Updated: May 11
I’ve never met a student in South Africa that is impartial towards meteorology exams. It’s either a subject a student truly enjoys because it comes naturally to them, or it's their least favorite subject. When I was writing my South African CPL theory exam I felt like I had a Cumulonimbus (CB) cloud hanging over my head simply because I wasn’t sure what material to study and I found the rumors about the difficulty of this exam is to be off putting. Without proper guidance as to which textbook to use, I struggled to make sense of some topics. Eventually a friend recommended a book that changed my whole view on the matter and helped me to pass my South African CPL meteorology exam.
Since I found this book so beneficial I decided to write about it to help others ace their exams. I have not checked whether it is on the list of recommended books on the CAA website, but I found this book helpful nevertheless.
The book ‘Meteorology for the South African Private Pilot’ by Stephen Medcall is a short guide to understand important concepts for this subject. It’s small, easy to read and only includes useful information. It should be available at most local airport’s pilot shops. (I bought my own copy at Grand Central Airport and later purchased a copy for my friend at Lanseria International Airport).
Although the book title suggests that it’s only applicable to Private Pilots, I used this book all the way up to ATPL level in South Africa- the principles in meteorology don’t change with each successive exam after all. So it’s definitely worth investing in to develop a sound meteorology foundation for the rest of your career. (On a side note, since I've had pilots contact me regarding the ATPL meteorology exam I must add that relying entirely on this book to pass the exam is not sufficient! This book will have to be used together with additional textbooks because the scope of the ATPL exam is wider, but unfortunately I do not have another book to recommend since I used my EASA ground school to pass the South African ATPL exam). This book will simply ensure your basic principles are well understood before moving on to more complex topics.
I found that studying this book gave me the foundation I needed before moving onto the practice questions (which you can find on the online question platform of your choice such as BGS Online or Question Bank). The topics are well divided into different chapters that compliment the different topics from the online question database. Studying the entire book is a good idea as it touched on everything that can be expected in the exam- general questions of meteorology, South African weather and the more practical aspects such as decoding METARs, TAFs, significant weather charts etc.
What did I find most informative about this book compared to other books I've come across? The information specifically regarding the South African weather system. This section is condensed into a few pages so it’s easy to overlook when first skimming through the book. However, there are several questions in the actual exam at the CAA regarding local weather and this book explains it wonderfully. Learning this section is especially important to foreign students completing pilot training in South Africa because there are vastly different weather patterns in different parts of the country. This can come as a surprise to foreigners who haven't personally witnessed these weather patterns while growing up in South Africa.
The beauty of studying for this subject is that meteorology is applicable to daily life when flying, from your first training flight. It’s therefore to your own advantage to take the time now to fully understand the material. Hopefully this book will be as helpful to you as it was to me. Just remember one very important thing if you feel overwhelmed when studying for meteorology- that every cloud has a silver lining. With proper preparation you will be successful.
If you have any other tips for acing the South African theory exams (for meteorology as well as all the other subjects) then contact me so I can write about it. It’s in everyone’s best interest to create an aviation environment that is safe, so let’s help each other grow into knowledgeable safe pilots.
The views presented in this article are solely the author's based on available information at the time of writing. The purpose of this blog is to inform readers, not to provide professional advice. Readers are advised to research further and consult relevant professionals, such as flight training schools. Readers are cautioned when acting on information provided and assume all risk from such actions.