SELECTING A FLIGHT SCHOOL
Things to consider
- Having an idea of why you want to fly will assist you in your choice of school: if you’re looking for a career in aviation, you may want to consider an aviation college or flight school with pilot career pathways; if you’re looking to fly for fun, an aero club or recreational school might be more suitable.
- Some airports will have many flying schools, others may only have one. Take the time to visit all the schools and clubs in your area and talk to as many instructors and students as you can.
- Social media is a great way of checking out flying schools, speaking to students and conducting general research.
- Your first visit at a flying school should involve a chat with the chief flying instructor (CFI). Don’t be afraid to ask questions and do ask for a tour of the aircraft available. Further questions might include:
The Training Facility
How does your booking system work? Is it online, or via a telephone booking system?
What method of record storage is used? Is it digital or paper? This is vital should you need to change schools.
What is your cancellation policy, in terms of both my needing to cancel, and the school needing to cancel due weather or maintenance?
Does the school offer any social events, such as weekend barbecues or flyaways? This is a great way to meet other students and pilots.
How is the payment structure set out? Is there a fee for ground school? And a separate fee for the instructor? The cost of fuel will be included, but don’t be afraid to ask for a complete price breakdown.
Ask how the aircraft time is charge. You will hear the words ‘Hobbes’ and ‘Tacho’. These are both ways to measure flight time. Hobbes will measure the time from the moment you start the engine; tacho will measure the time from the moment you take off to the moment to land. Be sure to know which your school uses.
Enquire about landing fees, which will vary according to the airport. Sometimes these are included in your aircraft hire.
Be aware that flying schools may present their costs in different ways. Some will be all inclusive, others may be broken down in to categories. Bear in mind that the quoted time for a private pilot’s licence (PPL) may be 40 hours, but most students take nearly twice that to achieve a PPL.
Take into account the extra items you will need to purchase: a headset, a flight bag, maps, a subscription to an electronic flight bag (EFB) etc.
Be wary of flying schools demanding an upfront sum, particularly if it’s a large sum. Even a well-established flying school can close at short notice.
Will you always have the same instructor, or is it likely to change? Some schools have a much higher turnover of instructors than others.
Ask about ground school courses and whether the school offers in-house courses or an option for a one-on-one with an instructor.
Your instructor will become a significant part of your life for your training period. Be sure to ask plenty of questions and take a flight with them. Each person has a unique way of learning; if you find you’re not in any way comfortable, or progressing with your instructor, do speak up.