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What Is Ground School?

A private pilot license gives you the freedom to fly an airplane for personal purposes. Although a private pilot license does not require as much training as for higher ratings, there are still time and knowledge requirements that can only be achieved through formal training.

Ground school is the first step of training for a private pilot license. Exactly how many hours of ground school for a private pilot license? We discuss the minimum hour requirements, and other ground school considerations, in the content below.

What is Ground School for pilots?

There are two types of pilot schools: Part 61 and Part 141. The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) requires Part 141 schools to have an approved ground training course. For example, J.A. Flight Services is an FAA-approved Part 141 flight school, and we offer a ground school program.

Ground school is an early step in flight training and is more theoretical than flight school. You will study aviation-related topics such as aerodynamics, airport rules, aircraft instruments, and the weather. This is designed to help you pass the applicable knowledge tests for a pilot license.

How Many Hours of Ground School for a Private Pilot License?

A private pilot license requires passing an aeronautical knowledge test. The test topics include aerodynamics, FAA regulations, navigation, and radio communication procedures.

As explained in the federal regulation Appendix B to Part 141 – Private Pilot Certification Course, the FAA does require a minimum of 35 hours of ground school for a private pilot license to fly an airplane. (The required hours for a private pilot license to fly other types of aircraft can be shorter: 15 hours for a glider, or 10 hours for a balloon.) In reality, most ground school courses involve more than 35 hours in order to effectively teach the material.

Ground school for a private pilot license generally takes about four weeks to complete. This is especially likely if you take a structured curriculum through in-person classes.

Ground school can also be completed through an FAA-approved home study program, which does not have a set schedule. You can study at your own pace, which means that you can take longer than four weeks to complete ground school. It is highly unlikely that you would be able to complete ground school in less than four weeks because there is a lot of information to absorb. Often, ground school takes several months, or even as long as one year, for students who are studying at their own pace.

A private pilot license requires passing knowledge and practical tests. At the end of ground school, you will take a written examination designed to test your knowledge of the pertinent topics. Although it might seem tedious to spend many hours in ground school, it is certainly more efficient to study thoroughly and take the examination once, rather than failing and re-taking it.

What Can I Expect as a Student in Ground School?

The FAA has minimum curriculum requirements for approved ground training courses. Part 61 schools are not required to offer ground school. However, you must still receive and log training from an authorized instructor (or complete a home study course) before you apply for a pilot certificate.

The FAA requires Part 141 schools to teach the following subjects in ground school:

(1) Applicable Federal Aviation Regulations for private pilot privileges, limitations, and flight operations

(2) Accident reporting requirements of the National Transportation Safety Board

(3) Applicable subjects of the “Aeronautical Information Manual” and the appropriate FAA advisory circulars

(4) Aeronautical charts for VFR navigation using pilotage, dead reckoning, and navigation systems

(5) Radio communication procedures

(6) Recognition of critical weather situations from the ground and in flight, wind shear avoidance, and the procurement and use of aeronautical weather reports and forecasts

(7) Safe and efficient operation of aircraft, including collision avoidance, and recognition and avoidance of wake turbulence

(8) Effects of density altitude on takeoff and climb performance,

(9) Weight and balance computations

(10) Principles of aerodynamics, powerplants, and aircraft systems

(11) If the course of training is for an airplane category or glider category rating, stall awareness, spin entry, spins, and spin recovery techniques

(12) Aeronautical decision making and judgment, and

(13) Preflight action that includes –

  • How to obtain information on runway lengths at airports of intended use, data on takeoff and landing distances, weather reports and forecasts, and fuel requirements; and
    • How to plan for alternatives if the planned flight cannot be completed or delays are encountered.

Source: Appendix B to Part 141 – Private Pilot Certification Course

How Can I Be Successful in Ground School?

In ground school, you will receive substantial training that will ultimately help you get a private pilot license. Although 35 hours is the minimum FAA requirement for a private pilot license, you should study as long as necessary to pass the written examination and pave the way for success in flight training.

Time alone is not the only key to success. Here are more tips to maximize your learning experience in ground school before getting a private pilot license:

  • Read the pilot’s operating handbook or airplane flight manual for the aircraft you plan to fly. These books will discuss the terminology and systems that are pertinent to your anticipated flights.
  • Like most schools, ground school involves homework. Take your assignments seriously and complete them on time to ensure that you are well-prepared.
  • Ask your ground school if you can obtain course materials before classes begin. This way, you can begin reviewing the course materials in advance. When classes begin, you will already be somewhat familiar with the concepts.

Contact J.A. Flight Training for Ground School in Chicagoland

J.A. Flight Training is an FAA-approved Part 141 flight school in the Chicago area. We offer ground training all the way up to the most advanced rating and can help you attain a private pilot license. Contact us today for more information about ground school and training for a private pilot license.

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