How do I Choose the Best Flight School?

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  • Written By: Josie Myers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 22 April 2020
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Those who sign up for flight school have one of two goals in mind; either to learn to fly for pleasure, or for a career. Choosing the best flight school partly depends on which of these goals the student has in mind. If flying for fun, the process can be much less complicated than if preparing for a career as a professional pilot.

All flight schools offer one of two types of training, which are numbered according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation they follow. They are called Part 61 and Part 141. By the letter of the law, Part 61 requires an average of 5 hours of flight time less than Part 141, with Part 61 requiring between 20-40 hours and 141 requiring 35 and under. This is the least significant difference in the regulations, since most flight schools will require any student to have at least 40 hours of training regardless of which program they are under, and many students end up needing 50 or more hours.

Part 61 is an older and more flexible program that lays out standards and overall goals that must be met without stipulating exact plans for meeting those standards. The teacher is able to produce their own lesson plans and work with the individual student's abilities. Students are able to schedule lessons at their convenience rather than stick to a particular set of lesson times.

Part 141 is a much more stringent program that is audited by the FAA. A flight school that operates under Part 141 must obtain an Air Agency Certificate from the FAA. The program is intended to give a more professional flight school experience for budding aviators, and has a set schedule of approved coursework and certification. The best Part 141 schools are able to have self-examination authority, meaning that they can test students for certification on their own, a privilege that a part 61 school in not permitted. Part 141 schools tend to cater more toward students looking to build a career in aviation, however, students of either type, may attend either type of school.

Those seeking to become professional pilots should also seek schools that are accredited by the US Department of Education. These schools can offer degrees in various aspects of aviation. A degree, in combination with professional flight training, makes the student more competitive when entering commercial markets.

Once a student decides which type of flight school training will work best for them, the choice is then based on many of the same principals used for choosing any type of school. There should be school visits and meetings with the instructors and administrators. The flight school should have good ratings and feedback from past students, as well as a reputation for safety.

It is important to learn as much as possible about the school and staff. Potential students should find out what experience the teachers have, and what their teaching style is. Meeting the instructor is particularly important, as flight training is done primarily one on one, and students and instructors will spend a lot of time together. Schools should have proper insurance coverage and meticulous record keeping. Just as with any school, flight school is the student's investment in him or herself, and decisions should be made carefully.


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