Primary flight lessons are pretty much the same as they were 25 years ago, with a focus on practical flying skills: ground reference maneuvers, landings, and communications. One thing that has changed, however, is the available selection of training tools. Student pilots don’t have to rely on a weeks-long ground school or a thick textbook anymore. From online videos to interactive software, it’s never been easier to show up to your next flight lesson prepared.
Sporty’s has offered flight training courses specifically made for the iPhone and iPad since 2012, combining video segments and written test prep features. While the Learn to Fly App has seen a number of updates over the years, 2017 has brought the most significant update in some time. Here are some of the highlights.
The heart of the app has always been the in-depth video segments, over 23 hours in total, which cover both essential flight maneuvers and practical tips for better airmanship (our favorite: engine TLC). These videos have been extensively updated with new HD footage and animations. Rather than put the viewer in a classroom, most segments prominently feature in-flight footage and exterior-mounted camera shots.
There are also a number of brand new segments, many of them covering hot topics. For example, an insightful section on angle of attack explains not only what the term means, but what some of the new AOA instruments look like in the cockpit.
Besides the video segments, we think the test questions are the most useful feature. There are multiple ways to study, including study sessions with answers and explanations, flashcards, or simulated knowledge tests. All of these have been extensively updated to remove old questions and add new ones. The FAA has recently begun cleaning house here, eliminating silly questions about celestial navigation for example, so the updated question database will save student pilots some time. There are also new review quizzes after many video segments. These short quizzes, usually 5-10 questions, help reinforce the material in the videos.
Finally, the app also includes the new Airman Certification Standards. This new document from the FAA replaces the old Practical Test Standards, and is an essential guide to all the skills a pilot will need to know for the oral exam and checkride. The Sporty’s app cross-references each ACS task to relevant video segments, which is makes it easy to prepare for the checkride.
In addition to the new content, there are a couple of new features in the app. The “Ask a CFI” option is great for pilots who are stumped by a complicated subject or frustrated by a plateau in flight training. It gives course users access to a team of flight instructors at Sporty’s flight school, who can answer questions and offer tips.
The app also offers access to a new headset program, called Lightspeed Tryout. This allows pilots to rent a Sierra ANR headset for just $50/month. After six and twelve months, there are options to purchase the headset at a reduced price.
Sporty’s Learn to Fly app is free to download, and includes some valuable content to get started: four “get started” videos that offer tips on finding a flight school, tips on the medical exam and training timelines, access to an online flight school directory, basic test prep features, and more. Complete features, including all video and test prep, can be unlocked for a one-time fee of $199.99.
Sporty’s Learn to Fly app covers the Sport, Recreational and Private Pilot certificates, and offers an automatic written test endorsement at the completion of the course.