Flight Training 101: School’s In Session

Keith Ward

Jan 8, 2019
Westminster, MD
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(This is taken from my blog. Click here to read on my website. Some members object to just providing a link, feeling that it's just clickbait, so I'm providing both options. Moderators, if this breaks any written or unwritten rules, please let me know).

So, I was totally ready to fly yesterday, especially after having to pass earlier in the week. I was psyched about getting back up in the air.

But the air wasn’t ready for me: there was a ton of wind, big gusts, and lots of turbulence. I could have gone up, but didn’t feel like fighting the plane (Diamond DA-40) the whole time. So my CFI (certified flight instructor) Taylor and I made the decision to stay on the ground.

It was the right decision, although I was sad about being ground-bound; especially since the Diamond’s going in for its 100-hour checkup next week. Oh well – this is the beginning of the journey. I’ll try to be a patient grasshopper.

Quick background: I haven’t flown since 2004. That was a long time ago. It also corresponds closely with the birth of my last child. Those two factors – child born and cessation of flying – are not coincidental. Aviation is expensive, y’all.

Given the time gap, I felt it best to start over. From ground zero, you might say. I’ve forgotten much of what I learned, and in many ways, I do feel like a brand-new pilot.

I decided to go with the Sporty’s course for my ground school, and supplement it with my old Jeppesen manual. I’m re-learning everything, and enjoying every minute of it. But I also need in-class training from a CFI, and that’s what we started yesterday.

Taylor and I started from the beginning, going over the basics. It included what each plane requires to be legally able to fly, and similar pilot requirements. That includes an updated medical (getting that was a separate story in itself; keep an eye out for it later).

I have my pilot’s license, so I won’t need to take another checkride (yay!), but I will need a formal flight review, confirming that I’m safe to fly. This was the first step toward that first goal.

I wasn’t surprised how much I’ve forgotten in the intervening years. I did my first weight and balance calculation in nearly a decade and a half. Yeah, math. Yuck.

Proper weight and balance are essential to making sure the plane you’re about to fly isn’t over-burdened. A plane in that situation is ripe for a life-ending crash. You make sure you get it right, no matter how much math is involved.

The upside is that all the new tech will help immensely with that. After calculating out the weight and balance by hand, I put the information for the Diamond into my new best buddy, ForeFlight, an app that does the heavy math lifting for pilots (along with tons more stuff).

But it’s crucial to know how to do weight and balance yourself, so you retain the knowledge. You never know when you won’t have access to your iPhone/iPad/whatever. The technology is wonderful, but it should only be an aid to your existing knowledge, not a replacement of your knowledge.

Taylor and I did about 90 minutes’ worth of eduction. It was a great learning experience; Taylor’s an excellent teacher, and has a subtle sense of humor. I think we’re going to get along well.

Since the plane’s going to be out of commission next week, I’m going to try and get some simulator time in, and have another groundschool session with Taylor. Looking forward to the next step.
I'm also looking to conduct the Sporty's ground school and curious how it was. I am brand new working out of town and thought this might be a great opportunity to get that out of the way along with my medical (which will be some other hurdles too) that way when I get back to my home town I can conduct a quick review with the instructor and get into the flight portion. Others have recommended Gold Seal and King's.

I appreciate any feedback you have with Sporty's (https://www.sportys.com/pilotshop/sporty-s-deluxe-learn-to-fly-course-kit-online.html).
Hi Nub. So far, so good with Sporty's. When I did this previously, it was with the King School DVDs, and they worked very well for me. I assume King has updated their videos by now, but I don't know. The Sporty's stuff I've found to be clear and sufficiently in-depth. They're well made, and the graphics are acceptable to good.

One thing I wish was better about it is tracking your progress and opening up to the last watched segment. I always have to find my place, and it's not as convenient. There are checkmarks to show when you've finished a topic, but the program doesn't take you right there, similar to the way, for example, Netflix can remember where you left off and pick up from that moment.

That's a minor quibble. I don't need to re-take the written exam, but I believe Sporty's would properly prepare me for it. I'd definitely recommend Sporty's overall.
Keith, thanks for the feedback and I'll continue to look and compare as I need to focus on my medical to ensure I can get that certificate before I invest in the training programs.
I used sportys back about a dozen years ago when i did it, dvd back then in the old days :)

I got a 96% on the written if i recall right, they work...