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A big part of the ground syllabus for PPL training is navigation and flight planning. The ground training feeds into practising navigation in-flight and of course eventually to the qualifying cross-country.

What's the best time to start the classroom work on this subject, in the context of training that's spread out over a long period? What are the pros and cons of learning it at different times? If it makes a difference, I'm interested in the situation in the UK for an EASA PPL.

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    $\begingroup$ I can't honestly see how this could be anything but opinion based. I struggle to work out any pro or con of learning it earlier or later. What are you actually asking here - whether leearning it before you need to is detrimental in some way? $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Oct 6 '16 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ I also don't understand the question. If you're learning you have a CFI. He'll tell you when and what. $\endgroup$ – user6035379 Oct 6 '16 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ @user6035379 By that logic there shouldn't be any flight training questions on the site. $\endgroup$ – Dan Hulme Oct 6 '16 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ Is the real question here "why hasn't my instructor started teaching me navigation yet?" :-) I tend to agree with kevin, FWIW. There's a lot of theory in navigation and presumably you need it for your written exam(s) anyway, so the sooner you start the sooner you can work towards that. But I don't know if there's any typical best practice, it probably also has something to do with how your instructor (or school) wants to manage the syllabus and his own time. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Oct 6 '16 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking this from a CFI or student perspective? As a student, the answer is start learning as soon as possible. As a CFI the answer is far more nuanced. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Oct 6 '16 at 22:37
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As early as possible.

They say "aviate, navigate, communicate", which puts navigation into a pretty high priority - just behind flying the plane. It is more important than talking on radios.

I cannot see any downside for learning navigation too early beside the natural "memory decay" for acquiring any new material & knowledge. Even basic navigation techniques will benefit your first day of flying (unless you're absolutely not interested in knowing where you are). You can even discuss the route with your instructor during the pre-flight, even if flight planning is not the lesson today. You will not get to know the details, but you will be introduced to aerial navigation.

That, of course, assume that you are learning at a comfortable pace and you are not struggling with the present material.

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I would also say "As early as possible" with a different rationale and a few caveats:

You need to learn about airspaces and charts so that while you're working with the maps, you understand what you are doing. It would help also to understand a little bit about aircraft performance.

A lot of learning navigation is an iterative process -- you learn a little, go work a little, internalize a little, and build a broader base to learn on. It doesn't hurt to try to build that base early, but keep in mind that if things don't make sense you may be missing some pieces.

It's difficult to get the full scope of what you need to know when you're just starting out, so be comfortable with the fact that it may not make sense all at once. "Navigation" is a very comprehensive skill that gets better with study, practice, and time (ie retreading the knowledge and skills over a period).

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I think what you are looking for is to understand the learning experience. Much of what you learn in ground school only really makes sense in context, ie when you are in the left seat of the airplane. Doing the classroom work makes the best sense when it is close to the time you will use it.

To get a license you can either go for an intensive course over a month or have lessons spaced out much more. With intensive courses you go the ground school just before you start the actual flying, when it's spaced out the tendency is to do the book learning and written tests as you go along.

Studying navigation way ahead of using it is unlikely to give you any real advantage as you will likely forget a lot by the time you do go flying and have to re-learn the topics.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry my question was unclear; I didn't think about the case of an "intensive" course where you do all the ground school first. I'm talking about a training syllabus which is spread out over a long period, with individual topics interspersed between the flying. $\endgroup$ – Dan Hulme Oct 6 '16 at 16:39

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