CPL Notes

CPL Balloons: A Set of Self Study Notes

After going through the CPL examination myself some years ago I decided that no-one should have to muddle through and fail the examination the way I did. So I spent three months putting together a set of notes that focus on what you need to know, explained in easy language. These omit the stuff that fixed wing pilots need to learn but balloon pilots don't, so that you don't have to say to yourself, "I think I'd better learn this because it might be in the examination". If it isn't in my notes, you don't need to learn it. The notes are extensive, they allow you to gain some understanding of the subject, not just to cram for the examination (cramming is never a very successful strategy in my opinion). They ease the revision process and help you to prepare for the exam by providing sample questions.

There are 5 sets of notes printed and copied onto A4 paper which relate to each of the 5 areas; Air Law, Meteorology, Balloon Systems, Navigation and Human Factors. Each has a set of notes covering the subject plus a set of multiple choice questions. In addition there are various pieces of supplementary information. Download the Checklist to see the contents of the self study pack.

The notes vary from 10 pages for Navigation to over 30 pages for Meteorology. Each set of notes has a set of multiple choice questions associated with it (2 in the case of meteorology). The questions are an important part of your revision. In order to pass the examination you will need to do two things; first you need to learn and understanding the syllabus and second you need to know how to answer the questions. Those that go into the examination room without any idea of the question format are at a severe disadvantage.

The following is a summary of each of the sets of notes included in the study pack:

Air Law

Air law is covered in a straightforward way. The subject is divided into the various topics and the information you need to digest is set out clearly and logically. These notes should be read in conjunction with The Air Pilots Manual 2: Air Law and Meteorology by Trevor Thom. This is available from www.amazon.co.uk, for about 20. This book provides more detailed explanation of some of the issues.

 There are a number of facts and rules that you need to learn in order to understand air law. To help you with this process an Air Law Workshop is provided. This is in addition to the multiple choice questions and is a set of 90 simple questions and answers. The set of multiple choice questions comprises 25 questions such as:

Sample Law Multiple Choice Question

Q 15. In certain parts of the country military jets practise low flying. Over what height range would you expect the greatest concentration ?

  1. 600 - 2000 ft.
  2. 250 - 2000 ft.
  3. SFC - 600 ft.
  4. 250 - 600 ft.

The answer to this question is taken from this AIC Adobe Acrobat File (497Kb - ~ 1 min 30 sec at 56K)

  • Click here to reveal the answer:
    • d


The meteorology notes are the most extensive since this subject requires that you understand some of the issues in order to answer the questions. Some of the areas included in the notes are: relative humidity and humidity measurement, lapse rates, heat transfer processes, pressure gradients and wind, clouds, air masses, frontal weather, weather forecasts and reports. Again this set of notes should be read in conjunction with Trevor Thom Vol. 2. There are two set of multiple choice questions provided with the meteorology notes, this is because the subject is quite wide ranging and there are far more questions that can be asked.

Sample Meteorology Multiple Choice Question.

Paper 1, Q 10. When the dry bulb thermometer temperature is close to the wet bulb thermometer temperature and light winds prevail the conditions will be conducive to:

  1. An improvement in visibility
  2. Low cloud base.
  3. Clear skies and fair weather.
  4. The formation of fog.
  • Click here to reveal the answer:
    • d

This question tests that you know that when the wet and dry bulb temperatures are close together the atmosphere is humid. It also tests your knowledge of the conditions for fog formation; namely light winds, moist air and some form of cooling. In this case the word "conducive to" rather than saying there "will be" allows for one of the these three conditions to be omitted (so cooling isn't mentioned). In the case of the other three options, there either isn't enough information to say whether they are correct. This sort of approach is typical of the questions. There is some doubt over which is the answer to the question and it is often the case that the correct answer is the one that is more probable than the others rather than being the only clear correct answer.

Balloon Systems

The balloon systems notes were compiled by using information from various sources. Since the examination questions don't rely on just one manufacturer's technical information, a broader base is needed. The notes cover the fuel system focusing on propane, the flight cylinders and the burner, the envelope, altimeter setting, load calculations, emergency procedures and tethering. The notes also include overheating and allowable damage to the envelope and flying wires. The following is an example of one of the multiple choice questions:

Sample Balloon Systems Multiple Choice Question

Q6. You are going for an altitude record and notice a gradual decrease in pressure at the burner as your altitude increases what could be causing this?

  1. Propane freezing in the fuel line.
  2. Water in the fuel freezing in the fuel line.
  3. The flight cylinder is nearing empty.
  4. This is normal when ascending to altitudes above 10,000 feet and is nothing to worry about. It is due to the decrease in atmospheric pressure.
  • Click here to reveal the answer:
    • c


The navigation notes differ from the other four sets of notes because they are about getting you to do things rather than reading and learning. The notes use OS map 186 (Aldershot and Guildford) and they use a number of exercises to illustrate various issues that you need to understand such as latitude and longitude on the OS map and the airmap, magnetic variation and VOR bearings to name but a few. The multiple choice question paper that is part of the navigation notes are based on OS map 173 (Swindon and Devizes). This map is used because it is always used for the actual examination, this is because true north and grid north virtually coincide on this map, surprisingly the CAA are making it easier for you to pass! Here is an example of one of the multiple choice questions for navigation:

Sample Navigation Multiple Choice Question

The following question is based on Southern England and Wales Airmap, Edition 30.

Q 24. Danger area D026

  1. Is activated by Notam
  2. May be entered with permission from Portland operations.
  3. Contains airspace subject to byelaws which prohibit entry during the period of activity.
  4. Extends from the surface up to a specified height above ground level.
  • Click here to reveal the answer:
    • c

You will find the answer to this question by careful reading of the legend (note that unlike the PPL examination, the legends are left on the OS and air maps for the CPL examination). The clue is the * in front of the D026 when it is referred to in the legend. The information you need is towards the end of the paragraph headed AIRSPACE RESTRICTIONS: Areas whose identification numbers are prefixed with an asterix (*).

Human Performance Limitations

The human performance limitations pack comprises the notes, the multiple choice questions, a set of revision questions and some information on alcohol. You will also need to get hold of a book called Human Factors for Pilots by Roger Green et. al. This is available from www.amazon.co.uk, at about 22. The difference between the syllabus at CPL level and that at PPL level is that psychological factors are also considered rather than just physiological factors (altitude, ears, eyes, alcohol etc.). The notes reflect this and cover issues such as carrying out two tasks at the same time, stress, the lemming syndrome, cockpit (basket) gradient and the cocktail party effect. This should be the easiest exam to revise for as at least part of it is common sense and the examination itself is the shortest, being only 20 minutes.

Sample Human Performance Limitations Multiple Choice Question

Q14. The function of the Eustachian tube is:

  1. To improve hearing in the outer ear.
  2. To balance external pressure in changes with the inner ear.
  3. To allow the ear to pop.
  4. To drain fluid from the middle ear.

This question tests basic anatomy and function of the ear. The answer reflects the fact that the Eustachian tube is part of the middle ear and that in the context of flying it is pressure equalisation that is important. If you know this then the red herring (b) can be rejected.

  • Click here to reveal the answer:
    • c