Apr 152013

As some of you may be aware there has been an update to the Bronze exam and the question bank.  Speaking to the very helpful Mike Fox at the BGA my understanding of the situation is as follows:

The new question bank has been developed to comply with the new EASA regulations.  Two key elements of this are that the question bank needed to be a minimum of 120 questions and that the exam needed to be split into 9 different areas (as opposed to the previous 7).  The BGA has now developed the new questions and arranged them into the new sections.  Each exam paper will now consist of a number of questions randomly taken from each section and formed into one paper.  The 9 new subject areas are:

  • Air Law and ATC Procedures
  • Human Performance
  • Meteorology
  • Communications
  • Principles Of Flight – Sailplane
  • Operational Procedures – Sailplane
  • Flight Performance and Planning – Sailplane
  • Aircraft General Knowledge, Airframe and Systems and Emergency Equipment – Sailplane
  • Navigation – Sailplane

To conform with CAA/EASA rules the new exam questions will not be publically available.  As with the present PPL/NPPL exam papers each student will be issued with the exam paper which will then be returned (along with all notes and other workings out, if I remember correctly from my own NPPL exams) at the end of the examination.  So, if anyone claims to have a copy of the new exam questions then I would suggest that you inform your CFI and the BGA as they will probably be very interested to find out where they got them!

So, where does that leave GlidingSchool.com and is it still a useful resource for Bronze students?

I think the answer to that question is yes, GlidingSchool.com is still a useful resource albeit in the short term a little less so than previously.  Let me explain.

Speaking with the BGA they were (naturally) unwilling to give me the new questions but did indicate that while the majority of the questions had been re-written they were still very similar to the ones presently on this site (although now in the 9 separate subject areas as explained above).  There is, after all, only a limited number of ways that you can ask a question about the minimum age to go solo!  As a result, if you’re doing the learning and are able to answer the questions on the site then the ones in your live paper shouldn’t be overly dissimilar and shouldn’t cause you any issues.  But the site now needs to have some work done on it to bring it up to scratch with the new system.

From my perspective, I now have two key actions I need to take to keep the website valuable as a training aid:

First, as the questions on GlidingSchool.com are still in the old section headings I need to go through them and re-arrange them into the appropriate new heading areas.

I will then sit down and review the old question bank, review the EASA exam guidance and develop new questions that reflect (as closely as possible) the new requirements.  Once I’ve done that I will see if the BGA would be willing to review them as a ‘check and balance’ to confirm they’re appropriate.  I’d be delighted if they did help out but equally I understand that they’re already busy so may not be able to so, so no promises from either side on that one.

One other thing I’m considering is the development of some online e-learning to cover some/all of the exam subject areas.  To my knowledge there isn’t anything out there at the moment that covers these subjects in such a fashion.  That usually means on of two things – there isn’t a call for it or no-one has been bothered to do it yet.  If (and it’s a big if) I do go down the e-learning road it’s likely to be some time before anything appears and there’s a strong likelihood that it may be a premium (ie paid membership) service beyond the main site as it will take significant time, effort and additional software purchase to achieve it.

In summary, please keep using the site as I think you will gain benefit from the practice when you come to sit your exam, but do be aware that the questions will probably differ slightly from what you have revised.

Also, I’d appreciate any feedback from people as to whether they think some online e-learning would be useful and if so, would they be willing to pay a small membership fee for it.  (I stress again, this is only a potential long term idea and that my short term focus will be on the question updates).


Apr 092013

Well, I finally had the opportunity to do a really good, hands-on test of the GliderGuider this weekend.  I used it during a 3 hours cross-country soaring flight and – in a nutshell – it was brilliant.

Since my last post on using the system we’ve had the power routed from the main batteries to the GliderGuider so no issues there now, plus we’ve linked it in to the EW microRecorder so hopefully all ready for recording Badge flights.  We’ve also put a permanent mounting into the glider for the device; it’s a RAM mount (excellent quality) which is compact and easily allows either landscape or portrait positioning.

The weather was good, with only about 1 Octa of cloud so plenty of sunshine and glare – plus, I was heading north-west so the sun was behind me for most of the flight.  That combination of bright sunshine direct on to the screen would have washed out most PDAs but the screen on the GliderGuider stayed visible and readable throughout.  Even wearing sunglasses it was clear and there was no need to keep bobbing my head around to avoid glare on the screen (which I had to do with my old iPaq).

The software I was using was LK 8000 – already loaded on the system along with a trial version of SeeYou.  On the surface the two programmes do pretty much the same thing but for some reason I’ve always struggled with SeeYou but really took to LK immediately.  It’s a fantastic programme made even better by the fact that it’s free.  It’s also been recently updated but, so far as I can see, the main update features are really beyond my level of flying at the moment (many seem to be to do with mountain flying and I don’t think the South Downs really qualify as ‘mountains’!).

I’ve done some tinkering around with the menu/screen display options to get the information I prefer and I’ve spent a few hours playing with it in simulator mode at home.  As a result it all felt very familiar and easy to use once airborne, allowig me to concentrate more on the soaring rather than the software.  The combination of familiar software and the bright screen of the GliderGuider made the whole navigation experience easy and allowed me to concentrate on flying the aircraft.  By the end of the flight I was going to the next level of understanding and really making good use of things I thought somewhat complex at the start.  For example, when thermalling the system automatically changes the information that is displayed and I found it really useful to be able to compare average thermal performance against height gain over the last 30 seconds – indicating to me when I needed to think about leaving the thermal and heading off for the next one.  All very easy to see and understand.

(As an aside I’ve also put Sky Demon – power flying navigation software – on GliderGuider and that seems to work fine too although I’ve yet to test it as thoroughly as with LK 8000).

All in all a very good experience with the GliderGuider and LK.  The only thing I have not been able to do so far is connect up my PC and Condor flight simulator with theGliderGuider so that I can practice more at home.  I know it’s possible, as others have done it, so I think that is more to do with my lack of technical ability than GliderGuider!