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Flight Training Options And Decision Process

Flight Training Options And Decision ProcessTo receive a Private Pilot license, the FAA requires student pilots have a minimum of 40 hours of flight time, of which 20 must be dual (flying with an instructor). However, these are MINIMUMS. It is very rare if ever to complete flight training in 40 hours. The national average is 60 to 70 hours. About half of your flight time will be with an instructor, and and the rest “solo.” For every flight hour, expect an additional 2-3 hours of reading, flight planning, and ground review with your instructor.

To maintain a good rate of progress, plan for two to three sessions per week, of two to three hours per session. Plan to schedule a few more sessions than you need, since some will be cancelled because of weather, aircraft maintenance, illness, etc. At this rate, you should be able to earn your license in six to eight months.

What topics will I need to learn?

Here is a brief overview of some of the topics you will need to master in order to earn a pilot’s license:

  • Aircraft systems: the basic components of an airplane, engine, flight controls, instruments, and how they operate.
  • Aerodynamics: basic priciples of how an airplane is able to leave the ground, and how to control it once airborne.
  • Navigation: how to use aviation maps and radio navigation aids to get you and your aircraft to your destination.
  • Weather: basic concepts of weather formation, and how to obtain and interpret weather information that may affect your flight.
  • Aircraft operations: just as there are rules for operating automobiles on roads and highways, there are rules governing the operation of aircraft in the National Airspace System (NAS).
  • Regulations: the applicable portions of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) which govern licensing of pilots and the licensing and operation of aircraft in the USA.
Where should I go for flight training?

The best way to learn about flight training options is to visit your local airports. Small and mid-size airports usually have more flight tranining activity than major airline airports.

If you don’t know the location of airports near you, use the Find Nearby Airports service at fltplan.com to locate airports near your ZIP code, follow this link

Enter your ZIP code, change the “Minimum Runway Length” to 0 and change “Approach Type required” to “Doesn’t matter.” You may be surprised at how many small airports there are!

Flight training facilities go by several different names. Here are some of the most common types, and how they compare:

  • Fixed Base Operator (FBO): This type of business offers a full range of aviation services: aircraft sales and maintenance, fuel sales, aircraft charter, flight instruction, or any other services that transient or based aircraft and pilots might need. Aircraft rental and flight instruction may be only a small part of this business.
  • Flight school: a business whose primary business is flight training and aircraft rental. It may offer other related services such as aircraft maintenance and pilot supplies.
  • Flying club: a non-profit group of pilots and aircraft owners who join together to help reduce expenses and share resources. Some larger clubs may look just like FBOs or flight schools. Since clubs are non-profit, rental rates are usually lower than at FBOs or flight schools.
  • Colleges and Universities: many colleges and universities offer flight training as part of an aviation curriculum. If you intend to pursue a career in aviation, a college degree in aviation is a definite advantage.

Note that some FBOs and flight schools may call themselves flying clubs to imply non-profit status, give them a more “friendly” atmosphere, or provide an excuse to charge monthly dues.

How do I choose a flight school?

Here are some factors to consider when selecting a flight school:

  • Location: you will be making many trips to the flight school, so it should be in a location convenient to you. Be sure to include travel time to and from the airport in your lesson scheduling plans.
  • Insurance coverage: it is very important to have adequate insurance coverage for any flight operations. Training aircraft can be valued anywhere from $15,000 to over $100,000, and even minor damage can be very expensive to repair.
  • Ask the school for details about its insurance coverage, and whether you as a student/renter are included in the coverage. There should be coverage for damage to the aircraft itself (called “hull insurance”), damage to other property (“liability insurance,” for damage to structures on the ground, for example), and medical coverage, should you or your instructor be injured.
  • Like auto insurance, aircraft insurance usually has a deductible. Find out amount of the deductible, and if you are responsible for it. Also ask if the insurance policy has a “no-subrogation” clause. This clause is desirable, because it means the insurance company cannot try to recover damages from you (except the deductible) for any incident in which you may be involved.
  • Some schools carry insurance that covers only themselves and the aircraft owner. In case of an accident, you could be liable for all damages. If this is the case, you can purchase renter’s insurance. For an annual fee, this type of insurance will cover you for any liabilities not covered by the school’s policy, up to the stated amount on your policy. You can also purchase renter’s insuance to cover the deductible of the school’s policy.
  • Scheduling: find out how many aircraft and instructors the school has. Ask to see the school’s schedule book, and see if there are aircraft and instructors that fit your schedule. Scheduling lessons one week in advance is fairly common, but if you have to schedule two or more weeks in advance, the school might have too many students for the number of aircraft and instructors.
  • Instructors: most flight schools will want to assign you the first available instructor. However, if you have specific requirements, don’t hesitate to request a different instructor. It is best to make your initial selection before beginning any training, as many schools and instructors are reluctant to switch instructors during training. However, during your training, you find an instructor is not meeting your needs, approach the school’s manager or chief instructor to discuss the problem.
  • Aircraft maintenance: the quality of aircraft maintenance is difficult for a new student to determine. Because of the overall age of the general aviation fleet (the average aircraft is 23 years old), even well-maintained aircraft may appear dingy and worn. Many training aircraft have seen a lot of use, and this shows as worn carpeting and upulstry, and labels worn off of switches and controls. Check around the nose and the engine. Well-maintained aircraft have meticulously clean engine compartments, much cleaner than the average automobile. Any sign of leaking oil or soot build-up could be a sign of problems. One way to find out about maintenance problems is to talk to other students, perferably out of earshot of instructors or other school personnel.
Can I fly aircraft other than airplanes?

Yes! Flight training is available for helicopters, sailplanes (aka gliders), even hot air baloons! More about these in a later update.

I can’t afford flight training right now. What can I do to work toward my license?

There are many things you can do before beginning flight training:

Ground school: most flight schools and community colleges offer inexpensive classes that teach you all of the “book work” you will need for your license. Many classes will finish by allowing you to take the actual FAA written examination. A passing score is good for up to two years.

Flight simulators: PC-based flight simulators have become extraordinarly capable and realistic, so much so that the FAA now allows a certain amount of pilot traiing to be performed on a PC flight simulator (under the supervision of a flight instructor). Since Microsoft has discontinued Flight Simulator, X-Plane has become the most prominent PC flight simulator software.

Rides with other pilots: riding along in an airplane is not only a lot of fun, but will help you become familiar with the appearance of your airport and local area from the air, and help you develop pilotage skills (navigation by reference to the ground) This will be of great benefit for when you strike out on your solo cross-country flights.

Aviation conferences: the AOPA and EAA hold several fly-ins and conferences in different parts of the country throughout the year. These conferences are usually low cost ($100 or less) and feature seminars and presentations on a wide variety of aviation topics. Here are two of the largest:

EAA Airventure
AOPA Summit

FAA Safety Seminars: although aimed primarily at pilots, seminars are generally free and open to the public, so they are a great way to hear aviation speakers and meet other pilots.

Read, read, read: there are lots of aviation magazines, web sites, and books to feed your aviation apetite and keep your interest alive. Source

The Final Flight Training Decision

What flight school you ultimately choose depends on the quality flight training you desire in a method convenient to your schedule. In earning your private pilot’s certificate, you will have achieved a “license” to learn. Aviation is an ever-changing activity, and good pilots are always learning.

Perhaps the final deciding factor between several schools that are running in a dead heat is personality. Like people, flight schools have personalities. Some are deadly serious, while others are more familial in nature. Only you can select the one that matches your personality.

A Checklist for Choosing a Good Flight School
  • Determine your aviation goals. Are you learning to fly for fun or do you plan to pursue a career?
  • Compile a list of schools to examine, and request literature from each. Review material from each school and answer the questions outlined earlier here.
  • Once you’ve done your “homework,” visit the final two or three schools that pass the test. Ask questions and get a feel for the personalities of the schools. Ask specific questions and insist on specific answers. Talk to other students and flight instructors.
  • Once you’ve decided on a school, be sure a written agreement outlines the payment procedures.
  • Use online flight school directory search to find a flight school near you.
Flight Training School in Florida

Aviator Flight Training Academy offers professional pilot training programs with a minimum of 200 hours of multi-engine time. The flight school has a state of the art 37,000 square foot facility, featuring a CRJ Level 5 Flight Training Device (Simulator), large classrooms and individual briefing rooms.

Schedule a Visit

Contact Aviator

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