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Future Pilots

Choosing a Flight Training School

Robert P. Mark

Imagine a headline that claims to be able to turn $100,000 into $9,000,000 while you enjoy the job of your dreams. Plus tax, tag, license, security deposit, economic stress, labor-induced anxiety and thirty years labor. OK, maybe. Sound a bit like the car dealer ads from the Sunday newspaper though? Might not be far fetched at all if you’re thinking about a professional pilot career. Realizing a career as a pilot is only going to happen after some careful and realistic planning, of not just your academic education, but your flight training as well.

Where and how you learn to fly can be one of the most important decisions of your career because the foundation of your flying abilities is built on basics you’ll pick up at your training school of choice. That makes how you learn almost as important as the skills you’ll learn themselves You are learning to think like a pilot, creating habits that will follow you forever. For better or for worse, these habits seep into other parts of your life making you more structured, more methodical, more logical and a better decision-maker. You’ll want these foundational learning elements to be bulletproof. Quality training and learning encourages a structured method that promotes promotional growth. Now, lets talk about how to get there.

During the past few decades, the significant growth of the training industry was due, in part, to similar growth in the airline industry. The military was supplying a smaller percentage of pilots to the pool of available current and qualified applicants and the void needed to be filled. Thus, the choices for primary and advanced training facilities grew substantially, affording interested students multiple options catering to their needs.

Selecting the right flight school is important, but it need not be an incredibly difficult process. There are many issues to consider before committing time and money.

  • How much will the program cost?
  • What training elements are specifically included?
  • What kinds of financing or payment programs are available?
  • Where can students live while they train?
  • How many ratings or certificates is the school certified to train for?
  • Will the school take you from zero time to an airline job?
  • How long will the courses last and what are the variables?
  • Is an automobile a necessity?
  • What insurance does a school carry and to cover what situations?
  • What is the instructor student ratio?
  • What kinds of aircraft are used and how many are available for instruction?
  • What are the general weather conditions in the area for flying?
  • How long has the school been in business?
  • What is the fastest you might be able to proceed through this school’s curriculum?
  • What do the school’s facilities look like? Are they clean and professional?
  • Are the aircraft well maintained?
  • Will the school offer a list of current and former students to speak with?
  • What resolution procedures are in place if there’s a dispute about the curriculum, or a bill or a safety issue?
  • Is it best to go to an aviation university or attend an independent flight school?

FAPA’s taken the time to interview recruiters at a variety of flight training schools. All shared the same goal, to produce qualified aviators, most of whom are seeking an airline pilot career. Check out the results at our Flight Training Schools Comparison listing (currently under maintenance). Alternatively, you can use the Professional Pilot Degree Institutions listing.

The time and effort you’ll spend to find the right school will pay large dividends later, both in dollars wisely spent and career success. Just remember the importance of either visiting the school directly before you enroll, or be sure and talk to people who have completed the program who are willing to offer you feedback and share advice. Be cautious of a flight training school that demands the entire course be paid for in advance and ask about their refund policy.