How to Find a Quality Flight Training Program

Attending flight school is a big decision. You can’t just waltz into class and grab a seat. Besides, even if you could do that, you don’t know the kind of education you’ll receive. Like any other school, not all flight schools are created equal. The knowledge and experience of the instructor will play a big role in the type of education you get. So will the philosophy of the school. Here’s what you need to look for before you commit to anything:

The Minimum Requirements

Minimum requirements in the U.S. are set in stone. The FAA requires that you be at least 17 for a private pilot’s license. For a commercial license, you must be at least 18. In both cases, you have to be able to speak and read English. You don’t need perfect vision, but it must be correctable to 20/20 with glasses or contacts.

The School

You have several choices when it comes to schools. First, you can choose a Part 141 school. These schools have pretty high requirements in terms of what’s expected of you. They are periodically audited by the FAA too. The benefit is, if you’re going for your commercial license, you only need 190 flight hours (minimum).

Another choice is a Part 61 school. These schools aren’t audited by the FAA, but they require many more flight hours – a minimum of 250 for commercial licensing. Finally, an accredited school is like attending any other college or university. This last option might be particularly attractive if you want to be a professional pilot since you’ll earn a degree.

Check out the ground school. Most students focus mostly on the flying part of school, but a good ground school can make all the difference in regards to the quality of your education. Ground school is where you learn the theoretical knowledge that will be required when you’re up in the air.

Ground school may consist of either an instructor teaching you or a self-paced home-study class. If you don’t work well independently, make sure your school has a strong ground school with good instructors. If you need a flexible schedule, make sure your school offers a home-study course. Not all of them do.

The Costs

What does your school cost? A private pilot’s license will likely run you about $5,000 to $6,000. Maybe more. A commercial license may cost you $15,000, $30,000, or more depending on what your instructor charges, the cost of aircraft rental, and the hours you need to pass your exam and checkride.

Don’t automatically go with the lowest cost school. In fact, you should look at the most expensive schools you can afford. They will likely have well-paid instructors since higher pay tends to attract more knowledgeable and competent instructors.

Available Financial Aid

There are a lot of ways to pay for flight school. Most students use scholarships or loans to defray most of the costs. Some of the more popular scholarships include:

• Boeing Scholarships

• UAA Janice K. Barden Aviation Scholarship

• The Aero Club of New England

• The Girls With Wings Scholarship

• William M. Fanning Maintenance Scholarship

• Astronaut Scholarship Foundation

• Lawrence Ginocchio Aviation Scholarship

• Alan H Conklin Business Aviation Management Scholarship and;

• The LeRoy W. Homer Jr. Scholarship

You can also get financial aid in the form of federal Pell Grants and a direct Stafford Loan.

Article contributed by Paul C. Guerrier.

Paul C. Guerrier is a recently certified airplane pilot. His passion is aviation, and he blogs about it for a number of different websites. Click for more information about better pilot training.