There is confusion as to what ground school really is. Let me share with you the three types of ground school.
It should be understood that “Ground School” has evolved over the years to be “studying to pass the FAA knowledge test”. As far as the commonly advertised “Ground School” goes, nothing is further from the TRUTH. With all the popular “ground schools” from the leading publishers, do not expect a comprehensive ground school to help you get your sport pilot certificate.
Expect to get something that only gets you through the FAA knowledge test. I work and help design knowledge test prep materials called “ground school”, and the objective is to teach you only the information to get you through the knowledge test questions as simply and easily as possible. Let me note here that an instructor is required by law to teach you the aeronautical knowledge to be a pilot, which is above and beyond the FAA knowledge test.
Understanding the important things that keep you safe and flying confidently are the first and most important things you should learn in GROUND SCHOOL. Unfortunately, this most important knowledge is not taught for the classical “knowledge test prep” ground school.
“Ground School ” is actually three specific areas of knowledge:
1. Learning the flight and aircraft operation procedures before getting in the cockpit, the most fun part of ground school.
2. Leaning the aeronautical knowledge (weather, sectionals, cross country, etc.). This is also an interesting part of ground school that is used to become a safe pilot.
3. Learning the answers to the FAA Questions to pass the knowledge test. This is the least interesting and sometimes the scariest. It requires unnecessary time spent and additional memory recall required, and does us the least good.
Yes, some of the information for items 1 and 2 above are in 3, the knowledge test prep, but the knowledge test prep is only 20% of the ground school that you need to learn.
Note that the “knowledge test prep” ground school is required, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be at the beginning of flight training, or the more important ground school. The FAA Knowledge test is simply some measure of the applicants ability to remember some of the concepts, plus the regulations.
It is much more efficient and cost effective, if you can learn the fun and most important stuff first (items 1 and 2 above) on the ground…in “Ground School”, rather than using the cockpit as the classroom. You are paying 3 to 5 times more for learn the knowledge in the cockpit than your would for the same knowledge learned in the classroom. Do not worry, all the fun ground school builds towards the final phase of “3 ground school” to take the FAA Knowledge Test and the Checkride. It is easier to learn the information and then be able to answer the FAA questions, when memorize the questions and answers.
The best resources for ground school are the FAA handbooks “Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge” 8083-25A and the “Airplane Flying Handbook” 8083-3A. These should be your reference books for all your ground schools and preparing for the Checkride also. I have modified/enhanced both these books for sport pilots flying LSA as a downloadable PDF. This allows you to know that to study and what not to study plus add important information. If you want a complete “ground school” covering all three needed topics visit the Hamilton Pilot Training System for more details.