What’s the difference between ground school vs flight school?

by | FAQs for Beginners, Learn to Fly, Pilot License Requirements

what's the difference between ground school vs flight schoolAs you search for a flight school, you may wonder what’s the difference between ground school vs flight school? Since you’re goal is to learn to fly, you may be wondering what ground school is all about.

Ground school refers to the academic and theoretical part of learning to fly. Before you complete your private pilot training, you need to pass a written exam called the FAA Knowledge Test. This test includes questions on subjects like aviation regulations and airspace, weather, navigation, and aerodynamics. Your ground school classes are to prepare you to pass this test.

Ground School vs Flight School: Do I need to find a flight school that offers ground school courses?

No! There are many ways to learn the material required to pass the knowledge test, and a formal ground school course offered by a flight school is just one way to do it. Your instructor will be required to endorse your logbook before you take the knowledge test, and they may have an opinion on the best choice for their students.

Ground School vs Flight School: What other ways are there to complete ground school classes?

While many people enjoy the classroom format that traditional ground school offers, there are many good ways to learn the material. Other ways include:

Which ground school option is right for me?

If you’re self-motivated and disciplined at studying, reading the FAA’s Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge may be the best choice for you. The handbook is free, and downloadable online. (You should probably get a copy, even if you don’t plan to make it your primary ground school option.)

You’ll need to be able to work hard, make lots of notes, and be willing to dig for more information, becoming familiar with the FAR/AIM—the FAA’s book for Federal Aviation Regulations and Aeronautical Information Manual.

Classroom ground school courses

Other people prefer the interaction and questions that come from a formal ground school classroom environment. You’ll get the benefit of meeting other students and building friendships and support that will help you through your training.

At the end of your course, the instructor will give you a certificate to prove you have attended and know the material presented. You don’t have to take a formal ground school class at the same school where you’re taking your flying lessons. If you have the time to commit to a regular class, usually after work or on weekends, this can be an affordable and good choice for many students.

Online ground school courses

If finding time is more difficult for you, an online ground school may be your best option. Online ground schools are self-paced training, that are typically broken down into 10-20 minute videos.

These videos are usually followed with a short set of multiple choice questions to ensure that you understand the material (which may be repeated if you don’t answer the minimum amount correctly). The videos and animations can make complex concepts easier to understand, but without the ability to adjust the paced based on questions posed by you and other students they can sometimes feel a bit slow and repetitive.

Online ground schools are similarly priced to in person ground school courses and are the best choice for people who are busy, and want to be able to complete their ground school training in between other activities.

One-on-one with your instructor

The most personalized training you can get will be one-on-one with your instructor. Your instructor will be able to make sure you know what you need to pass the knowledge test, while adjusting the training to suit what you already know and where you need gaps filled in.

While this route is the most expensive (since you’ll be paying your instructor their normal instruction rate) it’s worth remembering that it still probably compares favorably to what you’re already paying for your kids’ music and tennis lessons.  

Ground School vs Flight School: Make it fun!

Although you probably imagined that most of your training could be completed in the airplane, ground school can be a fun and rewarding part of your flight training. The knowledge you gain here will help make you a more confident and safer pilot , which is why it’s such an important part of your training.

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