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Are you fit to fly?

IMSAFE - If you're not safe, I'm not safe

By Lach Boyd

If you haven’t heard of IMSAFE, then you probably shouldn’t be flying yet.

What is it?

Pretty straight forward – it’s a simple self-awareness checklist designed to assess your personal physical and mental state. If you’re not fit to fly, and you decide to go anyway, not only have you reduced the safety margins of your own flight, but also the safety of everyone else around you!

It’s rather easy to identify which individuals fit into either category:

  1. Those that genuinely conduct an IMSAFE check and make an educated self-assessment prior to flight; or
  2. Those that hear an instructor say “IMSAFE” for flight and the response is “yeah yeah yeah, I’m safe.”

If you fit into Category 1, then this is perfect. Keep going with this and don’t let your standards drop.

If you fit into Category 2, then you’re staring down the barrel of negligence. Likely you haven’t actually made a simple attempt of self-assessment. In a high-consequence industry, why wouldn’t you want to do everything possible to increase safety before you’ve left the building?

The aviation community is substantial. Made up of many, whether it be those working in the sky or ATC, those enjoying a joy flight or the enthusiasts up for a private flight. Not to mention the passengers…

You owe it to yourself and your community to do your due diligence.

So, what does IMSAFE look like? 

For me (and what we teach at TVSA, and throughout CASA guidance material), it’s the following:


Am I feeling sick or have I had any recent illnesses?

How your inflight performance is affected will depend on what illness you have. Having a cold or flu, for example, can be hard to manage with changes of altitude. The pressure changes can cause pain in the nasal cavity and, ideally, you wouldn’t fly in that condition.


Am I taking any medication?

Taking any prescription or non-prescription medication can present side-effects (like drowsiness). Not feeling side-effects on ground, does not mean you will not experience them with altitude. The best way to be sure and safe of your medication is to consult your DAME. The CASA website also can provide a list of some permitted and prohibited medications.


Am I under any stress or anxiety?

It is completely normal to experience stress and anxiety. Stress is a regular part of life, and stress in small amounts can actually be beneficial, but above average amounts (as well as too little stress!) can affect us negatively. There are 3 main types of stress to be aware of:

  • Physiological
  • Environmental
  • Psychological

Always analyse your stress levels before flying and try to develop some positive coping mechanisms to deal with them.


How long ago did you have alcohol?

No brainer this one. Whilst CASA have particular legal requirements. It is recommended to not fly for at least 24 hours after alcohol consumption. A hangover can be very dangerous! They’re bad enough on a couch, let alone in a cockpit.


Have I had enough rest?

Fatigue will seriously impair your ability to respond immediately and effectively. Sleep requirements vary from one person to another, so it is important that you know what your body needs. Not enough sleep isn’t the only factor that causes fatigue. Stress is a huge factor also. It will undoubtedly take its toll on you.

My partner and I had our first born child December of 2020. Managing sleep has become really important for us and is always forefront of mind. It’s never going to be easy! 

Eating / Emotions

Am I in the right frame of mind to fly? Have I had a proper meal? Am I hydrated?

Eating enough food before flight can restore energy levels for your body and keep your brain functioning at a high level.

There’s nothing to stop an individual from adding their own self checks before a flight. Everyone knows themselves better than others will. So if you are aware of something that often hinders you during flight, try to find something that will help combat this.

Remember, think about yourself but you also need to think about others.

Safe skies for all. 


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CPL Flight Training

By Ashley Miller

Yes, I’ve finished my PPL NAV training, I reckon I could sit for my CPL flight test now… what more is there to learn?

The short answer is: plenty.

Moving on from PPL training phase, you know how to navigate from A to B, and perhaps even to C. This is quite sufficient if you are looking to fly for fun and take friends and family up for joy flights or a weekend away somewhere in your own aircraft. But a CPL is more than that, it is the ability to fly at a professional standard within professional tolerances with an increased focus on safety, passenger comfort, and efficiency. Scenario based training is used as a tool to improve a student’s ability in all these areas in preparation for their flight test.

Professional Tolerances

The key changes from PPL tolerances to professional tolerances are as follows:

  • HDG – Maintaining and turning onto nominated headings from ± 10° to ± 5°
  • ALT – Level off and maintaining an altitude from ± 150ft to ± 100ft
  • Steep turn – Conducting a steep level turn form within ± 150ft to ± 100ft
  • Landing – Landing within the touchdown zone reduced from ± 120m to ± 60m


Before we even start the engines, we go through our departure brief – talking through what we are going out to do and how we are going to depart, and taking into account what we will do in the unlikely event of a malfunction during take-off. Now, if you have nervous flyers on board and you start talking about malfunctions it won’t be very reassuring, but it something you should go over in your head at least, so you have a clear game plan if things do go wrong.

That’s not to say you don’t need to speak to your passengers at all. As PIC (pilot in command) you must ensure that a PAX (passenger) brief has been conducted informing them on the following:

  • Smoking
  • Seat Belts/Seat Operation
  • Emergency Exits
  • Evacuation Procedure
  • Stowage of hand luggage
  • Special equipment on board
  • Control Seat Etiquette (where applicable)
  • Oxygen (where applicable)
  • Flotation Devices (where applicable)

Walking out to the aircraft, keep them safe by asking them to walk beside you and ensure that they don’t walk off towards other aircraft that may be moving about. You could also begin your PAX brief during this time.

A little tip for you… Instructors like acting dumb in these scenarios, so if you don’t tell us not to do something, we will definitely do it during the flight at some point…

Passenger Comfort

One of the best forms of marketing is word of mouth. If your passengers have a safe and comfortable flight, they are more likely to tell friends and family about the great experience they had, the type of pilot you are, and the company you fly for. Unfortunately, in smaller aircraft we don’t have the perks of reclining seats or an in flight passenger service. 

We can still enhance passenger comfort, though, by considering the following:

  • Turbulence. Mechanical turbulence, thermal turbulence, and low-level mountain waves can be minimalised or avoided by flying at a higher altitude. If turbulence is unavoidable, flying at turbulence penetration speed (VB) will not only be safe for the aircraft, but also make smoother conditions for your passengers.
  • Descent rate should also by monitored. Passengers don’t necessarily fly that often and as such their ears may not be able to equalise as easy during ascent and descents. Descents usually cause the most pain and discomfort and on airliners – this is typically when you begin to hear young kids and babies become upset as the pressure builds up in their inner ears. If you can maintain a steady rate of descent, no more than 500fpm (in a non-pressurised piston aircraft), this will allow more time for the equalisation of the inner ear.
  • The view. If your flight for the day is for a scenic flight, consider where your passengers are seated. You get to see the sights regularly and they are the ones paying to see the sights, therefore if you are conducting an orbit of a feature, for example, make sure you orbit to the side your PAX are seated.


Time is money! The longer you are in the air the more fuel burnt and the higher the maintenance costs will be.

When planning your flight, consider the wind and use it to you advantage. Plan for an altitude with a tail wind, or altitude where there is a reduced head wind if a tail wind is not available. Oh, and don’t forget to lean then engine once in the cruise!

Plan direct to your destinations and utilise an airways clearance through CTA. Not only does this save time but you also have someone watching out for you as well. If you suspect that clearance may not be given, still plan for it but have a back-up plan. Think about what you will do if you don’t get plan A… and have plans B and C up your sleeve ready to apply if required.

If you are arriving at a CTAF aerodrome, calculate your Top of Descent position (TOPD) for a steady descent (500fpm) and plan for an efficient join by joining a leg of the circuit that will allow you to land ASAP, but only if safe to do so. Safety must come first, and if unsure join overhead.

Scenario Based Training

Scenarios given may be a scenic flight, charter, or cargo – usually with some specific requirements to be met. The scenarios used will also test out your ability to find information such as the requirements of carrying particular dangerous goods and/or animals on board the aircraft. CAO’s, CAR’s and CASR’s may need to be referred to. Scenarios may also ask you to find the maximum baggage we can load on to the aircraft (hint: this may also mean working with minimum fuel and planning for refuelling stops along the way during the NAV).

The aim of these NAVs is to prepare you for potential real-world scenarios which your employer may ask of you in your career as a pilot. The ability to improve your application of relevant rules and regulations will be where you will see the biggest change in your proficiency as a pilot and open yourself to be able to think outside the box to solve in-flight simulated problems that may arise.

In the past, you will have likely experienced your instructor giving you a flight plan at the end of the last NAV or day or two before your flight. During CPL training we give you an hour and a half from receiving the flight plan and scenario to being in the aircraft ready to go.

‘Ahhh, say again,’ I hear you gasp. ‘That’s impossible!!’

This may sound extreme, but it can be done with preparation.

You can refer to our previous planning for NAVs blog, but here are some tips to help in preparation:

  • Common routes can be pre-recorded.
  • W&B calculations and Take-off and Landing charts for you and your instructor can be done ahead of time. This may not be possible with some scenarios as we may add passengers etc.
  • Come in early before your flight and prepare the aircraft, the aircraft can be pre-flighted, refuelled, and topped up with oil (if required) before you start planning. Keep in mind though that this won’t always be an option with scheduling, so check with Dispatch first.
  • Check the weather. Read through so you understand the weather before you start planning, noting any SIGWX and NOTAMs that may be in effect. Then a final check of the winds and relevant TAFs/GAFs is all that is needed pre-flight.
  • Most CPL NAVs will include YMMB or YMEN, revision of arrival/departure procedures, and radio calls. Going over these will make this part of the NAV much easier to manage in flight.
  • Underpinning knowledge of VMC requirements in all airspace and revision of NAV aid use will also make your NAV less stressful to plan.

Solo Hour building

Many students don’t utilise this part of their training as much as they should. This is a great opportunity to test yourself out and go explore different aerodromes, airspace, and procedures. Plan flights to Albury, go through West Sale airspace, Mildura, etc. If you have any queries about any part of the flight, ask an instructor to assist you through it. The instructor will also discuss with you during your pre-flight briefing any particular procedures you may encounter during your flight to ensure you are as best prepared as possible.

Weather can play havoc whilst hour building, so have several flight plans ready to go, north, south, east, and west to give you the best chance to complete your solo on the day. Also take into consideration the length of your booking, and make the most of it!


Each flight you complete is designed to improve on the last in preparation for your CPL Flight Test. Not only in physically flying the aircraft, but also in critically thinking through problems to solve and complete a safe and legal flight. This is the time to apply the theory learnt during your 7 CPL subjects into practice and demonstrate your proficiency in being a Commercial Pilot.

In the weeks leading up to your test, you will need to begin going through the flight test form and review the knowledge requirements for the ground theory. For our Diploma students, a briefing will be organised to practice going through various questions that your testing officer may ask you. Private students can (and usually do) book a time with their instructor to go over the theory.

The theory to the right will be the topics covered and multiple questions could be asked from each section. The ground theory component can be up to 2hrs during the test.

The flight test will last 3 to 3.5 hours approximately, and the test route will usually be given the night before to give you plenty of time to prepare. It would be expected that you arrive early on the day of the test to have your flight plan completed and submitted on NAIPS, aircraft pre-flighted, fueled, oiled, and clean before the testing officer arrives (don’t forget to give those windows a once over!). To earn extra brownie points, find out how the testing officers takes their coffee or better yet buy them a latte/cappuccino. You could buy them a newspaper or a magazine for them to read during the flight, and even some lollies. It may seem trivial, but it’s a nice touch.

It goes without saying, but prepare you as best you can outside of flying and theory. Get a good night sleep and have a healthy breakfast. It is much easier said than done but relax as much as possible. Nerves will always be present for any flight test you do but don’t let them get the better of you. Trust yourself that you have put in the time and effort to get yourself this far and be confident in your abilities that you have learnt over the journey so far.

CPL training is challenging, but it also a lot of fun. Take the opportunity when you can, especially when you have your instructor with you to help if needed, to challenge yourself to problem solve in flight. Most of all, enjoy your journey in becoming a Commercial Pilot! The growth you will see from finishing off your PPL training to the end of your CPL phase will be profound and put you in the best place to pass your goal of attaining your Commercial Pilot Licence.

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How to do KDRs

By Ashley Miller

Congratulations, you passed your CASA exam. What a great result!! Unless you got 100%, you will receive a Knowledge Deficiency Report, or KDR. This report shows the areas of the subject where your knowledge is still lacking, and further study is required.

When I first heard about KDRs, I had just passed my first passed my CPL Aerodynamics exam. I passed with 73%, so there were a few topics covered in my report. Like many students, I had no idea what all the references on the KDR report meant. I didn’t study de-coding at Uni, and felt like I needed a degree to understand it. It even made hieroglyphics look easy. Upon asking my instructor though, they were able to point me in the right direction, and I hope this blog will help you too.


The Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (CASR) provides regulatory controls over all civil aviation safety. The Manual of Standards, or MOS for short, details technical material which complement the requirements set in the CASR.

The Part 61 MOS supports flight crew licensing regulations and contains:

  • aeronautical knowledge and practical competency standards for Part 61 licences
  • ratings and endorsements
  • standards for Part 64 authorisations
  • all flight test, proficiency check and flight review standards

There are 4 volumes to this MOS and the key one to help with your KDRs is Volume 3. This contains the Aeronautical Knowledge Standards. These standards are used to direct theory training, whether it is self-study or a formal course of training. These standards are used for Flight Crew licensing theory examinations and test candidates on these knowledge standards.

On the back of your KDR is a list of unit numbers and topics. To demonstrate knowledge, you need to write something in your own words to prove you understand each topic. Depending on the subject listed, the response may require one sentence, or a whole page! Each of the items listed will have been covered during your theory classes, and detailed in your textbook, and you can look back over these resources to help build your answer.

For an example, let’s use the following as your KDR:

  • Effect of Weight Part 61 MOS Unit 1.3.2 CADA, 2.5.3 (a)

Click here for the link to the MOS Volume 3 table of contents to begin familiarising yourself with the layout and see if you can find the example listed below.

Locate the Unit 1.3.2 via the table of contents page shown here on the right. If you are using an online version, you can click on the Unit, and it will take you to the list of topics under that unit.

The other number refers to the specific topic.

2.5 refers to Performance Considerations and more specifically 2.5.3 (a) refers to the following;

For your KDR you would then need to explain how the weight and altitude affects (i), (ii), (iii), and (iv) in detail in your own words.

A common mistake students make is simply copying paragraphs from your Bob Tait textbook or from Wikipedia, etc. Your answers will be checked by experienced Instructors and Flight Examiners – and they are not silly. It’s not hard to recognise when a student has done this.

Another common mistake students make is just listing down the Law document reference, or they just paste in a photo of the topic from in the AIP, CAO, etc. That’s not to say you can’t use pictures to help explain things, especially if a graph may help explain the topic, but write the description in your own words. For Performance or the Navigation KDRs using example questions, showing your workings is encouraged. Take-off and Landing charts, weight and balance sheets and even beginning of daylight and end of daylight charts may also be required as part of your response. The idea of writing of the KDR is to demonstrate that you understand the topic and your testing officer may even use your KDRs as part of your pre-test theory, so don’t short-change yourself by just copying from the textbook.

One more thing to note is that some KDRs may have simply 2.5.3 written and you need to write about everything under 2.5.3. If your KDR has 2.5.3 (a) (iv) then only that specific topic needs to be written about.

Going back to my first KDR for Aerodynamics, with a pass and score of 73%, I think I had something like 10 topics to write about. This took forever to write, and it was like a 3000 word essay at approximately 5-6 pages long. I used that as great motivation, I vowed not to simply aim to pass my other exams but pass well to save me from having to write so much for my KDRs again.

KDRs are not always a quick and easy task – for you, or for the person marking them. We encourage our students to get their KDRs done soon after sitting the exam, so the knowledge is still fresh from all that pre-exam study. It also gives us plenty of time to mark them before your flight test.

Should they wish, Flight Examiners can also question you on your KDRs appropriate to the licence you are testing for. Many will accept an instructor’s signature on the KDR as satisfactory, but students should be aware that they may be asked about some of the areas of deficiency, on top of the usual test theory requirements. Don’t think it’s all over once your instructor has signed them off!

If you are working towards a CPL, you will have many exams to sit and KDRs to be written on your aviation journey. I suggest downloading the MOS on to your computer or at least bookmarking the webpage, so you may refer to it when you need to write up your subsequent exam KDRs.

I hope this helps – and remember, if in doubt check with your instructor for guidance.

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Seek Multiple Sources of Information


Don’t be afraid to look for and engage with information from different sources. This can help you understand concepts more fully.

Use your Flight Training Manuals and textbooks as a starting point.

Where they make reference to other materials, look them up.

Know where to find relevant CASA publications and how to navigate them.

Try YouTube for videos explaining concepts you aren’t understanding from readings and briefings. Check with your instructor to make sure the information is accurate and relevant for you. Be aware that some information will be specific to where it’s made.

Do your own research – there are plenty of aviation books in publication with varying degrees of technical detail. If you’re planning to work in aviation, the more you know about the industry as a whole, the better.

Use your instructor. If you’re struggling with something, they might be able to explain it to you in a different way that makes it click.

Finding multiple sources of information is particularly important because people learn differently. You might learn better from reading a textbook, or you might need a video to better understand a concept.

Some resources we like:

  • TVSA Flight Training Manuals
  • Bob Tait textbooks
  • Aviation Theory Centre textbooks
  • QF32 – Richard de Crespigny
  • No Man’s Land: The Untold Story of Automation on QF72 – Kevin Sullivan
  • Aerobatics Down Under – David Pilkington
  • Flight-Club on YouTube
  • Flight Safety Australia – CASA’s Safety Magazine
  • Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying – Wolfgang Langewiesche
  • The Killing Zone: How & Why Pilots Die – Paul A. Craig
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Timetabling and Scheduling Study


Effective time management is crucial for study success.

How do you do that? Well, you could…

Break your time up into blocks. It might help to have a yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily planner/ schedule. This will help you keep on track with major deadlines but keep your day-to-day focus on manageable blocks.

Schedule specifically. Don’t just block out time for “study” – write in your schedule what you will do with that time. For example, it might be “read two chapters” or “review notes on meteorology.” This helps keep you focused and also helps you know how much time to allocate.

You’ll be able to achieve more with smaller blocks of time because you won’t have to spend time working out what to do. If it takes you longer than expected to complete the task, remember that for next time you need to do something similar.

Work out your personal prime time. Do you study better at night or in the morning? What commitments do you have outside of your flights and study that you need to schedule around?

A good idea is to create or find a weekly template. Block out times that you are otherwise engaged. This could be work or family commitments, sporting activities or other hobbies – and don’t forget to schedule time to sleep, eat, and relax!

See where you have space to fit in your study. Is it enough? Can you reschedule anything to give yourself more time to study? Or a better time to study? If you know you concentrate better at night, but all your nights are filled with other commitments, can anything be moved?

Find a routine and commit to it for at least a few weeks. If it’s not working for you, change it up.

Try different lengths of study time. Maybe spending half a day a couple of times a week works for you. Maybe you need short bursts every day. When you first start, try a few different things, and make note of how you felt and how well you took in information.

Communicate to the people in your life about your commitment to flight training and what that means. Enlist one or two key people to keep you accountable and motivated.

Learn to say no! Sometimes you will need to prioritise your study goals over a casual social engagement. Focus on the big picture in these moments and communicate your reasons. People will understand.

Self-directed learning requires discipline. Be honest with yourself about your commitment. Review your progress and how well you have stuck to your schedule.

Be prepared for life to happen. Allow yourself time to grasp trickier concepts, or to flow with distractions.

The biggest key is to find what works for you. There is no one size fits all approach.

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Student Wellbeing Resources


Studying can be stressful. It’s ok to seek help if you’re struggling.

Speak to your instructor or anyone else you feel comfortable speaking with. Communication is key – we can’t help if we don’t know what you need! While your instructor is not a therapist, they may be able to help you manage your study situation with consideration to your life outside of flying.

We will do our best to work with you to help you achieve your goals.

Maintaining your overall wellbeing while you study will help improve study outcomes. This includes things like managing stress, getting enough sleep, eating well, and creating healthy relationships.

Some quick tips:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Monitor your media consumption – you control your Facebook or Instagram news feeds, which emails you receive or open, what you watch, and what you read. Remove anything that doesn’t make you feel good.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Find a friend to open up to.
  • Eat well.
  • Schedule time for fun stuff.

Everyone will experience their own set of challenges while studying. The best thing about this modern world? It’s easy to find tools to help you with anything!

Here are some places to start: has a series of online courses to help you develop strategies to improve the way you feel. Each course is backed by clinical research and trials. Some are free for anyone to complete, others come with a fee (or can be free if prescribed by an affiliated medical practitioner). is a website developed by the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, and beyondblue. It “aims to support Australian tertiary students to achieve mental and physical health and wellbeing.” The website has modules for checking your wellbeing and tips for improving it. It’s free to create a profile, and you can check in regularly to track your wellbeing status.

ANU’s “Mental Health & Wellbeing” page includes tips on sleep, mindfulness, managing exam anxiety, procrastination stoppers, living away from home, and relationship resources.

An Introduction to Mental Fitness and Self-Improvement is an online workbook written blog-style by a registered psychologist for students wanting to improve their wellbeing and “be good at their studies.”

*all links correct at time of publishing. If you have trouble with them, please try Googling the relevant university.

And no matter how you may be feeling, remember that you are not alone.

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The Art of Note-Taking


Note taking helps you make meaning from a text or briefing.

It’s important to summarise sections in your own words to check your understanding of it.

Write out key words and definitions. In some cases, you might like to create a quick reference list. You could do this from the back of your notebook.

Let’s be real, note taking during briefings is an art form – it’s not just about how fast you can write. The trick is filtering the key points and only writing those down.

A big part of effective note taking while in a briefing is how well you listen.

Listening tips:

  • Concentrate.
  • Analyse the message. Connect each concept to the bigger picture.
  • Take any lapses in the flow or breaks as an opportunity to make sure you have understood the key points.
  • Ask questions. If you don’t feel comfortable raising your hand mid-briefing, write them down to ask later.
  • Be objective. Try not to let your personal opinions of the person speaking cause you to miss the important lessons.
  • Find a motivation. If you don’t find the speaker or topic particularly interesting, concentrate on what value you can get out of the briefing.
  • Stay physically alert. You should be comfortable but not so relaxed that you are not engaged. This will also produce a better talk from the speaker – they will naturally respond to signs of your engagement.

Try to ignore the urge to copy everything off the slides. Instead, listen for the key points and write those down.

Develop your own shorthand, abbreviations that you understand can help you speed up your note taking. This will develop as you practice. It doesn’t have to be perfect or consistent – you’re the only one who has to be able to understand it later!

Review your notes later that day. Edit them to make sure you will be able to understand what they refer to later.

Writing has been proven to be more effective for memory retention than listening or reading. Anytime where you are actively creating, the information sticks in your memory better. This includes speaking aloud, drawing, and writing. Try reading aloud when you are going through your textbooks or Flight Training Manuals.

Handwriting is more effective than typing because you are more actively involved.

Rewriting your notes can help – this might be just making them neater, or you could expand on them by pulling together information on the same topic from different sources (e.g. write all your information about stalling from briefings, FTM, and textbooks into one section of your notebook). Use headings and subheadings to help organise ideas.

Compare your notes with a friend – they may have understood something more fully than you did.

Don’t be afraid of colour! Different coloured pens or highlighters can be a very effective way of both breaking up your notes and helping you find things later. You might like to colour code information – perhaps highlight in yellow things you struggle with and need to go over more regularly.

Do your own research into note taking styles – a quick Google search will find heaps of options and tutorials. Some methods include:

  • Cornell Method: divide each page into sections, one for notes, one for cues, and one for a summary
  • Outline Method: categorise information by levels of importance
  • Charting Method: create a matrix to show relationships between information
  • Sentence Method: writing complete sentences where terminology is specifically important
  • Mind-Mapping Method: visually represent information using bubbles, lines, etc

You might be immediately drawn to one method, or you may need to try out a few for yourself to see which one works best.

Remember: you will get better with practice. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself plenty of time to develop these skills. They’ll be invaluable for your study.

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Prepping for Navs

A Mahood planning cropped

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

We know it’s a common saying, but it couldn’t be truer for Nav exercises.

The more work that a pilot can do on the ground, the less work that he or she needs to do in the air. In a cockpit, when environmental stressors and various threats are in place, it’s important to know you can focus on those things because you’ve planned well, helping keep your head outside of the cockpit more often.

It goes without saying…
Mapping is a fundamental part of flight, and the majority of this can be done on the ground. More often than not, students will just draw a line from point to point, might even put a halfway point if they’re feeling dangerous. Let it be, let’s see what happens in flight. Radio calls missed, ETAs not calculated which throws out Top of Descent, positive fixes become more of a reluctant guess.
For a seasoned pilot, maybe it’s fine. But there’s nothing wrong with fine tuning your flight before you leave either.
Halfway markers help for a quick 1 in 60. Highlighting lead out and lead in features for each leg.  Nothing wrong with anticipating what features you might use for a positive fix. Mark your radio calls, frequency boundaries, transponder changes. Anything you like.

If something doesn’t smell right, maybe throw it out…
It’s common with early Navs, to see a student get their first positive fix – thumbs up, looking the goods. Then another positive fix. Rule the distance between the fixes. Calculate the time between the fixes. Distance over time on the Wizz Wheel. Bang, there’s your ground speed. 50 knots??? Hmmm……
Ground Speed in you pre-flight planning is (when done correctly) a useful tool in comparing your GS in flight calculation. If you’ve planned a ground speed of 100 knots, and you calculate in flight that you’re doing 50 knots. Maybe something isn’t right? Could’ve used the wrong scale on the ruler or written down the wrong time at your positive fix. Either way, it smells a bit fishy.
Pick another positive fix and recalculate your ground speed. Maybe you are actually doing 50 knots… but at least you have confirmed this twice now.

Stay ahead of the aircraft…
The more prep you do keeps you ahead of the aircraft. Anticipating what fixes you’re going to use is a handy trick. Providing you a tracking well, you can plan ahead for the positive fixes that you want to use. In doing this, while you’re still on the ground, you can then measure the distance between the fixes, and the distance from the second fix to the destination. This minimises the use of the awkward ruler in the cockpit and assists with cockpit/time management. All you then need is the (correct) time at those fixes to finish off your ground speed and then you can get your revised ETA. By no means are these difficult processes but they save you time in the air which keeps your head outside of the cockpit more often.

What if plan B doesn’t work???
The weather is ok, but maybe a little dicey. You’ve selected an alternate, but the alternate’s forecast changes while you’re in flight.
While you’re on the ground, make sure you read the weather. Not just for your flight or your alternate, but maybe for a Plan C. You plan to fly west, but you know the skies are clear up north. Having this information in the back of your mind that in the event of poor weather out west and you can’t simply turn back, maybe you can turn north and land somewhere safely until the weather passes.
Most of the time, you won’t even need to use Plan B, let alone Plan C, but you don’t want to be wishing you had one.

Some of the above is just some small percenters that help with cockpit management, and it’s planning that you can do on the ground before you even go anywhere. Doing this, you’ll have more time up there to do what’s important; keep your head outside the cockpit and enjoy the view!!

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Studying for Exams

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The biggest piece of advice we can offer is start early. Include exam study as part of your regular study schedule.

Find out as much as you can about what the exam will involve. Think about content and question style. Know what you can take into the exam. Get familiar with those materials.

If you’re not sure, ask! Your instructor will help you as much as you can, and other students can provide valuable tips and information as well.

Review concepts regularly. Going over concepts in small, weekly segments is much easier to manage than trying to force yourself to remember everything in the few days before your exam.

Vary your revision practices. The more different ways you can practice/review a concept, the better. Draw diagrams, write out notes, create and answer your own questions, talk to others – whatever you can think of!

Repetition is one of the best ways to commit things to memory – give yourself enough time to go over things several times before the exam.

Concentrate on understanding rather than memorising concepts. Some things can be rote learnt. Others will require more in-depth comprehension. Know which is which for your exam and study appropriately.

Find a study buddy to help keep you on track. You can also explain things to each other to check your understanding.

Make use of all the resources available to you. Read your textbooks, FTMs, etc more than once.

Practice, practice, and more practice. Do all the practice exams and questions you can find. Check your answers to see where you are going wrong and review those concepts again before having another attempt.

Ask questions and seek help early. If you’re really struggling to understand a concept, speak to your instructor.

As your exam date approaches, do your best to maintain your normal self-care routine while ramping-up your study. Maintain your regular diet, exercise, and sleep patterns. Changing your lifestyle will only increase stress.

Before the exam:

  • Make sure you get enough sleep.
  • Eat something. Avoid the sugar-high-and-crash of chocolate bars and candy. Choose something that will give you the energy you need to concentrate while you’re in the exam.
  • Stay hydrated – your brain is mostly water. It’ll work better if you’ve had enough to drink.
  • Pack your back the night before so you can double check you have everything as many times as you need to.
  • Check that you know where you’re going and when to be there. Plan to leave yourself plenty of time to get there in case any unexpected delays come up on the way.

During the exam:

  • Stay calm.
  • Read the question carefully. Understand what it is asking you.
  • Move through and answer as many questions as you can as quickly as you can. You can return to anything you’re unsure of later.
  • Don’t spend too long on one question if you’re struggling. Make a note to come back to it if you have time.
  • Try to manage your time so that you have some at the end to review your answers. This is where you might pick up on mistakes in interpreting the question.
  • Don’t overthink it – if you’re not sure on the answer, eliminate obviously wrong options and then just choose what seems best to you.
  • If you’re unsure about changing your answer, don’t. Chances are your first instinct was right.
  • Answer every question. You might be wrong, but you definitely can’t get marks for a blank answer.

After the exam:

  • Be proud of yourself – whether you pass or fail, getting through an exam is an accomplishment in itself.
  • Celebrate your pass. You can assess what you need to work on tomorrow.
  • If you didn’t pass, take a moment to think about why. Were you underprepared? Did you just panic in the moment and forget everything? This is important for working out what you will do differently next time around. Then move on.

Remember: nerves are normal! Do what you can to manage them. Be prepared and practice breathing techniques. Seek professional help if you need it.

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Integrated vs Non-Integrated CPL

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You might hear these terms a bit, but what does it mean for you?

CASA (the governing body for aviation in Australia) define an integrated training course as one that combines theory and practical flight training in a structured way and is designed to be completed within a condensed period of time.

For CPL training, an integrated course can be done in 150 hours of flight time, while non-integrated training requires 200 hours.

The idea is that by doing all your training in a more condensed timeframe, the amount of flight training required to achieve the standard can be reduced.

Theory can be delivered by a third-party under an integrated syllabus, but here at TVSA we do it all.

Note: only a flight training operator who is approved under Part 142 to conduct an integrated training course for the grant of a PPL or CPL can offer training courses that benefit from the reduced aeronautical experience requirements described in Part 61.


So, what does this look like for your training with us?

Well, we have theory briefings worked into our flight syllabus. For your ab initio training, you will receive your training on a pattern of briefing, flight, briefing, flight, for much of the syllabus.

Throughout your navigation training, you will receive more briefings spaced around your longer flights.

The seven CPL theory subjects are taught here on a cycle – so usually one subject a month. The exact formatting of the class varies a bit, sometimes depending on the subject requirements and sometimes what we see is working best for our students. Generally, the class is delivered over 1-2 weeks, with a two week gap between subjects for study and to sit the exam.

Whether you decide to complete your CPL with us by our Diploma course or privately, you can be on our integrated syllabus. To qualify, you just need to complete all your training (from zero experience to CPL) within about 18 months. You do also need to complete all the theory courses with us, and do the exams when we direct you to.

We can also offer CPL training on a 200-hour non-integrated syllabus. This has no time limit on when you complete it, and more flexibility about the theory and flight schedule. You can completely self-study the theory on the 200-hour syllabus, and complete the exams when you like (as long as they are all done before your flight test!

Can a student transfer from a non-integrated course to an integrated one?

No. You must start on an integrated course to qualify for the 150-hour syllabus.

Can a student transfer between integrated course providers?

In general, yes. Flight training operators are allowed to offer courses that allow recognition for previous training with another integrated course provider. The first school will need to provide evidence that the transferring student meets the experience requirements of the second provider.

If you are interested in transferring, it’s best to get in touch with us to discuss your specific case. Depending on your level of experience you may be able to apply for credit transfers or recognition of prior learning.

Contact us or give the office a call on (03) 5369 5162 to discuss your CPL training options.