A Student Pilot’s Blog

Final ATPL exams at Bristol Groundschool – 1 month to go…

It’s exactly one month today until I sit the first of the final six exams for Module 3 at Bristol Groundschool. My lack of posting recently is a sure sign of the level of revision I’m undertaking! Lots of early mornings, late nights and revision crammed lunch breaks at work and many more to come!

 I feel the revision is going fairly well, I’ve got a structure in place to follow over the weeks so it means that each subject gets an equal amount of  attention, I’ve structured it so that it will be a mix of exam questions, timed exams and re-reading the manuals. I’ve found that re-reading certain topics is highly beneficial as I’ve understood things better and been able to get my head around certain subject areas when studying them a second time around.
From what I’ve gathered from friends who have just completed Module 3, it certainly pays to gain a really good understanding into some subjects like Principles of Flight (PoF)  and Performance rather than just familiarising yourself with questions. I enjoy PoF and find the content interesting, but need to spend time practicing more and more exam questions. Mass and balance is quite systematic but again, I need to practice more and more as the time restraints will be a concern in the exam!
Anyway till next time, thanks for reading.
Richard Gale

Bristol Groundschool training continues….

BGS Graphs and Diagrams

Just another quick update from me with regards to the ongoing Module 3 study. I’ve now completed all the required reading for VFR/IFR Comms, Mass & Balance and Operational Procedures, next up is pure revision for them!
As the title suggests, I’m confronted with more and more diagrams and graphs for subjects like Principles of Flight (POF) and Performance whether it being force diagrams or lift/drag graphs. I’m really enjoying POF, which surprised me, maybe because it’s interesting and I can relate it to my ‘physical experience’ of flying an aircraft. I have a little more to read for these two subjects then it will be onto revision as per the other subjects
I also booked my exams earlier in February with the plan to take them at the end of May. I was quite shocked at how the sittings were already being booked up, so I had to act fast! It also meant paying for them in advance so six exams at £68 wasn’t a pleasant welcome to the bank account! Anyway, at least I can rest in confidence that they are all booked, just now to revise and prepare! Time to go to town with post it notes and flash cards!!
I’ll try and update sooner next time, as always thanks for reading 🙂
Richard Gale

The Final Push – Module 3 with Bristol Groundschool

Firstly happy new year! 26 days in, not sure I can still get away with saying that!  Anyway first post of 2017 so here goes…

Going back to the end of last year, after a tense wait before Christmas I received those valuable emails from the CAA, it was results day! Luckily all Module 2 subjects passed – Aircraft General Knowledge, Air Law, Flight Planning and Radio Navigation. This was a great relief and thankful yet again to Bristol Groundschool for this success!
After a few days off for Christmas, I then started reading the content for the final 6 exams. I set myself a deadline and booked the brush-up revision week at Bristol Groundschool for the end of May 2017, giving myself sufficient time to study for the following final exams:
– Performance
– Principles of Flight
– Mass & Balance
– Operational Procedures
– IFR Communications
– VFR Communications
The study is so far going well, and I’ve now got an appreciation of the more harder subjects and the easier ones. Performance and Principles of Flight seem quite mathematical in places whereas Ops Procedures is fairly factual based, IFR and VFR Comms was completed in a week!
So back to the books I go, until next time…

2016 – An airborne review by Bristol Groundschool student Richard Gale

As 2016 ends, I thought I’d share a few moments from the year relating to all things aviation, in no particular relevant order!

In the cruise on way to Hurghada ,Egypt, for a post exam holiday, on-board a Thomson Boeing 737-800

Looking smug after first Aeros flight in the Harvard

Looking smug after my first Aeros experience in the Harvard 

DC3 appearing at the Goodwood Revival 

The Needles, IOW pictured during an engine run-in flight in a Cessna 172
Prior to boarding to Vancouver on Air Transat Airbus A330-300, surprise holiday from my girlfriend! 

In the cruise overhead Greenland, Gatwick to Vancouver 
Downtown Vancouver Seaplane terminal 
Prior to boarding a DHC-2 Beaver seaplane for a short flight around Vancouver, really exciting! 
A few shots of the DHC-2 cockpit display 
Head in the charts…ATPL study in progress, Flight Planning and Monitoring to be precise! 

A frosty start to the day at the flying school, two Cessna 172s at rest before a busy day 

In the climb out from Goodwood, Chichester in view. On-board a PA38 
Myself looking super smug again after soloing the Piper Super Cub for the first time during my tailwheel conversion in August. 

Preparing for the revision week

One week to go!

Once again, apologies for the lack of posts recently, a week tomorrow I pack up my car and head to my accommodation in Bristol prior to the revision/brush up week and following Module 2 exams at Bristol Groundschool.

Revision is in full swing at the moment as I undertake mock exams and questions on the hugely helpful Bristol BGSonline question bank!
I’ve also found that creating digital flash cards has helped me to revise, creating questions and answers and reviewing them frequently. There are a number of decent apps for the smartphone or tablet which enable you to study whenever, wherever-really useful for people like me!
I’m looking forward to consolidating my revision during the revision week and finally get the next batch of exams done, which will be between 19th and 21st December and then head home for Christmas for a break!
Anyway enough from me for now, till next time…thanks for reading.

Bristol Groundschool – Module 2 progress

29th September 2016

August and September were busy months mixed with flying, work, study and birthdays, so I found time to study more during the evenings. The pace of study and revision is building by the week as I work towards my revision and exam weeks at Bristol Groundschool in December, I’ve got a strange feeling two and quarter months are going to whizz by, so preparing myself now!!

I’ve just finished reading the lessons for Air Law and Radio Navigation and nearing completion of the other two subjects. Thankfully I have moved on from electricity in AGK (by no means my favourite subject!) and just finishing up on Powerplants, some of this is familiar from PPL theory (piston engines) whilst some parts not so, but interesting all the same!
In Flight Planning and Performance, I’ve recently covered VFR and IFR Navigation, which again I found very interesting but a very high degree of accuracy is certainly needed when reading the charts as I found out! I’m now covering the fuel planning topics which should near completion of this subject.
Anyway, just a short post this time, I will try to update regularly as I can when time allows!
Thanks for reading.

Bristol Groundschool student – newly qualified tail-dragger pilot!

23rd August 2016

blogger-image-1552062286 - Gale - downwind leg








The seated position of concentration, holding height in downwind leg!  

blogger-image-339817692- - Goodwood

Downwind for runway 24 at Goodwood.


Last Wednesday I landed the Cub, kept the aircraft straight during the landing roll and taxied off the active runway.  I stopped momentarily, with a huge grin on my face and a series ‘wahooo’ exclamations! I’d flown the Super Cub solo around the circuit for the first time, completing the final stage required for  my tailwheel conversion.
 I really enjoyed all the training towards gaining this endorsement on my licence having completed the general handling, ground handling and a lots and lots of circuits! Working in flying school ops, I was lucky to gain quite a few ‘taxy’ trips taking the Cub from its daytime spot outside the flying school to its night-time retreat in the hangar. This helped me to gain experience and confidence in taxying a tail dragger on the ground. With this training under my belt, I will continue to hone my skills on flying tailwheel, alongside tricycle gear aircraft, and fly on a more regular basis once my ATPLs are complete.
I am incredibly thankful to all the patient instructors I flew with! (You know who you are!) and of course to the Air League who provided me with the bursary to undertake this training.
Apart from flying, my evenings have been spent making steady progress through the lessons of  ATPL Module 2. I’ve nearly finished Air Law and will soon undertake mock exams for this via the BGS online question bank-a life saver amongst many students!! I’m currently working through flight planning which so far I find enjoyable, the same can’t be said for AGK electrics that’s for sure!! I find this challenging but will spend extra time to learn the fundamentals of this important topic.
As always thanks for reading, till next time…
(All photos thanks to instructor Charlotte Dadswell).


Tail wheel conversion… the start

 July 2016

Last Sunday I began the first step towards the  training required to gain a tail wheel conversion on my license, flying in the Piper Super Cub (150hp) G-DRGL belonging to Goodwood Flying School, where I work.

But how did I get to be in this position? The answer is, a very grateful one, as I was granted a flying bursary from a generous sponsor through the Air League in April 2016 which I will use to cover my tailwheel tuition. After completing Module 1 of the ATPLs with Bristol Groundschool, I couldn’t wait to get started on the Cub.

In order to gain the conversion, the training covers aircraft taxying ( appreciation on the position of the centre of gravity and wind direction) general handling and plenty of circuits to master the take-off and landing.

I found taxying the aircraft a challenge, because  I’m not the first pilot to admit that I haven’t used my feet much during taxi and sometimes flying! Taxying a tailwheel aircraft opens up many new challenges that must be overcome, like having a constant appreciation of the wind direction and how best to move the control surfaces to stop the wind playing havoc and turning the aircraft on its nose!  Something I never wish to see!! Secondly due to the high nose attitude, myself and the instructor behind me have a limited view ahead, so it’s important to gently weave the aircraft to clear the path ahead.

My next lesson is on Saturday so it’ll likely be in the circuit learning how to take off and land in a tail dragger! Can’t wait!

ATPL study is still going well alongside work and flying. I’ve decided to focus more on one subject at a time and currently working through the more challenging topics of aircraft electrics in AGK!

More to follow next time…


Module 1 ATPL Results!

JUNE 2016

So after a short wait, I received my results for the four Module 1 ATPL subjects last week,and I was relieved to find I had passed them all! I came away from the General Navigation exam unsure if I had passed, as I struggled to finish it in time, the two hours allocated for the exam is by far the quickest two hours I have ever known!!

I passed the following exams:
-General Navigation
-Human Factors and Limitations
-Aircraft Instruments
Overall I am very pleased with the outcome and realise that all the revision paid off and can’t thank Bristol Ground School enough for the brush up week which prepared me well for the exams.
After a quick break, I’ve begun study for Module 2 comprising of the following subjects:
 – Aircraft General Knowledge (AGK)
– Air Law
– Flight Planning
– Radio Navigation
So 4 down, 10 to go!
Thanks for reading.

Bristol Groundschool revision week and exams – Module 1

Sunday 5 June 2016

Since finishing the reading of Bristol Groundschool Module 1 which includes 4 subjects, I’ve been working flat out on revision towards the first set of exams – General Navigation, Meteorology, Instruments and Human Factors and Performance.
During the last week of May I packed my car up with two-weeks worth of clothes, revision books and some food and set off to a lovely village called Churchill, south of Bristol where I  stayed whilst attending the brush-up revision week and exams at Bristol Groundschool.
The brush-up week consisted of revision sessions from 8.45-17.00, Mon-Fri in all four Mod 1 subjects. I found this week extremely beneficial to help prepare us for the forthcoming exams, we studied aspects of each topic in detail, especially if it’s notoriously tricky as well as plenty of past exam questions. A lot of people brought lunch with them but there is a Tesco about 10 mins walk/2 mins drive away for those who wish to buy lunch. I was thankful that tea/coffee and water was available all day at BGS which certainly helps when my brain was starting to fry!!
The instructors were first class, extremely knowledgeable, passionate and provided plenty of hints and tips for the exams! Help and support is in abundance at Bristol whether that be through the instructors, admin staff or amongst other students, where I made some great friends. Instantly I knew all the previous self study at home for Mod 1 was worth it!
Bristol Groundschool classroom
Books open ready for study! 
After an intense but enjoyable week of revision courses, it was time to face the exams!  I’d chosen to do my exams at BGS straight after revision as I wanted to retain the continuity which meant I took less time away from work,plus it was reassuring to take exams in a location where  I was already familiar with . The exams are conducted electronically with each workstation equipped with a laptop.
A lot of my fellow students did the same as me whilst some were to take the exams in future sittings.
I sat my Mod 1 exams over three days, Gnav on Tuesday, Met and Human Performance on Wednesday and Instruments on Thursday I found all exams very challenging and tough, particularly Gnav and Instruments! Now I’m just (anxiously) awaiting to hear back my results from the CAA!!
Until next time, thanks for reading!

ATPL Revision at the ready…

April 2016

Just a quick update from my world amongst the ATPL study folders! I’ve now read and completed all progress tests for the four module 1 subjects after 5.5 months of study! But the work is by no means coming to an end, I’m now into the revision stage, preparing myself for the four exams in early June!

blogger-image-1811838237Together with the revision, the progress tests have been extremely beneficial to indicate my strengths and weaknesses, allowing me to focus on areas which need more work alongside hitting the question bank daily.

A little over a month from now, I will pack my bags for Bristol and attend the brush up revision week before the exams. I’m looking forward to this as it will help fine tune my revision and understanding as well as meeting other BGS students!

Until next time…thanks for reading

Progress so far…

Essentials for revision, thanks Wilko, top bargain!

Essentials for revision, thanks Wilko, top bargain!

January 2016

So, nearly two months into Module 1 now and the work pace and content is really picking up, with constant flow of lessons and progress tests. I feel like I am learning more facts, acronyms, diagrams than anything ever before, my poor little brain is beginning to fry! But as I’ve heard from many other ATPL ‘graduates’ it’s to be expected and to be honest I’m finding it all very interesting and enlightening even if I grumble when attempting to read through ‘Polar Stereo chart projections’ in a Friday night after a day of work!

As a very basic list, I have touched on 3 of the Mod 1 subjects-Met, GNav, Instrumentation and studied aspects like;

Pressure instruments
Moisture and convection
Chart projections
Distance calculations-rhumb lines, great circle tracks

…To name but a few. The learning curve is steep but I’m determined to achieve first time passes in the exams so I am throwing in the hard work and effort!

I am working to a loose schedule, so I plan to attend the revision/brush up week in lovely Somerset around the end of May and immerse myself into the first batch of exams in early June…gulp!!

As you have probably seen in the opening picture, I bought myself some revision essentials. I have been recommended using a whiteboard to scribble down various diagrams, facts etc- basically any way to drum it into my head! And ofcourse plenty of high lighters and post it notes to litter the walls of my room in revision goodness!

Till next time…

In the beginning…

In March 2015, I was fortunate enough to win The Air League / Bristol Ground School ATPL (A) scholarship. These are the 14 ground exams I need to pass in order to reach my goal of becoming a commercial pilot.

In the beginning: ATPLs unwrapped! One BIG parcel!

ATPLs unwrapped! One BIG parcel!

The EASA ATPL (A) includes the study of the following;

  • Aircraft General Knowledge- Instrumentation
  • General navigation
  • Meteorology
  • Human Performance
  • Radio Navigation
  • Aircraft General Knowledge-airframes,systems,powerplants
  • Air Law
  • Flight planning and Monitoring
  • Operational Procedures
  • Principles of flight
  • Performance
  • Mass and Balance
  • Communications-VFR/IFR

November 2015

Alongside the hefty study folders below, I plan to undertake the online lessons and progress tests (through ATPdigital)  on my iPad mini. The advantage of this being I can study away from home, on the move, or even at work! (During those glorious washout days the airfield!!) The huge advantage being that the software and content can be automatically synched over an Internet connection. Whilst studying alongside my full time job, as an estimate I should complete my ATPL studies by spring 2017.
So, before I tackle the first subject (AGK-Instrumentation), first job is to complete the maths and physics module.Since being out of education since only this summer I think refreshing my amateur maths skills can only be a bonus!!  This introductory module is extremely beneficial as it will allow me to form a solid foundation before tackling the more technical elements of the studies.

The exciting contents of the parcel

The exciting contents of the parcel.

All logged in! Time to tackle the maths

All logged in! Time to tackle the maths.

That’s it for now, I shall be keeping this blog updated during my ATPL studies , when time and brain power allows!! Once again I am extremely grateful to The Air League and Bristol Ground School for this scholarship and opportunity to reach one step closer to my aim of gaining a commercial license.

Thanks for reading.


About Richard Gale

Richard Gale
Richard Gale is a student pilot, studying with Bristol Groundschool as part of his commercial pilot training, towards his EASA Commercial Pilot’s Licence. He is planning to write a blog throughout his training to provide aspiring pilots with an insider’s point of view.  Richard completed his PPL in 2012 and has since gained his night rating in 2014.  Richard was lucky enough to win a scholarship through The Air League and Bristol Groundschool to start his ATPL theory training in March 2015. He is continuing his flight training in parallel with his studies. Follow Richard as he continues his training towards his goal of becoming an airline pilot.