Ground school and Flight Hours 1 to 5

Flight camp and intro to flight

The Scouts flight camp is a week-long program in which participants get their first experience of being a student pilot and being in control of a Cessna 172. 

My camp took place in January 2023 at Camden. I completed five hours of flight training, and around 8 hours of ground school.

This is how I got hooked and decided to continue with more training towards the RPL license.

What is the flight camp?

The Air Activities Center flight camp is a great opportunity for Scout members to experience being a pilot student. Just between me and you, this is why I decided to join the Scouts as a Fellow. Yes, I could just sign up at one of many flight schools around Sydney, however learning to fly with the Scouts takes the experience to a whole new level. I'll come back to this in later.

First, I'll explain what the objectives of the flight camp is as I understand it.

The camp is designed to give Scouts, aged 15 yo and over, their first experience in controlling an airplane. As a student, I had the opportunity to climb, decent, turn, and, of course, to fly straight and level.

I even had the opportunity to stall (i.e. get the plane to fly in a way that its wings can't generate enough lift) and recover.

For younger scouts, this is an experience that in many cases has created a strong interest in aviation, that resulted in a career. For me (let's say, a mature-age student) is rekindle my obsession with aviation.

Pre-pandemic, the camp was lived-in. Students would camp on the airport ground and do ground school and flight during the day. Post-pandemic, students attend on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from morning to afternoon. Around ten scouts participate in each camp.

What did I learn?

Each day starts with the briefing. In the briefing we learn a bit of theory, such as "how lift is generated by the wing", and preview what we'll do later in the plane, such as "you'll practice straight and level flight".

The learning objectives for this camp were:

  • The effects of controls, where we learn about what happens to the airplane when the pilot manipulates the ailerons, rudder, and elevators.
  • How to fly straight and level.
  • How to climb.
  • How to descent
  • How to turn without loosing or gaining altitude, and how to do climbing and descending turns.
  • How to avoid and recognise a stall condition.

Each of those topics bring along numerous dependencies. For example, to understand the mechanics of straight and level flight, you must understand the concepts of lift, thrust, drag (and its types), weight, their effects on the wing (as a lift-producing device), wing characteristics, the lift formula, and stability (to name only a few).

Apart from the mechanics of flight, much or the time in ground school is used explaining aviation safety practices. The concept of "airmanship" is drilled again and again. This term encompass safety practices and an appropriate mindset that promotes practices such as "lookout" (where you actively look for other aircraft and obstacles in your airplanes path and around), "work-cycle" (where you simultaneously perform a lookout and monitor your aircraft's attitude and performance), "control heading" (where your aircraft travels in a smooth and coordinated manner), "engine handling" (where you monitor oil temperature and pressure, fuel quantity, and the fuel + air mix ratios), and "orientation" (where you know where you are in space).

Eight months later

I completed the camp in January 2023, and its now September. What do I remember from the camp? What are my key take-aways?

Without a doubt, it was it was a wonderful experience. The trainees, flight instructors and volunteers were all excited to be there. Some of the trainees were in their teens, and keen to consider a career in aviation. This camp was the best start in this journey as there can be.

I am not looking for a career by doing this, but to fulfill a dream. I am a very practical and down-to-earth person, and such things feel a bit strange to me, but learning to fly "for fun" in combination with learning to fly with scouts makes this effort extra special.

In my chats with some of the instructors (also scouts), I discovered that they (like me) decided to learn to fly at a "mature" age. Not only that, but ALL of them where engineers of one kind or another. These instructors decided to learn to fly after retiring or semi-retiring from their regular jobs. They decided to commit to something that required a lot of study, exams, money, and commitment, instead of going fishing or playing golf. This was a very surprising discovery for me. I (wrongly) believed that learning to fly is for younger people who want to make a career out of it. Surely, starting at or around 50 years of age is too late!

It turns out that it isn't. Not only that, but with a bit of planning and commitment, it is possible for older student pilots to move through the various certifications and become private pilots, commercial pilots, or even instructors, if they want it bad enough.

So now, I'm thinking, maybe an RPL (Recreational Pilots License), or even a PPL (Private Pilots License) is just the beginning. Maybe, maybe, I should be looking at a commercial certification, and then become an instructor, so that I can continue to discover the immense wealth of knowledge is aviation.

Well, that is something I will decide later. But the things is, the thought has been planted firmly in my mind, and it started at this flight camp.

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View of the apron, taxi ways and Scout hangar from the Scout hut.

I'm in the driver's seat! I recorded this video while I was waiting for Greg (my instructor on this flight) to return.

At ground school, learning about radio calls, landmarks, and circuit.

Some of the handouts I received at the camp.

The recommended textbook, RPL/PPL Study Guide Vol 1 by Bob Tait.

A view of the cockpit. You can see the red electrical systems master switch. On its left is the magnetos switch (this helps start the engine). There's the row of light switches, and on top of it the row of fuses. To the right of the light switches is the avionics master switch.

Some of the "glass" gauges on the left, and the avionics (two radios), a GPS unit, a transponder, and a collision avoidance unit on the right side.

My log book with the first few entries. I'm planning for may more in the years ahead.

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