How to select flight School ?


If you enjoy being confused try selecting the best flight school to attend.  It is not an easy task and the less you know about aviation, the more difficult it is.  If you want to be a professional pilot it is most important to not only learn how to fly but to be instructed specifically toward the goal of being a professional.  It is almost impossible to get the experience required to be an airline pilot by training on your own at a local airport.

The very first thing I recommend is that you select your school only from those that are accredited, like a university or college.  There are many guarantees and no downside for you in staying with accredited schools.  Of course a school needs to have very high educational standards to achieve accreditation.  In addition, the school has to subscribe to a code of behavior and policies that assures fair treatment to the student.  If there is an issue with your school during your stay there, and you don’t think the school is being fair or responsive, one call to the accrediting council will change that very quickly.  The school can lose accreditation due to that kind if situation and, if they lose their accreditation they can no longer issue Student Visas to foreign students.  That would be very costly.

Accredited schools must be very sound financially.  They cannot even apply for accreditation until they have been in business for some years.  Unfortunately there is a history of flight schools going out of business rather suddenly, in most cases taking their student’s money with them.  Running a flight school is not for anyone that is not well funded.  Airplanes, fuel, insurance for student pilots, etc. are all very expensive.  It is quite unlikely that any school accepted for accreditation would find themselves in this situation and, if they were headed in that direction, it would be seen early by their accrediting council during one of their many compliance inspections.

Accrediting councils also have to approve the school’s refund policy.  If a student decides he doesn’t want to fly, wants to change schools or simply cannot complete the course, what happens to his money?  Schools without accreditation can do whatever they want including keeping whatever money is left.  Some do this. Some decide what to do on a day-to-day basis with no consistency.  Accredited schools are not allowed to do this.

Next, I would begin to call schools and talk to the admissions people.  Listening to what they have to say and the manner in which they try to sell their school to you should give you an overall impression of the school.  Is it very structured, almost military, or is it more laid back? Either one is OK.  It just depends on what you are looking for.

Is the admissions person trying to sell you the school or a financing program?

Are they giving you information or simply trying to push you to commit to their school?  Are they telling you how good they are (and why) or are they criticizing their competition to make themselves look good? I don’t mind hearing specific comparisons to other schools, and why the one I am speaking to is better but, if all the admissions person can do is make general remarks critical to all of his competitors I would tend to think he has nothing really good to say about his own school.

Ask about the program and try to get some specific information, such as:  If the school hires its graduates as flight instructors so they can build flight time and experience toward an airline job, ask if they really have their training oriented towards airline jobs? If they don’t, you might as well save your time and money.

Ask how many Flight Hours an instructor gets in a month.  If you just ask how many “hours” they will probably include simulator and ground instruction hours, which the airlines do not care about. Ask how many of their graduates leave school after instructing and go directly to an airline job? And, if you are not hired on the first interview, can you return and continue instructing?

Don’t consider anyone that offers only a “guaranteed interview.”  That could mean an interview for a job with the school as a flight instructor, or an interview with an airline.  Either way, it is not a job guarantee and, while on the subject, there are simply NO guarantees in flight training.  If anyone uses that word, be very careful.

Don’t buy jet time or rating!  The airlines that hire you train you to fly the jets.  Even if you have flight time in jet aircraft, they may demand that you go through their training program before you can work for the airline, so there is no point to paying for a very expensive lesson that you will have to repeat when you are hired. This should not be designed just to add to the profit picture of the flight school. After you leave the school you should be flying with a carrier carrying paying passengers with in a few months.

How can you tell if the answers given to these questions are truthful?  There is only one way I know of and, unfortunately, you had best verify these claims, as some schools have been known to be less than candid (to put it gently.)

I only know of one way for you to find out if you are being told the truth.  Speak to students.  They have no vested interest in whether you come to that school or not and, if they have not been treated right, they will be anxious to let you know that. You ask if people are regularly leaving the school land up with legitimate, paying airline jobs or just sent off on blind interviews.  Of course ask about the quality of education and if the people would choose the same school over again.

No one else will be able to answer these questions as well or as honestly as these people. Hopefully they will confirm what the staff has already told you.  If they tell you something different, or hesitate to answer your questions, you might strongly consider looking elsewhere. As you tour try to communicate with students, if that is discouraged be very careful.  To me that means there is something they would rather you not hear.

Not too many schools offer “guaranteed training” any longer.  Everyone knows that students are going to go over the minimum hours required to get most licenses and ratings, and no one can afford to give away free flight time, so there has to be “a catch” somewhere.  Either the school is including more hours in the course than you might need (costing you unnecessary expenditures) or they have “friendly” check pilots that will pass you before
you are really qualified for the license or rating. Neither situation is good, and I would personally avoid these programs. Some schools even go in for over logging to save on costs. This is not as far fetched as it may sound.  There are a number of schools that have lost their rights to teach and, when it happens, the students are tested again. They could very well have to re-take the course, written test and flight exam to get their license back.

Here are a few more facts that all of you must consider. Should any thing happen, is there adequate medical and aircraft insurance? Does the school have adequate maintenance facilities? Are the airplanes in good condition and well equipped with instruments and navigations  aids? 

If you have found a satisfactory answer to all this, you have selected the right school.




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