Movies depict pilots in a romanticized (or sometimes even comedic) light. That said, the movies only tell some of the story. If you’ve always wanted to be a pilot because you love to fly, there are some important things to think about before you sign up for flight school.
Type of School
As you’re researching flight training schools, you’ll see the terms “Part 61” and “Part 141” mentioned a lot. These refer to sections of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Part 61 covers what’s necessary for pilot certification. Part 141 regulates flight schools, imposing substantial requirements for curriculum and the flight training environment.
Each type of school will tell you why they think their type of instruction is better, but your decision comes down to a combination of the type of school alongside these other factors.
Flight school isn’t cheap. Don’t commit all your money to a flight school at once because you could lose it if the school goes out of business. Paying as you go is a better plan, especially if your own schedule is unpredictable and you need the flexibility to proceed at your own pace.
Part of the decision-making process should include separating fact from fiction about what the real life of a pilot is like. There are many myths about being a pilot that are just that—myths. Think about your reasons for wanting to become a pilot, and compare them to reality by talking to pilots at a nearby general aviation airport or local instructors.
Check on instructor availability. Are the instructors consistently available for regular lessons, or do they have irregular schedules? When you enroll in flight school, you want to progress and build upon your learning without taking breaks or losing the opportunity to practice and reinforce your training.
Ask about the instructors’ backgrounds and the rate of instructor turnover at the schools you’re considering. It’s upsetting to connect with your instructor over dozens of hours only to have them leave the school just as you near the completion of your program.
Visit the school and ask questions about what types of aircraft they have available for training. Do they have a sizeable fleet of popular airplanes like Cessna, Piper, and Diamond? Are these planes exclusively for the students and their instructors, or does the school also rent them (as this could affect availability for lessons)?
Weather and Flight Traffic
Find out how frequently the weather in the area delays training flights. You should also ask about air traffic in the area and how it may affect your training schedule.
There are many more things to think about before signing up for flight school, like how long it will take to earn your pilot’s license, graduation rates, and more. Good luck in your pursuit of your pilot’s license!