My thoughts on the ATPL theory exams

Well, this post has been a long time coming, it is my thoughts on the ATPL theory exams. To be honest, I wasn’t even totally sure that I was even going to get to write this post due to having 1 exam to pass on my last sitting. However, things went well and I passed it (so happy).
For those who do not know, I did my exams distance learning over the course of about 2 years from the material arriving to having 14 passes in the bag. This was all done around a pretty demanding full-time job.

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1. Distance learning is hard – The ATPL exams are hard, the ATPL exams with a full-time job are intense. Quite frankly, in my opinion, the ATPL exams are not set up for distance learning. Obviously, it can be done, I mean I did it but things like 6 sittings make it very hard for a distance learner.
If you think you are going to do an hour a night and then sail through you are in for a huge shock. You will put in multiple hours every night then even more at the weekend. Sometimes after a long day at work, you just want to lie down and chill but you need to find a second wind and go again. It feels like having two full-time jobs.
Your social life will take a massive hit. Your friends, family etc will need to be understanding and relationships can be affected.
It takes a lot of determination, quite a few people start ATPL exams and never finish them.

2. The exams are a mess – Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT saying that everything in the ATPL exams is pointless and you will never need it.
What I am saying is that the way the exams are organised is basically a shambles. EASA pretty much releases new questions which are often faulty at will and from areas that are not covered in the material you have been given.
You will regularly go into an exam and sit there like what the hell, I’ve never seen this before, and chances are, you wouldn’t have.
On top of this, we have questions that make no sense, questions with more than one correct answer & questions that quite frankly are useless information.
Of course, a lot of the stuff in the exams is relevant and knowledge that you need to have and will need at some point in the future. However, one must question if knowing how long the ICAO president sits for will ever allow me to handle an emergency at 30,000 feet. For those of you wondering, yes, that is an actual question.
The exams vary so much not only from sitting to sitting but from exam to exam. 10 people could sit in the same room and get various exams of varying difficulty.
The exams cost £71, which for a computer-based exam is nothing more than a ripoff, however, should you fail and want them to look at it, you will have to cough up £141! Granted this is refundable IF you are successful but come on, the sum is ridiculous.

3 – The order you sit exams is fixed – This is one of the things that really annoyed me. Your chosen school will break the exams up into a certain order, but this order might not be good for you. I tried to move the communications exams forward but wasn’t allowed to until I had sat he revision week. Granted this is not the schools rule but why can I not sit an exam when I want?

4 – Forced revision week – Revision weeks are a good thing, for some people the classroom environment is where they learn best so it is good for a distance learner to have the option to go into school.
However for others being forced to pay for a hotel and travel to attend is something that is not desirable.

5 – 6 sittings, 4 shots at any exam, 18 months – Yes I get it, the sittings is to create pressure. This is all well and good when you are studying full time, but to be forced to study 3-4 exams while working a full-time job and still do it within 18 months makes the workload very high. As I have stated before you need to be dedicated to get through this.

Now, this is the advice I think might be useful to people just starting out.

1 – You have 6 sittings! – Most distance learning courses are broken down to be completed in 2 or 3 blocks. Personally, I think if you have 6 spread it out a bit. I would say aim to do it in 3 or 4 which still leaves you two or three sittings spare for any resits. I see no reason to pressure yourself into sitting so many exams at once when you don’t need to.

2 – Set a timetable – Set a timetable and stick to it. If you say you are going to study 6pm – 9pm Monday – Thursday and have Friday off then make sure you do that. The material is much easier to digest if you have regular exposure to it.
Remember to take time off though, you need a break also.

3 – Speak to others – EASA are killing the question bank and to be honest nobody can argue with that. It is super important to speak to people who have just sat exams to find out what you might be facing.
Do not take any feedback as gospel, chances are there will be errors in it. Make sure you go through it and look up the information yourself.
Join this facebook group, you will find loads of students sitting the exams also and it is the best resource at the time of writing. The Bristol ATP forum is worth a read also but people seem to be using it less and less now.
I wish the FB group was around when I started my ATPL exams.

4 – They are harder than you think – No matter how hard you think they are at the moment, they will turn out to be much harder than you think. It is just the sheer volume of material that you have to get through that is the problem.

5 – Go to whatever school is best for your circumstances – You will hear people say you have to go to this school or that school. What I have learned is that it is all about the work you put in so I think the school choice is less important.
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean you should go to any school but the difference between the top schools is most likely minimal with each having their own unique selling points.
Obviously still do your research and get feedback from students but go to the school that is most convenient for you in regards to distance and services offered.

6 – You will not bank/feedback your way through exams – Yes there are videos online and students saying they just hit the banks and got a 97% average on their ATPLS. Well, that was then and this is now.
EASA is releasing something like 2000 new questions a year and tweaking 1500 others. You simply have to learn the subject. The latest feedback will help you see what type of questions people are getting however.
If you have this idea in your head now, you should probably forget it.
This is not saying you still can’t get a high average, of course you can.

7 – Don’t be afraid to ask for help – There are many schools and many private tutors out there so don’t be afraid to ask for some tutoring if needed. Some schools offer additional weekends for you to get the help you need as part of your course.

8 – Go full time if you can – The hardest thing about this was having work in the middle of it all. If I was going to do it again (which believe you me I have no intention of ever doing so) I would most likely leave my job to do so.
This does not mean that you have to go to a ground school, but even full-time distance learning would be more beneficial.

9 – Book exams and revision week early – There is nothing worse than being ready to go to your revision week or ready to sit an exam and see that there are no places left. My advice is to book your revision week and exams when starting a module, you can always move them later if you wish.

10 – The training is going digital only – When I signed up my ground school provider gave you books as part of the package. About a year in they stopped doing that. Remember to check if you get books as part of your learning material or if they are an added extra.

With some dedication, time and a lot of hard work, you too can pass these exams.


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ATPL Exam First time and overall pass rates 2013 – 2018

Fresh on the heals on the previous FOI request in regards to the ATPL exams I decided to take it one step further and request the ATPL Exam First time and overall pass rates 2013 – 2018. I feel it is important for this information to be made public and it should be available for all of us to see.

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The first table is the 2013 data and it is in a slightly different format, but it is there and complete.
The second table is the data from 2014-2018.
It is quite easy to see which subjects are the “hardest” by seeing which ones have the lowest first time pass rates.
I will be making another request in January 2019 so we can get a better look at how quadrant has affected things.
Just a FYI this is the UK CAA only.

First Time Pass Rates per Subject – FY 2013/2014 Overall Pass Rate2013/14
Subject Pass Rate Passed 81%
AIR LAW 80.3% Failed 19%
AIR LAW (H) 76.6%
AIRFRAMES/SYSTEMS/POWER PLANT 77.9%
AIRFRAMES/SYSTEMS/POWER PLANT (H) 65.7%
INSTRUMENTATION 69.6%
INSTRUMENTATION (H) 66.8%
MASS AND BALANCE 58.8%
MASS AND BALANCE (H) 72.5%
PERFORMANCE 49.2%
FLIGHT PLANNING AND MONITORING 71.0%
FLIGHT PLANNING AND MONITORING (H) 80.1%
PERFORMANCE (H) 98.0%
HUMAN PERFORMANCE 86.9%
HUMAN PERFORMANCE (H) 92.1%
METEOROLOGY 58.5%
METEOROLOGY (H) 62.6%
GENERAL NAVIGATION 62.8%
GENERAL NAVIGATION (H) 62.1%
RADIO NAVIGATION 78.5%
RADIO NAVIGATION (H) 70.5%
OPERATIONAL PROCEDURES 92.7%
OPERATIONAL PROCEDURES (H) 91.9%
PRINCIPLES OF FLIGHT (AERO) 52.1%
PRINCIPLES OF FLIGHT (HELI) 45.6%
VFR COMMUNICATION 97.9%
VFR COMMUNICATION (H) 98.0%
IFR COMMUNICATION 97.1%
IFR COMMUNICATION (H) 96.8%

 

 Subject 2014/2015 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018
10AA: 010 Air Law 85% 84% 76% 76%
21AA: 021 Airframe/Systems/Power Plant/Electrics 84% 81% 84% 81%
22AA: 022 Aircraft General Knowledge – Instrumentation 74% 80% 76% 74%
31AA: 031 Mass & Balance 75% 82% 76% 72%
32AA: 032 Performance (Aeroplane) 67% 69% 60% 65%
33AA: 033 Flight Planning and Monitoring 76% 85% 75% 66%
40AA: 040 Human Performance and Limitations 91% 86% 78% 75%
50AA: 050 Meteorology 64% 70% 71% 68%
61AA: 061 General Navigation 73% 68% 74% 77%
62AA: 062 Radio Navigation 83% 86% 87% 82%*
71AA: 071 Operational Procedures 89% 84% 81% 78%
81AA: 081 Principles of Flight (A) 59% 62% 62% 65%
91AA: 091 VFR Communications 96% 95% 91% 89%
92AA: 092 IFR Communications 95% 95% 93% 92%
Overall Pass Rate% 89% 88% 86% 85%
*Please note the 2017/2018 FY 62AA includes the PBN subject

ATPL Theory Month 25: POF Results

Hi everyone, a very quick update here for ATPL Theory Month 25: POF Results.

POF – 81%

I have been so stressed with this exam, I have been at it none stop for 8 weeks after failing it twice. However I feel I was much better prepared this time around and even after making a few silly mistakes I managed to pass.
I learnt all the calculations inside out so was very annoyed to see all new types (not new numbers) that I didn’t know how to answer.

However, 2 years after getting the material from Bristol, 18 months after sitting my first exam it is all over! I can have a life, time to see if I actually have any friends anymore…

Now I have 31 hours to build in a month so I am excited to get some flying done!

I will be back with my views on the ATPL’s soon, in the meantime  I have a Jepperson manual that needs to see fire!

UK ATPL pass rates for 16/17 and 17/18

So someone had the genius idea of submitting a freedom of information request for the UK ATPL pass rates for 16/17 and 17/18 from the UK CAA.
The UK CAA doesn’t publish this information so it is probably the first time this information has been shared, well at least publically anyways.
I thought I would share it here incase anyone has an interest in seeing it.

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SUBJECT // PASS RATE 17-18 // (PASS RATE 16-17)
Air Law – 83% (87%)
Airframe/Systems/Power Plant/Electrics – 87% (89%)
Aircraft General Knowledge – Instrumentation – 83% (81%)
Mass & Balance – 81% (82%)
Performance – 78% (72%)
Flight Planning – 76% (81%)
Human Performance and Limitations – 85% (84%)
Meteorology – 79% (77%)
General Navigation – 86% (82%)
Radio Navigation – 85% (90%)
Operational Procedures – 83% (91%)
Principles of Flight – 76% (73%)
VFR Communications – 95% (96%)
IFR Communications – 97% (98%)

So looking at the stats Flight Planning, Principles of Flight, Perfomance and Meteorology seem to be the exams with the lowest pass rates over the two years.
It would be interesting to see how this compares to other CAA’s.

ATPL Theory Month 24: POF

Just a quick update from ATPL theory month 24: POF
Fenland

There really isn’t much to say about it really. I have been going all out on what is my last exam trying to get my head around it all.
If I am being honest I think POF got a little neglected, as first time Mass and Balance and Performance took more of my attention and last time Gnav and Flight planning did.
I must admit I am finding it easier to study for just one exam at a time, why we are forced to learn multiple exams at once I don’t really know. This issue is compounded even more when you are working full-time also.
I am making good progress and I feel my knowledge in the subject is increasing and hopefully all will be fine by the time the exam comes round.
It is mad how fast time goes, I am already down to 4.5 weeks till the exam which I plan to sit at the start of July.  Fingers crossed all will be fine and I can put this chapter behind me.
I haven’t really been flying at all as the weather has been a bit hit and miss. I did have most of this week of to get some hours done but the plane now has to go into the shop for it’s 50 hour check and a few other bits, so that’s the end of that one.
Hopefully this month will be more productive as I still have 39 hours I need to build.

 

Jet2 pilot apprentice open day at Virtual Aviation

With an eye on the future today I went to the Jet2 pilot apprentice open day at Virtual Aviation.

en route gamston

Registration
So the day started with us registering and then going into a room so that we could mingle with the other students. Most students seemed to be at CPL ME IR stage or has recently completed their training.
Being the small world that it is, I actually met someone who actually trained at Cranfield Flying school also, so that was nice.

Presentation
We then went down to a room for a presentation from Jet2. I must say, Jet2 seems to be a really good company to work for and they heavily emphasised that they prefer to promote from within and develop people.
Obviously the pilot apprentice with its bonded type rating is one of the premier schemes in the industry.
The main takeaways I got from this in regards to what Jet2 like to see is the following. They did however say this is all considered on a case by case basis.

  • Strong ATPL results.
  • Recent flying – They want to see you flying with a decent amount of consistency.
  • Jet2 are Independent – Jet2 do not prioritise any schools or training organisations and they said it is best to do your MCC / JOC wherever is best for you.

Talk with captains and pilot apprentices.
We then went up into a room to speak to some current captains and two guys who were on the pilot apprentice scheme. This was a good opportunity to ask about the job and if they could offer any advice.
We were probably in here for 20 mins or so.
The pilots were very passionate about how good Jet2 were to work for and how they seem different from other airlines they have worked for.

Sim Visit
We then went to have a look at Virtual Aviation’s new Boeing 737 sim. I must say, the sim is very impressive.
We had a quick go at handling it which was nice but quite rushed as obviously they had a lot of people to get through.

APS MCC talk
Lastly we had a talk from a very nice Easyjet captain about the APS MCC. I must say the course seems very well designed and quite intense.
The guy leading the course seemed to be very passionate about teaching and really helping you get the best you can from it.
The course is designed to last around 20 days and I believe it costs about £6500.
This is much more than the £2650 that CRM Europe are charging for their MCC / JOC course which is not an APS course or on a Boeing 737 sim.
Ryanair are saying that the APS course is preferred but Jet2 stated to do which course you feel is best for you, so there is a decision to be had there.

All in all it was a good day and I was glad I heard both from Jet2 about the pilot apprentice and from Virtual Aviation about the APS MCC.

 

ATPL Theory Month 23: Sitting 5 Results

Last month was a bit hectic so I didn’t get a chance to do this update. On top of this I sat exams all this week, so here are the ATPL theory month 23: sitting 5 results.

G-ASYP Milton Keynes

GNAV – 78% – I am so relieved to have passed this exam, I dunno why but I have found it very hard and having failed it first time round it is a relief to have it over with.
My brain just doesn’t seem to care for convergency or departure etc but seems I got it together just enough to pass this exam.

Flight Planning – 77% – There was two fuel penalty questions in this exam that I have never seen before and quite frankly were impossible for me to solve due to having no practice. I don’t see anything in the material about them either, apparently it is a new question type. To top this off they were each worth 3 marks each, so not ideal.
Aside from this the exam was pretty fair, with PSR, PET, GAMMA, RCF, 1.3 Trip etc questions.

POF – 70% – Gutted. To get 70% AGAIN on my 5th sitting is not ideal. In fact it sucks! This is now my last exam and I have until July to pass it. For this reason I am not going to rush. I am going to sit it at the start of July, which gives me two months to focus on only POF. I am going to learn this subject inside out!
There were 2 questions which made no sense whatsoever (they seemed to be translated) but I am not going to waste my time (or money) on an appeal.
I dunno what is going on with POF but I know 2 guys who have failed 3 times and one who has failed 2 like me. I guess I’m not the only one who’s struggling. However to be so close really, really sucks. It’s like two questions away.

So yeah 1 exam left, 1 sitting left. I am pretty down at the moment but it could be a lot worse. I just need to become the master of POF in the next two months. I have some accelerator days left at Bristol so I might use one up if I’m struggling.
Hopefully, it will be easier to grasp without the heavy work load of other subjects. I also had a lot going on with work which I think affected me a bit but that’s no real excuse.
Fingers crossed, because there is no possible way I could do all 14 exams again. It really doesn’t bear thinking about.

Hour Building: Tatenhill & Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green

Wow what a glorious week of weather! I took the opportunity to do some hour building: Tatenhill & Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green.
En route to Wolverhampton
I’ve been pretty quiet as I have been working on the ATPL exams and havent done much flying worthy of a post on it’s own. However, when I saw that we were going to have a good week of weather I had to get up and get some hours built, as flying just 1.5 hours at a time wasn’t really cutting it.
I have also done a few other flights over the last few weeks but they were just trips around say 50 miles of the field that I doubt you really want to hear about.
I have recently subscribed to Flyer Magazine for nothing more than their free landings. I have no idea why I haven’t done this earlier as if you use just one it pays for itself.
This month it was Tatenhill, Halfpenny Green and Goodwood that took my interest.

19th April 2018 – Tatenhill

Firstly it was hot! Wearing jeans was most definatley the wrong idea.
I took of from Runway 20 at Henlow and routed “the long way round” which was towards Cambridge, over past Cranfield then up towards Tatenhill while getting a LARS service from East Midlands.
Well I say a LARS service but you only get a basic service outside of controlled airspace with East Midlands.
There was nobody on the radio at Tatenhill so I just addressed Tatenhill Traffic with my intentions.
I joined downwind and landed without incident.
I must say it is a pretty nice airfield and we was met with a warm welcome. I did uplift fuel, as I do try to make sure to take some if I am getting a free landing.
I was with a friend and we got some food before setting back off and heading back to Henlow on the reverse route.
It was a short visit but worth it as I built some good time.

Flying Time – 2.9 hours.

20th April 2018 – Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green 

G-asyp at Halfpenny Green

Second up in the free landing tour was HalfPenny Green in Wolverhampton.
This time it was a departure from 26R which is the small runway at Henlow. Well I say small, it’s more thing than it is small.
I chose to go a more direct route and departed south of Cranfield, up towards Wellesbourne and then into Halfpenny Green for a standard overhead join.
Wellesbourne seemed to be really busy, and I have heard good things about it so I need to visit at some point.
It got a bit choppy up closer to the airfield but nothing major to worry about.
I need to just say that the guys on the radio up there are excellent, some of the best I have encountered and both were really helpful.
Again I uplifted some fuel before parking and presenting the free landing voucher that was accepted without any issues.
The same friend was with me and we got some food before departing back to Henlow.
With the airfield closing at 6pm, I managed to make it back on the ground about 5:45, just in time.
Again another great day and some good time built.

Flying time  – 2.8 hours

I am now up to 107.1 hours and 61.2 PIC time.

Now I best get back to studying for the ATPL exams. I have just 1 slot booked next week which is next friday where if the weather is nice enough I am planning to get down to Goodwood, but time will tell on that one.

 

ATPL Theory Month 22: Gnav, Pof, Flight Planning

22 months? Wow what a slog. Heres a quick recap of ATPL Theory Month 22: Gnav, Pof, Flight Planning.

Well there isn’t really that much to say. I have been trying to get up to speed in  Flight Planning, General Navigation and Principals of Flight but after 22 months I am really struggling now. I am just so tired and worn out that after a day of work I don’t really want to study any more.
Some days I feel good and like I could sit the exam but then a few days later I seem to have forgotten a load of the formula!
I saw that there was a sitting just 3 weeks after the one I was going to sit in so I am now sitting the exams between the 1st and 3rd of May for what I hope will be my final exams.
The scores are going up (slowly) across the 3 so hopefully with one more month I hope I will be in a position to pass all 3.
I haven’t done much flying recently either as the weather has been shocking. I think I have managed a grand total of 2.8 hours this month which when you have about 50 hours to build doesn’t cut it at all. I figured I could get a good 5 hours at least this weekend but of course being a bank holiday the weather is crap.
If this weather doesn’t change in the next month or so I am going to seriously have to consider going abroad to somewhere with better weather (so basically anywhere else).
However first things first I need to pass these remaining exams and actually have something that resembles a life.

The passenger who landed a plane

While this isn’t new, it is one of the most incredible stories that I have ever seen. I must have watched it about 4 times over the years but every time I am still in shock.
The story is about a The passenger who landed a plane.
The passenger (John Wildey) is on a flight back from Skegness with his friend (a pilot) when sadly the pilot becomes unwell and unfortunately passes away.
This is where the story gets really remarkable. John has no flying experience, none whatsoever and is also sitting in the P2 seat.
ATC manage to get hold of a flying instructor and search and rescue to assist John, but of course he is the only person in the aircraft (Cessna 172).
John manages to fly the plane to an international airport, make an approach to the airport and then execute a go around.
Now it is night time (keep in mind a night rating is 5 hours) and on top of this John doesn’t have any backlight on the plane as he doesn’t know where the switch is.
John is now facing landing a Cessna 172, at night, from the right hand seat, cannot see his instruments and with no flight training whatsoever. Oh yeah, and his friend is dead in the seat next to him!
Next he makes an approach on the lit runway at Humberside but has to do two more go arounds before finally coming in again for his final attempt.
He manages to come in (I guess technically a flapless approach), bounced a bit then comes of the runway. He landed with all this going on, absolutely incredible!
It’s just an amazing job by John, the RAF search and rescue, ATC, the flying instructor and the fire and medics on the ground.
The video is here and well worth a watch.

What an absolute legend John is and he even has got back into light aircraft again.