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Student Tips For Choosing Your Flight School

Student Tips For Choosing Your Flight SchoolThere are a lot of factors to consider before you chose a flight school to begin your flight training. Once thing is for certain and no research is needed to confirm it-it is expensive! So as pilot, you need to invest your money wisely. Do not base your decision solely on advertisement flight schools post. Visit the school, talk to attending students, speak with flight instructors, inquire about their flight training program.

Type of Flight School

Flight schools come in two flavors, Part 61 and Part 141, which refer to the parts of the federal aviation regulations (FARs) under which they operate. The most common and least important distinction between them is the minimum flight time required for the private pilot certificate (sometimes called a pilot license)—40 hours under Part 61, and 35 hours under Part 141.

Considering that the national average for earning a private pilot certificate is 60-75 hours (how long you’ll take will depend on your ability and flying frequency), this difference isn’t important for initial pilot training. It does make a difference to commercial pilot applicants: Part 61 requires 250 hours, and Part 141 requires 190.
What differentiates the two is structure and accountability. Part 141 schools are periodically audited by the FAA and must have detailed, FAA-approved course outlines and meet student pilot performance rates. Part 61 schools don’t have the same paperwork and accountability requirements.

Learning under Part 61 rules can often give students the flexibility to rearrange flying lesson content and sequence to meet their needs, which can be of benefit to part-time students. Many Part 141 flight schools also train students under Part 61 rules.

Which type of flight school is best for you depends on your needs, available time, and other factors, such as veteran’s benefit eligibility (only Part 141 schools can qualify for VA-reimbursed training) and location. When it comes to the FAA checkride, which is the same for all, it doesn’t matter where you learned to fly, only how well—including your understanding of aviation academic material.

Accredited Flight School and Colleges

Although flight schools fall into two basic categories, Part 61 or Part 141, there is a third category that bears serious consideration by prospective pilots, particularly those planning a professional piloting career: nationally accredited pilot training institutions. Accredited flight schools must meet rigid standards of accountability for virtually every area of operation and must apply to an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Aviation college degree programs also play a large part in today’s pilot training marketplace. If you are planning a professional flying career, an aviation degree may make you more competitive. A plus in seeking a degree is that in many cases you are eligible for financial aid and scholarships that will assist you, not only in your academic endeavors, but in flight training as well.

Flight School Check List

Pilots have a check list. A manual with instructions they follow all the time. So you should have a list too. Don’t base your decision on the literature you will collect from a flight school you are considering. You’re looking for informative substance, and this can be found as well in photocopied sheets as it can in full-color catalogs. While scrutinizing the material, take notes for use during the flight school visit, when you’ll check the veracity of its claims. Some things to look for:

  1. The school’s philosophy, goals, and objectives, and how they match your needs.
  2. Are there such benefits as housing, financial aid, and additional pilot training, such as aerobatics, that will broaden your experience?
  3. How important is flight training to the organization?
  4. How long has the flight school been in business?
  5. What about the school’s instructional staff, its enrollment numbers, and credentials?
  6. How many and what types of aircraft are used in the school’s flight instruction program?
  7. What are the school’s classrooms like?
  8. What services are available at its airport (instrument approaches and control towers)?
  9. What is the school’s reputation on flight regulations and safety policies?

Type of Flight Training Programs Offered

Have your questions ready when you are visiting flight schools of your choice. Before your meeting with flight instructors go around school and talk to pilot students enrolled in this flight school. Inquire about their experience.

Integrated vs. Modular pilot training

There are mainly two kind of pilot training, the integrated pilot training. It is kind of a full package to become an airline pilot as from little or no experience. Everything will be organized by the flight school. It is a full time pilot training (15 – 18 months) and it can be very intensive for some of the trainees. The main advantage is that you can focus on learning since everything is organized for you. The disadvantages are the price (more expensive) and working on top of that integrated pilot training is impossible. From my personal experience, the airlines prefer integrated trained pilots since I noticed that they found pilot jobs more easily than modular trained pilots.

Next is the modular pilot training, less expensive, longer (18 months +) and more demanding since you have to organize your modules one after each others. On top of that you will be in charge to book your aircraft, the instructors and also to apply for the exams. If you choose the modular training you really need to be organized! You will therefore lose some time to focus on your pilot training. The advantage of that modular pilot training is that you can be working at the same time. You are at the controls, you manage your time based on your professional and private activities.

Integrated Pilot Training:
  • More expensive
  • approx. 15-18 months
  • Full time training
  • Very intensive
  • Everything organized for you
  • Preferred by the airlines
  • Impossible to work at the same time
Modular Pilot Training:
  • Less expensive
  • 18 months +
  • based on your free time
  • You are in charge of the organization
  • Very demanding regarding organization
  • Possible to work at the same time

Note: Flight schools do not always provides modular and integrated pilot training. Some might only be providing modular pilot training. source

Flight School Question List for Interview

Sample of questions you might consider asking are:

How many flight instructors do you have and how many are full time vs. part time?

This is important because it will determine how available the instructors are. If most of the instructors are part-time, it means they have a full time job that will sometimes take precedence over your flight training. If your flight instructor is a part-timer, make sure your schedules mesh.

How many airplanes do you have available for flight training?

This is important because of availability. If there are only 1 or 2 airplanes available, you may not be able to schedule it when it’s most convenient for you. Having 3 or more airplanes available will increase the chances of you scheduling at your convenience.

How are your airplanes maintained?

There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up for a flight and then having to cancel due to a maintenance issue. Flight schools that have their own maintenance facility are good about keeping their airplanes in airworthy condition.

Which syllabus do you use for pilot training? Can I see a copy of it?

Schools that don’t follow a specific syllabus leave the training completely up to the instructor. In this case, find out which instructors are good about requiring their students to buy and follow a syllabus – because not all instructors do this.

Do you offer ground school classes? If not, how is ground school handled?

Most of the learning you will do will be on the ground. The flying is for practicing maneuvers and to develop your muscle memory. Since many instructors are interested in building up flight time, they will leave most of the ground school up to you. The ideal setup is a school that offers their own ground school. If you can’t find one, invest in a good home-study program available online or in pilot stores.

Do you have a chief flight instructor? Can I talk to him/her?

Having a chief flight instructor is a great sign because this means that the school takes flight training very seriously. Schools without a chief flight instructor usually have an ad hoc assortment of flight instructors, each doing their own thing. If you end up in a school without a chief flight instructor, the next step will be crucial.

Choose a Flight Instructor

Choosing a Flight Instructor is key when learning to fly. Try to look for an flight instructor that is not just trying to build up flight time or one who has been instructing for a few years. Make sure you are comfortable with him/her and make sure they follow a syllabus.

Finally, schedule a demostration flight, preferably with the flight instructor that you would be training with. This accomplishes a couple of things. First, it will give you an idea of what flying is like. Second, it will give you a chance to get the feel for your instructor and how comfortable you are with him/her.

Why choosing the right flight school and flight instructor is important

Most will agree that choosing the right flight school is a very important decision, but they won’t tell you why. This leaves people with a lack of understanding as to just how important this decision is. If you make the wrong decision, it could cost you thousands of dollars, waste time, and will possibly end up in you quitting and never achieving your dream of flying.

The reason people get frustrated and quit flying is that when they show up at a flight school, they have no idea what to expect or they have expectations that are completely off the mark with what actually happens.
If you want to fly as a hobby, you have to keep in mind that your certified flight instructor (CFI) is probably there to build up enough flight time to move into his/her next flying job, which is probably a regional airline job or small cargo company flying job.

This poor individual is getting paid a little over minimum wage and because they are interested in flying as a career, they take it very seriously and expect you to take it just as seriously. They will try to teach you to fly like an airline pilot, which is a little bit different than the type of flying you want to do. Flight instructors that have just graduated from a professional pilot program at a university are especially prone to want to teach you to fly like an airline pilot, when in fact, you have no interest in that type of flying.

Airline flying is very standardized since airline pilots need to do things the same way every time. A captain at an airline may fly with a co-pilot that he/she has never met before and will never meet again. Therefore, it’s crucial that all airline pilots are taught the same standardized procedures for operating the airplane.
You need to find a flight school with an instructor that will work with your way of learning and not treat you like an airline pilot wannabe. Try to determine your own learning style and your instructor’s teaching style as well as his/her motivation for flight instructing. Try to choose a CFI that likes to instruct because they enjoy teaching rather than someone who is there trying to build up flight time.

Source

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