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Are you ready to pursue your dream of being a pilot? The first step that you must take to achieve your goal is enroll in flight school. But, there are many different flight schools across the country, so don’t rush and choose one without doing a bit of research first. Here are some tips to help you find the right flight school:
Figure out what type of pilot you want to be so you know what kind of training you need to reach your goal. If you want to be paid to fly, you will need a commercial pilot certificate, whereas if you only want to fly a personal aircraft, you just need a private pilot license. Pilots with private pilot licenses can only fly in clear weather, so if you want to be able to take off in your personal aircraft even when it’s cloudy, go for an instrument rating as well.
Research the Instructors
If you want to be the best, then you have to learn from the best, so research the flight instructors at each school you are interested in to learn more about their backgrounds. Besides find out how many years of experience they have, make sure that you also research how long they have been training at the school and how many flight hours they’ve logged. It’s a good idea to also read reviews written by former students. Teaching is a talent that some people simply don’t have, so even a pilot with thousands of hours may not be the best person to teach students. Fortunately, you can typically weed these instructors out just by reading former students’ reviews.
Part 61 vs. Part 141
Flight schools will either operate under FAR Part 61 or Part 141 regulations. Either way, students are able to earn a pilot’s license at the end of their training, however the teaching methods vary between these two types of schools. Part 61 schools give the instructor more control over the curriculum that is taught. The instructor has the opportunity to choose which lesson plans to include in his course and adjust the syllabus at any time. On the other hand, Part 141 schools are much more rigid. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reviews and approves the syllabi for Part 141 schools to ensure the students are receiving the training they need to become good pilots. Students who are enrolled in Part 141 schools need to be fast learners in order to keep up with the pace of training.
It’s up to you to decide which type of training you prefer. Everyone has a different learning style, so keep this in mind when choosing which is right for you.
Talk to Students
Contact the schools that you are interested in and ask if they are willing to put you in touch with current students. If the school knows that you are trying to decide which flight school to choose, they should be happy to help you get the information that you need to make this decision. If you can’t get this information from the school, try connecting with a few former students on LinkedIn instead.
Set A Budget
The cost of training will vary significantly. It’s recommended that you figure out how much you are willing to spend early on in the process so you don’t waste time researching schools that are way out of your budget. If you’re willing to travel, you may be able to save money on the training. Look for schools that are on the outskirts of major urban areas instead of choosing schools that are right in the middle of the city. Schools that are not located in the city will be less expensive, so they’re probably worth the short driving distance.
It’s important to note that there may be hidden fees for enrolling in flight school that you may not be aware of until after you have already committed to a school. To uncover hidden fees, here are a few questions you should ask your contact at the flight school:
- Are there processing fees or taxes that are not included in the estimate you sent?
- What’s the average cost of books and other materials?
- How much will I have to pay to rent an aircraft?
- Does the airplane rental fee include the cost of fuel?
Schedule A Tour
After you have narrowed your options down to a handful of flight schools, contact each school on your list and schedule a tour. Pay close attention to the environment, the staff, and the students who you encounter on your tour. Does the school have a good atmosphere? Are the members of the staff engaging? Do students seem happy? You can answer all of these questions while on your tour. Don’t be afraid to ask the tour guide questions as well. One important topic that should be covered is the instructor to student ratio. If the instructors have to train a lot of students at once, you may not get as much one-on-one training as you think.
Don’t forget to ask about whether the school will allow you to take a discovery flight with one of the instructors while on the tour. During the discovery flight, you will have the opportunity to sit in the pilot’s seat while the instructor guides you through the process of flying a plane. This is a great way to get a sneak peek at what it will be like to work with the instructor if you choose this school. If you realize during the discovery flight that you won’t respond well to his method of instruction, then cross this school off of your list and move onto the next one.
Follow these tips to find a flight school that has everything that you’re looking for and more. Before you know it, you will be logging your very first flight hour!