Private Pilot Study Guide

Fly Accelerated online study guide 

Free Ground School

 Click Here For IFR Section

Here is a list of items that you should commit to memory before training starts if possible. This is the backbone of just about everything we will be doing during our training and will drastically steepen your learning curve once we start the course. I have sat through many, many checkrides (the end of course practical test that includes both oral questioning and a flight with the FAA designated examiner) and this is the bulk of what will be asked of you. These are my stomping foot notes so if some of this does not make any sense to you, it will make sense after I explain in our ground lessons. Try to remember as much as possible but remember this is a guided process! If the page looks funny, try adjusting your font sizes, especially for mac users.

#. While conducting solo operations before you receive your PPL (private pilots license), you will need your gov't issued id, medical certificate, student pilot certificate (its on the same piece of paper as your medical certificate) with instructors endorsements and proper logbook endorsements.

#. You need to have your pilots license, medical certificate and government issued photo ID to act as pilot in command (PIC) after receiving your ppl.

#. To remain current as a private pilot, you will need to have either completed a BFR (biennial flight review) or have completed a license or rating such as the PPL, instrument rating, commercial license etc... The interval is actually 24 calendar months and not 2 years, I will explain...

#. To remain current to carry passengers, you will need to have performed 3 take off and landings (full stop taxi backs in tail dragger or at night and touch and go's during day) in the previous 90 days.

#. You can not carry passengers for profit or hire until you get a commercial pilot license.

#. You may be reimbursed for operating expenses (fuel, oil, engine reserves etc...) when flying for certain charities.

#. It is the aircraft's owner/operators responsibility to ensure that it is maintained in accordance with the FARs (federal aviation regulations).

#. It is the PICs responsibility to ensure that an aircraft is in airworthy condition prior to flight.

#. We will need to ensure that all of the necessary paperwork is on board our plane prior to flight, just remember AROW!
Airworthiness certificate- issued with the aircraftRegistration certificate- issued by change of ownership Operation limitations- 4 parts

1. POH/AFM (pilots operating hand book/ approved flight manual)
2. Placards (little signs all around the airplane like "no smoking")
3. Instrument markings (green arch of oil temp gauge etc...)
4. Supplements ( manuals for all equipment not installed at the time of manufacture) Weight and balance data (current)

#. To ensure that an aircraft is airworthy, we will need to inspect the logbooks. There will usually be 3 of them, one for the engine, one for the airframe and one for the prop. We will need to look for some tests and inspections of the aircraft and its on board equipment in these logs. Annual inspection- the annual inspection is an airframe inspection due every 12 calendar months. The annual inspection must be conducted by an A&P (airframe and powerplant) mechanic WITH an IA (inspection authorization). 100 hour inspection- the 100 hour inspection is an airframe inspection and must be conducted in addition to the annual inspection if the aircraft is being operated for profit or hire, such as a flight school aircraft or rented aircraft. A 100 hour inspection is the exact same thing as an annual (with the exception of having to pack the wheel bearing grease on an annual) but just a regular A&P mechanic may do the 100hr (the A&P IA may do a 100 hr as well). An annual inspection can satisfy the requirements the 100 hour inspection but never the other way around. PAT-24- stands for pitot static system (the ram air and ambient air system that tell the airspeed, altimeter and vertical speed indicator(VSI) what to do, includes the instruments themselves also), altimeter and transponder check due every 24 calendar months. It is an equipment inspection. ELT (emergency locater transmitter) inspection is due every 12 calendar months and is usually done along with the annual. The ELT batteries are due to be replaced by the date
stamped on the battery, it has been used for more than 1 hour or been used for more than half of its life or can be re-charged if appropriate. All ADs (airworthiness directives) must be complied with. These are issued by the FAA and
address safety issues related to different aircraft models. There are 2 types: one time (such as change your propeller) and recurring (such as inspect your seat rails every 50 hours).

**So, to recap aircraft tests and inspections that we must verify in the logbooks**
Annual inspection
100 hour inspection
ELT- 12

#. In addition to the above, we must also ensure that the following equipment on board the aircraft is accounted for and in functional condition for day vfr (visual flight rules) conditions. Just remember TOMATO FLAMES!
Oil pressure gauge
Manifold pressure gauge (for constant speed propellers)
Temperature gauge (for liquid cooled engines)
Oil temperature gauge
Fuel quantity indicator
Landing gear position indicators (retractable gear only)
Airspeed indicator
Magnetic Compass
Seat belts
For night vfr conditions,
we will need the above equipment and FLAPS which stands for:

Fuses (those accessible by the pilot, this is for older planes)
Landing light if operated for profit or hire
Anti-collision light (strobe or beacon)
Position lights (red on the left wing tip green/blue right wing tip and white in back)
Source of energy ( alternator, generator etc)

If any one of these instruments is inoperative, your airplane is not airworthy! You may move your airplane to a place where repairs can be made after you get a ferry permit from your local FAA FSDO (flight standards district office). If there is any other equipment not necessary for safe flight not mentioned here that is inop, you must placard that item as inop (you can use a little yellow sticky if you wish) before the airplane is considered airworthy.

#. There are a few different ways to conduct checklists, the most common being the regular old paper variety. This is usually the sloppiest of all the methods due to the fat finger syndrome (I will explain). There is also flow checks, memory checks (such as the fumbels mnemonic below) and a couple others not mentioned here.

#. There are numerous occasions where checklists are used, here are most of them: Preflight, before starting engine, starting engine, run up, before takeoff, climb out, cruise, descent, before landing, after landing and shutdown to name a few.

#. Lights, camera action! This is your pre takeoff mental checklist which means lighting (landing light, position lights, beacon as necessary), camera for transponder set to ALT (for altitude encoding, this is how tower sees us) and action for fuel pump as necessary.

#. FUMBELS- is your before landing mental checklist. I usually start this about 5 miles out from the airport or so. It stands for
Fuel pump-on
Undercarriage- gear down
Mixture- check
Brakes- check pressure
Engine gauges- check in the green
Lights- as necessary
Seat belts- on

#. I check the weather before each flight by going to I start by clicking the metar text button and typing in my airport designator and clicking the TAF (terminal airport forecast) option as well. Also, go ahead and click translated while you're at it but keep in mind that we will need to learn the raw format as well. We will need to learn about the following overall: metars, tafs, pireps, airmets, sigmets,prog charts, radar and satellite charts. Look around this website and learn it as best as you can.

#. For planning a flight, I use We will go over this in further detail... We also learn how to do flight planning the old fashioned way using maps, plotters and computers but that is not how its done in the real world.

#. When you want to find specific information about an airport, I go to You can find such items as rental cars, FBOs (fixed base operators), fuel prices and availability etc...

#. Here is the weather minimum chart:


Weather Minimum


#. This is a crappy drawing I did of the pitot static system: All of the following images
were created by Me but feel free to reproduce them and use them however you like for the
greater good of aviation, Comrades.



Pitot static System


#. And here is a crappy drawing of the engine driven vacuum operated instruments.


ENgine Vacume System

#. Here is a high wing (Cessna 172) fuel system schematic.


High Wing Fuel System


#. Low wing fuel system schematic.


Low Wing Fuel System

#. Be sure to remember your phonetic alphabet!

#. For help with initial radio calls, see my radio cheat sheet.

#. There are 3 scales of VFR charts used in aviation, they are the terminal area chart (1:250,000), the sectional chart (1:500,000) and the WAC or world aeronautical chart (1:1,000,000, rarely used). Go here for charts.

#. Oxygen is REQUIRED for the crew above 12,500 feet for durations over 30 minutes. It is required for the crew at all times above 14,000 feet and is required for passengers and crew above 15,000 feet! Oxygen is RECOMMENDED for use above 10,000 during the day and 5,000 during night flight by the FAA.
#. According to the regulations, you are required to know the weather conditions, runway lengths, takeoff and landing distance data and any known ATC delays before you begin your flight. Just FYI...

#. There are 3 types of Airmets, Zulu for icing, Tango for turbulence and Sierra for IFR and mountain obscuration conditions. Airmets denote weather phenomenon that could be hazardous to aircraft of limited capabilities such as US!

#. There are SIGMETS and CONVECTIVE SIGMETS which denote weather that is hazardous to ALL AIRCRAFT such as US too.

#. METARS (also mentioned above, I know) are REPORTS issued by certain airports of weather conditions in the area. They are usually issued every hour at 0:53 past the hour unless something significant has changed and needed to be updated. They will tell you about wind direction, velocity, ceiling , cloud cover, temperature/dew point, pressure and

#. TAFs (terminal airport forecast) are FORECASTS issued for certain busier airports that contain much of the same info as metars but just hasn't happened yet due to the fact that they are forecasts and not reports. TAFs are issued every 15 hours and are valid for 30 hours so you have at least 15 hours of advance weather forecast at all times at the very

#. You are required by the regs to wait at least 8 hours from your last drink of alcohol and be .04 or less before you can fly.

#. A standard day is 15 degrees C (59f), 29.92 inches of mercury at sea level. The temperature decreases 2 degrees C for every thousand feet of altitude gain.

#. When temp/dewpoint spread is 4 degrees or less and closing, watch out for fog and low clouds! To determine the height of the clouds above ground level, you subtract the dew point from the temp and divide that number by two. Example: Temp 6c, dew point 4c, 6-4=2 2/2=1. The cloud bases are 1000 feet above the ground!

#. There are a few types of AIRCRAFT speeds we will need to know, here they are: Indicated airspeed (IAS)- The speed indicated on your airspeed indicator Calibrated airspeed (CAS)- Indicated airspeed calibrated for instrument and position errors. There is a chart that shows this in your AFM/POH. Equivalent airspeed (EAS)- Used in jets, don't worry about this one True airspeed (TAS)- This is your actual speed through the airmass. It is calibrated
airspeed corrected for temperature and altitude. Ground speed (GS)- This is your actual speed over the ground as read off the GPS. It is also technically your true airspeed adjusted with the winds aloft.

#. There are also a few different types of ALTITUDES that you will need to be familiar with, here they are:True altitude- This is your actual height above the datum plane, mean sea level (MSL) which is right in between low tide and high tide. Pressure altitude- This is what your altimeter reads when it is set to STANDARD which is 29.92 inches of mercury. You can also get it by taking true altitude and adjusting for non standard pressure (from the metar). This will make sense later, don't worry for now... Indicated altitude- Read directly from your altimeter. Density altitude- This is pressure altitude calibrated for non standard temp and humidity. Be careful, density altitude has been a factor in many crashes!!  Absolute altitude (AGL)- This is your height above the ground level.

#. Bernoulli's principle states that for an increase in wind velocity, we have a corresponding decrease in pressure and for a decrease in velocity, we get an increase in pressure. This is how we get lift

Bernoulli's Principle

#. An airfoil is any device that produces lift. Here is how it works:


Air Foil
#. A stall is a sudden massive reduction in lift caused by exceeding your critical angle of attack. In a stall, the air moving over the top of the wing becomes turbulent instead of laminar and basically stops producing lift. The air moving below the wing still provides lift but it usually isn't enough to keep you from losing altitude.

Wing Stall

#. Airplanes pitch around their lateral axis, Pitch stability is described below:


#. Airplanes yaw around their vertical axis, Yaw stability as illustrated:


#. Airplanes bank around their longitudinal axis, Roll stability illustrated:


#. The flight controls and other important things:

Flight Controls

#. Here is an inside view of the altimeter:


#. Here is the vertical speed indicator "aka" VSI:



#. Here is the airspeed indicator


#. We use 100LL fuel in our general aviation piston planes, it is blue in color and smells like regular auto gas. It is 100 octane and has a lead addative. It is the only fuel we can use unless we have an STC for auto gas! Diesel and jet engines consume jet A fuel, it is clear in color and smells like diesel fuel. There are other types of fuel listed in the older books but disregard them as they are no longer used.


Weight and Balance


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