Ground school: Class 1

Ground school started today at the club. There were about 14 students of varying ages, but all but one was male. Most were at least my age, but several were younger.

The class is taught by the club’s airplane mechanic, who has 30 years of ground school teaching experience from level one (which is us) all the way up to the big airlines. He clearly enjoys teaching the class, and it was apparent that most people had little to no flying experience, so this should be entertaining and educational.

The classes meet every Wednesday night from 7pm – 10pm for 14 weeks: a total of 42 hours of school. The final exam will be very similar to the FAA written exam required as part of getting a private pilot certificate. If we pass with a certain percentage (I think he said 75%) or better, he will give us a certificate so we can take the real FAA exam.

While ground school is not required, I’m hoping the interactive classroom experience will help improve my knowledge (and thus skills) above self study.

I won’t go into great detail here of the ground school material from each class, but I’ll make a note of what we covered along with any especially interesting (to me) details.

The first class was mostly introduction to the class and administrative details. The rest of the class was an introduction to aerodynamics. That is, how a plane flies. The short version is that the wings push air downward, causing Newton’s third law to kick in and push the wings upward. There’s a little more complexity to it, but that’s the idea. The long taught Bernouli principle was discussed and dismissed as the real explanation for flight. The princple itself is valid, and it plays some role in flight, but it is an unreasonable explanation of lift.

Another principle we spent a fair amount of time on is that of the plane’s relativity to the air, not the ground. The bottom line is that the plane, once airborne, doesn’t care what the “wind” is doing on the ground. Headwind, tailwind, crosswind… those are all wind relative to the ground. In the air, the plane just moves forward into air molecules at whatever speed you make it. “Wind” is only important when you want to navigate to a particular point on the earth, but for the purposes of aerodynamics, it’s inconsequential.

To illustrate, if the plane is traveling 100 mph in the air, it’s going 100 mph relative to the air. If the air is moving over the earth (wind) in the same direction as the plane is moving through the air, then you’ll be going over 100 mph over the ground, but you’re still going 100 mph as far as the plane is concerned. If the air is moving over the earth (wind) in the opposite direction as the plane, you will travel less than 100 mph over the ground, but the plane is still going 100 mph through the air. I understand it, but there was at least one person in the class that had a little trouble with the concept. That’s okay with me; it was interesting to hear all the different explanations of the concept.