Passing the Knowledge Test

FAA Knowledge Test

Several years back, I went to renew my driver’s license. When I got to the front of the line, I was informed that because I had received a few speeding tickets that year I would have to retake the Driver’s Ed written exam. I got through it and lived to drive another day, but the thought of taking a standardized written test in my grown-up years was incredibly stressful.

The average age of someone starting flight training is 31. For private pilots, it’s 48. That means the average person in the initial flight training process is probably quite removed from taking standardized written assessments, but very accustomed to practical and real-world evaluations. So, most flight training candidates are at least apprehensive about the FAA Knowledge Test.

Up until about 5 years ago, one of the most accepted methods of passing the FAA’s standardized written exam was question and answer memorization. The question banks were all published, so applicants would prepare by taking test after test after test, simply remembering the correct answers for each question. This was an unnatural process for many of us who felt we needed to actually understand the material to be successful as pilots.

All of that changed in the spring of 2011 when the FAA announced it was changing many of the questions, adding to the total number of potential questions, and no longer publishing the banks in their entirety. Since that change, there have been regular updates to the lists of questions and the possible answers. It would seem the tried and true methodology of knowing the answers without truly understanding the material was no longer effective.

The black and white, two-dimensional, multiple-guess knowledge test for your pilot certificate does little to test your flying skills, but those skills are only half the battle; a good pilot is always learning, which means a good pilot is constantly being educated. Not only do these non-practical evaluations force you to spend some time on the why and how, but these questions are often cleverly written to force you to pay attention to detail. And while the answer – whether A, B or C – might be irrelevant; the detail-oriented and problem-solving skills acquired through pressing through the test are an invaluable asset to pilots.

So how does one conquer the FAA written? The old method of question and answer memorization seems no longer valid and was educationally useless. Yet learning everything there is to know about aviation would be a very time consuming and lengthy process.

American Flyers suggests a third option: learn the specific information evaluated on the FAA knowledge test. This education is transferrable to your flight training because you are actually learning it, you can stop fretting about the standardized test, and you can complete this part of your pilot training in a weekend. Once completed, you can put your new knowledge to work for you in the cockpit, where a good pilot is ALWAYS learning.

Every weekend, American Flyers offers a 3-day weekend preparation course to assist you in passing the FAA knowledge test. We also offer weekday courses and one-on-one courses for those who cannot tie up a whole weekend. If the written exam is still staring you down, give us a call today and let us put you at ease. Enroll in one of our written demystification courses, and enjoy the last few steps of your pilot training journey.

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Stretching: The Fountain of Youth


Complements of Harvey W. Watt

Weights and cardio are important, but don’t forget flexibility. We are made to move. Exercise, breathing, flexibility and movement keep us feeling young and alive. However, as we age, most of us move less each day. In a society with drive–through everything, it’s easy to sit on the couch and age into immobility. But, you can choose to move, stretch and feel fantastic.

Why are flexibility and stretching important?

Youthful means flexible. Age is rigid and stiff. Even if you work out by lifting weights and doing cardio, if you don’t tend to your flexibility, your muscles and joints will become less supple. By stretching regularly, you’ll renew your body and slow down the effects of the aging process.

How does stretching enhance wellness?

A gentle yet effective stretching program benefits you in numerous ways. It:

  • Increases energy
  • Increases range of motion
  • Relieves the effects of stress
  • Relieves joint and muscle pain
  • Improves circulation
  • Improves posture
  • Enhances balance

What happens when you stretch?

Muscles and connective tissues shorten while you sleep. When you stretch, muscle fibers and connective tissues elongate and align, allowing the stretched muscles to become longer. Over time, regular stretching trains muscles to contract less after a stretch, so they become both longer and stronger. As you age, this helps prevent joint discomfort and keeps you agile and mobile.

When and how should you stretch?

A five–to–10–minute morning stretching program is ideal preparation for your body to feel good throughout the day. If your day is particularly stressful and makes your muscles tight and fatigued, do your routine at night, just before bedtime. Either way, warm up your body by exercising for at least 10 minutes before you stretch.

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10 Gift Ideas for Pilots


Pilots are a unique bunch and often appreciate a unique approach when it comes to gift giving. Now granted, as different as they are, pilots do wear clothes, eat food and go to movies; and it goes without saying, gift cards are always welcome. But for those who want to go a bit above and beyond, here are some suggestions from a few festive fellow flyers out there:

Backup Tablet.
The Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) is great, but a backup in the event of a failure is a must! A smaller – maybe less expensive – tablet can certainly fit this bill, i.e., an iPad Mini to back up the standard iPad. Even with a backup tablet, American Flyers recommends having backup paper charts as well; their batteries never die, nor do their screens break.

Spare Headset.
A backup for the pilot in the event their primary fails, or a primary headset for passengers. Choose well because it may be snuggly clinging to your head on your next flight with them!

Handheld Radio.
This makes an unplanned radio or electrical failure a much easier process. Devices range in price and functionality from the most basic at $150 to having both communication and navigation functions at $400; choose whichever fits best into your gifting budget.

Mountable Camera.
Recorded flights can provide both education and entertainment. Rest assured that reviewing these pilot “home movies” is significantly more exciting than slide shows across Egypt or a 1987 video tour of a paper production plant in Nekoosa.

Warm–weather Gear.
Jackets with built–in rechargeable heaters or heated gloves will ensure that the winter tundra of the frozen north doesn’t rush the outside–the–aircraft inspection that every good pilot performs. Consider garnishing your gift with a large thermos and a few packets of hot chocolate.

Gift Certificate for Flying.

Consider a weekend course to add a seaplane rating, a little time in a tail dragger or behind the stick of a war bird, or an hour in a military jet. Besides the addition to the logbook, the joy of the experience is a gift that will last a lifetime!

Shielding your eyes from the bright sun is a necessity in aviation and a bonus for those of us wishing to be able to see into our 50’s. Polarized sunglasses are great, but many modern avionics already have polarized screens, so a little knowledge of the cockpit of your pilot–giftee is necessary here.

Flight Jacket.
Nylon, leather, sheepskin… the classic WWII bomber jackets are always an eye turner, and they provide the perfect canvas for those desiring to spice them up with various pieces of aviation flair. Plus, they stylishly announce to the world that the wearer is a pilot.

Pilot Travel Books.
State–by–state guides to the best airport fly–in restaurants, airports in close proximity to fun destinations and attractions, or noteworthy airports to brag about in your flying memoirs (see KLXV, Leadville County in Colorado) will help your pilot get the most out of that airplane. Most of these guides will fit comfortably into a flight bag or aircraft glove compartment and will get the creative and adventurous juices flowing.

During this time of celebration, giving of thanks, and all–around fellowship, companionship is the gift that will pre–heat the pilot heart the most. Toys, devices and “things” are nice, but every pilot out there desires most to fly, and to share their passion for flight with others. A “Co–pilot Coupon,” redeemable for a reserved seat next to them during their next slipping of surly bonds is quite simply the best gift you can give to your pilot friend.

Happy shopping, enjoy the holiday season, and always remember that it is far better to give a PIREP than to receive a holding clearance.

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