, all had some benefits and drawbacks.

So, that’s what I found out so far.

Poland is probably the least expensive place to get a license, but the aviation infrastructure and culture are not very well developed compared to Czech Republic.

Hungary is also one of the cheapest place in Europe, but the infrastructure looks even worse than in Poland.

Czech Republic is a reasonable compromise. The prices are attractive, and the aviation services are comparable to the UK or Germany: a lot of aerodromes, great aviation briefing services, nice ATC/ATS.

The US is a perfect place to fly, probably the best one in the world, but there are some legal stuff to do in advance: student visa even for non-vocational training (and only limited selection of approved schools for foreign students), TSA clearance, fingerprinting. In my case it’s also at least 1 day to go there and back.

Anyway, I decided to get the Instrument Rating in the US, at least to have that experience. I contacted literally every M1/F1 (student visa type) approved school in every state. It took about a month to make a decision (I studied many factors – reputation, feedback, history, instructors, weather, fleet, location, prices), and the final option was some small school in Florida.

So far I am really happy about English-speaking environment. In Czech Republic the language was not a big deal too, almost everybody could speak English, but that ‘almost’ thing still could be a little annoying.

The weather in Florida is great, especially in winter. It summer it’s flyable too, but after about 2 pm it’s often better to stay on the ground due to thunderstorms.

Written exams preparation and aviation subjects in general are way more complicated in Europe.

Flying is great everywhere. The rules and practices are almost the same in the US and in Czech Republic: very good online (and phone) briefing services, a lot of places to fly.

Living expenses in Czech Republic are lower, especially accommodation. Talking about Europe, for me it’s also possible to drive my own car, which is obviously not an option for the US.

My personal opinion is that if one needs the EASA license, it’s better to learn in Eastern Europe. For the FAA one the US is better. If the license type is not a concern, I would prefer the FAA way.

Actually I preferred both. I want two licenses and various experience, and I will try to count as many flight hours as possible towards both set of requirements.

Why I started in Europe? Just because it’s easier and faster. Why IR in the US? The answer is different experience and one more valuable license.

What’s next? I am still not sure. Probably FAA CPL/IR/ME, then EASA ATPL theory, and then a frozen ATPL. And a new shiny job…