Your connection with the sky

Find a Good Flight School by Ian James

How to Find a Good Flight School

You want to go to flight school, but there are so many choices out there. Like any other type of school, flight schools vary in terms of quality and price. If becoming a professional pilot is your goal, you need a method to figure out which school is right for you. You want a schedule you can live with and competent instructors. Here's how to get everything you want:

Figure Out What Type of School You Want To Attend

The first step is to figure out what you want to do. Do you want to be a private pilot or a commercial one? If you want to haul people around, and get paid for doing it, you need a commercial license. If you want to be a scaled-down version of your favorite celebrity, and just fly for fun, you won't need to put in the same amount of flight time and you can get away with attending less expensive schools and a private pilot certificate.

Flight schools come in two categories, Part 61 and Part 141, which refer to the parts of the federal aviation regulations (FARs) under which they operate. Part 61 schools offer scheduling flexibility when compared to Part 141. However, Part 61 schools require you to take more flight hours to get your licenses. For example, for a private license, you'll need a minimum of 40 hours of flight time in a Part 61 school. For a Part 141 school, you need just 35. Most people take 60 to 75 hours before they pass their exam and checkride, but it becomes more important when you're going for a commercial license.

Part 61 schools require 250 hours while Part 141 require only 190. There are also nationally accredited training institutions you can attend. You'll earn a degree, which can be important if you want financial aid - these schools must apply to an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. As such, you'll find it easier to find financial aid and scholarships if you go to these types of schools.

Figure Out How You're Going To Pay For It

There are many grants and scholarships for flight schools, though some of them only pay for a portion of your education and flight time. With an accredited school, you can qualify for federal aid, and school loans as if you were attending any other type of college or university.

A few examples of scholarships include:

  •  The Aero Club of New England
  • The Aircraft Electronics Association Educational Foundation
  • The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
  • The Ninety-Nines (99s), Inc.
  • The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation
  • The Alan H Conklin Business Aviation Management Scholarship
  • The Lawrence Ginocchio Aviation Scholarship
  • The William M. Fanning Maintenance Scholarship
  • UAA Janice K. Barden Aviation Scholarship

Find Out What The School Is Like

The best way to do this is to take a trip to the school. Talk to your flight instructor. Find out what the school's philosophy is about. How many students per instructor are there? Engage other students if you can. Find out from people already attending what it's like, how flexible scheduling is, what teaching style the instructors use and so on.

Take a Discovery Flight

A discovery flight lets you actually fly before you commit to a school. You'll meet your instructor, get a tour of the facility, get some basic ground training, learn about basic principles of aerodynamics of flight, and talk about what the flight will involve when you go up. You'll go over basic safety instructions and do a pre-flight inspection of the aircraft.

When you're up in the air, you will actually fly the aircraft with the assistance of your instructor. This will give you a real feeling for what it's like to fly. You will learn how to maintain level flight, turn, climb, and descend.

Examine The Costs and Admission Requirements

Don't forget to ask about the costs to attend and the basic requirements. You will need to be at least 17 years old for a private license and 18 for a commercial one. You must also be able to read and speak English. Costs vary between $10,000 and $30,000. A lot of this depends on the quality of the school, its instructors, and the type of license you want for your end goal.


Ian James is a certificated pilot. He enjoys blogging about subjects related to his profession for a number of websites. Click the complete flight training solutions link for more information.

8 Responses to “Find a Good Flight School by Ian James”

  1. I never had the chance to go to a college flight program, but rather learned to fly at a flying club at the airbase I was stationed at. After I left the USAF I joined the Winged Spartans Flying Club at Michigan State University where I attended most of my advanced ratings.

    When learning in Texas and at MSU I used to get groups of friends together to share in the costs to fly to such places as the Bahamas, Kentucky Derby etc in order to build flying time.

    It was a great experience and I still maintain friendships with some of my fellow pilots from the Winged Spartans.

  2. Anyone worried about the cost of flight school may want to check out this useful infographic on pilot's return on investment in education compared to other noteworthy career choices.

  3. Venus Savage Says:
    May 31st, 2013 at 5:37 am

    @Jeff: I think that infographic is a bit misleading.

    Sure, flight school is cheap in comparison to some other careers.

    But we all know how turbulent and cyclical the aviation industry is and how poorly it performs, at least domestically, compared to healthcare (which is booming).

    I don't think that M.D.s are furloughed with nearly the same regularity as flight crew, either.

    Finally, M.D.s don't have to pass a class I or II medical, and won't lose their practice if they can't. Pilots do.

    Anyone who spends $140,000 on their aviation education and pays for it with loans will see what a bad decision that is once they graduate and begin flight instructing.

    A loan of $90,000 from a well known lender results in a monthly payment of approximately $1,000. That's more than many CFIs net.

    So, unless one has a plan to get around that, it's potential short term financial suicide.

    Not down on the profession; I fly for a living and enjoy it very much. But there's lots more to this comparison than educational costs and theoretical ROI.

    It's a demanding profession and requires much more analysis than the simple graphic you've presented.

  4. Venus Savage Says:
    May 31st, 2013 at 5:52 am


    As far as finding a good flight school, it pays to visit a few at least and do discovery flights.

    Flight schools and their employees have personalities. Some are old style, some wear epaulets, some are big and standardized.

    If you're going to fly commercially, you need multi time, at least 100 hours bare minimum. At $250/hour, that's $25,000 of flight time; it pays to build that into your training. Lots of smaller schools typically have many singles and maybe one twin, so take that into consideration.

    Also, remember that the margins are thin for flight schools and the airplane is sucking up the majority of the training dollars. So don't get upset if the bill is $300 for the lesson and you haven't received concierge service the whole way through.

    Your flight instructor, by making poverty level wages, is helping to keep your costs down. So be nice. Don't cancel at the last minute. Study and prepare. Take responsibility for your training; don't just walk in the door and wonder what's next. And whether your instructor is a timebuilder or teaches as a career, do your best to engage them and get everything you can from your training.

    Everybody blames flight schools for the poor PPASEL completion rate; perhaps the students need to take some more responsibility for themselves.

  5. Well said Venus.

  6. I really like your information about flight school and I have a free e-book about how to become a pilot if you care to look at it?

  7. This is helpful to those people who wants to go flight school. It is really important to choose the right flight school.

  8. Ian, thanks for the article. I didn't realize there are two types of flight schools. That is helpful information I'll have to ask about when looking around. Thanks.

Leave a Reply