How To Choose a Flight School

Many people (myself included) have a fascination with aviation and flying. Very few, however, make this dream a reality. Yes, flight training can be very expensive, but in the long run it can be worth it. Some choose to make a career out of flying while others make it a hobby. Regardless of why one chooses to fly, information on the subject can be confusing or hard to find.

The first thing one needs to look for is the right school. Flight training can be done a variety of ways. One common way is to go to a flight training academy. These schools are located across the country and provide housing while you are in school. These schools usually have uniform requirements (normally included in the cost of the school) and are to be worn while attending class and during flight hours. Other schools, however, are on a day-to-day basis. This means that there is no set schedule and an appointment is scheduled when both the instructor and student have the available time. The first thing that needs to be determined though is "Is flying really for me?" Most schools offer what is called a "discovery flight". This pilot highly recommends a discovery flight. My main reason for this is mostly because people who have flown on an airliner do not know the feeling of a Cessna, which can be a bumpy ride in comparison. This is a great litmus test to see if one could handle the small cockpit, the bumpy ride, and the ability to multi-task between the radios, the surroundings (searching for other air traffic), keeping an eye on the weather, and flying the plane among other things. A discovery flight is a very good way for a prospective pilot to gauge whether or not they are up to the challenge.

Another large thing to determine is what type of pilot you want to be. This will determine what type of schooling is right for you. Then before you start your training obtain the appropriate class medical certificate for the type of certification you are seeking. Some examples of certificates are: private, sport, and recreational. Finding out if you are medically qualified will save you time and money. However, medical disqualification from one type may not preclude you from another. An example is if you are not qualified to be a sport pilot you can still possibly become a recreational, private, or commercial pilot.

The largest thing to consider aside from whether or not flying is for you is how to pay for it. Flight training is very expensive - especially now due to increasing fuel costs. There are many ways to pay for flight training though. The most common way is to take out a school loan. Most schools offer financing and many flight schools in general are approved by most banks for educational loans. Another way to get your pilot's license (and the way that I did it) was a combination of a structured school and day-to -day training. I did a structured school for a short period of time when I was on vacation. This is where I did my ground school and my first 8 hours of flying. Then, while working as a bartender I was able to schedule time around my work schedule and finally completed my private pilot's license (or PPL). Yes - as a bartender I was able to finish flight training AND pay my rent, keep gas in my car, keep food in my refrigerator, and still have money left over to go out in my free time. The reason I say this is because the sheer cost of training is a deterrent to many people. The two main types of schools for people getting started in their aviation career are Part 61 and Part 141. Both types are primarily general aviation schools. The main difference between each type is the minimum number of flight hours required to obtain a license, with Part 61 requiring 40 hours and Part 141 requiring 35. The difference is negligible due to the fact that the national average is 65-70 hours to complete training.

There are many schools all over the country, and there are individual instructors that work out of smaller airfields. Chances are good that there is an affordable one near you. The best resource to use is the internet. Each school has a website and most schools are willing to work on an individual basis because they want you to fly. After all - they were in your shoes at one time too.

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