Ground School at a Regional Airline
This post was written in 2015, during my time in ground school for the CRJ. I thought I'd share it with you today because it has a lot of good information about ground school at the airlines; and I know airlines are hiring and will continue to be hiring like crazy for the next little bit. If you have any questions about airline training/ground school, let me know. Every airline is different, but it still helps to get advice and information from as many sources as possible. Okay. Enough of the intro. Here's the post:
I cannot believe how fast the last 3 weeks went by- seriously. I feel like I just started ground school, and now it's already over. Because I was busy studying and have neglected you all a bit, I thought I'd share my past 3 adventurous weeks with you.
I flew up to SLC a few days before class to enjoy some stress free family time before class began. Though I definitely felt a bit guilty about not studying during that time, I enjoyed the weekend. Ground class started Tuesday, April 14th, promptly at 8am in Salt Lake City. We were given an exam with all the emergency memory items and limitations. I had studied this quite a bit beforehand so it was no big deal- just a lot of writing. I felt like I was back in college with my hand cramping up. :) After we all took the test there were some introductions and then we waisted no time. We dove right into the warning systems and then learned a bit about the FMS. I used the FMS a bit in college, so learning it here wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. The basics came back to me, so that was nice. The rest of the week (3 days) was a blur, learning Electrical, Fire and Overheat, Fuel, Powerplant, Autopilot, APU, Pneumatics, Environmental Control System (ECS), Weight and Balance, and more FMS. On top of the 8 hours of class each day, there was also homework assignments each night, and for the lucky few, some time for personal study. If there is one thing you learn from this post, it is the importance of letting your brain and your body rest! I forced myself to stop studying at least 1 hour before I planned to go to bed. As much as I wanted to study, and as much as I felt behind, it didn't matter. In the long run, I knew I would perform better with less study and more rest- and when I say rest, I mean 7-8 hours each night. Trust me on this one, you need your sleep while in ground school. If you decide to study for just 1 more hour, you brain will have a hard time shutting down and you won't sleep at all. How do I know all this? Because I've done it before. My first day of systems when I was initially hired to fly the Brasilia at SkyWest was intense. We learned the electrical system, and it was a lot of information- more than my General Aviation brain could handle. I got home from class and studied until late into the night. I decided to study until 11pm, fall asleep immediately, and then wake up with just enough time to get ready in the morning. Problem was, when I tried to fall asleep, all I could think about was the electrical system. Hours went by and I still could not sleep. I ended up getting 2, maybe 3 hours of sleep that night, which made learning anything the next day nearly impossible. Studying is important in ground school, but sleep is more important! Okay, off my soapbox... That first week I felt a bit behind, so I was excited for the weekend. Friday after class I went to dinner with the other two girls in my class (I know- isn't that so awesome that there were 3 of us?! I didn't feel so alone this time), and then dove right into studying, starting with the systems we learned the first day, and so on. My husband was flying in from Seattle that night, so I decided to study late. For some reason, my best studying is done after 7pm. Because I knew I didn't have to wake up early the next day, I studied until 11pm when my husband got there. Because things were coming together and finally making sense, I had a blast studying that night. #IknowI'mANerd #IDon'tCare
Saturday I took the entire day to let my brain relax. I hung out with The Hubs all day and it was so nice! I know some of the people in class thought I was crazy for taking an entire day off, but I needed it. Sunday was another relaxing day. No studying until late that evening, and then I only studied for about 4-5 hours. My husband was such a good sport, he found things to do during that time and let me study. He would have flown home earlier in the day, but the flight he planned on taking was oversold, so he was stuck heading back home much later than planned. Week 2 was yet another busy week, though the more difficult systems were out of the way... whew! We continued on with Performance, Landing Data, Hydraulics, Flight Controls, Gear and Brakes, Comms, Flight Instruments, Cold Weather Ops, Ice and Rain, Navigation/Radar, MEL/CDL/NEF, and more FMS. I felt more than caught up before class began on Monday, but as the week went on, I began, again, to feel behind. There just wasn't enough time to do all the homework, and study everything I wanted to after class each day. But, I wasn't stressed. I knew I'd have time over the weekend to get caught up again. My husband flew up again that weekend to hang out with me. We hung out all Saturday and Sunday morning, and then he flew back home to give me the rest of the afternoon on Sunday to study. It was more than enough time. I reviewed all the systems we had learned week 2 and then began studying for the test with different gouges I had received. Week 3 wasn't bad at all. I'm sure most of us could have taken the test on Monday and passed, but we were forced to wait until Thursday. Instead we learned about the ACARS, did an actual walk-around, more Weight & Balance and Performance practice, TSA/Security training, HAZMAT training, Emergency Equipment, and Door training. In regards to the door training- I do hope that people who agree to help in an emergency realize how heavy those doors actually are. It's definitely do-able to open the doors and throw them outside the aircraft, but it does take some strength. Of course, I'm only 5'1", so if I can do it, anybody can to it. Haha. Every waking minute the last week was spent reviewing. I stuck to my bedtime, and didn't allow myself to study past an hour before my planned bedtime. I woke each morning feeling great, well rested, and ready to learn and study more. The day before the test (Wednesday), I studied for a few hours right after class and then took the evening to relax and watch a few of my favorite TV shows. What a treat. I went to bed early, around 9pm, and then woke up at 5:30am to refresh and review and then was off to class. We took the test first thing. I felt like I was just getting hunkered down when one of the first officers in class (who I think is the smartest, yet coolest, yet humble pilot I've ever met), stood up. I figured he was just getting up to ask our teach a question, but then he handed over his stuff and I realized he was done. Whoa! I was only on question 20 and he was done?! If this happens during your test, don't let it get the best of you. Take your time and don't rush! Read over every question carefully. It took me just over an hour to take the test. Here's my strategy: I read each question fully, answered it in my mind, and then found the answer. I drew a lot of diagrams on my scratch paper- in fact, after I handed in my scratch paper the teacher complimented me on how thorough it was. LOL. Needless to say, I passed with a 98%; passing was 80%. There were others in class who spent way more time studying, sacrificing rest time and sleep time to do so, but I scored higher than them! Taking care of yourself while you are in ground school is a must. Don't sacrifice sleep for study. Study hard, but take time to relax and enjoy it. And once you have learned all that you can, take your time on the test (unless, of course, you are that awesome pilot from my ground class who took the test in under 20 minutes and got a 99%). Ground school is tough, but if you are smart about it, you can enjoy your time there and pass your final test with no problems.