View Full Version : Maths required for a professional career
8th Mar 2012, 14:42
Hey folks, not sure if I am in the right place, but bugger it, I'll ask...
Currently I am just a student pilot, but I was curious as to what kind of mathematics would be involved as a professional or military pilot. I'm sure as we all know, what we are taught in school is a massive generalisation, or rather, an attempt to carpet bomb as many topics as possible. However, I don't like being the guy who has a wide bank of knowledge, with no in-depth understanding of them. Rather, I would prefer to know only a few things, but be damn good at those few things. Anyway, basically what I am looking for is some information, like a list, of all mathematical topics, or skills involved with being a fully qualified pilot.
All info appreciated!
8th Mar 2012, 15:03
You NEED no knowledge of mathematics or gramatical English to be a commercial pilot but......
You will struggle badly if you don't have the basics of arithmatics tucked away. A good command of English is also highly desireable.
I see many these days without their high school education and many are destined for a life in the right hand seat if they are that lucky!
My advice is get a good grounding in these subjects. They are also very "life friendly."
8th Mar 2012, 16:21
Speaking from personal experience, I would say that a Maths A'Level is very useful indeed, as the thinking processes involved serves you well in the long term.
I imagine an understanding of geometry would be vital.
8th Mar 2012, 17:58
Oh don't get me wrong, I'm not bad in my studies at all. However, I am very concerned about whether or not I will actually get even a high school qualification. Long story short (and it's still long!):
I'm Australian. Lived there most of my life. Three years ago, there were family issues in Sweden (some family members moved there before). I left Australia with my mother. New in the country, and no knowledge of the language whatsoever. I began the IB programme, because it was English. Most of my subjects are no problem. However, Swedish is compulsory. The Swedish course in the IB is designed for people who already have prior Swedish knowledge at a minimum of a basic conversational level. I had nothing. To complicate matters, I had to get a job to help the family, and by the time I came home (or rather, come home...still at it!), I would be too tired to study most of the time. On top of that, i have my Saturdays taken up by a rusty 172 that likes to open its right side door in 60 degree turns. Anyway, my finals are in a couple of months. English is something I will ace, along with most of my other subjects. Swedish? IF I pass, it will be barely. If I fail, I fail everything, not just Swedish. As for maths, I have weak points in some of the most important topics, such as statistics. The basics are easy, no doubt. It's the higher level calculus, matrices, and stats that really drive down my results.
...Wow, apologies for that wall of text. But hey, you've pretty much just heard my life story...Now for yours!
Anyway, I'm sure I would need an understanding of the physics behind loading and calculating CoG, for instance, but I really can't think of anything else that is more than basic arithmetic.
9th Mar 2012, 02:30
I did well at maths at GCSE (16 years old) and A-level (18) and it was a core part of my degree (which I was rubbish at!) There seem to be three areas in which maths can help in this business:
1. Selection for flight school / approved training. If you want to get onto one of these, then the selection boards can ask all sorts of things. I knew some MEA cadets and they said that the maths that they did for selection was some of the hardest they'd ever done (and one of them did an engineering degree). These selection boards just want the very best they can find, it's not that they beleive that such a high level of ability is necessary, it's just that they can afford to be choosey.
2. ATPL tests. This required GCSE level (16 year old) maths to be applied practically. As long as you can juggle some numbers, do a bit of mental arithmetic, rearrange basic formulae and do pythagoras you're sorted. Don't misunderstand me, it's not easy. But it's not the more theoretical higher level stuff (matrices, integration, the number "i" etc.)
3. The real job. Unless you're doing "unusual" operations, then you only really need to be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide with a modicum of accuracy. Recruiters for aviation jobs aren't too fussed about your school grades as long as you passed the ATPL exams with reasonable marks.
I hope that helps.
9th Mar 2012, 05:26
What is asked of you and what you actually need are two separate things. What you really need are your three times table for planning descents and a reasonable knowledge of angles. A bit of triganometry will help as well. The ability to do basic maths mentally will help.
I just passed the UK O level in 1977 and this is easily enough knowledge. I subsequently went on to be an RAF Pilot and instrcutor and took the old UK ATPL subjects. For the modern EASA subjects, I don't know - but there I suspect that they won't require much more. But sufice to say that the depth is probably greater that you actually need.
If embarking on a cadetship, the aptitude tests may ask for a much higher standard. My company assesses it's cadets to a level I wouldn't pass - they are still in the dark ages about what makes a good pilot candidate. It's assumed that it's the analytical scientists which make good pilots wheras, from my experience of training, selection and developemnt of aptitude tests, the best pilots are those with good spatial orientation rather than those who have a scientific brain. This means the artistic types have an advantage - something that was borne out by the sudents I instructed when a RAF QFI.