When to do Ground School

August 30, 2022
Category: Popular

We get a lot of emails inquiries from students asking when they should start their online ground school for their flight training. Realistically, it is hard to provide a one fit solution for everyone because we come from all different walks of life. In this article, we will discuss what options exist for students, what ground school materials you may need, and what you should do for yourself.

Conducting Ground School Online Allows You to Learn Better, Save Time, and Save Money

The Ideal Way to Do Ground School

In an absolute ideal setting where a student has infinite time and infinite money to be dedicating to their flight training, the student would be doing ground school while conducting their in-person flight training. The main reason for this is simply the way we learn. To explain this, I’ll adapt John Dewey’s approach to learning to pilot training and aviation in general. In the early 1900s, Dewey essentially said that humans learn through experience. This concept of experience allows a holistic approach to education, in the sense that it is based on the interaction between the human being and the world.

This means that for a student to learn the most from their groundschool, they need to apply that knowledge in a practical way in the world. This practical application needs to be done by interacting with the world around us, applying the knowledge, and gaining experience. Once we gain experience applying this knowledge, our understanding of the material and topics change in a positive way.

Students doing a walk around before a flight.

The Problem with the Ideal

Well, when is anything ever ideal? Aside from time and money, there is one glaring problem with ground school. That problem is the relationship between ground school and in-person flight training. In an ideal world, the two of them would compliment each other absolutely nicely, but they don’t. The way ground schools are constructed leaves a lot of independent topics which are difficult to apply to flight training.

To illustrate what I mean by this, I’ll examine the topic of wing shape and wing design. A student watches a video lecture which explains different wing shapes, aspect ratios, camber, or wash-out designs. These topics are wonderful, important, and applicable to understanding what an aircraft may do when encountering different flying conditions like slow flight. But, until the student encounters different aircraft or flying conditions, the knowledge may not be retained properly. Where is the experience or learning activity to compliment the ground school?

In an ideal world, a student would go into the flight school 15 minutes early on before their next flight and walk around the hangar looking at all wing shapes and designs. If a student was learning about Cessna aircraft, I’d want them to walk over to a Piper Cherokee and see why the wing is labelled as a “Hershey Bar.” It’s thick, relatively short, and stubby. How will it fly differently?

In an ideal world, the student will be critical and want to apply this knowledge in a practical way. The problem with this, how many students have 15 minutes to go in early to the flight school to walk around the hangar to approach this topic with such a lens? For some topics, this just doesn’t work.

Other topics, like navigation or meteorology, are absolutely applicable, critical, and complimentary to flying. A student can learn how to plan a cross country and then go to fly it at their local flight school. Wonderful! Students also have to look at the weather before every single flight, bonus!

A flight instructor discusses navigation in preparation for their student challenging the student pilot permit exam, or PSTAR.

Online Ground School Before Flying

Can I do your ground school online before starting flight training? Yes.

If you don’t fit into the ideal world of having infinite time and money, you can certainly do this. In fact, I did this back when I started training for my private pilot license. I didn’t have the time at that point in my life and wasn’t sure if I would commit to a career as a pilot. Enrolling in ground school was a cheap way to get my feet wet and see if it was for me.

As a career airline pilot and flight instructor, my recommendation would be to choose a ground school which allows overlap with flight training if you plan to go down this route. At the end of the ground school, the knowledge will be fresh in your mind. This is an ideal time to start thinking about studying for the exam. To do the exam at Transport Canada, you need a minimum of 10 hours of flight training.

This overlap will allow you some time to contextualize the material you’ve learned and give you the necessary experience to challenge the Transport Canada examination.

All of our courses include sample examinations which mimic the real Transport Canada exams. One main issue is that students enrol in a ground school which is too short for their time frame and students are not able to take advantage of the exam preparation we offer.

As a reminder, following a 7-day free trial, we have three options for each ground school:

  • Recurring 4-month subscription
  • 9 Month Access
  • 12 Month Access
build flight time atpl
Our Commercial Pilot Ground School is Taught by Active Airline Pilots Who Know What you Need to Know.

Tips for the Flight Instructor

You must prioritize your student’s learning first. When conducting your pre-flight briefings, take time to incorporate ground school knowledge without turning the briefing into ground school. Discuss some basic concepts relating to meteorology in the weather briefing, pull out a VNC or VTA when talking about where you are going in the practice area.

Ask the student about the shape of the wing on the aircraft. Discuss how it might affect them during slow flight. It doesn’t have to be ground school again, but you need to bridge the gap and offer students an experience which will be all encompassing and help their learning.

what makes a good flight instructor
Bridge the gap between ground school and in-person pilot training.

About Canadian Flight Trainers

Canadian Flight Trainers is an online ground school provider which provides a premier learning experience for pilots in Canada. The instructors are all qualified as highly qualified career commercial or airline pilots.