So you have decided to become a pilot – Congratulations! Flying is a wonderful experience whether you plan to approach it as a hobby, or a career. Your family and associates will certainly be supportive, if a slightly apprehensive, about your decision to “take to the air”. Obtaining a pilot’s license takes a substantial amount of time and resources. Choosing the right flight training school is paramount to your satisfaction and success.
The flight school you attend should bring you into a world of disciplined training which can be slightly intimidating in the beginning, but will pay off many times later in your time in the cockpit. No longer will you be flying in coach, waiting for a stewardess to bring you a drink and some pretzels. Now you will be in control of not only the aircraft you are flying, but the lives of yourself and those flying along with you.
The two types of flight schools in America are referred to as Part 61 and Part 141 schools respectively. Each type can bring you the knowledge and experience you are looking for. The approach to becoming a pilot differs between the two however.
Part 61 pilot courses have more flexibility as to material presentation, and the order in which it is presented to the prospective pilot. There can be a greater level of creativity on the instructor’s part in training you to handle an aircraft. This approach often brings with it instructors who are less rigid, and perhaps more creative.
Part 141 training schools have a curriculum that is strictly mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The learning material and presentation order are the same from one Part 141 flight school to the next. There are obviously benefits to this approach as well. Students can pause training at one school, and pick up right where they left off at another. Perfect for the prospective pilot who may relocate, or has to budget flying school over a period of time.
Either type of flight training is effective, since all pilot license testing is standardized. Some would argue that those attending a Part 141 school may have a leg up in becoming a professional pilot, as there are some assurances that their training was strictly governed by the FAA. The others would point out that the flexibility of the Part 61 approach allows instructors to focus on areas where students may need some extra work.
An important part of the initial process of choosing a training facility is to research what is available in close proximity to your residence or place of employment. Asking around at local airports or researching this on the web can narrow your prospects in a hurry. Many smaller airports have flight schools on location. Narrow your list down, and check out those of interest to you before making a final decision.
Speaking to the instructors and administrators is a good beginning for you, since you will be able to quickly gauge how comfortable you feel with a facility or trainer. Try also to speak with some current students and even pilot’s who have graduated from the schools you are considering. The flying community is a close knit group usually more than willing to share their personal experiences (good and bad) with prospective pilots. Getting to know the individual who will be your primary trainer is a must, as you will be spending quite a bit of time together in a cockpit as you accumulate your hours in flight.
Taking this approach will allow you feel comfortable with your decision as to where you will be investing a significant amount of time and money. This alone will give you a much greater chance of achieving your dream than writing a check to the first flight school you find in the Yellow Pages.