I see a lot of conversation about taking the knowledge tests before starting the program. I’m reading through the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge and on page 1-22 it says, “the FAA recommends the knowledge test be taken after the student pilot has completed a solo cross-country flight.” Any reason why ATP recommends the opposite of what the FAA is recommending on this?
Absolutely, because while the FAA is the regulatory body that oversees aviation in this country, they really don’t have the most experience when it comes to flight training. The FAA doesn’t determine the curriculum or anything else other than what you need to know and that the training is conducted safely. ATP has been successfully training pilots for the airlines for almost 4 decades and have created a program that works. The fact of the matter is the knowledge exams, while required by the FAA, don’t really follow any curriculum whatsoever. It’s really just a box check that any person who simply studies for can pass regardless of whether they have any flight experience or not. Therefore ATP recommends you get them out of the way so you can focus on what you need to focus on, particularly at a time when you’ll have some experience and context.
There is no requirement to do so but I can tell you there are countless posts on this forum by students who are either thankful they took them prior or are sorry they didn’t.
The FAA makes recommendations for general public, not necessarily specifically for aspiring airline pilots who want to take a fast track to their new careers. If someone were to take a year to get their private pilot’s license, maybe attend a ground school, fly once a week on the weekends, then by the time they complete their solo cross country, they in theory have touched on all the areas covered on the knowledge test. However, for someone trying to do the same thing in 2 months, the recommendation may not be appropriate.
In the ATP program, you will be flying almost every day, studying for the written test while trying to memorize maneuver flows, takeoff and landing procedures, learning systems and performance of the plane you are actually flying etc etc, just adds to the effort required to complete the program on time. So if you can get the written tests done before hand, you have more time to focus on the other required tasks in the program.
Also after you’ve taken one written test and compare it to actual flight training, you will realize the written test information is very rote and does not reflect the dynamic use and correlation of aeronautical knowledge required to be a pilot. Getting a good score on the written is not a guarantee that you will be a good pilot. However, getting a bad score on the written test is a guarantee you will get grilled on your checkride
Hope this helps,
You will come to learn that the FAA says a lot of things that do not make much sense, such as “pitch for speed and power for altitude” while on final. They have their ideas, some of them are good…