Sporty’s has unveiled its latest Learn To Fly course, and it’s everything a beginning pilot could want to get started on the path to becoming a pilot (and mostly likely getting addicted to this stuff). A few days later, I had the chance to get an in-depth briefing on it from Sporty’s Bret Koebbe and Eric Radtke from Sporty’s Academy. They explained that the platform is all new, and it is, not because they dressed it up, though they did, but because there are several new features and functionalities that I just love and that are sure to work their way into other Sporty’s courses as they get made over.
Going through primary training might be a slightly or very distant memory for many of us pilots. It’s important to remember that to pilots in the process, a lot of this stuff is complicated and not at all intuitive. A good instructor understands not only the complicated stuff, but also that the trainee pilot is coming to it all with new eyes. This Sporty’s course gets that, and uses those basic foundations to introduce new topics in a way that allows learners to see the connections between something they will immediately get, for example, the need to determine if the weather is good enough to fly a lesson, to something they don’t know, like what the basic VFR minimums are (1,000 feet and 3 miles).
To start with, the Learn To Fly Course is not a new course. Over the years the company has put together a package of high-definition video—it’s seriously really good—to bring new pilots step by step through the learning process. So while the course itself is not new, the way they’re presented and are widely accessible to students is new and noteworthy.
The way many access the course is via a web browser, though there are apps available for iOS and Android devices. Regardless of device, the course is more graphical than ever, which is the way everything is going, and hooray for that, but for Sporty’s it presented a challenge to create a site that looked the same and worked great on many different platforms. But they did it. You could, for instance, start out watching video on your phone, pick it back up on your desktop at work (we won’t tell) and then that evening watch it on your smart TV via Roku or Apple TV, and the look, feel and functionality are the same. Plus, the course remembers where you left off and is ready to rock and roll as soon as you are. The courses are lifetime purchases, so if you’ve bought the Learn To Fly course within the last many years, your product just got updated free of charge. How often does that happen in life?
The content itself offers a lot of ways to use and access it. Watch a video, and immediately after, you can take a quiz on the material. As you progress through the course, you can study for the FAA knowledge test by reviewing material on a particular chapter or by choosing questions you marked as needing further study. And new this year is a search function that will allow you to create what are, in essence, customized quizzes on material on a single subject, for instance, cross-country flight planning, which is tough for many folks learning to fly.
One change, more of an evolution, is Sporty’s focus on the Airman Certification Standards (ACS), which is the guidebook for the practical, or flying, part of FAA ratings and certificate exams. One of the things I was most impressed by in the new course, and there was a lot that did, were the graphical demonstrations of the maneuvers from the ACS. Having turns on a point described to you is kind of like a radio program about paintings. It can be done, but it’s far from ideal, and in the end, you’ve only got a rough idea of what the thing looks like. Sporty’s ACS sections include the same great testing and review features, including utilities, as the written exam part of the course. You get in-depth preparation for flying the maneuvers—something that will help you fly them better and in less time, making everyone from you to your instructor to the FAA examiner happy.
Some of the other new features of the course include a pre-solo test section, which can be customized by the instructor, self-graded flash cards for the knowledge and practical tests, and integration with CloudAhoy—a really cool flight tracking app that many students and instructors use to review training flights—and with ForeFlight, a full-featured navigation app for iOS devices.
Sporty’s Learn to Fly course costs $249 for a lifetime subscription, and for that price you can use it on any platform you’d like. Finally, for those who want to check out the course’s look and feel, and get some good content in the process, an introductory Learn to Fly overview is available free of charge. For more info, check out sportys.com.