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Old 8th Oct 2003, 18:14   #1 (permalink)
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: UK
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Calculators with an ALPHA key

Having just started my ATPL studies I am searching for a suitable calculator. Having read the threads I see that many use either the Casio fx-991ms or the fx-570w.

Looking in the shops I notice that these have an ALPHA key on them. I have been told not to use a calculator with an ALPHA key on it as they are frowned upon by the CAA, so I don't know which to buy.

Am I ok to get one of these or should I get something else ?

Has anyone had any problems using either of the 2 mentioned above with an ALPHA key on them from a CAA point of view?


Northern Highflyer is offline  
Old 8th Oct 2003, 23:00   #2 (permalink)

Why do it if it's not fun?
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I think this rule about not having an Alpha key is rather outdated - it's really not possible to find any calculators which don't have an Alpha key any more, unless you're going to restrict yourself which can't do much more than +, -, * and /

I don't remember the model number of the calculator I used, but I know it had an Alpha key, as did the calculators which all of my class-mates used. I think that the way the invigilators interpret this rule is that you shouldn't use a calculator which is very obviously programmable, i.e. can store formulae for later use.

FlyingForFun is offline  
Old 8th Oct 2003, 23:36   #3 (permalink)
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I searched for a while and eventually found a suitable non alpha (and cheap) type in WHSmiths. Its a whsmith's own called ‘Albert’.

Though I agree with FFF that you would probably be ok, I didn't want to risk getting all that way and meet an invigilator who was having a bad day

Hope it helps

long final is offline  
Old 9th Oct 2003, 02:57   #4 (permalink)
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It is true that calculators with an Alpha key have been banned by CAA examination invigilators in the past. It is also true that all reasonably useful calulators have one these days. This problem was discussed at a CAA CGI's meeting almost a year ago. Unfortunately the CAA answer was something along the lines of "we cannot specify exactly which models of calulators are acceptable and which are unacceptable"

In reality most students go to the exams and use calculators with alpha keys without any objection from the invigilators. Rather than worrying about the apha key it is far more important that you get one that is actually useful. One which can take in and give out data in degrees, minutes and seconds, for example is invaluable in GNav.

If you happen to be unlucky and get picked on by the invigilator for having an alpha key, your best bet would be to lodge an objection on the basis of unfair treatment. Most if not all schools would support you in doing so.
Keith.Williams. is offline  
Old 9th Oct 2003, 18:52   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks for the advice.

I have gone for the Casio fx 570MS which has an alpha key but is non-programmable.

It has the DMS function and also includes conversions which may be useful.

I think it will take me longer to learn how to use this than it will the ATPL's themselves. Calculators have sure come a long way since I was at school.
Northern Highflyer is offline  
Old 9th Oct 2003, 23:13   #6 (permalink)

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I used the fx-991ms in all my exams and had no problems at all with the invidulators. They did inspect it to make sure I hadnt hidden any microfilm cheatsheets in the case but otherwise no worries.
Flypuppy is offline  
Old 10th Oct 2003, 02:54   #7 (permalink)
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Texas, USA
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FAA Common Sense ...

The rules here in the US are that ...

1) If a calculator is programmable, the invigilator must be satisfied that the memory has been cleared of any stored formulae. Most calculators including my TI-68 make this pretty clear, and can be reset easily. Mine is "Clear Mem? Y Y Y -> Memory cleared"

2) The penalty for cheating includes being stripped of the test pass, and being barred from taking another FAA written for 1 (possibly 2) years. You would be pretty dumb to try cheating.

And also, the LaserGrade computer software that I usually encounter at testing locations includes a pretty decent flight computer built right into the testing software. Doesn't do w&b though sadly
kabz is offline  
Old 11th Oct 2003, 05:23   #8 (permalink)
Join Date: Sep 2002
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As I remember (And only because I am too lazy to reach 10 feet to my briefcase and lift it out ) but most of the non programmable calculators that have an alpha key have it for only one function!

This is to allow calculations in hexadecimal (base 16), Counting in hex is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, 1F, 20, 21....

Most Casio calculators will use the Alpha key to access an additional 6 memories (separate from the one used by Min & M+ ot M-) when it is in normal mode (screen showing dec) rather than in hex....

Hope this helps....



P.S. I have an all singing, all dancing £££Hewlett Packard 49G and 9 times out of 10 my £8 Casio FX570 (now about 12 years old) is quicker
shuttlebus is offline  
Old 11th Oct 2003, 19:23   #9 (permalink)
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I used the FX570 for my APTL's

And found it very handy with all the conversions.

I never saw any of the exam halls checking which calculator you are taking in. (Gat and Glasgow)

I presume if you take the piss with a FX7000G or the like you will get caught but lets face it unless the invigilators have any form of technical trade they won't know the difference between different types, unless of course you have a massive graphical screen.

mad_jock is offline  
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