So You Want To Be A Pilot?
There are a number of options out there for flight school. Even within a hundred or so miles of your home (depending on where you live), you’re likely to find maybe a half a dozen different instructors or schools.
It may seem like a hassle trying to narrow it down.
Considerations for finding the right flight school
Here is a list of considerations you should use to compare the flight schools.
We’ll be going down the list in rough order of least to most important. One of these qualifications may be more important to you than it is to the next trainee, so this is only a rough estimation of how important each qualification will be to the average pilot-to-be
With any good flight school, you should probably be able to find some information online either on the school’s official website or on chat forums related to learning to fly.
We mark this as the least important only because you should make your own assessment of the school when you visit to discuss the possibility of training there. A bunch of negative reviews should be a red flag, of course.
Also, consider the number of reviews, but it all comes down to your judgment. The reason this is the least important on our list is that reputation can be very subjective and sometimes reviews do not accurately reflect actuality.
You’re the one putting up the money and you’re the one learning to fly, so your opinion is the most important.
Still, we recommend doing some quick online research. If you’re getting nothing but consistently negative reviews for a specific school or instructor, it may be best not to waste your time with them. There are plenty of other high-quality schools out there!
Part 61 vs Part 141
Distance From Home
If you have to drive too far, paying for gas alone may become as much an expense as your training itself.
If at all possible, you don’t really want to drive more than thirty minutes to your flight school on a regular basis.
You don’t want to sacrifice things like your instructor’s experience or a good price in the name of scraping a few minutes off your driving time, but you don’t want to spend half your day in the car, either.
Check sites like Google maps (and cross-reference to make sure it’s all up to date) and find a school that is quick and easy to get to, with minimal traffic.
Though, if you are limited due to your location, this one will not apply to you. If you have made up your mind that you want to learn how to fly and the nearest school is 45 minutes down the road, do not let that discourage you.
Okay, you don’t need much in the way of facilities when it comes to a flight school. Most will have a room for testing and studying, as well as a decent airstrip and some aircraft to train in.
What you should look for is a flight school with relatively up-to-date equipment and well maintained aircraft. This is mostly a safety concern. Take a look at the aircraft you’ll be flying before signing up.
Understandably, you’re probably not an aircraft engineer and wouldn’t know how to spot a poorly maintained engine on sight.
You can probably tell how well an aircraft is taken care of simply by observing it, though. If the instructor takes care of his or her airplanes, they’re probably going to be kept clean and properly stored in a hangar.
Smaller schools may only have 1 or 2 planes that they teach in, which could also potentially limit your training. You can ask the instructors what the flying schedules look like and how many students they have to get an idea.
This may be a deal-breaker depending on what you have in the way of funding. Of course, you don’t want to pay too much, but please, don’t sacrifice your peace of mind for the sake of a better deal.
You absolutely need a safe aircraft and an experienced instructor, more than you need to save an extra hundred to a thousand dollars.
If cost is important to you, look for the lowest price, take a look at the facilities and instructor, and if you don’t like what you see, move on to the second-lowest price, and so on, until you feel you’ll be safe and well informed at that particular flight school.
Again, price is important, but your health and your education as a pilot are even more important.
This is maybe the most important part of settling on a flight school. Ideally, your instructor should have quite a few years of experience behind them.
If they haven’t been flying for a decade or longer, there should probably be someone a little higher up at the school with a little more experience.
When you talk to your potential instructor-to-be, ask to see qualifications, ask about their history in piloting, ask about their training methods, etcetera.
Know as much as you can about the school and the instructor before signing up.
You want someone who has been flying for several years, who has already trained dozens of students, and who you can get along with, since you will be working with them in a stressful environment.
What It Boils Down To
The above list should help you to narrow down your options to a few that you’d feel comfortable training with, but it really comes down to your personal preference and choice.
Remember, this is your dream, not somebody else’s, and what might be a perfect school for someone else might just not be right for you.
Before signing up for any school, get familiar with it first. Look into every area of the school. The instructors, the price, the equipment, the aircraft.
Ask a lot of questions of everyone who works there and make sure you have a good grasp of what kind of school it is.
This is a big investment and a big decision.
That doesn’t mean you have to stay up nights on end worrying about which school to sign up with before you finally jump in, but don’t make the decision without first doing some research and taking a day or two to give it some time and thought, comparing it with the other options you have before you.