How to Choose a Flight School That’s Right for You

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Updated August 5, 2018
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Trever
Trever

Trever is a commercial pilot with over 1,600 hours of flight time as well as the owner and general manager of Inflight. He has numerous hours of mountain flying experience and a serious passion for teaching. In just 2 years he earned his Gold Seal Flight Instructor at the age of 22 and became a flight school owner at 23 years old.

When it comes to learning how to fly, choosing the right flight school can have a major impact on your future hobby or career, and set you up for success in the future. If you’re just starting the vetting process to determine which route you’ll take to pursue your pilot’s license, there are some key considerations to keep in mind.

 

Here is a guide on how to choose a flight school that’s right for you.

 

Cost of Flight Training

The first thing to consider is the cost of your flight training. According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s cost calculator, the cost for a private license runs on average $9,900, a recreational license runs about $7,700 and a sport license about $4,400. While you don’t want to blow your budget on an overly expensive option, you also don’t want to skimp and choose a “cheaper” flight school that may not be as valuable.

 

There are several costs associated with learning how to fly, including aircraft rental, instructor fees, course materials and more. It’s crucial that you find a flight school that is transparent with their cost structure so you know exactly what you’re paying for. It is crucial to find reviews from other students who have gone through their programs. Use google, yelp, and other sites to find reviews. If none are available ask the school to provide you with contact information for previous students so you may speak to them directly about the whole process.

 

When researching flight training programs, ask these questions so you can use your dollars effectively:

 

  1. How much is the aircraft rental? Does the rental rate include fuel (wet) or not (dry)?
  2. How and when will fees be paid? Is there a payment plan option?
  3. How much do the instructors charge? Do they charge different rates?
  4. What is the average number of hours it took past students to complete their training?
  5. How much time do instructors spend in ground training, briefing, and debriefing? 
  6. Are there taxes or processing fees?
  7. How much can I expect to spend on books and materials?
  8. What happens if I need additional time for each phase or module?
  9. Are there other costs (like examiner fees, overnight charges, landing fees, etc.)?
  10. Who does your maintenance? Have you ever had any accidents?
  11. Do you have multiples of the same aircraft? Having only one or two of the same type means more down time.
  12. Does your school just teach people to fly airplanes or are you focused on other things besides airplanes?

 

With so many things to consider, you can see why the cost of learning to fly varies between flight schools. Always choose a transparent flight school that’s always upfront about pricing.

 

Choosing a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)

 

The next thing you should consider when choosing a flight school is the experience and credentials of the flight instructors. This is crucial, as there’s no other person that’s more influential in your education. A great CFI will make the process more exciting, enjoyable and challenging, helping you learn more at a faster pace.

 

Being comfortable with your instructor and their approach to teaching should be top priority. If they aren’t able to teach you in the way that you need or according to your skill level, it may be a poor match. Additionally, any scheduling conflicts can hinder your progress.

 

Keep in mind that you can switch instructors at any point during your training if things don’t work out. If your initial CFI isn’t the right fit for you, a professional flight instructor should understand and accept your choice to learn under another person. If you can’t seem to find the right CFI for you, the school can help pair you with the right person See here for more on choosing a flight instructor.

 

Some questions you might want to ask the CFI:

  • What is your schedule and general availability?
  • Are you a full-time CFI?
  • How many students have you taught/do you teach currently?
  • What is your training philosophy?
  • How many hours of flight time do you have?
  • How long have you been a CFI?
  • What is your pass rate?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • Do you plan on moving on for another job in the next few months?

 

Part 61 vs. Part 141 Flight Schools

 

When researching flight schools, you’ll probably come across the terms “Part 61” and “Part 141” These define the regulations set out by the FAA that dictate the minimum requirements for how a flight school trains its pilots and what they need to do to become certified. The biggest difference between these two approaches are the training methods.

 

Part 61 – this approach is less structured, letting the instructor adapt the syllabus and lesson plans as the coursework progresses and as is appropriate. It’s the more common method, especially at smaller flight schools, since it allows for more freedom for both students and instructors. Here at Inflight we choose to be Part 61 over 141 for the numerous benefits of flexibility it provides. 

 

Part 141 – this approach is more rigid and is usually reserved for Universities where federal funds are being issued. It follows a strict outline and syllabus that must be FAA-approved ahead of time. A student in a Part 141 school can expect a more intense and very structured environment. Be careful of the non University schools that try to say you can finish your Private Pilot license in 35 hours at a 141 school. The national average is much higher and the odds of you finishing in 35 hours are very slim.

 

It will be up to you to determine which approach is best for your goals. Regardless, you’ll want to ensure the flight school follows a syllabus, including lesson plans, stage checks and progress reports.

 

Aircraft Condition

 

While you won’t be flying the most advanced airplanes in the world when you first start your flight training program, it’s still important to take a look at the airplanes you’ll be learning on before choosing a school.

To ensure your school’s aircraft are suitable to learn on, pay attention to the little things. Every aircraft at a flight school should be clean, decent paint, decent interior, and look like it has been well cared for. If maintenance is a concern you may ask the school to see the maintenance logs for their airplanes. Have them walk you through the required inspections and show you where they have been done in the logbook. (AVIATE – Annual Inspection, VOR 30 days if for Instrument, 100 Hr Inspection, Altimeter 24 months, Transponder 24 months, and ELT 12 months) If the school refuses to show you an aircraft’s logbook, it’s a red flag, and you should look elsewhere for instruction.  

 

Facility Condition

 

When you’re learning something as serious as flying an Airplane you want to make sure the environment is conducive to learning. How their facility is maintained can say a lot about a flight school.

Things to pay attention to:

  • Is the facility well maintained?
  • Is the office clean?
  • Are the briefing areas away from lots of noise?
  • What is the condition of the ramp/tarmac?
  • Are the restrooms clean?
  • Does it look like a professional place?
  • How many other students are present when you visit?
  • Do they have modern technology?

Choosing the Right Flight School in Conclusion

Everyone has different preferences, and learn in different ways. Doing your research ahead of time on local flight schools, their training philosophy, syllabus and more can help set you up for success as you pursue your pilot’s license.

 

 

Are you searching for a reputable flight school? Get in touch with the team at Inflight Pilot Training today!

 

Inflight is a leading pilot training company serving the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. With a reputable training program and extensive roster of highly skilled, certified flight instructors, it’s our goal to help you achieve the certification you want. From private pilot certificates to airline transport pilot certificates and everything in between, we can help you reach your goals – get in touch with our team of flight instructors to find out more.

For additional information on Inflight training programs, contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.

Trever
Trever

Trever is a commercial pilot with over 1,600 hours of flight time as well as the owner and general manager of Inflight. He has numerous hours of mountain flying experience and a serious passion for teaching. In just 2 years he earned his Gold Seal Flight Instructor at the age of 22 and became a flight school owner at 23 years old.