A little video about the day I got to putter around in a Ford Tri-Motor!
My work experience prior to Baker’s
My father had a unique way to get me to learn about cars. He wouldn’t let me get my driver’s license until I learned how to work on cars. And what better way to achieve that than buy a Triumph TR7 that didn’t run. I remember the day it was TOWED to the house. There was to be no driving in my future until that car was fully repaired. Six months later, after a teardown of the engine to replace the head gasket, replacement of the transmission, the rear end, and the drive shaft. Keeping the Zenith Stromberg updraft crabs synced was an ongoing nightmare and DO NOT get me started on Lucas electrical system, which must have been conceived during a Welsh Demon Summoning ritual that went awry.
At the time all of that turmoil was going on, I was working for the local FBO, getting all of my civil time in for when I go get my A&P. At the same time I earned a 2 year degree in electronics and that helped greatly when it came to take the writtens, oral and practical.
But…. life happened. Those halcyon days of working on airplanes ended 25 years ago. I had my time in but I had forgotten a lot of what I had learned via on-the-job training.
When 2018 rolled around, I wanted to go back and finally get my A&P. I saw two ads for A&P prep schools in Trade-A-Plane. I always grab a copy of TAP whenever I can and one ad was always there; Baker’s School Of Aeronautics. I cut it out and saved it. I remember seeing this ad for YEARS in TAP. When I started asking around, Baker’s kept getting highly recommended, especially by a very good friend of mine that got his A&P from there. For me, his recommendation and the ARMY of other graduates that swear by Baker’s, my decision was finalized – Baker’s it is!
My Baker’s Prep
Since it was such a long time since I have wrenched on a certified aircraft, I went whole hog on training materials. I used the King Schools video course which was excellent for me because it actually shows what the questions are pertaining to visually. I get a lot out of visual presentation.
I also used the test prep apps from Dauntless Aviation. The flash card feature is excellent. The apps have excellent descriptions for those of use that need that visual of “how it works.”
For the King Schools video, I didn’t bother with the sample tests, I only watched the videos. Same with the apps, I only used the flash card feature. As the instructors at Baker’s will tell you, ONLY consume the correct answers. Recognize the correct answers and ignore the wrong ones.
List Of Things Not To Do Before You Arrive At Baker’s
- Don’t take sample tests or random tests.
- Don’t use the time before Baker’s to slack off – you study.
- Don’t think this will be easy, it won’t be.
List Of Things Not To Do After You Arrive At Baker’s
- Don’t go to Nashville – you study.
- Don’t take weekends off – you study.
- Don’t fart around after classes – you study.
The staff is there to help you succeed. They are a great bunch of people who are actually dedicated to getting you an A&P certification (don’t call it a license ffs). Don’t fear the DME’s they are very helpful and are not there to make you fail.
Once you are into the oral and practical portion of the course, have your ass in a study group every night. EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. The act of asking each other questions is VITAL to succeeding with your orals. Nothing, no other study method can replace it. If you want to be the loner and study on your own, make sure you have the time off of work and the cash to stay a few extra weeks in Lebanon.
No matter what you spend getting your certs, it will still be waaaay cheaper than a semester of college. That said, there are loads of ways to lower your costs before you get to Lebanon and while you are there.
Some hotels are more expensive than others. I stayed in both the Hampton Inn and the Holiday Inn Express and they both have their pros and cons. I can only speak about the other ones via word-of-mouth from my fellow students.
- Nice accommodations
- Big lobby to host study groups
- Good breakfast
- Free snack pack during the week (bottle of tea, granola bar, coffee cake and a piece of fruit.
- Literally next door to the school so you might be able to do away with having a car.
- It is the most expensive choice of the school’s recommended hotels.
Holiday Inn Express
- Nice accommodations
- Big lobby to host study groups
- GREAT breakfast options – it has a CINNABON bar!
- It is very affordable
- You will probably need to rent a car or budget for a lot of Uber rides.
Love Your Walmart
It will cost you a lot if you eat out for every meal. Go to Walmart and buy food that is easy to prepare with just a small refrigerator and microwave. One of my fellow students ate baloney sandwiches for his entire time there.
If you are fortunate to live near an aviation museum, do yourself a favor and get a season pass. I went damn near every week for three months to learn all I could about turbine engines. I took hundreds of reference photos and studied them for hours when I would get home. I never worked on one and had a lot to learn to get through the powerplant written test as well as the oral and practical.
If you don’t have any knowledge about electricity or electronics, I suggest getting this, an electronic education kit (Amazon Link). It has 130 different experiments that will teach you everything you will need to know about the fundamentals that you will face on the writtens, the orals and the practicals. For only $35, it is a great deal.
If you are a turbine guy and are unfamiliar with the archaic technology called a carburetor, consider this Army educational film on YouTube. Here are some other helpful videos…
Above and beyond all of the above, there was one thing that made me successful and that was flash cards. Not the flash cards from a software app, but actual notecards.
When I got the Oral and Practical book from Baker’s, I took each question, copied it by hand on the front of a notecard and put the answer in my own words on the back. I did this for most of the book for the questions I didn’t know like the back of my hand. When I wasn’t in group, I was going through this stack of cards, read each card and tried to answer. Once I did, I flipped it over to see if I got it or not. I would then place the card in a pile and move on to the card.
I did this over and over and over. Once I knew the card by heart, I would place it in a different pile and then continue on with the pile that I still didn’t know. I repeated this until I was left with no cards in my hands. I then repeated this up until the day I took my orals.
DO NOT QUIT
Of my class, only three zipped through everything on the first try. Most failed something; a written, part of the oral or the practical – me included. The powerplant written was a particular struggle due to my unfamiliarity of turbine engines.
Doing the prep work that I have suggested BEFORE you get to Baker’s will help you find success. If you don’t do the prep work and don’t put in the insane hours required to succeed, you can’t blame Baker’s. You have to do your job before they can do their’s.
Baker’s has a damn fine program to get you your certificate – best in the nation. Listen to your instructors. Work your ass off and you will get there.
City planners have been pushing back on the idea of VTOL, air taxies and urban air mobility in general. There is a general feeling of fear when this new, and destined technology is discussed.
Over the next 30 years, aviation will change in more fundamental ways than it has since Kitty Hawk. That sounds like a radical statement, but it is true when you consider the impact of new aerospace technologies that are currently being worked on.
Current aviation transportation technologies are all based on fossil fuels and hasn’t seen movement since the development of the jet engine. There are two basic types of aviation fuels – Jet A and Avgas. Jet A is like a highly filtered form of kerosene with various additives, usually to prevent icing. Avgas is leaded gasoline, 100LL being the most common. Even though the “LL” stands for low-lead” it is still heavily leaded.
The future is electrically-powered aircraft, but until the energy density of batteries compare to that of fossil fuels, that future may be far off. Battery powered cars are a lot easier to engineer because the car is always resting on the ground, an aircraft must pull itself, and it’s passengers, and cargo up to operational altitude, transit the distance to the destination, land and still have a 45 minute safety reserve as required by the FAA. There will need to be a breathtaking breakthrough in battery tech before it becomes feasible for use in general aviation.
For aviation, the answer might not be batteries at all. Capacitors are rapidly increasing their energy density when compared to lithium ion. “Super-capacitors” have a lot of benefits over lithium-ion batteries, chiefly rapid charging. They also feature longer lifecycles, their manufacture is more environmentally friendly and theoretically they would be cheaper. That said, they will be probably be seen in automotive use cases before they would appear in aircraft.
A great stop-gap to electrify the current aircraft fleet is hydrogen fuel cells. The technology already exists for use in aircraft. You only need a hydrogen tank, fuel cell and electric motor. The typical aircraft would shed pounds, gain useful load and have a much more extended range due to hydrogen having more energy density than fossil fuels.
Naysayers and Prophets of Doom™ rally against automation in all of its forms. There is no way around the simple logical conclusion that automation will continue to grow until all human toil is eliminated. White collar and blue collar jobs will be changed in ways we cannot currently fathom. Automation will touch every single part of human society and culture; emergency services, transportation and logistics will be the first to feel these effects. Call centers for emergency services can be greatly augmented by the use of AI. Autonomous aviation is an easier problem to solve than automated driving.
With automobiles, the hazards are mind-bendingly numerous – pedestrians, animals, other cars, drunk drivers, drivers that are texting, drivers that are running red lights – essentially other drivers. Aviation has had a set of well-behaved rules and procedures for operation of aircraft in a complex, shared airspace. And on top of that, there is a robust training program and many levels of certifications and endorsements to access that airspace. So it is a no-brainer that aircraft will probably achieve level 5 automation before ground transportation will.
Aviation has been at Level 3 since the 50s with radio navigation and autopilot. I remember a pilot, from the 1970s, that would fly his Beechcraft Bonanza cross country using VOR as a navigation guide. He would tune his radios to fly toward a VOR navigation station and then set the autopilot. He would then SLEEP until he got to the VOR. When the Bonanza would fly over the VOR, the autopilot would rock the wings of the aircraft in an attempt to stay on the VOR radial. The closer to the VOR, the more the wings would rock and at some point he would wake up and reset the autopilot for another VOR and back to sleep he would go. And yes, this was illegal and wholly ill-advised, but yet he had the tools to do it.
The FAA has already issued rules for the certification of drone pilots (FAR Part 107) and I feel logistics will be the first part of the aviation industry to be automated. In 2013, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, declared his intentions to design, build and deploy a drone delivery program for the internet giant. UPS, FedEx and DHL have all shown signs of interest in autonomous logistics but I am sure their interest is on a much larger scale than the home delivery functionality Amazon is focused on.
Autonomous passenger flight is a much more problematic issue. Uber seems to be leading the way in land-based urban mobility for passenger service. They have a program in Pennsylvania experimenting with self-driving cars and just last year Uber announced their “elevate” plans for flying cars. Insuring passenger safety during automated flights is the FAA’s primary function. Will Part 135 be greatly changed or will a new regulation part be published to handle all the facets of autonomous flight? Time and technology will tell.
As the FAA weighs and ponders autonomous flight and how it will integrate with the current airspace system, municipalities are wondering how all this will fit with their current infrastructure. Some plans I have seen range from building rooftops airports (Roofports? Skyports?) to complex and expensive infrastructure solutions that included purpose-built terminals and waystations. The key to a successful implementation of urban mobility will require inexpensive and non-invasive solutions. With any journey, the last 5% of the journey to the destination can be the most expensive and difficult to implement.
Applying first principles to the problem can yield some pretty simple solutions.
The cheapest and most most easily adaptable idea is to use traffic circles (or roundabouts if you are not in the US) for VTOL landing pads. Traffic circles are already in place all around the country, usually in neighborhoods and where none exist, common intersections can easily converted to a traffic circle with an integrated VTOL landing pad in the middle. (see featured image above).
Autonomous VTOL air taxis and manned VTOL aircraft can utilize these pads placed in neighborhoods. VTOL ambulances can access patients much more quickly than if they have to use trucks trying to navigate road traffic. Trips to and from a local airport for a commercial flight will be much more manageable with a VTOL trip from the airport to within a block or two from your home.
Autonomous transportation is coming and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Within 30 years, the use of our national airspace will be unrecognizable when compared to what it is today. But fear shouldn’t win out, we can make these changes inexpensively, improve the quality of life for everyone, clean up the environment and push humanity forwarded. And that is always a good thing.