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Top Five Things to Look for in a Flight School

by Tori Williams 2. September 2017 11:00
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So you have finally decided that you will chase your dreams and get your pilot license. That’s great! The next big step in the process is to pick a flight school. However, with the number of flight schools around nowadays (sometimes multiples at single airports) it can be difficult to know which flight school to choose. Ultimately you will be giving a large amount of money to them, so it is very important you find the right fit for your goals and needs as a flight student.

In this article I would like to outline some of the most important things to look for in a flight school, to hopefully assist you in choosing the perfect fit. Sometimes it is worth driving to the next town over for your preferred flight school.

1. Availability of aircraft

One of the number one complaints I’ve heard from my flight student friends is that they are unable to schedule their flights when they need to because there is limited aircraft availability. Having too many students trying to fly too few aircraft can lead to a lot of frustration and unhappiness from all involved. Speak with current students and see how often they are able to fly. Is it flexible or will you be fighting for a plane when the weather is nice? Another important thing to think about is what you will be flying after you complete your training. Does the flight school offer rentals without instructors? Is there a local flying club that has ties to the school? Having a game plan for when you’re flying on your own will save you a lot of work once you achieve your goals to earn your license.

2. Experienced instructors

One of my pet peeves with flight instructors is when they are clearly just instructing to get the hours to move to the airlines. Although this is what the majority of instructors are doing, it doesn’t mean they get to be lazy or haphazard with teaching you. Watch out for instructors who do not take your training seriously, or will cancel your flight for the slightest inconvenience. A good instructor will tailor your lessons to your learning style, and will do the best they can to advance you through the lessons so you aren’t wasting money. Remember, no matter how nice the person is, you have the right to switch to a new instructor if you feel you are not making the progress that you should be.

3. Training Options

The training options that you look for in a flight school have a lot to do with what your personal goals are as a pilot. Do you intend to fly as a hobby or are you ultimately wanting to make a career out of it? There is a notable difference between a Part 61 and Part 141 certified flight school and it is up to you to decide which you prefer. This goes along with the availability of aircraft as well. Do you want to fly the classic Cessna 172 or are you looking for a more “mission-oriented” type of aircraft? Have an open mind about new aircraft if you’ve only ever experienced one type, but be picky if you need certain type ratings or endorsements for your ultimate aviation goals.

4. Good Maintenance

I can assure you that when I first started looking at flight schools, I didn’t think twice about how their maintenance was. However, once I started flying and planes continually went out of service for the most random things, I began to wonder how smoothly our maintenance department was operating. Ask any potential flight schools who is in charge of maintenance, how a student would report a discrepancy with the plane, and how quickly the turnaround time usually is if a plane does go down for maintenance. Keep in mind that aircraft have regularly scheduled inspections, and ask how long they usually take to complete them. You may be surprised to learn that they are not up to standards. Determining the airworthiness of a plane is ultimately up to the pilot in command, so knowing how well the maintenance has been kept up is important.

5. Safety Record

Even if all of the above features of your soon-to-be flight school appear to check out perfectly, safety should always be the number one concern for pilots. Closely tied to maintenance and instructor experience, the safety record of the flight school directly impacts you. Keep your ear to the ground for any stories of unsafe operations and be watchful for regulation compliance. If the flight school ends up getting shut down for operating unsafely, you may be questioned about it during an interview for an airline. In the short term, you won’t have access to the planes you were flying. Keep tabs on the history of the flight school and be cautious if anything seems off.

The time you spend comparing flight schools will always pay off in the end. Don't be afraid to be picky and ask the hard questions. Flight schools would not be around without students so make sure you do your due diligence in the beginning, and enjoy your time training. What do you look for in a flight school? Let me know in the comments below!

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Aviation Safety | Airports | Tori Williams

Learning to Fly in the United States

by GlobalAir.com 27. August 2013 13:31
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Getting a Student Visa for Flight Training

In spite of worldwide demand for qualified commercial pilots, flight training in many regions is prohibitively expensive, a regulatory nightmare, or both. While it may seem strange to travel to a completely different country to train, learning to fly in the United States can be a huge benefit to student pilots from many regions. There's only one major catch - getting a student visa for flight training.

Which visa is right for me?

Let's jump ahead in the process slightly and discuss visa specifics. The United States issues two kinds of student visas - F1 and M1. With such descriptive titles, I'm sure you know exactly which one you need right? Honestly, in spite of their unhelpful titles, the basic difference between them is when they expire.

An M-1 visa, which is good for up to 12 months, is best for a student pilot seeking a limited number of certificates or ratings. For example, a typical commercial pilot course (including private pilot training and an instrument rating) might take 8 months to complete. In this case, when you enter the U.S., officials will stamp your visa with an expiration date of 8 months plus a 30 day grace period to complete your training and return home.

An F-1 visa, which is not given an expiration date, is best for student pilots in university programs or certain longer professional pilot courses that might include flight instructor certificates or time-building. Such programs may take years to complete or allow a very limited amount of work-study opportunities for students without requiring a work visa.

Where do I start?

Now that you understand the difference in the two types of visas, you're probably curious where to begin. As an international student, you must choose a flight school which offers training approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under Federal Aviation Regulation Part 141 and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue I-20 forms. It is highly recommended to seek out a school that caters to international students, because those schools will know how to navigate all the regulatory hurdles and keep you flying.

Photo: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA (Bush pilot) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What do I need?

Once you've located a school, most of the hard work is done. You will need to contact the school, such as Phoenix East Aviation, and provide them with all the necessary documents and fees in order to get a signed I-20 form that you will take to the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate with your completed visa application on your scheduled interview date.

I'm sure all of this sounds complex, but the most important thing to remember is you need to find an approved school here in the U.S. that offers the training you want. Since they regularly work with student pilots from all over the world they can help you navigate through the process and get started learning to fly in the U.S. today.

To find a school in the USA start here: AviationSchoolsOnline.com. You can also search Globalair.com’s aviation training directory. For more information on visas, please go to http://travel.state.gov/visa/forms/forms_4230.html

About the author - Kyle Garrett is the founder of Aviation Schools Online, has over 20 years of experience in the marketing and vocational school industry, and is an experienced instrument-rated private pilot.

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