The Benefits of Learning To Fly On The Ground First

Learning to fly from the ground first saves money, time and energy in the cockpit while accelerating your training and making you a better pilot.

Ground school makes flight training more affordable, more efficient and more fun

At The Flight School at Colorado Springs, our goal is to help you make the most of your training. This includes telling you hard-to-land truths and reminding you to take your daily dose of medicine ground school. We totally get it: It’s easy to get caught up in the addictive thrill of early flight training. Ground school? Pshh. You’d rather be flying—and trust us, so would we.

But, of course, there are a huge list of advantages to completing ground school before you begin training for a certificate or rating—many of which lead to cost savings and a smoother training experience. Here are some reasons you should eat your veggies complete a ground school before flying:

  • Reduces “firehose” effect
  • Enables longer, more diverse flight lessons
  • Saves time in the cockpit
  • Offers significant financial savings
  • Reduces training distractions
  • Helps you become a better pilot
  • Provides a strong knowledge foundation

The Firehose Effect

You climb into the airplane for the first time and you’re so excited you hardly understand the words coming out of your instructor’s mouth. She’s explaining the checklists for safety briefing, start-up, taxi, run-up, pre-takeoff, takeoff, pattern exit, climb-out, level-off, cruise and a half dozen maneuvers you’ve never heard of. The prop is spinning at an insane speed and you’re thrilled you’re doing this, but you’ve never seen the dials and instruments in front of you. What’s this button do? That instrument’s flashing a red light—is that bad? You think that one’s a GPS, but it isn’t like the GPS on your phone or in your car—and you’ sort of know what flaps are, but you’ve heard of flaps but you’re not entirely sure what they do yet and maybe that’s the lever to control them? Oh, that looks like a clock and it says altitude on it, but you’re not sure how to set it, properly…

Anytime you find a new hobby or break into a new field, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There’s so much new information you’re receiving, your brain is understandably working overtime to keep up. This “firehose effect” is something every novice pilot experiences in the cockpit as they learn the many tiny details involved with understanding how and why a plane flies and what the indications specific instruments give may mean.

Reduce the Firehose Effect with Ground School

“Drinking from the firehose,” requires energy and time, but the more you know about how an airplane works and what the instrument readings mean before you turn the key, the more money you’ll save and the smoother your training will go. It’s a lot less expensive to learn how things work on the ground and spend your time in the air learning the skills necessary to fly in the air.

Ground school, is like, the coolest thing ever, dude.

Sonya Sotomayor

Learn Checklists for Taxi, Run-Up, Takeoff.

Checklists you do in the airplane on the ground will go plenty quicker when you’ve practiced them on the ground. Chair flying before a flight can help you practice and memorize checklists to make your life easier. If you start thinking about checklists as ways to check yourself rather than instructions on what to do when you’re sitting in the cockpit, things will go much smoother.

Which of the following scenarios do you think is faster?

Read-Do Checklist

Pilot, reading from checklist: “Run-Up Checklist. Throttle, 1700 rpm.”

Pilot sets the throttle, then looks at checklist again. “Lean mixture above 3,000 AGL.”

Pilot leans the mixture, then returns to the checklist.

“Check left magneto.” The pilot checks the left magneto.

“100 RPM drop. Less than 150.” The pilot refers back to the checklist” “Check right magneto.”

This goes on until the end of the checklist, while the Jeopardy theme music begins playing in the instructor’s headset….

Do-Confirm Checklist

Pilot, from memory, while accomplishing each task:

“Run-Up Checklist. Throttle, 1700RPM. Mixture lean for altitude. There’s the peak—two turns rich. Mag check: 100 drop left. 100 drop right. Both below 150 RPM. Difference is zero and less than 75 RPM. Carb heat on; good drop. Check idle? Idle checks. Back to 1,000 RPM. Set throttle friction lock; friction lock set.”

The pilot refers to the checklist, ensuring nothing was missed. “Engine run-up complete.”

Written Test: Get it Out of the Way

The written exam is a multiple-choice test proctored by a government subcontractor known as PSI Testing Services. Each rating or certificate involves at least one FAA Knowledge Test. But unlike the oral and practical portions of the exam, the written text is completed before your checkride and may be completed before you even get into a small aircraft.

We recommend you complete at least a discovery flight to ensure flying is something you’d like to pursue, but after you’re sure you’d like to become a pilot, we encourage all students to sit for and pass the written exam before beginning flight training.

The written test isn’t known for testing flying skills—in fact, many instructors consider this test a measure of your ability to “learn to take a test” rather than an exam that proves you know what you’re talking about. Knocking out this requirement that doesn’t require time spent in an airplane early in your training will result in fewer hoops to jump through closer to checkride time.

Our Ground Schools teach you everything you need to know for the written tests. We also recommend purchasing an online study course through Sporty’s to supplement your knowledge and provide test-prep software.

Smoother Training

Another central advantage to ensuring your ground knowledge is on-point before flying is the time it saves you in the air. Knowing your stuff aloft will mean less time your instructor has to spend explaining things and less time you struggle to grasp conceptually what the aircraft is doing or what you’re trying to accomplish. With the right knowledge to back you up, it’ll be much easier to stay focused on learning the parts you can’t learn on the ground.

It’s More Fun, Too

Stressful lessons aren’t fun. When you know conceptually how a forward CG will affect the stalls you’re performing during today’s lesson, you’ll spend your lesson correlating your knowledge with what you’ve learned on the ground, instead of trying to understand why you stall later now than you did when your instructor loaded 50 lbs of bags in the backseat last lesson. Applying the knowledge you learn on the ground is more rewarding if you’ve, well, actually learned the knowledge on the ground!

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Briefings From The Flight Line

Our 'Flight Briefings' provide tips, tricks and other useful knowledge for helping you build time and learn to fly more efficiently, more effectively and more affordably.