Frequently Asked Questions
In the aviation industry the quality that matters above all else is competence. You will find yourself being called upon at regular intervals to prove that you have attained and maintained your competence. The Civil Aviation Authority exams won’t be the last time you will be questioned on these topics. Each licence renewal, line check and job interview will delve into your technical knowledge.
And it’s not just theoretical – every flight will require you to make decisions related to fuel planning, loading, weather, navigation, take-off and landing performance etc. that will materially influence the safety and efficiency of your aircraft.
Imagine a model of the elements which make up the quality of competence as a pyramid. Knowledge is the base of that pyramid which we will build upon, adding layers of Skills and Attitudes that add up to a competent pilot. Without a sturdy base even the most skilful pilot will be caught out.
EASA recognises the importance of this base level of knowledge and attendance at a registered ground school is compulsory in these states before you will be allowed to attempt the exams. There is also a trend in EASA of changing many mathematical questions away from multiple choice towards typing in your answer to the required number of decimal places and showing the examiner how you arrived at that answer – you can’t memorise these questions from a database.
Students who don’t attend a structured ground school often take a year or 2 to pass their theoretical examinations. This additional time in your training comes at a cost, in accommodation and food, lost opportunities and earning potential.
The competition to secure your first job as a pilot can be intense. At this level there are generally more applicants than positions available. For many employers, the first filter will be to rank candidates by their number of first time passes and overall percentage in the exams.
With all this in mind, the time you invest in your studies at this stage is fundamental to your success and safety for the rest of your career.
In the South African Civil Aviation Regulations, the only requirement when writing Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) exams is that you must hold, or have held in the last 60 months, a valid Private Pilot Licence (PPL). For Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) exams you must have hold, or have held in the last 60 months a valid CPL.
While it is not a requirement to have a Matric / Senior Certificate, you will find the course much easier if have one, particularly if you have studied Mathematics, Physical Science and Geography. If you are a student considering your subject choice for National Senior Certificate, the most important decision you can make is choose Mathematics instead of Mathematics Literacy, regardless of your other subject choices. In our experience, Maths Literacy does not adequately prepare you for pilot licence training.
There are pilots who do not have a Senior Certificate who have gone on to have successful careers, but you should be aware that you will have to put in a lot more work to reach the standard required and that our courses assume some basic mathematical, logical and scientific skills. You may want to consider enrolling at a college to attain a Senior Certificate or improve your results, but this decision is up to you.
See “What are the entry requirements?”
Flying training is expensive! Many students pay for their training by working in another field and studying part-time. At present, there are very few sponsorships available as most of the sponsored airline cadet programmes around the world have been cut to reduce costs. In South Africa, the Transport Education Training Authority (TETA) has a mandate to assist qualifying candidates with funds to complete their training as a Commercial Pilot. Keep an eye on their website here.
For a South African Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) there are 9 examinations: Meteorology, Flight Planning and Performance, General Navigation, Radio Aids and Communication, Instruments and Electronics, Aircraft Technical and General (which includes Principles of Flight), Human Performance, Air Law and General Radiotelephony. Additionally, if you want an Instrument Rating (IR) (you won’t find much work as a CPL without it!) you will need to pass the Instrument Rating (Ops Procedures) exam.
Questions are normally be presented in multiple-choice format and generally have three or four choices. Variations such as True/False. Yes/No. Multiple-response and Fill-in-the-Blank spaces questions may also be used where appropriate.
The pass mark for all examinations is 75%.
You can write:
- All exams at the SACAA,
- CPL, ATPL, Instrument Rating (Operational Procedures), General Radiotelephony Operator’s Certificate at an Out-station (Written) examination as per published schedule.
- PPL, PPL validation. Night Rating. Restricted Radiotelephony Operator’s Certificate, as online examinations at Accredited Examination Centres (most flight schools).
A candidate who has failed an examination, may not rewrite the applicable examination subject–
- in the case of a first or second failure, within a period of 7 calendar days after date of failure;
- in the case of a third or subsequent failure, within a period of 2 calendar months after date of failure;
- in any case where a score of less than 50% was achieved, within a period of 2 calendar months after date of failure.
You must pass all your exams within 18 months from passing the 1st exam. Should they lapse you will have to rewrite even the ones you have passed. Once you have passed your exams you have 36 months to pass the skills test.
EASA regulations give us a guide on the minimum hours for an approved theoretical knowledge course. For the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) a minimum of 250 hours and for the Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) a minimum of 400 hours is required. As this is just the minimum classroom time you can reasonably expect to double those hours with your own study and revision time. For the CPL, if you work 6 hours a day for 5 days a week you can complete the course in about 5 months. Our facilitated CBT is structured to take place over a 6-month cycle.
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts here, despite what some schools or your friends might tell you about their “sure-fire method”. There is no substitute – it requires a dedicated, focussed approach.
Computer based training is a wonderful technological development. It allows you to benefit from experienced instructors who have developed a comprehensive course which can now be brought into the comfort of your own home, wherever you are in the world.
Each lesson is standardised, ensures compliance with the entire syllabus, and can be presented at your own pace. Go back a step or repeat lessons as you need! The use of audio, visual and interactive elements ensures the lessons are engaging and memorable. Gamification can bring out your competitive streak and gives a sense of achievement as you complete each section. Quizzes at the end of each section make sure you have understood each concept before moving on.
As good as CBT is, sometimes there just is no substitute for being able to interact with an instructor and iron out the finer details. For this reason, we also have a fully online digital classroom with our facilitated courses. Each subject is presented regularly according to our schedule, usually on a 6- month cycle. It features a live instructor by audio and webcam and a digital whiteboard. The instructor will go through the material for that subject and you can ask questions without fear as only the instructor is able to see who it is.
To get the best out of the facilitated sessions it is essential that you have completed the CBT prior to attending. The instructor will have access to your profile and can assist in your specific problem areas.
The combination of CBT and an online classroom gives you the best of both worlds – a flexible, tailored solution that won’t leave you behind.
It can be very tempting and it’s very easy to just click your way through the presentations and come to a quiz at the end and realise you hadn’t been paying attention at all, or perhaps didn’t understand things as well as you might have thought. Try not to see the quizzes as a “road-block” but rather as a tool to help you ensure you really have understood each concept before moving on.
Make and keep a study schedule. When studying remotely by CBT it takes some discipline to treat your studies as seriously as you would if attending classes at a college or university. Set aside certain hours of each day for study. Keep the same schedule faithfully from day-to-day.
If concentration is your problem, then the right surroundings will help you greatly. Your study desk or table should be in a quiet place – free from as many distractions as possible. You will concentrate better when you study in the same place every day. It’s a mind-set. For example, when you sit down at the kitchen table, you expect to eat. When you sit down in an easy chair, you watch TV, etc. Developing the habit of studying in the same place at the same time every day will improve your concentration.
Your study desk or table should be equipped with all the materials you might need for the subject, e.g., pencils, pens, erasers, protractor, maps, performance manuals, calculator, slide rule, snacks, and liquid refreshments, etc. With your materials at hand, you can study without interruption. Turn your phone off or at least to silent – you can return the calls after you have finished studying. Taking your snack food and drinks to the study location will eliminate those endless trips to the kitchen which break your concentration. Researchers tell us that there is a relationship between orderliness and high test scores. Knowing where to find your materials when you need them is crucial.
Flash cards aren’t just for kids! They are a legitimate study tool. Use the front of the card to write an important term, and on the back, write a definition or an important fact about that term. Carry your flash cards with you. Use them during “dead time,” such as standing in a queue, waiting in a doctor or dentist’s office or riding a bus. Post them on your bathroom mirror to review while shaving or applying make-up. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish during those otherwise “dead times.”
Learn to take good notes efficiently as your instructor or CBT stresses important points. Good notes are a must for reviewing just before your exam. Repetition is a powerful learning tool. Make use of the ability of the CBT to pause often and repeat as necessary. An important element of the repetition is your being an active participant in the process – take notes, make summaries, draw mind maps etc. Without this important step you will not get the best value from the product. Have a look at these links for some great ideas:
Psychologists tell us that the secret to learning for future reference is overlearning. Experts suggest that after you can say, “I know this material,” that you should continue to study that material for an additional one-fourth of the original study time. The alphabet is an example of overlearning. How did you learn it? Probably through recitation which is the best way to etch material into the memory. Manipulate the material as many different ways as possible by writing, reading, touching, hearing, and saying it. In an experimental study, students who overlearned material retained four times as much after a month than students who didn’t overlearn.
A student who does not review material can forget 80% of what has been learned in only two weeks! The first review should come very shortly after the material was first presented and studied. Reviewing early acts as a safeguard against forgetting and helps you remember far longer. Frequent reviews throughout the course will bring rewards at exam time and will alleviate anxiety.
You will be sent an email like the one above with the date, time and joining link for the classroom. You may also receive a reminder the day before.