Flight School & You


Many companies are putting together a list of reasons why you should choose their flight school, but what is the best for you? When working towards my private pilot license I went to my local airport and really enjoyed the experience. Once I decided I was serious about becoming an airline pilot I took the plunge and joined the intense fast track at ATP. These are extremely different experiences and I can definitely help you with yours. Choosing the right flight school can save you time and money, so let’s get started.

Let’s Get Personal

Firstly, why do you want to fly? Airline captain, flight instruct on the weekends, take the family to great camping spots, or even circumnavigate the world by yourself. However outrageous the goal make sure it’s really clear and focused. Now you need to see what else is needed for your particular goal. An airline captain needs a college degree, so you may want to look at colleges that way you receive your ratings and degree at the same time. Whereas flight instructors have to be patient, courteous, and organized.

Learning to fly can be financially fruitful once you have your ratings, but getting there can leave a sore spot in the wallet. Understanding what you can afford financially can allow you to set up a timescale for reaching your goals. Some schools even require a full time commitment. If you’re unable to set aside that amount of time you can reduce your list to school’s that have flexible scheduling. I have also done a blog entry about financing your flight dreams, hopefully it can help make a decision.

What is your self-discipline like? Part 141 schools usually have rigid schedules and want to see improvements pretty quickly. This will allow you to succeed more quickly but some people are wanting to enjoy the journey. So make sure you ask for a school’s curriculum and see if it meshes with you mentally and physically.

Time to do Some Research

Before deciding to make the jump to ATP I called their customer support department about 10 times. Going into a program prepared is what helps you mentally. The more organized you are the better you can set up for success.

Here are some common questions you can ask;

What is your instructor to student ratio? You want to ensure your instructor has time for you and isn’t fatigued.

What aircrafts or simulators do you have? Do they have a multi-engine, or will you have to change schools to get that rating? I have spent countless hours in the simulator solidifying muscle memory and processes for my next flight, it’s really beneficial.

Are you a Part 61 or 141 school? Part 61 can be more flexible then a Part 141. The main difference is that you can apply for your Private Pilot Certificate at 35 hours at a Part 141, rather than the 40 hours for Part 61. The national average is 60 flight hours before a student will take their exam.

Is there a maintenance facility on site? Training aircrafts have multiple maintenance inspections that have to be completed. At my first school they had to fly the planes to a maintenance facility. Two weeks could go by without a flight. Whereas ATP has maintenance on site. This is also helpful because I have asked our flight mechanic so many questions, they’re a great resource for learning.

How do they schedule flights? Electronically? How far ahead of time? Personally, I’ve only seen flight schools use electronic scheduling but, I have heard of some instructors who like to be scheduled with directly. Being able to schedule in advance allows you to know how much study time you have. This is important because you need to review and study so you move forward in your next flight.

What do they charge per hour? You can start a budget. You want to ease as much stress as possible and not worrying about finances is a huge stress reliever.

Do they have planned ground school dates? I do much better learning as part of a group. Once again, knowing dates for the future allows you to plan better.

What are the start dates for new students? When are you wanting to start? Aviation colleges will usually go with the school year, some national schools don’t have openings straight away, and most local flight schools are always accepting new students.

Do they offer any flight instructor jobs at the end of the program or have connections with airlines for recruitment? If your goal is to become an airline captain there are schools that have agreements with airlines. This helps reduce the amount work you have to do networking.

Location, location, loation

I live in Washington and when winter appears it’s hard to find a day where you can fly according to FAA rules and a school’s particular regulations. So if you’re wanting to get your ratings as soon as possible then choosing a place with more sunny days weather will be a better option for you. Moving to a whole new place can be a stressful decision in itself so make sure you research the area for local acitivites. You will need to have some fun to even out the study time. If you’re like me and enjoy having a support system make sure that you’re able to make contact when you need an extra push to succeed.

Meet and Greet

Once you have created a small list, go to a few schools and check them out. Talk with the instructors and see how you connect with them. Just because they have a great success rate doesn’t mean they’re right for you, go with your intuition. Talk with the students and ask them why they like learning to fly at that particular school. See what facilities they have; study areas, desks, whiteboards, and books. Check out their maintenance books to ensure they’re running a safe operation. Also, see if there are any flight clubs at that airport you can join. It’s a great way to get cheap flights and enhance your learning of aviation. Where is the location of the airport? What airspace is it in? How well maintained are their aircrafts, runway, and area around the runway?

Go for it!

One last bit of advice I have is that once you make a decision don’t look back. You’ve done the research so be decisive. Aviation is a great community and no matter what you decide it will always be positive.

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