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Thursday, 14 November 2013

Two down, Five to go!

I've just had my first two theretical exams for my PPL course. If I am to believe the preliminary answers, I passed both exams! :D Only five more to go ...

Totally nerveous, I arrived at the exam venue of CBR/CCV. That is the same institute that does the exams for drivers licences (CCV is the professional transportation section of that organisation). I was well on time, as usual, but not the first, this time! There were two others of my theory class already there. The rest of the group came in, minutes after me, so we were all in time. Five minutes before the start of the exam, we started question ing if we were in the correct waiting room ... One of us had a look, and sure enough we had to move to the second floor (no signs whatsoever on ground floor!). Just in time, we all got there, and were alowed in the classroom.

PPL theory exams are multiple-choice exams. You get a form, and a set of questions, some spare paper, and a little answers strip. You are only allowed to take the answers strip with you outside the classroom, so that's where you'll want to jot down your answers so you can check them with the published answers after the exam. 75% (or more) of all answers need to be correct to pass the test, and there is only pass and fail to choose from, so that's where the goal is.
I did "Performance and Planning" (PP) this time, together with "Aircraft General Knowledge, and Principles of Flight" (AGK/PoF). The latter is all about "what's a plane?", and "howcome it flies?". And then, once you are up there, you'll want to know how long you can stay up there with your amount of fuel, and when to start climbing if you want to top that ridge ahead. That's what Performance calculations are for. And then there is the question "Is this runway long enough, given the elevation, temperature, runway condition and slope?". One usually wants to find out before take off, hence the Planning ;)
Now, those guys (and gals) that make up these exams, they are not dumb. They know the commonly made mistakes, so especcially in the PP exam, you will find your calculation result amongst the others, even if you've made one of those mistakes. So you don't really have a clue if your answer is right, only if it's very, very wrong. And then there are the answers to questions like "Which number comes closest to the value you calculated?". Those are just plain terrible for exact scientists like myself.

Right at the beginning of the exam, I already panicked. Question number 1 looked like a very impressive calculation, with double interpolation between two columns of a table, and some chart reading as well. I decided to skip that one for now, and concentrate on the "easy" calculations first. That settled my nervesa bit, and after a couple of straigth-forward calculations, confidenc grew again. In total there were 5 of those big calculations, and question number 1 turned out to be a relatively easy one of them, in the end. Read one value from a graph, and then only add and subtract other values that were given in the question itself already. Then it came down to reading, because the question was for a quantity of fuel, in liters, while all the data was in pounds. Of course the answer in lbs was in there between all possibilities too..
I left the exam with quite good confidence in all but one question, so I was convinced I would have 14 or 15 answers right, out of the total of 16. It turned out later that day that I had "only" 13 answers correct. Enough for a "Pass", but slightly dissappointing for me, nevertheless. Apparently I had fallen for more tricks than I had thought or hoped.

AGK/PoF were 32 questions, and those were more of the "you either know it, or you don't" category. So that one was done pretty quickly. It took me only 20 minutes, where a full hour was allowed. I had 5 questions of which I had some doubts whether I had answered them correctly. I marked them with a question mark on my answers strip, to check if I were right later on. I find it always particularly difficult to imagine which way a gyro wants to move, once upset, and of course, there were two such questions. One of them even presented the result, and had us reverse engineer the degrees of freedom, and the orientation of the gyroscope inside a heading indicator. Pfff... But that one, I had right ;)
In the end, according to the provisional answers, I had 28 out of 32 right, which is not a bad score, and in line with the expectations I had when I left the exam room.

Utterly exhausted, I arrived home, that afternoon. Man, that drains a ton of energy! But such a good feeling I can leave those two subjects behind me for now, and move on to the next. Of cours I have to wait (max. 2 weeks)  for the official result is published, but for my state of mind, these chapters sre closed.
No time to sit back and relax, though! The lessons continue. First up is Communications (theory; there's also a practical test, but that is additional to this theory course. Communications manly consists of memory items: abbreviations, some rules, phraseology, phonetic alphabet, ... My Flight Simulator experience will help me out there for a large portion. No doubt I'll learn tons of new stuff, but the essentials are in there already.
Next will be Navigation, a traditional pitfall for aspiring pilots. Plotting a course is never much of a problem, but all those terms, definitions, abbreviations, chart projections, who does what in which airspace, operating priciples of all the various kinds of antennae... to much to even mention here. But I'll have until somewhere mid-februari (lessons each week except for the holidays) to get it all stuffed in the ol' attic. That's when I plan to do my next two exams.

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