The UK’s Longest Running ATPL Training Provider Celebrates 30 Years of Pilot Theory Training

Bristol Groundschool (BGS), UK & Europe’s leading ATPL and CPL modular theory provider, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this October.

Leading the way, Bristol Groundschool was the first distance learning school to offer computer-based training way back in 2000, and to put together and publish a question bank for the JAA and then the EASA exams. They were also the first school in the UK to obtain EASA and UK CAA approvals and the first EASA exam centre in the UK, in partnership with AustroControl.

Alex Whittingham (right) with Flight Lieutentant Bob Rowley on an RAF TriStar in 1988

Bristol Groundschool was founded by ex-RAF pilot, Alex Whittingham. In his late 20s, Alex was a wide-body captain flying the RAF’s L1011 Tristar. After he lost his medical in 1990, Alex left the RAF and started a career in ground training.

After working as the Chief Ground Instructor of a number of pilot training schools, Alex started on his own, delivering exam revision courses, particularly for aircraft performance. After writing his own training manuals he was able to expand to work with a number of flight schools to deliver ATPL and CPL theory.

By 1993, he had settled into a long-term partnership with Bristol Flying Centre. The name of the ground school training evolved into Bristol Groundschool or BGS for short. As Bristol Airport expanded, the company moved first to Cheddar in 2005 and then to its present premises in Clevedon in 2014.

Alex recognised that improving the student experience is the key to commercial success. Although BGS has always had a solid reputation for high-quality tuition way above industry standards, innovation has also always been a key focus.

Alex said “Bristol Groundschool has changed so much over the past 30 years with the introduction of first the JAA and then the EASA syllabus. And more recently, the move to an optional 100% online course which has given our students the ability to study wherever they are in the world.”

The CBT program, ATPdigital, is a sophisticated multi-platform training delivery system. It operates using offline-first technology so the training material can be accessed offline or online with results synchronised between devices.

Former Bristol Groundschool student, Pau Latorre Costa, said “thanks to the Bristol Groundschool training material I have been able to study and pass all the ATPL theory subjects in 10 months, with first-time passes, and good average grades… ATPdigital the computer-based training material, is an excellent product.”

A student getting their temperature checked before entering for an exam at BGS

At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Bristol Groundschool was the first learning provider to move all its teaching online with the introduction of its 100% distance learning courses with online-based webinars and revision weeks.

Bristol Groundschool was also the only exam venue in the UK to remain open throughout the pandemic meaning there was no disruption to their student’s learning over the course of lockdown.

Alex said “the start of the pandemic proved a challenge as we had to stop in-person learning and move to online teaching. The team were able to bring live webinars to our students in just two weeks which became essential to our student’s learning experience.”

Former Bristol Groundschool student Adam Fox studied with BGS during the pandemic and said “Since the Covid-19 outbreak, BGS has been very much on the ball and switched their revision weeks online which allowed me to continue studying.

“They then launched a completely online course which I thought was a great way forward. It provides students with maximum flexibility to train, at a time that best suits them.

“The learning material is excellent and the online webinars and revision weeks are run really well and are great for learning the subjects and building confidence prior to the exams.”

BGS’s PPL computer-based training material was launched in early 2022 along with PPL questions being added to their online question bank BGSonline.  Their most recent development was the launch of a library of recorded ATPL lessons, by subscription, through BGS Webinar Library. They are the first distance learning school to offer this service which is proving to be very popular with students from across the world.

Today, Bristol Groundschool remains the leading provider of pilot theory tuition, supplying training material to over 100 schools across the world and they continue to deliver outstanding theory training to the next generation of pilots.