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.

Categories Fly

Funding your Aviation Dream

If you have done any research into becoming a pilot then you will already have been shocked by the hefty price that training costs. I was definitely one of those people and it stopped me from going full force with my dream. I worked at an airline in their cargo department and spent most of my week sat down in a small office, no windows, staring at two computer screens, and constantly hearing people complain. I was MISERABLE. Even though I knew how unhappy I was, I deliberated for about 4 months as to which was the best way for me to become a full time pilot. Now some people may say that 4 months isn’t that long but when you’re living a life that goes against your inner grain even 4 days is too long.

So even though pilot training costs are steep, the risk of debt was worth it to me. Even though I’m currently an unemployed, full time student with $60,000 of debt I’m happy. This was my route but there are other ways to become a pilot. Here are some other points for you to consider when making your decisions;

  • Remain at work full time or reduce hours to a part time job, if you study and remain disciplined you can complete all your ratings.
  • Work contract jobs; I work a few hours doing catering jobs, there’s no obligation and it helps pay for bills
  • Look for schlorships; I actually help an organization screen applicants for aviation schorships and I was shocked with the small amount of people who applied. Apply for everything and make sure you read the instructions, so many people are declined because they didn’t follow the right steps.
  • Ask relatives for support; I moved back in with my parents in order to reduce stress of paying rent and other overheads that come with living by yourself. Ask and you shall receive.
  • For any holidays or time of year you might receive presents ask for that person give you money towards a flight. You’d be surprised how willing people are to give you more money when they know it’s going towards something worthwhile.
  • Plane wash; Ask a local flight school or create an event with a few other students where you wash someone’s airplane. Charities usually charge $100 per aircraft for this, this is a great return for one days work.
  • If you’re applying for a full time college look to see if you are offered financial aid in the form of grants.
  • If you already have your private pilot’s license you can apply to be apart of the Civil Air Patrol; This is a voluntary role but you will receive free flight hours in return. It’s also a great networking opportunity.
  • Work hard and live frugal; This is a long term objective but I have seen people work and save their money, enough that it pays for their training. You can even start your training in your free time.
  • Buy used FAA textbooks or even borrow them from friends and start training for ground school.
  • Loans; Of course the daunting loan option if always there as a back-up.

These are a few ways to either fund your journey or maybe choose a few options to supplement the majority of the amount needed.

Remember that this is your dream, don’t let finances be an obstacle that you never overcome.

“If you want to look for obstacles, what’s wrong is always available. But so is what’s right!”
― Anthony Robbins, MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom

Categories Fly

Fly Away With Me

On March 23rd, 2014 I had my first pilot lesson!

Spanaway First Pilot Lesson

It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do but too scared that I would freak out mid-air. But in actual fact I was very calm and the instructor let me take off and control the plane whilst in the sky.

Spanaway Flying Lesson

I went to Spanaway at Thun Field in Puyallup and the session only cost $55!! Which is a steal in comparison to what other schools are offering around the area.

Here’s a video of the landing, sorry it’s not the best. We only had our cellphones that day.