Selecting a flight school is an important consideration in the flight training process. FAA-approved training centers, FAA-approved pilot schools, noncertificated flying schools, and independent flight instructors conduct flight training in the United States. All flight training is conducted under the auspices of the FAA following the regulations outlined in 14 CFR parts 142, 141, or 61. Training centers, also referred to as flight academies, operate under 14 CFR part 142 and are certificated by the FAA. Application for certification is voluntary and the training center must meet stringent requirements for personnel, equipment, maintenance, facilities, and must teach a curriculum approved by the FAA. Training centers typically utilize a number of flight simulation training devices as part of its curricula. Flight training conducted at a training center is primarily done under contract to airlines and other commercial operators in transport or turbine aircraft, however many also provide flight training for the private pilot certificate, commercial pilot certificate, instrument rating, and ATP certificate.
Flight schools operating under 14 CFR part 141 are certificated by the FAA. Application for certification is voluntary and the school must meet stringent requirements for personnel, equipment, maintenance, facilities, and must teach an established curriculum, which includes a training course outline (TCO) approved by the FAA. The certificated schools may qualify for a ground school rating and a flight school rating. In addition, the school may be authorized to give its graduates practical (flight) tests and knowledge (computer administered written) tests. The FAA Pilot School Search database located at http://av-info.faa.gov/PilotSchool.asp, lists certificated ground and flight schools and the pilot training courses each school offers.
Enrollment in a 14 CFR part 141 flight school ensures quality, continuity, and offers a structured approach to flight training because these facilities must document the training curriculum and have their flight courses approved by the FAA. These strictures allow 14 CFR part 141 schools to complete certificates and ratings in fewer flight hours, which can mean a savings on the cost of flight training for the student pilot. For example, the minimum requirement for a Private Pilot Certificate is 35 hours in a part 141-certificated school and 40 hours in a part 61-certificated school. (This difference may be insignificant for a Private Pilot Certificate because the national average indicates most pilots require 60 to 75 hours of flight training.)
Many excellent flight schools find it impractical to qualify for the FAA part 141 certificates and are referred to as part 61 schools. 14 CFR part 61 outlines certificate and rating requirements for pilot certification through noncertificated schools and individual flight instructors. It also states what knowledge-based training must be covered and how much flight experience is required for each certificate and rating. Flight schools and flight instructors who train must adhere to the statutory requirements and train pilots to the standards found in 14 CFR part 61.
One advantage of flight training under 14 CFR part 61 is its flexibility. Flight lessons can be tailored to the individual student, because 14 CFR part 61 dictates the required minimum flight experience and knowledge-based training necessary to gain a specific pilot’s license, but it does not stipulate how the training is to be organized. This flexibility can also be a disadvantage because a flight instructor who fails to organize the flight training can cost a student pilot time and expense through repetitious training. One way for a student pilot to avoid this problem is to ensure the flight instructor has a well-documented training syllabus.
How To Find a Reputable Flight Program
To obtain information about pilot training, contact the local FSDO, which maintains a current file on all schools within its district. The choice of a flight school depends on what type of certificate is sought, and whether an individual wishes to fly as a sport pilot or wishes to pursue a career as a professional pilot. Another consideration is the amount of time that can be devoted to training. Ground and flight training should be obtained as regularly and frequently as possible because this assures maximum retention of instruction and the achievement of requisite proficiency.
Do not make the determination based on financial concerns alone, because the quality of training is very important. Prior to making a final decision, visit the schools under consideration and talk with management, instructors, and students. Request a personal tour of the flight school facility.
Be inquisitive and proactive when searching for a flight school, do some homework, and develop a checklist of questions by talking to pilots and reading articles in flight magazines. The checklist should include questions about aircraft reliability and maintenance practices, and questions for current students such as whether or not there is a safe, clean aircraft available when they are scheduled to fly.
Questions for the training facility should be aimed at determining if the instruction fits available personal time. What are the school’s operating hours? Does the facility have dedicated classrooms available for ground training required by the FAA? Is there an area available for preflight briefings, postflight debriefings, and critiques? Are these rooms private in nature in order to provide a nonthreatening environment in which the instructor can explain the content and outcome of the flight without making the student feel self-conscious?
Examine the facility before committing to any flight training. Evaluate the answers on the checklist, and then take time to think things over before making a decision. This proactive approach to choosing a flight school will ensure a student pilot contracts with a flight school or flight instructor best suited to their individual needs.
How To Choose a Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI)
Whether an individual chooses to train under 14 CFR part 141 or part 61, the key to an effective flight program is the quality of the ground and flight training received from the CFI. The flight instructor assumes total responsibility for training an individual to meet the standards required for certification within an ever-changing operating environment.
A CFI should possess an understanding of the learning process, knowledge of the fundamentals of teaching, and the ability to communicate effectively with the student pilot. During the certification process, a flight instructor applicant is tested on the practical application of these skills in specific teaching situations. The flight instructor is crucial to the scenario-based training program endorsed by the FAA. He or she is trained to function in the learning environment as an advisor and guide for the learner. The duties, responsibilities, and authority of the CFI include the following:
- Orient the student to the scenario-based training system
- Help the student become a confident planner and inflight manager of each flight and a critical evaluator of their own performance
- Help the student understand the knowledge requirements present in real world applications
- Diagnose learning difficulties and help the student overcome them
- Evaluate student progress and maintain appropriate records
- Provide continuous review of student learning
Should a student pilot find the selected CFI is not training in a manner conducive for learning, or the student and CFI do not have compatible schedules, the student pilot should find another CFI. Choosing the right CFI is important because the quality of instruction and the knowledge and skills acquired from their flight instructor affect a student pilot’s entire flying career.