Sources of Flight Training (Part One)

The major sources of flight training in the United States include FAA-approved pilot schools and training centers, non-certificated (14 CFR part 61) flying schools, and independent flight instructors. FAA-approved schools are those flight schools certificated by the FAA as pilot schools under 14 CFR part 141. [Figure 1-9]

Figure 1-9. FAA Form 8000-4, Air Agency Certificate.

Figure 1-9. FAA Form 8000-4, Air Agency Certificate. [click image to enlarge]

Application for certification is voluntary, and the school must meet stringent requirements for personnel, equipment, maintenance, and facilities. The school must operate in accordance with an established curriculum that includes a training course outline (TCO) approved by the FAA. The TCO must contain student enrollment prerequisites, detailed description of each lesson including standards and objectives, expected accomplishments and standards for each stage of training, and a description of the checks and tests used to measure a student’s accomplishments. FAA-approved pilot school certificates must be renewed every 2 years.

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Renewal is contingent upon proof of continued high quality instruction and a minimum level of instructional activity. Training at an FAA-certificated pilot school is structured and because of this structured environment, the graduates of these pilot schools are allowed to meet the certification experience requirements of 14 CFR part 61 with less flight time. Many FAA-certificated pilot schools have DPEs on staff to administer FAA practical tests. Some schools have been granted examining authority by the FAA. A school with examining authority for a particular course(s) has the authority to recommend its graduates for pilot certificates or ratings without further testing by the FAA. A list of FAA-certificated pilot schools and their training courses can be found at http://

FAA-approved training centers are certificated under 14 CFR part 142. Training centers, like certificated pilot schools, operate in a structured environment with approved courses and curricula and stringent standards for personnel, equipment, facilities, operating procedures, and record keeping. Training centers certificated under 14 CFR part 142, however, specialize in the use of flight simulation (flight simulators and flight training devices) in their training courses.

There are a number of flying schools in the United States that are not certificated by the FAA. These schools operate under the provisions of 14 CFR part 61. Many of these noncertificated flying schools offer excellent training and meet or exceed the standards required of FAA-approved pilot schools. Flight instructors employed by non-certificated flying schools, as well as independent flight instructors, must meet the same basic 14 CFR part 61 flight instructor requirements for certification and renewal as those flight instructors employed by FAA-certificated pilot schools. In the end, any training program is dependent upon the quality of the ground and flight instruction a student pilot receives.

Practical Test Standards (PTS) and Airman Certification Standards (ACS)

Practical tests for FAA pilot certificates and associated ratings are administered by FAA inspectors and DPEs in accordance with FAA-developed Practical Test Standards (PTS) and Airman Certification Standards (ACS). [Figure 1-10] 14 CFR part 61 specifies the areas of operation in which knowledge and skill must be demonstrated by the applicant. The CFRs provide the flexibility to permit the FAA to publish PTS and ACS containing the areas of operation and specific tasks in which competence must be demonstrated. The FAA requires that all practical tests be conducted in accordance with the appropriate PTS and ACS and the policies set forth in the introduction section of the PTS and ACS.

Figure 1-10. Airman Certification Standards (ACS) developed by the FAA.

Figure 1-10. Airman Certification Standards (ACS) developed by the FAA.

It must be emphasized that the PTS and ACS are testing documents rather than teaching documents. Although the pilot applicant should be familiar with these books and refer to the standards it contains during training, the PTS and ACS is not intended to be used as a training syllabus. It contains the standards to which maneuvers/procedures on FAA practical tests must be performed and the FAA policies governing the administration of practical tests. An appropriately rated flight instructor is responsible for training a pilot applicant to acceptable standards in all subject matter areas, procedures, and maneuvers included in, and encompassed by, the tasks within each area of operation in the appropriate PTS and ACS. Flight instructors and pilot applicants should always remember that safe, competent piloting requires a commitment to learning, planning, and risk management that goes beyond rote performance of maneuvers. Descriptions of tasks and information on how to perform maneuvers and procedures are contained in reference and teaching documents, such as this handbook. A list of reference documents is contained in the introduction section of each PTS and ACS. It is necessary that the latest version of the PTS and ACS, with all recent changes, be referenced for training. All recent versions and changes to the FAA PTS and ACS may be viewed or downloaded at


Safety of Flight Practices

In the interest of safety and good habit pattern formation, there are certain basic flight safety practices and procedures that must be emphasized by the flight instructor, and adhered to by both instructor and student, beginning with the very first dual instruction flight. These include, but are not limited to, collision avoidance procedures including proper scanning techniques and clearing procedures, runway incursion avoidance, stall awareness, positive transfer of controls, and flight deck workload management.

Collision Avoidance

All pilots must be alert to the potential for midair collision and impending loss of separation. The general operating and flight rules in 14 CFR part 91 set forth the concept of “See and Avoid.” This concept requires that vigilance shall be maintained at all times by each person operating an aircraft regardless of whether the operation is conducted under IFR or VFR. Pilots should also keep in mind their responsibility for continuously maintaining a vigilant lookout regardless of the type of aircraft being flown and the purpose of the flight. Most midair collision accidents and reported near midair collision incidents occur in good VFR weather conditions and during the hours of daylight. Most of these accident/incidents occur within 5 miles of an airport and/or near navigation aids. [Figure 1-11]

Figure 1-11. Most midair collision accidents occur in good weather.

Figure 1-11. Most midair collision accidents occur in good weather.

The “See and Avoid” concept relies on knowledge of the limitations of the human eye and the use of proper visual scanning techniques to help compensate for these limitations. Pilots should remain constantly alert to all traffic movement within their field of vision, as well as periodically scanning the entire visual field outside of their aircraft to ensure detection of conflicting traffic. Remember that the performance capabilities of many aircraft, in both speed and rates of climb/descent, result in high closure rates limiting the time available for detection, decision, and evasive action. [Figure 1-12]

Figure 1-12. Proper scanning techniques can mitigate midair collisions. Pilots must be aware of potential blind spots and attempt to clear the entire area that they are maneuvering in.

Figure 1-12. Proper scanning techniques can mitigate midair collisions. Pilots must be aware of potential blind spots and attempt to clear the entire area that they are maneuvering in.

The probability of spotting a potential collision threat increases with the time spent looking outside, but certain techniques may be used to increase the effectiveness of the scan time. The human eyes tend to focus somewhere, even in a featureless sky. In order to be most effective, the pilot should shift glances and refocus at intervals. Most pilots do this in the process of scanning the instrument panel, but it is also important to focus outside to set up the visual system for effective target acquisition. Pilots should also realize that their eyes may require several seconds to refocus when switching views between items on the instrument panel and distant objects.

Proper scanning requires the constant sharing of attention with other piloting tasks, thus it is easily degraded by such psychological and physiological conditions, such as fatigue, boredom, illness, anxiety, or preoccupation.

Effective scanning is accomplished with a series of short, regularly-spaced eye movements that bring successive areas of the sky into the central visual field. Each movement should not exceed 10 degrees, and each area should be observed for at least 1 second to enable detection. Although horizontal back-and-forth eye movements seem preferred by most pilots, each pilot should develop a scanning pattern that is most comfortable to them and adhere to it to assure optimum scanning.

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