Whether you plan on turning your aviation training into a career or you just want to obtain a private pilot’s license for leisure, choosing the right flight school is crucial. Making the right choice depends on a number of factors. If you find yourself on the verge of considering the next steps in your aviation journey, consider the following guide of finding the best flight school to meet your needs and your lifestyle.
The cost of flight schools can vary significantly. When determining the right school for you, it’s of paramount importance to develop a budget to assess how much you can spend on the endeavor. Some schools may offer some type of financial assistance, others will not.
When checking the quote, it’s important to ask about any additional fees that might come up that are not included in the quote. Be sure you have pricing for flight training costs, airplane rental fees, flight instructor costs, supplies, and flight test fees. There may also be additional fees depending on the type of license you are studying, i.e. private, commercial, instrument-rated, helicopter, and others.
Aligning your financial situation with your vision should be one of the first steps in choosing the perfect flight school for you.
Most smaller regional airports offer some sort of flight training. While it may be convenient to consider a local training program, it’s more important to really determine your intent before making a decision. Many programs at small regional airports may not provide a robust enough curriculum to give you the required experience to turn you into a career pilot, but if your intent is to pick up aviation as a hobby, these programs could be a great fit for you.
Attending a flight school at a larger airport could provide an advantage to you. One of the strengths of a professional pilot is the skill to communicate with air traffic control. Choosing a flight school at an airport with controlled airspace would allow you to experience and train where talking with an approach and tower controller is a daily practice.
Knowing the difference between “Part 61” and “Part 141” requirements is a solid step in determining your specific needs. The Federal Aviation Administration, the regulatory body for pilots, has outlined the minimum requirements for how flight schools train their pilots and what they need to do in order to become certified. “Part 61” approach is way less structured and much more flexible, so it’s the preferred approach for those who want to complete their training at a slower, steady pace. “Part 141” on the other hand, is a much more rigid approach. It follows a strict, FAA-approved syllabus that is to be completed within a very specific time frame. With either of these approaches, you must determine how much time you will be able to commit to your training upfront.
Part of your research when choosing a flight school should include a tour of the facilities. Observing the learning environment can tell you much about what your experience as a student would be like. What is your first impression when you walk in the door? Is it professional, organized, clean? Ask to see the briefing rooms, simulator, maintenance hangar, and training rooms. It should be a red flag if the school hesitates to show you around.
While you’re touring the facility, make sure you can inspect the fleet. Are the planes new and well maintained? Do they look old and in disrepair? Do the instruments look sharp and in good working order? What is the maintenance schedule? The more you know the better your decision will be when choosing your flight school.
Like any form of higher education, the reputation of the institution can dictate both the number and the likelihood of success for applicants.
It is highly recommended for applicants to do a facilities tour to get a general understanding of the operation.
This is also a prime opportunity to ask questions to facilitators regarding the school’s safety record. With your questioning, you can find out how the school maintains its aircraft, how they manage defect reports, and how the school maintains the overall cleanliness of its facilities among other things. Don’t be afraid to ask for a walkthrough of required inspections. If they refuse, it might be safe to say that that could be a red flag in regards to how the institution handles safety.
You may even want to take an opportunity to check out some online forums and reviews of the school to get a first-hand account from alumni. While this information may be subjective, it can be helpful to gain insight from someone who has successfully completed the program and hears some personal testimonials of the program. If you can connect with a current student during your facility tour, that is even better. Getting accounts from students will give you a glimpse into what your future will look like by taking this path.
Everyone has different preferences and different methods of learning. Doing your research ahead of time on flight schools, their training methodology, syllabus, facilities, and everything in between can help set you up for success as you pursue your pilot’s license.
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