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CASA - ATPL Theory

Old 3rd Mar 2019, 06:41
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CASA - ATPL Theory

Hi guys,

So I Just completed my last ATPL subject and I thought that I'd shed some light on the experiences that I've had with each subject and the exams associated with them. I'm doing this purely because I wish I had something like this when I was studying, and also to help those who are struggling. Just as a reference I only had a PPL at the time, so there's no reason why the inexperienced pilot can't complete these exams.

The ATPL Subject's aren't fun, and trying to find the study material is also pretty complicated. Basically the stuff that I and many other instructors have been using are old recycled notes from Nathan Higgins over at Advanced Flight Theory and also some notes from Flight Theory Adelaide, who as you know do training programs for multiple Airlines throughout the world, so their stuff is very good. The downside however to these notes being really good is that there is a lot of material in there that whilst is good to know, doesn't apply to the exam that you're studying. Nathan's notes are pretty good, but on some concepts he's only given a one sentence description of how that object / concept works, when really he should be describing it in as much detail as possible and also giving examples. Also in Nathan's notes there are a few areas that don't apply to your exam. The only way you can get around this is by checking whats in the Manual of standards on the casa website, and then studying accordingly. It sucks, but it is what it is.

I used the following notes for each exam :

Human Factors - Bob Tait's CPL Human Factors Book in combination with Flight Theory Adelaide Notes.

People Online will tell you that Human Factors is quite easy, but realistically it actually harder than everyone perceives. I struggled to Understand Threat and Error Management, and how it was written in the actual exam can sometimes throw you off. I ended up getting 88% after using some of the FTA notes. Bob Tait's CPL book will get you 75% of the way there, there's a little bit extra that you need which is covered in the FTA notes. I've had mates pass on just the Bob Tait book, but I think that may have came down to a bit of luck. Overall for Human factors, remember all the key facts from the Bob Tait book and have a really good understanding of how Threat and Error Management works, I've had mates in the past have a third of their exam consist of TEM's.

Meteorology - FTA Notes and Bob Tait's CPL Meteorology Book

This was the easiest exam that I experienced. There's no casa bullshit questions, Its either you're right or you're wrong. FTA notes got me a pass first go. You could use the Bob Tait CPL Meteorology book as a reference if need be. CPL Met and ATPL Met are practically identical, except that with the ATPL exam you have to understand how High Altitude charts work, and the weather that's associated ( Jet Stream's ). You will get questions on High Altitude charts and Jet streams so be prepared, everything else is very similar to CPL Met.

Flight Planning - Andrew Baumanis Online Course ( 2 Weeks )

Flight Planning is the hardest subject that most students struggle to pass. I did the course through Andrew who specializes in ATPL and IREX theory over in Perth. He doesn't do much theory providing anymore, but he does tutor and do the hard subjects like Flight Planning and Performance and Loading and IREX. He does everything online, but he requires around 4 students to put a course together, so if you know of 3 others who want to tackle this subject all at once, then this is by far your best option. Others will tell you to go to Nathan Higgins over in Queensland, the issue is that you've have to pay for flights, accommodation and everything associated with travelling all to be stuck in a classroom with 40 other Students. Nathan's course is only 9 days, where Andrews is 2 weeks + Ongoing support. And Andrew also states that if you don't pass you're more than welcome to sit on in, in the next course free of charge. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Nathan, its just I'd prefer to go through Andrew as there's less costs associated and its more of a 1 on 1 situation, which to me feels like more bang for your buck.

Some people have studied this from old notes, but you've gotta be super intelligent and understand the process behind everything really well. The issue with self studying is that practice exams are no longer correct as your maps change every 3 months. So it can be sometimes difficult to see if you're answer is correct or not. I could rant on about Flight Planning until the cows come home. I failed once with a mark of 66% and went back 4 days later and passed. If I had any tips, its to know when to do a full flight plan and when to do only half. In some questions you can save yourself precious minutes by only doing half a flight plan. As everyone says, its an easy 5 hour exam that's gotta be done in 3 hours. With that being said, get the big questions ( 4 and 5 Markers ) out of the way at the start of the exam, and then come back for all of the 1 markers. I actually really enjoyed flight planning, and once you get the hang of it, its really quite easy. Also make sure youunderstand the limitations imposed on abnormal operations. From memory, some abnormal operations have a different MTOW and Max landing weight.

Performance and Loading - Andrew Baumanis Online Course ( 3 Day Conversion Course )

This subject isn't too difficult, Andrew offered me the 3 day conversion course pretty cheap and I wanted to get through this subject quickly, so I did it. Honestly you could study this one online, its not too difficult. Just make sure when you're drawing your charts up your lines are dead straight. The tolerance on an A3 sheet of paper on some questions are only 0.4mm which is ******* ridiculous, but that is casa for ya. I failed once with a mark of 69.4% and went back a week later and passed. Make sure you lines on your %MAC charts are dead accurate. Take off and landing charts have also got to be very accurate!

Aerodynamics and Systems - Nathan Higgins and FTA Notes.

This subject was my worst nightmare. I spent around 6 weeks ( 4 Days a week ) just getting through the notes, and that wasn't even all of them. The FTA notes are ridiculously detailed and go on for what seems like forever. Nathan's notes were very good for this subject, so I used his notes with FTA as a back up if i didn't completely understand a particular concept. This subject is all recall questions however you need to remember literally a **** tonne of information. I struggled with this subject just because my Aerodynamics Knowledge wasn't 100%. I failed once with a mark of 64% and went back about 3 weeks later and got 70%, I'd say I got pretty lucky. Remember to focus on the Aerodynamics side of things. In my casa exams I had a lot of questions to do with Aerodynamics, and make sure you understand how air flows and moves in front and behind a sound wave! One tip I found handy is if you don't completely understand a particular concept, there were multiple videos online that would explain it. I'd post some links, but PPRuNe won't allow me as of yet.

Navigation - Nathan Higgins Notes / Andrew Baumanis Notes

Nathans and Andrews notes aren't too bad, but lack some mapping questions, but all in all are pretty good. In the exam I found I had plenty of time to go over the 3 mark questions, yet I was still getting the questions wrong. Make sure you understand how all the instruments work! All of my mapping questions in the exam always gave your position in terms of what radial you were on or what the DME was reading, they never actually gave me a set location to start with. Make sure you know the scale of the map you're using, because all of the 20 or so maps that you're allowed in the exam have different scales, so keep an eye on that. In terms of True Altitude let me clear something up. Nathans Method is incorrect, where as Andrews method is correct. If you go and have a look through universities and also through the EASA Exams in Europe that both refer to how Andrew does his True Altitude Calculations. I've also asked Gavin Secombe from CASA and he has confirmed that the correct way to calculate True Altitude is as follows.
4ft x ( Feet AGL / 1000 ) x ISA deviation = True Altitude Correction
Make sure you use Ft AGL! If the Temperature is Hotter you Add, Colder you subtract.

Air Law - Nathan Higgins AFT Notes.

Air law was interesting. This Subject took me all of 8 days as there isn't really much study to do, but more learn whats in each document and where to find it. One thing I would recommend is to not take everything into the exam. Find out whats applicable and only take that. There is no point flicking through pages that you don't need. In my casa exam I had a few questions in regards to flight and Duty times from both the Old and the new CAO 48.1's. I also had some IREX related questions, so I would highly recommend doing your IREX before the exam as it somewhat prepares you for Air Law. There are a lot of questions in regards to maintenance, such as who can carry out the maintenance. I had a couple of questions on unserviceable Instruments, and also Oxygen Requirements. If you use Nathans notes some of his questions are word for word what is in the exam.

Good luck to everyone attempting these exams, I hope that this helps you a little! Also if anyone's looking for a pilot to hire, I should have my CPL very soon, and will be on the hunt for a Job!
Cheers,
xCartzy is offline  
Old 3rd Mar 2019, 22:10
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Thumbs up

Excellent info. I'm sure there will be plenty thinking of doing the exams will be able to gleam some helpful stuff out of that detailed post.
a hundred years ago I did a full time course with Nathan, was tuff but Nathan got the whole class thru despite a broad age and experience level -
Good luck to all those that are on this difficult journey, something you will look back on some day sitting up there at 37000 ft and think I'm only using a small proportion of that knowledge-


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Old 4th Mar 2019, 08:13
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xCartzy - good of you to make such a detailed and thorough write-up for the benefit of your peers.
I do wish to perhaps make some suggestions to clear up some of what you said, however:
Nathan's course is only 9 days, where Andrews is 2 weeks + Ongoing support.
Nathan's course comes with the "+Ongoing support" and the ongoing support is excellent! I experienced exceptional service from Nathan and I highly recommend his Flight Planning Course.
It does appear that you didn't actually purchase any of AFT's (Nathan's) courses, which is fine, people on-sell/share/swap books all the time - however be aware that the support that comes with the purchase of the AFT courses/books is TOP NOTCH!
Cheers.
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Old 4th Mar 2019, 10:01
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If I was an employer in GA (which Iím not), I reckon Iíd message you and offer you to call me for a job when your CPL is finished.

You seem to have your proverbial in a pile, which is a rare thing these days.

Good on you for posting something positive and helpful.
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Old 4th Mar 2019, 21:15
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Great post and best of luck for the future. I'm in my early days of getting a CPL but this has managed to motivate me to get started on the end game theory.
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Old 11th Mar 2019, 19:56
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Hi xCartzy

Great write-up! Iím sure many (myself included) will get enduring value out of this.

Can I clarify one point...
Originally Posted by xCartzy View Post
Just as a reference I only had a PPL at the time...
Did you have the CPL(A) theory complete? I ask, because Iím in the process of converting a foreign licence and CASA indicate that prior to sitting any ATPL exam the candidate must hold an Australian CPL(A) or have completed the seven CPL(A) theory exams. My concern is that it will be a case of waiting until the conversion process is complete prior to being able to sit any ATPL exam.

Thanks in advance and thanks again for the write-up.

Cheers

BE
Burleigh Effect is offline  
Old 13th Mar 2019, 14:54
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Hi Burleigh Effect,

Yes I did have CPL(A) theory credit prior to attempting and completing the ATPL Exams. I think it may be best to Ask Gavin Secombe who's the head of CASA's exams. His email is ; [email protected] . In terms of your CPL licence conversion, have CASA asked you to complete any exams? If not then I'd say that you'd more than likely have to wait for the conversion to be completed before you attempt any ATPL Exams, but it would be best to email him. One thing that might be worth doing if you already haven't is the Instrument Rating Exam ( IREX )

Cheers,
xCartzy is offline  
Old 20th Mar 2019, 08:47
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Originally Posted by xCartzy View Post
Hi Burleigh Effect,

Yes I did have CPL(A) theory credit prior to attempting and completing the ATPL Exams. I think it may be best to Ask Gavin Secombe who's the head of CASA's exams. His email is ; [email protected] . In terms of your CPL licence conversion, have CASA asked you to complete any exams? If not then I'd say that you'd more than likely have to wait for the conversion to be completed before you attempt any ATPL Exams, but it would be best to email him. One thing that might be worth doing if you already haven't is the Instrument Rating Exam ( IREX )

Cheers,
Hi xCartzy

Thanks yet again for the great info. Iíll email Mr Secombe to get his perspective. I do need to do the conversion exams (FAA to CASA) and will find out if this then meets the theory requirements or if I would need to conduct the check flight, and be issued a CASA CPL(A) prior to being eligible to sit the ATPL theory exams.

Cheers

BE
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Old 21st Mar 2019, 01:09
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Great post xCartzy. I have also just finished the ATPL syllabus and am very glad to have it out of my life!
I was able to self study 5 out of the 7 subjects. I used an on line course for Nav and FPL with Rob Avery. He goes into deeper detail than some of the Higgins stuff, but I found it worked for me. The support he offers is also excellent.
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Old 27th Mar 2019, 06:59
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HI thanks for the post. You said one can study Perf and Loading online. Can you tell me which website can it be studied online?
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Old 28th Mar 2019, 01:21
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Great post, thankfully I did my ATPL years ago. One thing I would love to know is how are you expected to pass Systems when all the syllabus books referred to as reference material have not been in print since 1988! The books do not exist anymore and some of the Systems questions refer directly to those books. Good luck with your career mate.
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Old 31st Mar 2019, 13:34
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Originally Posted by PPSS View Post
HI thanks for the post. You said one can study Perf and Loading online. Can you tell me which website can it be studied online?
Hi PPSS,

I paid Andrew Baumanis for an Online performance and loading course which took only a couple of days. Highly recommend his courses, he knows his stuff back to front! He still runs his company Flying Theory Solutions, maybe contact him and see what he can do for you, I think he requires a couple of students before he runs a course but It'd be best to email him.

Cheers,
xCartzy is offline  
Old 3rd Apr 2019, 13:25
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Great post and thanks for the advice. Where did you get hold of the FTA notes; I can't seem to find or buy them anywhere.
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Old 23rd May 2019, 01:18
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Nav True alt calcs

Hi xCartzy,

Can you confirm that the true alt calcs always use AGL even when the question has given infromation using area QNH instead of local? Because you get wildly different answers depending on which number you use. Here is an example from Higgins:

You are cruising at A070 directly above a mountain with elev 6420ft. QNH is 1001 OAT -14degrees. The RADALT would indicate:

using the formula above; 4ft x (580 / 1000) x 15 = 35 (7000-35= 6965 = 545 RADALT)

However if you substitute AMSL for AGL; 4 x (7000/1000) x 15 = 420 (7000-420= 6580 = 160ft RADALT)

Using a CR3 if you line up A070 with -14degrees in the true altitude window, you can see that true altitude is in fact around the 6600 mark or just under, making the second formula correct.

Can you please clarify if I am missing something. Cheers
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Old 24th May 2019, 04:59
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Hi Plot Plot,

To begin with you have to calculate the pressure altitude to then find out your temperature deviation from ISA. So In the example youíve used, the QNH is 1001, cruising Altitude is 7000ft and the OAT is -14.

Firstly youíve got to work out the pressure altitude, so for this example - (1013-1001) x 30 = 360ft. We then add this to our cruising height of 7000ft, so 7360ft.

We then round the 7360 to the nearest 500ft which is 7500ft giving a ISA temp of 0 degrees, thus a deviation of 14 degrees. Hopefully this changes your answer, if it doesnít Iíll dive a little deeper when I get him from work. Also remember that your CR3 isnít the most accurate piece of machinery.

Cheers,
xCartzy is offline  
Old 24th May 2019, 12:03
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Plot plot - Important thing to consider is that these type of questions are not asking you to know some magic formula. In fact, these questions are trying to weed-out people who memorise formula but don't understand what's going on.

They are really asking: #1 do you understand the situation, and #2 do you know enough to apply basic info to solve the problem.

If you get lucky, maybe you happen to know an appropriate formula, but if you're not lucky on the day, the question doesn't match the formula. For all these type of questions, if you actually understand the situation, and know a little bit about the subject, you can work it out. So think about the situation and what it means, then apply what you know.
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Old 24th May 2019, 12:30
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It's not the formula that is hurting my head at the moment, it is determining which elements of information are to be used in said formula. I don't even use the formula I just use the CR3 much quicker and has been treating me well up until this moment. I had it all figured out and then reading a more accurate comment somewhere else that true altitude is really applicable to a column of air above a point on a sphere. Which stands to reason that AGL is the number that should be used and not AMSL. Which would make this question redundant because he's asking for a height above a specific point but is not providing an accurate QNH source.

Thanks xCartzy, but it doesn't change the answer by enough to justify that Higgins still says that the answer is 188ft, which you only get when using AMSL figures. This is what is baking my noodle; even if you allow for pressure height, the answers you get when using AMSL or AGL are different by hundreds of feet

When working off pressure altitude, in AGL;

4ft x (940/1000) x 14 = 56.4,
7000 - 56.4 = 6944
6944 - 6420 = 524.

I know the CR3 isn't the most accurate machine, but it's not out by several hundred ft unless you've done something wrong. I'm just going to assume that the questions in the exam are going to be asking for a height AGL and providing an accurate QNH, not area QNH. This isn't my first ATPL rodeo, and I know what CASA is trying to bleed out of you, I just wanted to check that I haven't spent hours building a working knowledge on a concept from an incorrect source. Which I'm going to need tomorrow haha.
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Old 25th May 2019, 05:23
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Well I just got back with a nice big 68% on the KDR sheet I don't know what it was but I just wasn't in the right mindset this morning for CASA's usual bull**** of asking a question in such a conceited way that you second guess yourself when you know the right answer because of their choice of wording.

Very disappointing result when I only have 6 KDR's in 29 questions. Doesn't help when you flunk both the 3 markers. Was completely stumped by the PSD question where I have been using Higgins' method of process of elimination of multiple choice answers. That's kinda hard when they want the answer written in the box now, so no answers to choose from. The question itself made no sense to me as the total endurance was not going to get the aircraft to it's destination in the first place. If anyone could shed some light on another way of working out PSD's without using the process of elimination method I'd be really appreciative because I'm stumped with that one.

Did get the true altitude one wrong as well. The CR3 is also rendered useless when they want the answer written in a box now. Surely they must have a buffer either side of the exact answer for these q's. If someone could answer this one for me I'd again be very appreciative:

You are overhead Canberra YSCB at A060. YSCB elev is 1886, QNH 1009 and OAT on the ground 0*C

What I did:

Pressure height of a.c. = (1013 - 4) x 30 + 6000 = 6120

ISA dev = -11

6120 - 1886 = 4234

4 x (4234/1000) x 11 = 186

4234 - 186 = 4048AGL.

Can't figure out where I'm going wrong with this.

Re-booked for 2 weeks time...
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Old 26th May 2019, 14:51
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Youíve forgotten to apply your correction to the cruising altitude of 6000ft. Youíre answer should be 6000 - 186 = 5814ft
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Old 28th May 2019, 06:48
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Originally Posted by plotplot View Post
Well I just got back with a nice big 68% on the KDR sheet I don't know what it was but I just wasn't in the right mindset this morning for CASA's usual bull**** of asking a question in such a conceited way that you second guess yourself when you know the right answer because of their choice of wording.

Very disappointing result when I only have 6 KDR's in 29 questions. Doesn't help when you flunk both the 3 markers. Was completely stumped by the PSD question where I have been using Higgins' method of process of elimination of multiple choice answers. That's kinda hard when they want the answer written in the box now, so no answers to choose from. The question itself made no sense to me as the total endurance was not going to get the aircraft to it's destination in the first place. If anyone could shed some light on another way of working out PSD's without using the process of elimination method I'd be really appreciative because I'm stumped with that one.

Did get the true altitude one wrong as well. The CR3 is also rendered useless when they want the answer written in a box now. Surely they must have a buffer either side of the exact answer for these q's. If someone could answer this one for me I'd again be very appreciative:

You are overhead Canberra YSCB at A060. YSCB elev is 1886, QNH 1009 and OAT on the ground 0*C

What I did:

Pressure height of a.c. = (1013 - 4) x 30 + 6000 = 6120

ISA dev = -11

6120 - 1886 = 4234

4 x (4234/1000) x 11 = 186

4234 - 186 = 4048AGL.

Can't figure out where I'm going wrong with this.

Re-booked for 2 weeks time...
I'd do it this way:

Pressure height of aerodrome: 1886 + (4 x 30) = 2006

ISA deviation at the aerodrome, calculated with respect to the pressure height: ISA-11

True Altitude Correction: 4 x (height AGL/1000) x ISA dev = 4 x (4114/1000) x (-11)

True Altitude is therefore: 6000 - 181 = 5819 feet

True Height = 5819 - 1886 = 3933 feet AGL.

Good luck with the second attempt
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