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Deciding between Bristol and Oxford groundschool

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Deciding between Bristol and Oxford groundschool

Old 23rd Nov 2011, 08:52
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Snide comments from competing FTOs are unseemly and will not be tolerated, particularly in a thread where two are being compared.

Unbeknown to most users of the forum the last two posters are asscociated with FTOs; Graham works for Propilot and Sirijus works for Avia / Baltic.

In future such posts will be deleted.

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Old 23rd Nov 2011, 20:42
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The point I'm making isn't snide Halfway back. If you knew anything at all about the state of pilot recruitment and the current concerns of airlines you'd understand that there is almost universal concern amongst them that a straight set of first time ATPL theory passes is no longer a reliable indicator of an essential basic level of aviation knowledge.

Consequently airlines need to look for other indicators of basic competence - particularly given the startling percentage of TRTO fails attributable to lack of basic understanding of aircraft systems and how they work.

It's important for readers of this forum to appreciate that they mustn't take short cuts in their training whether they study with Oxford, Bristol, Padpilot, CATS or whoever.

Given that some schools (UK and European) encourage the short cut approach its all the more important that prospective students are alive to the risks.

Finally Halfwayback I have never made any attempt to hide my connections, past and present, to various training and aviation organisations as you seem to be implying. Quite the contrary in fact.

Last edited by Graham@IDC; 23rd Nov 2011 at 21:05.
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Old 3rd Feb 2012, 21:46
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Graham, I'd like to ask whether you operate in a non teaching environment for your career? If so, I cannot imagine how you could say that most of the ATPL course information is relevant to a flying career. Most of the subjects are so irrelevant as to make the matter a bit of a farce. Take the Gen Nav. What do I and other jet pilots do when we fire up our avionics? We type the route into our FMS. How about Principles of Flight? Those are so far away from anything a pilot needs, and even an engineer would scratch his/her head at the balderdash. The stuff in that exam is important only to an aircraft designer. This is true for most of the crap the JAA serves up. I think there is an argument for saying that the only relevant bits are about Human Perf, Air Law and some of the stuff on weather. Mass and Balance needs to be done for its practical aspects.

To the original enquirer, just get through this load of junk. It's only in Europe where the sanctity of the JAA exams are hallowed. The rest of the world places sensible emphasis on flying skills. I know at least one JAA ATPL holder who can't land in a crosswind. How useful is that!
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Old 16th Feb 2012, 23:07
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Do I operate in a non teaching environment? No, not any more. But I used to, including a thousand hours on military fast jets.

I had the same rather limited attitude to theory until I left the RAF and did my ATPLs. I was staggered and ashamed by what I didn't know.

I accept that it's quite possible to operate without knowing much of this stuff. But you'll be blindly following SOPs and checklists that someone else wrote - without a shadow of an idea why you're doing it. That may be fine for years but one day your ignorance will turn round and bite you in the arse. You'll select the wrong checklist because you missed the subtle nuances of what the failure indications are telling you. Or you'll have no idea at all what to do because the aircraft will throw something at you that no checklist designer had thought of.

Gen nav? I forget the details now but you might try googling the story of the Air NZ DC-10 captain who saved a ferry pilots life when he became hopelessly lost over the south pacific. His fundamental knowledge of the relationship between local time and longitude plus a whole bunch of other utterly awesome airmanship got the guy within reach of land and the SAR services. Something I guess you'll never be able to do because all you know how to do is "type stuff into an FMS".

In fact you don't type stuff into the FMS you type it into the CDU then enter it into the FMS. Splitting hairs? Maybe, or maybe you've got no idea what would happen to the aircraft if both CDUs fail because you don't seem to know the difference between an FMS and a CDU. Flight instruments? Not on your list of essential studies.

Principles of flight? Air France 447. Or my own experience in a Phantom at low speed and full power wondering why it wasnt accelerating - until I remembered an old PoF instructor telling me something about the "back of the drag curve". Fuel too cold when cruising over Siberia in the Winter? Pah - what can I do about it - I've never heard of ram rise.

Mass and Balance and HPF eh? Ah yes no need to understand anything about performance - just blindly read off the figures in the RPM or ACARS print out. Its somebody else's job to make sure I'm safe. Don't make me think - I'm just the pilot.

I can personally testify to one incident when the very sharp and very professional training captains in one airline suspected something wasn't right with the performance data supplied for a new aerodrome that was being added to their route structure. Working from first principles they checked it out. Sure enough it was wrong. The performance data company had to rush out an amendment. Would you have noticed. Nah - performance theory is for cissies, you just type stuff into the FMS.

Other parts of the world just concentrate on flying skills? Ha please don't make me laugh. Ive seen what passes for teaching of flying skills in more countries than I'd care to mention and it frightens me witless. Stall recovery pushing the nose to 40 degrees down, no gate speeds for the circuit, flick rolling an aircraft when trying to spin it. Funny thing is, wherever the unprofessional attitude to studies creeps in, so too does the unprofessional attitude to flying.

But ultimately what really worries me about your attitude is that you seem to have entirely missed the point about what your chosen profession is really about. It's not just thrust settings and smooth flying. Every time you get airborne tens if not hundreds of people put their lives in trust to you. Further hundreds of wives, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters put their trust in you to carry safely those that are most precious to them. It is your duty to honour that trust by being as professional as you possibly can be - in every aspect of your job.

Professionalism in everything you do doesn't guarantee you'll be safe but it's a whole lot safer than your attitude.

Last edited by Graham@IDC; 17th Feb 2012 at 01:32.
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Old 17th Feb 2012, 22:56
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Nice post, Graham.

To the OP, I used CATS, they were fine. There were a couple of Spanish guys on my brush-up course, plus Italians, Germans, French, South African and more... The 3 chunk setup worked well for me, made each exam period that little bit less stressful. I got first time passes on all the subjects, so no wasted time.

I've visited Oxford, and the earlier reference to Bristol QB (ATPLOnline) is wrong only in that it isn't on the quiet, the use of this resource was quite open. Fact is I think everyone uses them. But I wouldn't advise reliance on this, whichever school you use will have their own in-house version, I'm sure.

I can't comment on Bristol's GS material since I haven't seen any. I did borrow a couple of Oxford CDs, which are great for a) putting you to sleep - the narrator is quite monotone; and b) if you can stay awake, explaining stuff quite well.

I get the feeling that wherever you go, if you put the work in, you'll get your passes so no point losing sleep. Just go with any that suits you.
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Old 20th Feb 2012, 20:20
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Afro-anonymous you really don't get it do you.

So, you're cruising in an A380 and then all of a sudden an engine suffers an uncontained failure. The cockpit lights up like a Christmas tree as multiple systems fail. Grab the FCOM and look for the checklist procedure for totally screwed aircraft. Oops there isn't one.

Never mind I'll google AtpOnline, they must have a four option multiple choice question that'll get me out of this fix.

Jeez, I just despair at your kind of thinking. I wonder how you might feel if you, for example, break a leg and just before the anaesthetist puts you under you hear the surgeon say, oh I just did what I had to do to get the job - professionalism I wouldn't worry about that - it's all just slipped away.

You've clearly never experienced an in-flight emergency and clearly haven't a clue what you're talking about.

For any of you who think like Afro-anonymous you need to read this post by Tony Davis:

As an experienced MCC instructor of quite a few years and a Captain with two major airlines and an IRE/TRE on medium and large jets, I would like to pass on my thoughts about the standard of trainees coming out of UK flight schools with 250 hours. Most of you think that you are ready to operate in the RHS of something like a B737 or A320. From what I have observed you are miles away from it.

The lack of technical knowledge in safety critical areas is quite honestly shocking. I am not talking about how an RMI works or how to be a met man, but everyday procedures. Most of you know nothing of regulated take off weights (or mass in newspeak), what you would do if you had an engine failure after V1. You do not know the stopping distance on a foggy runway regarding red and white lights or airport markings. You have not developed any flight management skills and most of you donít have a clue how to fly a SID or a STAR. You have no clue as to ICAO operations and PANS-OPS and a lot of you do not know even what ICAO is. The list goes on and on.

It is not the fault of the students in most cases. The training you receive now is all based on Rote learning and is totally cost driven. The failing falls at the door of the Authority for allowing the system to fail. The reason behind that is mainly cost driven and the lack of properly trained staff.

I have noticed that students from the third world are much more motivated (I suppose that stems from being close to poverty). If you want Europeans in the flight deck in the future then things had better change and fast.

I am hoping that the MPL will rectify a lot of the problems. The only problem there is that the European carriers are not really interested in sponsoring any large number of pilots. MPL is being taken up big time in the Far-East and that is where our future pilots will probably come from.

Quite honestly I now get quite scared sitting in the back as a passenger if anything should go wrong.

Last edited by Graham@IDC; 20th Feb 2012 at 20:55.
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Old 22nd Feb 2012, 14:21
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"You're right Graham@IDC , I don't get it hence observing & trying to learn as i go.."

Excellent, that's exactly the attitude that will get you where you want to go!

Apart from the pure logic of professionalism, one of the reasons I keep banging on about this is because airlines are now very sensitive indeed to the poor level of preparedness exhibited by so many potential candidates for a right hand seat.

They no longer place much credence in a full set of 90% plus pass marks and are looking for other ways to determine whether the applicant is fit for the job.

Much of the stuff you have to learn for the ATPL theory is relevant but the reasons why its relevant are often very poorly explained - if at all. If you try to understand the material (not just memorise it) you'll be much better placed when you come to your type rating course.

Good luck with your career!
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Old 23rd Feb 2012, 16:28
  #28 (permalink)  
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[Just for the record I have no current affiliation to any school. However historically I have instructed for Bristol (a long way back) and (more recently) assisted with some limited parts of their material development. I also wrote a book for Propilot and used to work for Graham for a while. I've been flying aircraft for nearly 30 years including the RAF, General aviation and as a Captain for British Airways. I also have extensive classrom and line training experience.]

The content of a ATPL theory is FAR more relevant than most students think. For sure, some of it is over the top (Electrics for example) but by and large it is worth knowing.

(I do think it could be a bit streamlined, but if I had my way I'd ADD depth in some areas)

There are essentially 5 reasons why you need to know this stuff:

1. To pass your exams so you can get your licence.
2. To pass a technical interview so you can get a Job.
3. To make it easier (a lot easier!) to pass a type rating.
4. To survive when reality throws you a malfunction or combination thereof that is not covered by the book. In particular, how to deal with double binds; this requires deep knowledge so you can assess the relative risks of various courses of action.
5. So that, eventually, when *you* are a management or manufacturers pilot that the procedures you write are based on knowledge rather than a tenuous grasp of reality.

All schools will care about (1).

As for (2) to (5) who can say?

Pasing the exams is the easy bit. For gods sake make it your mission to gain as much knowledge as you can - it's cheap and will equip you well.

And as for the idea that it's so deep you can design the aircraft..... are you kidding? Engineering (design - not maintenance 'engineering') is way beyond the complexity of the ATPLs. Oh, and I have an engineering degree as well, so I know what I'm talking about.

Jamesaidan, you post is one of the worst I've seen in years. You are not only ignorant but proud of it.
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Old 23rd Feb 2012, 23:12
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Regardless of whether you consider that the ATPL Theory is beneficial or not to one's professional flying career, I am sure that there is one area that everyone will be in agreement with and that is the appalling state of the the Central Question Bank maintained by the aviation authorities.

Apart from the FACT that many areas of the syllabus itself are out of date and in some areas technically incorrect, the CQB is riddled with questions which do not stay within the limitations of the syllabus; questions with technically incorrect questions and answers; questions with multiple correct options; questions where the author can't even get the answer mathematically correct owing to incorrect formulae used or just plain poor mathematics, etc.

Then you have examinations where the question selection algorithm obviously hasn't been properly checked as it produces far too many annexes to permit the student to complete the examination in the allocated time, or more recently an annex which was actually a landscape diagram printed in portrait format such that only half the annex was available.

For heaven's sake, how can an aviation regulatory authority claim to be efficiently regulating professional licensing when it can't even produce questions and examinations which meet even the most basic of quality standards?

Are their own standards the benchmark that the authority is going to adopt as baseline criteria for all areas of aviation? Excellent, that'll cut my maintenance bills in half...........maybe not, I'd rather stay alive!

It is simply not good enough, especially when you consider the price that examinees have to pay the sit the exams.

Cut the hypocrisy and lead by example.

If an education authority operated by these standards I'm sure OFQUAL would have something to say about it.

Off soapbox, coat on......taxi!
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Old 24th Feb 2012, 13:35
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I have to agree with Capt Pit Bull. I think its a very good response by him, and ties in with a number of conversations Ive had with other pilots, although there are a few things I would like to add.

I recently finished my ATPLs with Bristol (and would highly recommend them - which I think was the whole point to this post?) so that is the angle Im coming from.

I actually enjoyed studying for my ATPLs just because I enjoy learning, but I also think that my flying has improved because of the better understanding I have of the aircraft (still only flying SEP).
Flight planning and understanding Mass and Balance help a lot, I also feel more confident understanding the weather. Knowing how instruments work and understanding radio nav have helped me when my instruments failed during an IMC flight.

The communications exams are useful, although they are the CAAs biggest con. £68 for VFR and £68 for IFR, each half an hour long and feature some of the same questions!

What I would also argue is that whilst its good to understand electrics, at no point during flight am I going to produce a soldering iron to fix a failed circuit. I also think Air Law contains way to much information from the point of view of the air traffic controller, and things like having to know the annexes off by heart. Id just look it up if I ever needed to know.

I think the exams are what you make of them and like I say I found them interesting (for the most part). What worries me is that I failed POF at first attempt (got 72%), in many ways this was a good thing as I didnt understand the material, so I had to revisit it and make sure I knew and understood it.
The guy sat next to me during my course didnt even make notes during the lectures. He sat on the QB doing test after test all day, and passed first time. What looks better on a CV and is more likely to get you an interview. I just hope that once I get to interview Ive not dumped the important stuff.

That said if I'd had the time (I work full time in a non aviation related career) I probably would of hit the question bank for a couple of weeks before going to Bristol.
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Old 17th Jan 2016, 22:21
  #31 (permalink)  
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ATPL Ground School Full time at Oxford or DL at Bristol Ground School

Dear Capt Pit Bull,

I found your comments very convincing and to the point. I have this thing in my mind that i believe that people who study full time ground school at oxford Aviation Academy will get a better grasp of knowledge than those who study with Bristol Ground School or Oxford Aviation Academy using their Distance learning programmes. I am a very passionate aviator and have logged 60 hours at C172 within last year.. I currently hold ICAO PPL and now want to get to Airline route by efficient and cheapest way possible. Do you think Airlines prefer candidates who finished their ground school full time in ONE GO within Six months or distance learning is looked at as good as full time. I work full time and cannot go to Oxford full time until October this year "2016" but at the same time i do not want to waste time till October. I am confused as i do not want to loose £2500 now( For Distance Learning of Oxford Aviation Academy ) and then to find out that its not really worth it and then fork out another £5500 ( For full time resident studentship) later this year.Please guide me through and I hope i haven't thrown too many questions at you./"I have added your five reasons to learn this stuff " to my sticky notes which are motivating me more now ". Your reply will be much appreciated.

Many thanks
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Old 18th Jan 2016, 05:35
  #32 (permalink)  
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This whole "it isn't relevant" thing again. It is the question bank that is the real problem, and the training for specific answers. I know that some English language schools are teaching potential doctors the phrases to pass the exams rather than the English language. Is this what you would wish for your family? It seems to be what many posters think should be the case for pilots. Do, please, take on board the comments from the expoerienced instructors in this thread - I can assure you that knowledge of the principles of convergency and HF radio are required knowledge in Northern Canada and other remote parts of the world, although you no longer have to calculate the Sun's bearings from a table in their ATP exams.

As far as the syllabus goes, yes, a lot of it may seem irrelevant in the early stage of one's career, but much of it it supports your knowledge of more relevant material - in other words, stuff that any motivated pilot would learn anyway. The difference is that EASA want you to know it before you start flying, as you would expect a doctor to. I have no real problem with that - you will find about 85% of it in the exams for other countries as well. Given that you can't actually teach everything, there ought to be an element of decision making training in there so you can make best use of what you do know - something that certainly wasn't present with the Air France flight mentioned above (I didn't see any reference to the words "I have control" either, so even basic airmanship seemed to be lacking).

As one who has been sitting on the EASA rulemaking committee with reference to changing the LOs, I can report that, while some out of date stuff has been taken out, a lot more up to date stuff has been added (and rearranged), and there is a proposed new exam for mental arithmetic, that is, without calculators.

There is also a proposal to reduce the number of exam attempts to 2, which I thoroughly agree with, and indeed proposed. This is the standard in many other parts of the transport industry of which we are a part.

With my question writer's hat on, I can also say that the nature of the questions is changing as well - for example, instead of asking for a conversion between pounds and kilograms, the question will assume that you have that knowledge and be phrased at a much higher level.

And not before time. I am still of the opinion that the original collaborators on the question banks should hang their collective heads in shame for missing an opportunity to create something world class (which to me is the real crime), and if the schools had confidence in it, students would not have to resort to question banks. But at least that's changing now, led by the industry this time. People such as Graham@IDC have spent much time and trouble asking what they actually want and the new LOs should be ready for publication in March (ish), with a view to the changes being made by 2018, due to the law making process. And kudos should go to EASA for inviting a broad spectrum of representatives onto the committee, from general aviation to major airlines.

We have an eminence gris who is a multi-thousand hour helicopter and 747 pilot, and his advice is to get this knowledge inside your head from the start, because a typical pilot will end up with two or three ICAO licences (he has eight, and the languages to go with them), and you don't waste time relearning sets of dodgy questions.

Jamesaidan - "To the original enquirer, just get through this load of junk. It's only in Europe where the sanctity of the JAA exams are hallowed. The rest of the world places sensible emphasis on flying skills. I know at least one JAA ATPL holder who can't land in a crosswind. How useful is that! "

If you don't know how the vectors work in a helicopter you will kill yourself reasonably quickly. Also, one of the most effective pilots in the Second World War couldn't land or take off in a twin for toffee, and he wasn't even in the Battle of Britain, but Malta - check up on Adrian Warburton - it was his mental skills that made the difference, as they did for George Buerling, a Canadian also in Malta, who spent a lot of time calculating trajectories.


Last edited by paco; 18th Jan 2016 at 07:14.
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Old 18th Jan 2016, 08:39
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The LBA are doing this already, so when you come up with an answer you don't get it right by finding the wrong answers! This may well be implemented around EASA depending on the facilities for the local Authority.

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Old 18th Jan 2016, 12:18
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Hi Paco,

I don't entirely agree that question banks are the origin of the problem, I would argue that it is in the exam questions; many are poorly phrased/translated, have multiple correct answers, are very often context dependent and sometimes just the examiner appears to be trying to show how clever he/she is.

From my own experience, I am well qualified in one of the subject fields (multiple degrees, 10 year research, teaching at postgrad level) to the point that I would be happy to call myself an expert (I also have a foreign CPL). I took a EASA practice exam cold and found to my embarrassment I could barely muster a pass! My downfall wasn't lack of knowledge (honest, guv!), it was the substandard questioning. With a bit of bank bashing I was able to get up to standard (frustratingly still not 100%!). The simple fact is with the current system, you cannot get the mark you deserve purely by knowing and fully understanding the subject matter.

Testing of a persons knowledge is always problematic, but there seems to be an obsession with the minutiae of the syllabus in the EASA exam system, which frightens/forces people into rote learning past question from the banks. If the exams were more focussed on the application of knowledge and principles we might actually enjoy the learning process, get an accurate gauge of the student's knowledge and even retain some of it beyond the exam room door.

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Old 18th Jan 2016, 13:39
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I entirely agreee - the root of the problem to me is not the syllabus as such (although it could be improved) but the implementation of it (sorry if i didn't make that clearer - I was referring to the ECQB). It's fair enough asking a broad spectrum question about Malaria, but a sub-species such as Dingue Fever? Per-lease!! One of our instructors is a heart surgeon and even he had a problem with it.

Given that 20% of the overall questions are in fact wrong, I think it is a disgraceful way to treat people at the start of their career.

Anyhow,< Victor Meldrew mode off>!

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