ATPL theory week 3: Instrumentation

I thought I would update with my progress through ATPL theory week 3: Instrumentation.
ATPL Theory Week 3
I was finding the General Navigation quite hard to get my head around, so I decided to book myself onto the next accelerator course down in Bristol. This isn’t until the first week of August so for that reason I have decided that rather than struggle through the lessons I will leave all the General Navigation lessons until after I have done the accelerator course. The accelerator course is included in the price for the course so I will just have to pay for petrol and one nights stay at a B&B.
I am finding that I am not liking the Bristol system of a few lessons from one subject, followed by a few lessons from another then a few lessons from something else. I have decided I am going to go through the course subject by subject which is the way that I am used to studying, so over the next few weeks I will be going through instrumentation before coming back to Met!
I did a lot of instrumentation this week the subjects covered included pitot tubes, air speed indicators, altimeters, configuration errors, angle of attack, accelerators, Air data computers, VSI & AOA.
I prefer this subject to subjects like General Navigation which uses a lot of reasonably complex mathematics.
As you can see I am slightly under target from where I should be so this module will probably take me a bit longer than I anticipated to complete, but this is fine and not an issue.

ATPL theory week 2: Meteorology, Navigation

This week was ATPL theory week 2: Meteorology, Navigation. I was away for a big part of the week at the European championships in France however, so the study time this week was very limited.
I was lucky enough to see two games this week, Russia v Slovakia in Lille and England V Wales in Lens! Both games had really great atmosphere and despite the UK media only reporting the small pockets of trouble I saw none at all!
England v Wales
I got a chance to use the iPad app for the first time while traveling and the program works really well. It is a well thought out interactive program that replicates the desktop version very well.
I think when I am traveling I will just use the iPad version, as it seems to have all the features or at least the major features of the desktop application.
The subjects that I got through this week were temperatures and distance on the earth. This was learning how the environment cools and heats and the different methods of energy transfer from different states (like from solid to liquid) etc.
I then got my first taste of navigation and learned about longitude and latitude and how to work out distances traveled.
I also had my first progress test, this was the just a test on the first three met subjects that I had studied, I think there were 35 questions in total and you needed around 75% to pass.
Next week I will hit the books double hard to make up for the slower progress this week.

ATPL theory week 1: Maths, Physics and Meteorology

So on the 9th June I received access to the Bristol Ground School ATPdigital program and instantly got started with ATPL theory week 1: Maths, Physics and Meteorology.
ATPL Theory Week 1
You get a licence to install the software on two computers (PC or Mac) and one iPad. I haven’t had a chance to use the iPad version yet but as I am traveling to Euro 2016 next week (come on England!) I will get a chance to test this out and see how good it is.
I have given myself two months to complete module 1 with another month after that for revision and to work on question bank / identify weak areas. After this I will go to the revision week and take the exams the week after.
The very first module you need to complete is a maths and physics revision course. I am not bad with physics but I haven’t really done much maths since I left high school which is now a good 15 years ago (wow I’m old). Maths is not something that comes naturally to me but practice makes perfect and all that.
I went through this course over the period of 2 days and I found that YouTube is by far the most helpful site out there. There are great channels that explain just about everything you could ever want to know in very simple terms. I will list 3 of my favorites.

  1. The calculator guide
  2. Tecmath
  3. Mathantics

If you can’t find what you are after between them 3 guides then chances are you don’t really need to know it (at this level at least). I wish I had such great resources like this available when I was in school studying!
The maths and physics level is GCSE level I would say, so don’t worry you don’t need to be the next Albert Einstein or anything.
I then entered the ATPL course which kicks of with Meteorology, there is a lot of things that were on the PPL sylabus such as lapse rate, pressure, ISA deviation, QFE, QNH, drift etc. I have just started to touch on the subject so I am sure there is a lot more to go.

Preparing for the ATPL theory study

I have signed up for Bristol Ground Schools ATPL course so now I am preparing for the ATPL study.
I believe it is important to have an environment that is where you go to when you want to study. I am going to make a recommendation of how you should consider setting your environment up.
ATPL desk set up

  1. A Desk – Should go without saying really, you need somewhere to put all the stuff you will be using. I personally do not recommend working of a bed, or a chair or even on the floor. A desk won’t set you back much, I have had this one forever and it never cost much in the first place. It was definitely under £50.
  2. Laptop – I wouldn’t buy a desktop unless you have a specific need for it. In the corner of my room I have a desktop which is just for gaming. However for studying and basic day to day things I would choose the laptop simply because it is portable and you can take it with you when needed. Windows or Mac, it really doesn’t matter. Just get whatever you prefer.
    As an IT engineer I would say you should configure your laptop with the minimum of an i5 processor, 8gb ram and a 256gb SSD but of course that is just my opinion. I feel this gives you the best balance of power, performance and longevity. On most PC laptops you can swap out the ram & SSD if needed but in the mac I believe the ram is soldered and the SSD drive is non standard and expensive (Apple being Apple).
  3. Monitors – This may be the IT geek in me but with the cost of monitors these days buy two! I would say buy at least 22″ but I personally would get a minimum of 24″. With current prices both monitors will most likely set you back just over what a PPL lesson would.
    As you can see I actually have three monitors including the laptop. this means I can have the study material open on one, use the second to look things up and use the third to take notes.
  4. Monitor mount – Monitors take up far too much space when they are on the desk. Get a desk mounted monitor stand, take the stands off and mount them. Pretty much every monitor you can buy will have mounting points on the back. The mount I use set me back £20 on Amazon. The best part is that it allowed me to raise the screens so that the laptop will be under them. This means the laptop screen is usable as otherwise it would cover part of the monitors. On top of this I don’t need an additional keyboard or mouse as you can just use your laptop.
  5. Additional things – Get a surge protector to protect all your expensive equipment. I have a bluetooth speaker at the back but that’s a personal choice, your laptop will have speakers built in.

I feel that this is an environment that is ideal for learning, but of course it is a personal choice and you can set your environment up however you like.

You can buy all these things on Amazon


Now on to the study 🙂

ATPL Ground School – Bristol vs CATS

I am now choosing my ATPL Ground School – Bristol vs CATS. This is a real big step in my training as the ATPL’s are 14 exams covering everything that a pilot needs to know and they are a huge undertaking with an estimated 650 hours of self study. This will take anywhere from 9 – 18 months on top of my day job.
Navigation planning
As I need to keep working the only real choice for me is distance learning and I have picked these two for reasons I will explain below. There are of course others, but these are the two that work best for me.
First things first I need to do a pros and con for the two schools.


Bristol Ground School Pros


  1. Wings Alliance member – Bristol Ground School is a member of the newly formed Wings Alliance which is a modular alliance of schools that have come together with a goal of placing students with airlines. Getting your first job is very hard so this is a very promising thing for me.
  2. Excellent reviews – I haven’t heard a single person have a bad word to say about Bristol, in fact every single person I have spoken to has had nothing but good things to say about them and have actively recommended I choose them.
  3. Question bank – While anybody can subscribe to the question bank, the course comes with a one year subscription.
  4. Helpful – I emailed them a few months back and the lady who replied was informative and prompt, she answered all of my questions without any delay.
  5. Accelerator days – The course comes with accelerator days which allows you to get the help you need on any subjects that you are struggling with.
  6. Regular revision weeks – Bristol seem to run at least one brush up course for each module every month. This doesn’t leave you rushing to make a revision week if you do not feel ready yet. Also as I would need to book time of work to attend, having the flexibility is a huge plus.
  7. Offline Apps – There is an offline PC / OSX app as well as iPad apps available. You also get the licence to use it on two computers and one iPad.


Bristol Ground School Cons


  1. Distance – I live in Luton (the home of CATS) so Bristol is quite a distance from here.
  2. Additional costs – To attend the brush up weeks I have to drive to Bristol and get a hotel as well as pay for food. At CATS I could just stay at home.
  3. Price – The course at Bristol is more expensive than the standard course at CATS.


CATS Ground School Pros


  1. Distance – I live around 5 minutes from CATS by car, this is a huge plus.
  2. Price – The basic course at CATS is around £900 cheaper than Bristol Ground School.


CATS Ground School Cons


  1. Mixed reviews – I have spoken to a few former students and the feedback I have gotten is mixed. Some say it’s good, others were not as positive.
  2. Response – I sent them an email a few months ago, to this day I still have not gotten a reply, this is a major red flag for me. What if I am stuck and need urgent help?
  3. Not a wings alliance member – CATS are not a member of the newly formed Wings Alliance, this is another route to employment.
  4. Big Gaps between brush up weeks – The brush up seems to be structured for every 4 months providing you can start at a point that makes sense for this. Say I started my stage 1 next month and I made the November stage 1 brush up, should I not be ready for the next stage two in May, but say I was in June, I would then have to wait until August before the revision week is next run, that’s a lot of waiting.
  5. Online only PC app – This is all well and good when you are near an internet connection however what about when you are on a plane or a train? The only way to see it offline is on an Ipad. While I do have an iPad I don’t know how good the app is, I also have an iPad mini so not the biggest screen around.

So as you can see there are a lot of considerations to take into effect. The location of CATS is amazing for me and that will minimise any travel time and reduce any additional costs. The price is also excellent with the course without printed materials being just £1499.
Bristol have the great reviews as well as the staff being very helpful so far. I like that they are a member of the Wings Alliance as the school I plan to do my CPL / ME / IR are also a member of the alliance so that makes sense for me. I like the idea of the accelerator weeks so that if I get stuck, the help is there. I also like that they run the revision courses monthly.
On the negative side Bristol is on the other side of the country from me, the cost of the course is also more expensive than the CATS offering.
So, I have made my mind up, taking everything into consideration and looking at the bigger picture I have decided to choose Bristol Ground School.
My main reasons are the frequency of the revision weeks, how helpful the staff was via email (thanks Laura) and the accelerator weekends. Also I feel the Wings Alliance could be a really good route to employment by the time I finish.
So as soon as I get my license back from the CAA I will be signing up 🙂 ….now just the small matter of those 14 exams!