What is a “good” flight school?
The Constant Argument in the Flight-Training World
"A good flight school prepares you to pass the FAA exams in the time frame you desire, for the price quoted, safely."
Of course there are certainly some variations to the answer, but any answers that are not
similar to the quote above are at best incomplete, and at worst, demonstrating a misunderstanding of
How is a potential student to know if a school lives up to the definition of "good?" How would a new student realize that ‘Flight Schools’ are not created equal?
Take a look...
Let’s start by breaking down that answer with the biggest piece of the puzzle, "School."In the world of flight schools, there are only two flavors. Part 141 and Part 61, referred to by the section of the Aviation regulations that dictate their operations.
Part 141 schools are closely monitored by the FAA. The administrators, instructors, aircraft, simulators, and study materials must all be approved. If a school is approved, and that’s a big "if", the FAA continually audits operations, safety, and student performance. A school that does not demonstrate student success will be stripped of their Air Agency Certificate. Essentially, a 141 approved flight school has a seal of approval from the FAA. The FAA makes a list of all certified flight schools available on their website.
A Part 61 flight school is a myth. Searching the FAA site for a "Part 61 flight school" will return no results because the FAA does not consider them to be schools at all. There is no required structure, curriculum, equipment, support staff, or student performance metrics to assess. Any flight instructor with access to an aircraft may call themselves a "Part 61" flight school.
"Prepare you to pass the FAA exams."The critical idea to take away here is that a school shares the responsibility for student success by maintaining the focus on the students' goals. Students are more successful when a school proactively follows a well organized curriculum, tracks student progress, communicates performance and develops strategies to overcome setbacks.
Simply repeating lessons over and over with a flight instructor rarely leads to success. If a Part 61 flight instructor isn’t intently focused on your goals, you have to ask yourself whose goals they are focused on.
"In the Timeframe you desire."An actual goal requires a time frame or a due date; otherwise it's just a dream. Dreams are great to have, and we want you to achieve your dream, but we don’t think a school has the right to charge you for a dream without a substantive process.
A good school will help set reasonable expectations and take the lead in keeping those expectations on track. A good school starts with a clearly defined syllabus that works as your road map, provides sufficient resources to support your goals, and maintains an administrative staff that keeps the student body organized so instructors can focus on their students.
"At the Price Quoted"This is likely the single most misunderstood part of deciphering if a school is "good".
Of course students look at pricing. Flight training is expensive and the internet is filled with stories of students being taken advantage of. However, hourly costs are only half of the equation; the other half being how many hours will you need to reach your goals. Flight training breaks down to hourly rates in nearly all programs. The more hours you need to pass your check ride, the more it will cost you to achieve your goals.
If a student were to look just at price, a school that flies for $200 an hour is more appealing than one that flies for $250 an hour. However, that only equates to an additional 10 hours of training required by the part 61 instructor before he is more expensive than a 141 Flight School. Looking back at all the other information provided above, the question a student should ask is which option will get me to my goals more efficiently.
As stated above, students are more successful when a school proactively follows a well organized curriculum, tracks student progress, communicates performance and develops strategies to overcome setbacks. Working with a school that shares your goals greatly reduces the hours of training required.
Furthermore, 141 schools are allowed to graduate students at lower minimum hours because the FAA is confident in the school. A student flying in a part 61 environment would be required to fly at least 40 hours to get their Private Pilot License, while a 141 school is allowed to graduate you at 35 hours. While getting your certificate at the minimums is rare, 141 schools graduating students in less time is not. Also common is the higher pass rate for both the written exams and the check rides for 141 graduates.