Pilot Ground School – Fall 2017

10704009_561588480607865_96589839511807853_nWe’ll be offering a pilot ground school again this fall term on the Caltech campus. Class will be held for 10 weeks, 7:00-9:30 PM, on Thursday nights, starting September 28th. The class is open to everyone in the Caltech/JPL community and all members of AACIT.

Ground school is a great way for anyone who has an interest in flying to learn more, but at a cost less than a typical flight lesson. It’s also great for pilots who feel rusty to get a refresher. The class covers most of the material necessary to pass the FAA’s private pilot airplane knowledge test.

If you would like to enroll or have questions, please contact the instructor  directly.


Q: Do I need to have any flying experience to take ground school?
A: No. The class is geared towards those with no prior flying experience.

Q: What do I need for class and what are the costs?
A: We use the FAA’s Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge in the class (free PDF available). We normally do a group buy in class for the needed flight computer and plotter (total cost ~$25). These supply costs are in addition to the class fee (contact the instructor for more information).

Q: Is it a problem if I can’t attend all the classes?
A: While you’ll get the most out of the class by attending all, it’s not mandatory. Most classes “stand alone” so missing a class doesn’t immediately mean you’ll be way behind.

Q: Is this class offered for Caltech credit?
A: No. The material is similar to the former PA80a class, but is no longer a credit course.

Q: Do I need to take flight lessons at the same time?
A: No.

Q: How much time do I need to dedicate outside of class?
A: You can get value out of the class simply by attending. If you want to get the most out of the class, an hour or two per week devoted to reading and sample tests will help.

Q: How large is the class?
A: Class size has ranged from 6 to 25 students. The classroom limits us to about 25 students. If we are short of space, first priority is given to Caltech undergraduate and graduate students, then in enrollment order.

Q: Do I have to take ground school to become a pilot?
A: No. The FAA mandates that you take a written test (60 questions, 2.5 hours, 70% minimum, ~$150). Preparation for that test can done in a ground school or by self study (book, video, etc.)

Q: Can I take ground school if I have no interest in becoming a pilot?
A: Yes! Several students in the past, who worked on JPL instruments that fly on airplanes took the class as a way to learn more about air operations and airspace that was useful for their job.

Course Syllabus

  • Introduction – becoming a pilot and how ground school fits in
  • Airplanes and aerodynamics – the structure and control of airplanes
  • Airspace, airports, and charts – understanding aeronautical charts and the range of airspace in the US
  • Instruments, engines, and systems – the nuts and bolts of the airplane
  • Rules, regulations, and responsibilities – what you can and can’t do as a pilot and how to stay safe and legal
  • Weather theory – meteorology for pilots
  • Weather services – getting a picture of what the weather is doing
  • Planning and navigation – how to prepare for and get someplace in an airplane
  • Performance – how to determine expected performance and what influences it
  • Aeromedical factor – physiology for pilots
  • Operational considerations – decision making and airport and flight operations

Noise abatement procedures, curfews, and violations

Over the weekend, I received a “Notice of Violation” for one of our club 11156312_641478039285575_8823997895904999176_naircraft from the City of Santa Monica. It reminded me that we need to continue to (re-)educate pilots on the topics of noise, noise abatement procedures, curfews, and other related topics that are very important when flying in the LA Basin and many other areas. Continue reading “Noise abatement procedures, curfews, and violations”