When I did my flight training, I always enjoyed the flying part. The view and the personal freedom made me feel like I was in heaven. What I didn’t like was sitting through the ground schools. I thought they were boring and a waste of time. You learn flying by being in the air, right?
Ground school and theoretical knowledge are extremely important, and not just for the written exam. I was doing some solo circuits when I was training in Canada. When I was checking the airplane before flying, I noticed some ice pellets falling to the ground. They looked harmless enough. The airport was uncontrolled, so I announced my intentions and took off. After becoming airborne, I noticed rain started falling in place of ice pellets. Suddenly, I had trouble controlling the aircraft. I could no longer maintain altitude, and rushed towards the runway. The rain on the wings and windshield had all frozen and turned to ice! Luckily, I made the runway, and as I flared, the aircraft immediately and violently hit the runway without floating. When I taxied the airplane back, it had ice all over it. My instructor later told me I was lucky not to have had an accident.
I later found out that if I’d paid attention in ground school, I’d have learned that ice pellets are a sign of freezing rain above. I’d have also known about the conditions at the winter warm front and known how to read it on a weather map. I could have easily avoided the whole situation. It is too bad I had to learn such a harsh lesson the hard way, but from now on I will always take all material in ground school very seriously, and encourage everyone else to do the same!