Selecting a Flight School

PS van Zuydam – 11 March 2015

SELECTING A FLIGHT SCHOOL

Most people entering aviation will have the advantage of a parent who has been involved in aviation and would be able to guide them in making these sorts of decisions, if however you do not have access to resources like this then you are left with a lot of research to do. There are many good resources out there on this topic and prospective students are encouraged to do as much research as possible. This article is a personal account based on my experience.

LICENSE CONSIDERATIONS

Once you have chosen which License will be sufficient for your needs you can begin to consider which school to complete your training at. If you elect to complete a National Pilots License then you need to train at a school registered under Part 62. If you elect to complete a Private Pilots License then you need a school registered under Part 61 and if you intend on moving onto a Commercial Pilots License then you would need a school registered under Part 141.

LOCATION AND LAYOUT CONSIDERATIONS

A flight school near your home or base of operations is an obvious deciding factor, however consideration should also be given to the airfields proximity to the General Flying Area as this is where you will spend many of your training hours. Exposure to both large controlled and small uncontrolled airfields are very important.

I feel that an uncontrolled airfield is a better choice for starting as there are no landing fees and you can concentrate on stick and rudder skills which are important to build in the early stages of flight. Once a student is proficient in flying the aircraft the skills required to deal with larger fields, ATC and taxiways can be acquired.

Whichever environment you train in, it is important to make an effort to gain exposure to the other.

FACILITIES AND AIRCRAFT CONSIDERATIONS

When choosing a flight school I would recommend physically visiting schools to get a feel for the people as well as to look at the facilities and aircraft. Visiting a school more than once in your decision making process is a good idea, if the staff are pushy or unhelpful at any stage then this is not the place to train.

While at the school ask to see how bookings are made, where the aircraft are kept and see facilities like examination rooms and the lounge if applicable. The actual aircraft should be looked at as well, you may not know what to look for at this stage so look at basic things like tyres, the cleanliness inside and out and the paint condition. These things should give you a good idea about the schools discipline and attitude toward maintenance. If you are not sure then do not rush a decision.

I don’t recommend open days to get a feel for a school as there are too many people to get one-on-one attention and this will not give a good idea of how things usually are.

INSTRUCTOR CONSIDERATIONS

After your own the instructor’s attitude is principal factor in determining your progress. The instructor will also ultimately be responsible for your safety in the beginning.  Spend some time chatting and getting to know your instructor, it’s important that you get along with the instructor but don’t discount someone because they are hard on you. An instructor who is strict will get the best out of you but an instructor who belittles you will not help you to achieve your potential.

The most important assessment of an instructor is their demeanour toward you as a student and the learning process. A passionate instructor does not just want to get in the plane and go, he/she will go out of his way to point out and discuss anything of interest on the airfield on the day even if it is not within the lesson. If at any point your instructor sits back in the plane, fiddling with his cell phone or other things, change instructors immediately.