OK, so, maths is not my strong point and since it will be a few months until I commence my PPL studies, I thought it might be wise to start preparing myself so that I'm ready. I have looked on google and on PPRuNe, but I can't find any questions specifically maths related.

I know that the questions change a bit from year to year, but can someone who has either done a PPL here in the UK or is familiar with the JAA PPL, tell me what to expect so that I can prepare in advance? This would be so helpful since my maths is rather poor and I really want to nail my PPL!

Maths for the ppl is minimal. Sub GCSE level. Toughest thing you will face is learning how to use the flight computer, and this does most of the work for you. I really wouldn't worry about it. At the end of the day you have to pass the exams to get the ppl so I would just crack on and see how you do. Any major issues, your instructor should be the first port of call.

The most important thing is probably a sound understanding of multiplication and division, its fairly easy to miss out a decimal place or 0 when using the flight computer for this; so if you can have a rough idea of the answer you're looking for it will reduce the chances of making an error. Alongside this, a very basic understanding of vector triangles, it helps to be able to make an educated guess at headings/ground-speeds etc. I wouldn't worry too much though, everything you need will be in the study material.

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but I can't find any questions specifically maths related.

There are no specifically maths related questions in the syllabus, it just ties into the other subjects.

Being a navigator in the merchant navy I imagine it's pretty similar. Just have a good grasp of your 6 times table to make DST calculations easier.

I start my PPL next week and can't imagine it being that hard mathematically, as the above posters say, they give you a flight computer to do all the work for you.

Location: Cheshire and some ghastly island in the irish sea

Posts: 858

Maths

Steve , sorry had to laugh at that "give you a flight computer " sorry matey heheh the day anyone in aviation "gives" you anything will be a turn up . The CRP/5 which is what you need costs around £35 if you plan on doing cpl you will need the crp/1 which is around £55 , check ebay athough cpl students snap em up . TFDP , I have never passed a maths exam in my life nor do I ever think I will . I passed all my atpls and cpl/ir with very little understanding of maths and instructed the ppl cpl and ir with same lack of knowledge. The others are quite correct maths in the ppl is limited to additon and subtraction . There are instructors who try to make things more difficult than they should be the 1/60 rule can be expalined like quantum physics by some . The whizz wheel is your friend take time to learn to use it and all will be well . But do not let maths worry you

You guys have no idea how comforting it is to hear that from people who have already done their PPL's and even cpl,atpl and ir!!! Awsome, thanks for the replies, mucho appreciato!

The maths required for a PPL is minimal. I'd say an average 11 year old would not struggle with the kind of maths we use in the cockpit for GA. A good sense of spatial awareness and an understanding of compass bearings is the only prerequisite. The same is mostly true of the maths required for a commercial pilot, though I do think educational levels have sunk so low that I would amend my advice to substitute the words 'well-educated' for 'average' when talking about basic maths required for piloting a commercial aircraft!

It was interesting for me to note, when doing aptitude tests for a well-known FTO and for British Airways entry, that the level of maths expected of me was surprisingly low. Long division and multiplication; simple maths problems involving time and consumption. Following that, on the line I use a fair amount of maths both consciously and sub-consciously everyday but none of it would leave a shopkeeper of days yore behind. What annoyed me is that I was put off a career in aviation when I was a teenager because I was told I needed A-level maths - something to which I am certainly unsuited!

Last edited by Mikehotel152; 29th Dec 2012 at 01:15.
Reason: To add more

It's all very basic maths and nothing to worry about. I was in the same boata while back thinking the same thing. The best advice I can give you is justtry and bone up on mental addition/subtraction if you need and give your timestables a bit of revision, which is all you will really need to know

Do they still teach you how to use a slide rule at school? The CRP5 is basically a circular slide rule and can handle all your multiplication and division

Do they still teach you how to use a slide rule at school?

You must be joking Dick, even most young teachers wouldn't know what one looks like! I still have my British Thornton scientific one from the early 70's.

The standard of maths in UK state schools is little short of dire. You would be horrified to see a GCSE Higher Paper, formulas printed in there and calculators allowed on one paper. The Foundation paper is a joke with "express 3/4 as a percentage" or "what bus must I catch in order to be at Auntie Vi's at 16:00 going via A and B"?

I was invigilating a GCSE maths exam about 2 years ago and it had a distance, speed, time with a conversion question in it. Of the 250 pupils sitting it I reckon only 10% had got it right, another 10% failed to convert and the rest and no idea.

Back on the thread, the maths required for PPL is not that demanding, d,s,t volume to mass conversions and some basic mental sums as you are going to have to do this while flying the aircraft at times.

One of my ex girlfriends went to do maths at Cambridge. Allegedly one of the frightfully clever lecturers was working through an equation one day and turned round and asked suddenly 'what is 6 x 7?'

'49!' came the answer. 'No, it's 42!' said another student.

'Now gentlemen', came the reply, 'it can hardly be both'.

Whilst I've since heard this story elsewhere, it's certainly the case that there can be a disconnect between mathematical ability and the ability to do mental arithmetic.

The PPL does require a degree of ability in both. The exams shouldn't be too much of a problem as the questions that involve maths are sparse enough that it would be possible to fail them and still pass. In practice though, flight planning is an area where you don't want to make too many mistakes. It's fine to use a calculator in real life, but if you are having trouble working out what numbers to plug into calculations relating to range, weight and balance etc... then this is something you'll need to work on.

Like many disciplines, math in aviation is just a means to an end. Indeed, in nearly all cases, you will use the result of a calculation to make a decision: Do I have enough fuel, flying as I am now? (really important one!), Do I have enough runway length for these conditions? Am I within weight and balance limits? Destination circuit height is 2500 feet, and I'm at 4500 feet, ten miles back, flying at 120 knots, will 300 FPM get me down in time? To identify just a few...

When you have determined what the question is, and how to get the answer, you may apply math to the process. How much math? How precise does the answer need to be? A lot of the decisions you will need to make are better made more quickly (within the minute), then confirmed with precise information at the first appropriate opportunity. If it's a weight and balance, then yes, your first appropriate opportunity is before takeoff! However, if you suddenly suspect that a diversion might be necessary, spending ten minutes making that decision is probably going to really worsen an already bad situation. You gotta calculate your fuel, and decide if the new airport's runway is long enough with little delay, so you can make your decision.

Then, once you have made your decision, and the plane is flying as needed, you might wish to confirm your quick math (guess), to confirm your decision.

So get good at guessing a reasonable answer, then using math to confirm it. If you have 17 gallons aboard, and are burning 8 GPH, and your destination is 180 miles and you're groundspeed is 90 MHP away yet, are your going to overfly an enroute fuel stop? I sure would not! Your quick math says you will have enough fuel, though not the required reserves. But that quick math tells me that it's a poor decision to pass on a fuel stop, as your margin will be very tight when you get there.You just made a decision, based upon math, but the math was really simple, and you did not write anything down.

Devote more effort into understanding why the decision must be made, and what's at stake if you get it wrong. What are the variables? Which things have changed since your trip plan, and takeoff? Guess your answer, make your decision, then confirm it by double checking with "better" math. The key is to always be "ahead" of the plane and the flight enough, that your decisions can be made, acted upon, and then confirmed, rather than a rushed guess, which under stress was later found to be wrong, and the whole decision has to be made again, with much less margin now...

My VFR experience has always been that with a good plan for the flight before you leave the ground, you are rarely doing much math once underway....

some basic mental sums as you are going to have to do this while flying the aircraft at times

One thing they don't get you to do at school (well, they didn't get me to do it, and everyone says the maths teaching is getting worse rather than better) is doing approximate trigonometric calculations in your head - whether you were brought up with tables, slide rules or calculators, nobody expected you to remember more than about four sines and cosines.

The rule of thumb for approximating crosswind components (one sixth of the wind speed for each ten degrees off the runway) I can remember, and is just a ludicrously extreme version of the approximation you know anyway, that "sin x ~= x for small x". Whilst the result is seriously inaccurate, at least it's so in the right direction, that of safety - using that approximation you won't mistakenly try to land with a wind above your crosswind limit.

But the tricks for calculating wind correction angles in the hold (you won't need this for the PPL, it's IMCr stuff) and so on I have more trouble with. I can worth this out mathematically on the ground, but I have trouble remembering apparently random rules of thumb for approximating things in the air.

Non-programmable electronic calculators are allowed in PPL exams (i've checked this with the CAA) however you might find examiners that don't believe this, so check with them before you go into the exam room.

The maths is minimal and you can use a calculator in the exams anyway. The most important thing is to get used to doing mental sums, because in a real situation when flying you aren't going to start digging a calculator out of your bag. I would say that the emphasis really should be on situational awareness and how the wind is affecting your flight and take off/landing. It's just very basic trig and there are totally idiot proof simple ways of calculating stuff like that which your instructor will show you.

Also you say you haven't started the actual flying yet so it wouldn't hurt while you're driving just to do a few simple time/distance calculations IE 'I'm on the motorway doing 70mph and it's 20 miles to my turn off, how long is it going to take me?' and then actually time yourself to see if you get it right. I know it's rare to be able to keep a constant speed but even so, if you arrive late or early at your turn off try and work out what your actual speed was. It's exactly the sort of thing you'll be doing in your nav exercises.

Edit: Oh and don't worry, if you have the brains to put food on a fork and not miss your mouth then you have the brains to be a pilot...There's a lot of mythology about being a pilot, one of them being that you need to be some kind of superman. Once you have been on here a while you'll soon realise otherwise....

Edit 2: Just seen that you're 17 and may not be driving yet...see we're all idiots really

There isn't much maths involvedin the PPL. The majority is just arithmetic so make sure you can add, subtract,multiply and divide quickly. This is especially important in the Nav exercisesas you will have to give an ETA and then when making a diversion you will needto calculate the heading, speed, distance, time without using a flight computer. It's not difficultbut does require some basic maths.

The only other things which aremaths related in the PPL written exams are: You will need to know that anincrease in load factor (lf) = an increase in stall speed. The equation iswritten like = VsoGx= √LF this just means that your stall speed will increaseby the percentage of the square root of the load factor so Vso2G = √2 = 1.44 sothe stall speed at 2G will increase by 44%. That's probably the most difficultmaths you will use at PPL level.

Other equations you may be taughtare: G force experienced = 1/cosa when a=bank angle. So in a 60 degree turn youwill experience 1/cos(60)= 2G.

Hope this helps but don't be tooworried about the last two formulae as you will get taught this in much moredetail in the PPL ground School.

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The CRP/5 which is what you need costs around £35 if you plan on doing cpl you will need the crp/1 which is around £55 , check ebay athough cpl students snap em up .

It's the other way around: CRP/1 is for the PPL and CRP/5 is for the ATPL/CPL.

The equation iswritten like = VsoGx= √LF this just means that your stall speed will increaseby the percentage of the square root of the load factor so Vso2G = √2 = 1.44 sothe stall speed at 2G will increase by 44%. That's probably the most difficultmaths you will use at PPL level.

Jeesh! I'm glad there were none of these things when I did my PPL!

I think they were just trying to make it difficult for Perth folk

D.O.

Last edited by dont overfil; 30th Dec 2012 at 13:45.