Ground School Time & Cost

Ground School is a commonly misunderstood term. “Ground School” has evolved in aviation over the years to ‘studying to pass the FAA knowledge test’. This is unfair and a misunderstanding for many pilots starting out.

Overall, there are three types of “ground school”.

First, student pilots are misled into thinking that if they study and pass the FAA Knowledge test, this is all they need for “Ground School”.  Nothing is further from the truth. In fact, many flight instructors do not do any “Ground School” and leave it up to the student to gain the practical aeronautical knowledge to be a safe pilot and pass the checkride. This lack of practical “ground school” training beyond the FAA knowledge test is an easy path to failing a checkride.

The new term for practical aeronautical knowledge is now “Scenario Based Training”. This is training for real life situations above and beyond “stick and rudder skills”.

With most of the popular “ground schools” from the leading publishers, these are designed specifically to get you through your FAA knowledge test only, nothing more. But the FAA knowledge test is only the tip of the iceberg.

In reality, the FAA knowledge test are multiple choice questions that can be memorized at the “Rote Learning Level” to pass the FAA Knowledge test.

Per FAR 61.309 for Sport Pilots and 61.105 for Private Pilots, it is a requirement for a pilot to learn and understand basic Aeronautical Knowledge. This is far and above being able to score above 70% with multiple choice questions on the FAA knowledge test.

Understanding the important concepts that keep you safe and flying confidently are the first and most important things you should learn in GROUND SCHOOL. How to handle real life situations in the environment you are flying and the equipment you are using.

Unfortunately, this most important foundation of knowledge is not taught for the classical “knowledge test prep” ground school.

For the FAA Knowledge Test, you are given most of the questions and answers. You can simply memorize them and successfully pass the “FAA written” without “understanding” the aeronautical knowledge. Being presented and practicing most of the questions and answers provided this FAA Knowledge test is simple and easy.

You need to get from the “Rote Learning” level of memorizing the questions to the “Understanding” level of learning to understand the subject concepts. As a goal, you want to get to the “Application” level of learning and ultimately the “Correlation” level of learning. At the correlation level of learning, this will assure you ace that knowledge test, ace the checkride and become a safe, confident, and competent pilot.

Following is a description of the three types if ground school required to be a safe and confident pilot, plus easily ace your checkride.

What is Ground School?

“Ground School” is actually three specific areas of knowledge:

  1. Learning the flight, aircraft operation, procedures and specific aircraft systems you will be flying. The most fun part of ground school. This is the “flying” aspect of ground school.
  2. Learning the aeronautical knowledge (weather, sectionals, cross country, performance, etc.). This is also an interesting part of ground school that is used to become a safe pilot.
  3. Learning the questions and answers to the FAA Questions to pass the knowledge test. This is the least interesting and sometimes the scariest. It requires time spent and additional memorization. However, it does teach some of the basics of the above two “ground schools” so it is a good “standard” everyone can get through.

Yes, some of the information for items 1 and 2 above are in 3, the FAA knowledge test prep, but the knowledge test prep is only a third of the total ground school that you need to learn.

Note that the “knowledge test prep” ground school is required, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be at the beginning of flight training, or the other areas of ground school. The FAA Knowledge test is simply some measure of the applicant’s ability to remember some of the important concepts, plus the regulations.

It is much more efficient and cost-effective, if you can learn the fun and most important stuff first (items 1 and 2 above) on the ground…in “Ground School”, rather than using the cockpit as the classroom. You are typically paying 2 to 4 times more for learning the knowledge in the cockpit than you would for the same knowledge learned in the classroom/on-line. Do not worry, all the fun ground school builds towards the final phase of “3 ground school” to take the FAA Knowledge Test and more importantly the Checkride. It is easier to learn the information and then be able to answer the FAA questions when memorize the questions and answers.

The foundation of aeronautical knowledge for ground and flight resources  are the FAA handbooks “Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge” 8083-25 and the “Flying Handbook” 8083-3 for Airplanes, and the “Weight-Shift Control Flying Handbook” 8083-5 plus the “Weight-Shift Control Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge” for trikes. These should be your reference books for all your ground schools and preparing for the Checkride also. I have modified/enhanced both these books for sport pilots flying LSA as a downloadable PDF. This allows you to know what to study and what not to study plus these PDF files add important information.

Additionally, I have created videos which explain in greater detail these references plus provide scenarios to help understand the material from a practical viewpoint.

A complete “ground school” covering all three necessary topics is built into the HAMILTON PILOT TRAINING SYSTEM. All the ground school and flight school/lessons are in the on-line Learn to Fly courses.

How a pilot applicant goes through ground school at Sport Aviation Center LLC depends on the student’s specific situation. Some will study everything before they come. This includes the ground and the FLIGHT. Others want to learn while they are flight training. How you do ground school will depend on your situation and how you want to learn. Always best if you can go through the on-line Learn to Fly  courses before you start flying. Great way to get started.