Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,

virtual pilot ground school vs. the real thing

So for those who weren't with me in 2003 (or slept since then), I took private pilot ground school when I first hired on as an avionics engineer. We're STRONGLY encouraged to take it, the company all-out pays for it, etc. They do not all-out pay for flying lessons... you get some help along the way but it's hella-expensive, I'll be forking over thousands this year but it's something I really want and I've got savings (unlike my first year out of college). Anyway, two nights a week I'd sit in a classroom with an instructor and powerpoint. A bunch of guys from my department took it with me (they were suddenly inspired... new girl shows up and takes ground school, what?).

Now that I've decided to really FLY I have to take ground school again. It's not that my education doesn't forward on, it does, but the school has changed their SYSTEM and the FAA loves systems and they must show that everyone complies. When I took it, we had a big written test at the end that proved we we'd won. This time, they give you a packet of CDs so you sit at home and watch mini-videos, take quizzes at the end of lessons, and when you pass a quiz the little system hamsters run back to the school to check boxes in a database somewhere for you. Since I'm not in the new-fangled database, I didn't fit in with the system.

This is not a huge setback for me, I didn't have to pay for it, and I was going to have to brush up on ground school anyway, and it gives me something to do when the weather's bad (which is every day).

But the whole "sit at home by yourself and watch the video people" is kinda sad. I really liked my instructor that first time around. He genuinely loved aviation and wanted us to be passionate about it, too. He talked with us about political issues and changes in the industry, and why aviation user fees are a terrible idea. He told stories from his own flying experience that were entertaining and really illustrated some key points in a memorable way. In class, we'd talk about airplane news, especially if there was a high-profile accident that gave us an opportunity to talk about risks and safety.

You lose that with CDs. I mean yeah, the people talking in the videos are passionate about flying I'm sure, but they're scripted and to-the-point. They don't use the phrase "I like to...". They obviously can't be updated about the latest news or issues before congress (although there may be something about user fees in there, I'll see). There's just something better about a guy from Wichita talking to you.

At least the real flying part isn't videos yet! Flight instructors are all still human. I know as an avionics engineer I should probably hate that, we're always joking about how unreliable humans are and how much better an airplane is when our machines can just take over. But we haven't developed an actual instructor yet. If that's next for us, I might actually resist.
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