How to pass ATPL Performance and Loading first time!

The ATPL Performance and Loading exam is often regarded as one of the easier exams- but I dare to challenge this misconception! It has a varied syllabus that includes extensive theory, as well as the practical application of the Boeing 727 charts.

You'll be expected to know how to interpret the CAO 20.7.1b, runway distance supplements, take off and landing charts. You should also be familiar with the theory behind climb, cruise and descent performance! Easy? Not too sure about that!

ATPL Performance and Loading
Photo: Caleb Hotz

1. Understand the Drag and Thrust graphs

Ten minutes spent understanding this graph and what affects it would be much more beneficial than rote learning what affects endurance and range, for example.

Using specific phrasing, CASA can easily distinguish between those who truly understand the material and those who simply memorise it.

Be sure to know how the following affect both endurance and range:

  • Altitude

  • Weight

  • Temperature

  • Configuration

  • Wind

2. Understand the relationship between clearways, stopways and V1

Similarly, understanding the take off distance vs accelerated stop distance graph can help dramatically.

It is a fantastic way to remember the effect clearways and stopways have on your V1 speed or your ability to take off with a heavier aircraft.

Not only should you know the following, but you should also make sure you understand why the following occurs:

  • Generally, the addition of a stopway will allow for higher V1

  • Generally, the addition of a clearway will allow for a lower V1

  • The intersection of TODR and ASDR is a balanced field length, this would be the smallest amount of runway needed.

3. Make sure your lines are straight

This exam is about accuracy! A squiggly line on one of your take off charts could mean a few hundred kilograms of difference.

A good way to tell if your line is perfectly straight is to compare where the line starts in the box compared to where it ends.

In the example below, we started the line perfectly centered but by the end, its trajectory had shifted to the lower half of the box. Repeating this incorrect practice just a few times means you'll end up being well and truly outside of the allowable tolerance!

4. Use a divider

Do not underestimate the worth of dividers. Not many people know how useful this piece of equipment is during the exam. Use your divider to measure your passengers on the trim sheet- do not use a ruler. If you're out by just a millimeter every few lines it will take you out of the acceptable tolerance for the exam!

You can also use dividers to check that your lines are perfectly straight by measuring the start and end against a fixed-line.

Bonus points if your divider has needle tips and a wheel.

5. Read every line in the Weight and balance workbook

This comprehensive 16-page document essentially teaches you everything you need to know about doing weight and balance questions for this exam.

While this workbook contains much of what you would already know, there are a few sentences that you'll be asked about.

Pay particular attention to the notes regarding standard weights!

6. Know CAO 20.7.1b thoroughly

The CAO 20.7.1b forms the core of this exam. It covers everything from obstacle clearance requirements to certification tests of aircraft.

  • Expect about half the exam to be questions straight from CAO 20.7.1b

  • Please note: It pays to understand and highlight the difference between NET and GROSS gradients. Unfortunately, not knowing and clearly illustrating this is a common pitfall.

7. Be aware of "Flight Planning" questions

So, these aren't the proper scary questions you'll see in ATPL Flight Planning but if you compare the two syllabuses, you'll notice they overlap slightly.

You are expected to know the practical applications of climb, cruise, and descent from your blue 727 manual.

When I teach, I call them "Flight Planning" questions as it's typically what you'd expect to see in the ATPL Flight Planning exam- not in your Performance exam!

Just a couple of these questions are normally included - offering an opportunity to score extra marks if you've already learnt it...

Moreover, you'll have to know it for your ATPL Flight Planning exam, so you might as well master it now and be a step ahead.

Focus on the climb tables and altitude capability- particularly 1 engine INOP!

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