Now that you have chosen your PILAPT software (click here for the post: PILAPT – which software), you are now ready for the hardware, that is the joystick and keypad. Most if not all schools with PILAPT assessments will recommend that you (at least) buy a joystick because this will be part of how they test you, however before buying anything it is best to check with your school to confirm whether this is the case.
Having flown in two different types of aircraft, one with each a joystick and a steering column, it came to no surprise to me when I read that a candidate who wanted to really practise and get the most out of practising PILAPT, should go and buy a joystick. For others this may not be so clear. Let me first explain a little, with three short sentences:
There are arguably two main types of aircraft, Airbus and Boeing. Certainly these are the two most widely known companies. The Airbus aircraft fleet use joysticks while the Boeing aircraft fleet use steering columns. Enough said, before I open a can of worms!
The reasoning behind using a joystick is to test motor, hand-eye coordinate and spacial awareness (ILS tracking) skills. That is, how good you are at controlling something. While you can use the arrow keys on your computer keyboard, you have to keep in mind that pressing down on a button with your finger is very different from controlling something primarily with your wrist, which is what the joystick does. Again this is different from flying an aircraft with a steering column as the upper arm muscles are the biggest muscle in play there but luckily I only needed a joystick, which are more readily available and cheaper to buy than a steering column!
Now many PILAPT programs do not require you to have a separate number pad. In fact my own personal fifteen inch laptop already has a number pad next to the usual keyboard, therefore giving me access to two sets of number keys on the keyboard. One set running horizontally across the top of my Qwerty keyboard and of course, the number keypad sitting right next to the Qwerty board. But the biggest thing to take on board here is, how will your assessment be tested? Again for me personally, CTC Aviation tests candidates using a number pad. Now they give you a separate number pad to use while testing and this number pad is the opposite way around than your average keyboard. That is the top line of numbers are 1, 2 and 3. This is opposed the ‘normal’ 7, 8 and 9.
When it comes to number pads the world in which we operate is very confusing. For bank employees, mobile phones and CTC Aviation when testing (at least for) their Wings program candidates, the number pattern of the pad is 1, 2 and 3 at the top.
However on a number pad attached next to a keyboard on a computer, an ATM and the machines used punching in your PIN number when using your credit/debit cards (in the UK anyway) all have a number pattern of 7, 8 and 9 at the top.
Confusing, right? But then as a pilot you will be using both your left and your right hand to do the same thing depending on which seat you sit in on the flight deck, so this is how I see this number pad dilemma, as practise on being flexible and ambidextrous. Having said that, go buy the correct number pad to practise on for your own assessment if you do not have one already. The risk of failing an assessment because you could not be bothered or did not want to spend that extra money buying one is really not worth it in the grander scheme of things. Again going personally with CTC Aviation, a candidate only gets two tries at passing an assessment to get onto a course. Do you really want to waste one try just because you did not have one stupid little piece of equipment that is not that expensive to purchase in the first place?