How to pass your Helicopter Private Pilot written – Part 44

… “on your second try” would be a more accurate title for this post.

I’ve been at this now for about 7 months.  I walked into the classroom with no real practical experience in aviation.  I knew which end of the helicopter was up but little else.

The ground school I attended was great, lots of important topics were covered and lots of help from the instructors and other students was available.  Sadly I did not take anyone up on their offers, well, that’s not completely true.  Grant and I went through weight and balance, airspace, weather, and a few other odds and ends.  We met outside of class 5 or 6 times to make up the classes I missed. He was generous with his time but my day job kept me from really getting as involved as I should have.  I was working about 60-70 hours a week and traveling nonstop. I’m not sure how many commercial flights I’ve been on this year but it’s well over 60.

I did try to study after the ground school was over but it was tough to carve out some time between the fam and work. It was easy to ignore and I was happy to ignore it.  Every concept was so difficult.  I still struggle with airspace…

This isn’t all bad news though, here is what helped me pass with a decent score which I’ll go more into in another post.

Trying to get through the FAR AIM alone is impossible so keep that as reference only. There is a decent iPhone app that helps you with search and the $9.99 is worth it. But if you’re trying to use it for your ground, it’s fine for a few things but it’s more help when you’re working on your oral.

The ASA test prep is COMPLETELY worth it. The questions are nearly identical to what you’ll see on the tests. The FAA supplement is EXACTLY what they give you in the test so it’s best to familiarize yourself with that.  I thought it was going to be “similar” but nope, it’s exactly the same, try to learn what most pages are asking you, drill on those sectionals over and over and over.  Same with the VOR questions, that’s what did me in.  I wish I had paid more attention to it and familiarized myself with each and every page.  There are a few things in there that we never covered in class like a cross wind component but it’s easy enough to get through with a couple youtube videos.

I also purchased a plotter, wiz wheel, and a CX-2 calculator.  The calculator is important, you should obviously need to be able to plot a course, figure out wind, fuel burn… all of that by hand but a calculator makes it a bit easier.  Some of the questions they ask have answers that are just a couple degrees off so if you have your whiz wheel set a little off, you could be wrong.

The ASA iPhone / iPad app was a pretty big help too.  The dauntless iPhone / iPad app was less helpful.


You’re not supposed to talk about specific questions that are on the test so I won’t do that but the ones that got me on this first go round were VOR questions, I missed most of them.  It seemed like the test was only made of VOR questions… I also missed some about carb heat, I later asked some pilots, instructors and other folks and, well, some got it right and some got it wrong.


Here’s why I failed the first time.

I didn’t study enough.  I decided that VOR was beyond me and ignored it.  I focused on learning how to navigate off the plotter, weight and balance, and the other million topics but thought I’d still pass without VOR.  NOPE.  $150 bucks down the drain.  I failed by 1 question.  Great.  Now I have to tell my wife, instructor, and you all that I’m dumb.

I’m obviously writing this after my 2nd retake… which, you can probably guess how it went but still, a terrible feeling leaving that place with a big FAIL in red. Ugh.


Last thought, when preparing for your PPL, flying is 30% of the time you’ll spend working on your ticket, maybe less.  If you spend 50 hours in the air, you should spend 150 hours learning all the basics, not memorizing them.  It’s beyond important to know how to control the aircraft but it’s also important to understand pressure density, weight and balance, navigation and general aeronautical knowledge.  Don’t expect for them to give you a license because you can nail your spot on autos.