More than a supplier of equipment for aviators, Sporty’s (www.sportys.com) has long had a significant presence in the flight training world, including its own flight school, Sporty’s Academy.
Last October, Sporty’s announced an across the board upgrade for its more than 20 aviation courses. We’ve used its courses to upgrade our skills as well as learn new ones and we have greatly appreciated that once a person buys one, Sporty’s provides access and upgrades for life.
That, in our opinion, is important because, once completed, a course becomes an easy and effective way for a pilot to review material in preparation for a flight review or look up topics when we’ve got a question. Plus, the publications that come with a course, including such valuable books as Aerodynamics for Naval Aviators, give the course owner a library that is an inexpensive treasure trove of basic aviation knowledge.
We’ve reported on some of Sporty’s courses in the past, but as the company continues to improve them by adding content and capability, a review is in order.
We took a deep dive into the Learn to Fly, Commercial and Instrument pilot courses. Each of the courses named is priced at $279, although an instrument and commercial combo is $449.
Once in a course, the student is figuratively taken by the hand and guided through how to use the materials and the main training tools: Video Training, Test Prep, Resources, Checkride Prep and Flight Maneuvers. Navigation through the training tools was simplified with the 2022 update—the tools appear on the left side of the screen at all times. Clicking on one displays the full menu of materials within that training tool and allows the student to take them in the recommended order or customize the order as well as review sections previously studied. Each section is presented in a video format from 10 to 20 minutes long.
Under each video are two tabs, one with a transcript of the video to assist retention and review of the material and one with prepared notes on the video. The audio portions of the videos can be played separately—we were told that this came from user requests to be able to listen to and review lessons while driving.
The flight maneuvers training tool breaks each of the maneuvers required for a rating into individual sections with graphics that describe the maneuver from start to finish. It makes the properly flown maneuver easy to visualize and, in our opinion, should reduce the time that it takes the student to master the maneuver once in the airplane.
Sporty’s also provides a downloadable guide to all of the maneuvers for each rating. We think that printing it out and keeping it handy will help students learn the flight maneuvers initially and review them when preparing for the checkride.
A number of videos include review questions. Once the student selects an answer, clicking on the adjacent tab brings up the section of the video that gives and explains the correct answer.
In the test prep section the student can customize test prep in a number of fashions, including a study session from a chosen keyword. The course tracks the student’s progress. As in the past, simulated FAA written tests are available—passing two of them with a score of 80 percent or better entitles the student to an endorsement to take the FAA written. In addition, now the Sporty’s course can be linked to ForeFlight so that pilots who use the ForeFlight electronic flight log can upload the written endorsement to their ForeFlight logbook.
We continue to be impressed by the content and variety of materials in the resources section of each of the courses. The section now includes a lesson guide to be used on the latest Microsoft home flight simulators. We think that can help students save money in the process of obtaining a rating.
The resources section also includes various study guides and course outlines. A separate section, FAA Handbooks, contains electronic copies of FAA publications that pilots regularly shell out a lot of money to buy—Aeronautical Information Manual, Aeronautical Chart User’s Guide, Airplane Flying Handbook, Aviation Weather, Aviation Weather Services, Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, Weight and Balance Handbook, Pilot/Controller Glossary and a number of Advisory Circulars pertinent to the rating sought. Sporty’s upgrades this library from time to time, so once a person has bought a course, he or she will have a solid, regularly updated aviation library on hand.
Plus, with Sporty’s 2022 platform expansion, the user can access each course and its library on iOS and Android devices and five smart TV platforms: Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Chrome-cast. The progress the student makes through the course syncs between all devices.
When the FAA developed the Airman Certification Standards (ACS), it created an objective standard for evaluating an applicant’s performance on a checkride and gave CFIs a solid prep tool. Sporty’s has gone one step further with a set of interactive videos keyed to each section of the ACS. Each video includes the references for the particular ACS task, the knowledge to be demonstrated, applicable risk management and skills involved with the task. We think this is of significant value to anyone working on a new rating.
Each course also allows the user to upload documents such as a Pilot Operating Handbook, so that the student has all of the materials relevant to work on a rating in one location.
There is a flight instructor portal that allows the student to include their CFI in the course so the instructor can track progress and performance in the course and can view course content to then fine-tune one-on-one instruction time.
Sporty’s upgrades also include integration with AOPA’s Flight Training Advantage (AFTA), the web portal- and iPad-based training application for organizing flight training. Finally, new videos cover the latest airspace changes, flight planning tips for Garmin avionics and new ForeFlight weather tools.
Put simply, we came away impressed with Sporty’s upgrades and consider the price for the courses to be most reasonable for the value received.