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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

YOU Should Finish Your Flight Training

by Tori Williams 1. December 2015 08:00
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Perhaps you are one of the thousands of people who have always looked to the sky when an airplane passes over, pausing in awe. You have been determined to fly your entire life, but just never completed your training. Your dreams may have been temporarily grounded due to money, children, work obligations, or simply not feeling qualified. There is no reason that your dreams have to be put on hold anymore, and I am here to give you some inspiration for why you should finish learning how to fly.

Earning your pilots license is a huge accomplishment, but it is not as unobtainable as some seem to believe. The majority of people I interact with outside of my flight university see flying as this magical, dangerous pursuit. Some ask if it is scary, but the most common question by far is, “just how difficult is it to fly an airplane?” I’m here to tell you that flying is difficult. Earning a college degree is difficult. Flourishing in a career is difficult, raising a family is difficult, and anything that is worth doing is going to be difficult.

The one thing that separates those who can’t with those who can is determination. If you determine that you will finish training, you will put in the hours it takes and you will learn the material and succeed. If you continually make excuses for why you can’t finish training, then you never will finish.

There is a possibility that you are on this website right now looking at the huge selection of aircraft for sale and wondering what it would be like to own your own and fly it whenever you wanted. There are affordable options, and earning your license is the first step to becoming an aircraft owner and successful aviator. You might not even need more inspiration for why you should earn your license, but I have compiled some great reasons that I like to remind hopeful future pilots of.

Flying Increases Your Intelligence

Like most hobbies, flying requires you to learn something new every day. However, unlike most hobbies, almost everything you learn in training is transferable to another skill set. A pilot has to be proficient in time management, communication, resource management, and decision making, to name a few. You will constantly be sharpening different skills that apply to situations outside of the airport.

You Have Options

Not everyone wants to become a licensed Private pilot, but many do want to fly. There are several options out there for that as well, such as a Sport Pilot license and flying gliders. These have limitations on taking passengers and can be less free as far as regulations that must be followed, but for a fair weather flyer they are perfectly viable options. The great thing about aviation is that it is incredibly diverse. Find something that fits your lifestyle and dreams and run with it!

You are Joining a Great Community

Some of the best people I have had the pleasure of meeting are pilots. Not only are they wise from years of continual learning, but they are also adventurous and supportive. The aviation community is very welcoming, and you can feel at home at almost any airport you visit. I suggest joining a local chapter of EAA or the Ninety-Nines if those interest you. If not, simply sitting around in an FBO often leads to great conversations.

It Will Look Great on Your Resume

No matter what field you’re in, adding that you have your pilot license is a great addition to your resume. It shows your potential employer that you have dedicated yourself to working hard on a single task for a long period of time and earned it. Employers are looking for well-rounded individuals and having this qualification makes you stand out in a sea of other candidates.

So Many New Adventures

My fiancé and I flew to over 25 different airports in our first year of dating. I can think of something memorable or exciting about every single one of them. Whether it be the people we met, the hangars we explored, or simply how beautiful the sunset was while we sat on the porch of the FBO, none of those amazing memories would have happened if we didn’t decide to go on an adventure and fly to a new airport. Taking to the skies opens up so much possibility for adventure and lifelong memories.

Life is meant to be lived to the fullest. Why not chase after your dreams?

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Flying | Tori Williams

7 Practical Tips for Instrument Training

by Tori Williams 1. November 2015 20:45
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I am happy to report that in my pursuit of a career as a professional pilot, I successfully passed my Instrument Rating checkride a couple weeks ago. Although this is just a milestone along the long road to my goals, I am proud of how far I’ve come from my first attempt at flying an approach. Several pilots warned me that instrument training is more difficult than any other training, and I have to say that I now understand what they meant.

Instrument training was different from private training in a lot of ways. Everything that I had already spent hours learning and practicing was expected to be second nature to me at this point. This really hit home when I executed a poor traffic pattern and my instructor scolded me, saying, “This is PRIVATE stuff! You should know how to land.” I could not longer struggle to control any part of my flight operations and blame it on still being a student. In a sense, you change from being a student of the airplane to a student of everything outside of the airplane. Factor in how you cannot see outside, and the learning curve suddenly gets that much more difficult.

Upon landing and being told I had passed my checkride, my DPE told me that he strongly believed that instrument training was more difficult than ATP training. This surprised me, and I will have to report back in a few years on if I find this true for myself or not. Regardless, my previous instructor’s warning that it will be like a “fire hose to the face” when I began training was definitely true. I struggled for months in the ground course and every flight seemed to make me feel more emotions than Private training did. If it was a good flight, I definitely knew it and felt like a champion. If it was a bad flight, it was more difficult to recover from and I felt more like a failure. I am sure this is because the acceptable margin of error in instrument flight is so small.

During my training I jotted down some notes on things I would like to tell other students currently working on their instrument rating. Hopefully some of these tips will be helpful for navigating the difficulties you will face along the way.

Accurate representation of what it feels like to study for the Instrument Written.

Knock out the Written Exam

There is nothing more frustrating than getting grounded during flight training because you haven’t completed a written test. It is policy at my school that if you have not passed the written test before you start the second “flight lab” (25 hours of training) then you cannot move forward. Even if the threat of being grounded is not looming over your head, the written is a huge hurdle to pass and I recommend taking it as soon as possible to get it out of the way. Some concepts are more difficult than Private, but it’s nothing that a few extra hours of studying cannot remedy.

Reference the Instrument “Know All” Handbook

My instructor sent me a link to this page early in our training and it was a game changer. It lays out the highlights of regulations and procedures in a way that is easily understood, and it is perfect for printing out and highlighting. I even made some sections into flash cards for further memorization. Being a pilot is about knowing how to use every resource available to you, and this is certainly a goldmine of helpful information.

Memorize Approach Plates you use Often

I would say that in almost every other flight lesson we flew over to KLEX and did an approach into whichever runway they were using. I became really familiar with the VOR-A, ILS, LOC, and RNAV approaches for 22 and 04. Knowing that I frequent these approaches so much, it was extremely beneficial to me when I sat down by myself and mentally flew the approach plates several times. It made the approach briefing less confusing, and helped me to understand exactly what I was doing as I went along. Even before a cross country, I recommend looking over the plates a few times to get familiar with them so that you are never a few miles out and looking at the plate for the first time.

Don’t Stress Over the Brief

When I first began my training, it seemed like every time we were getting close to the airport and I needed to brief the approach to my instructor my palms suddenly got sweaty. There was so much to go over. There is so little time. Don’t let yourself stress over the approach plates, and find an acronym or method that works best for YOU. I always use “FACTM” approach. Frequencies, Altitudes, Course, Time, and Missed. I go over this in my head, and find the information that relates to it on my approach plate.

Invest in Good Foggles/Hood

One thing that I almost got in trouble with during my checkride was the type of foggles I used. They are clear, except for the opaque white around the edges. When I was coming in on my final approach, I experienced a familiar phenomenon: a blinding glare from the sun. As we were coming straight towards the sun, it reflected off of the opaque part of my foggles and I could not see any of my instruments. I had this happen before but never to the extent of during my checkride. My extremely kind check airman held a binder up to block the glare as I finished the approach, and recommended that I look into a hood for future flights. Find what works best for you and consider all the possible negatives of all options.

Get into Actual IMC

Near the end of my training, when I was pretty comfortable with approaches, my instructor called me up on a particularly overcast and nasty looking day. He told me that I had better not think I wasn’t flying that day, and to get to the airport as soon as possible. That was the day that we went into real, solid, terrifying instrument meteorological conditions. Up to this moment I was sure that I could handle it, after all I had about 40 hours in simulated instrument conditions. Immediately when we burst into the clouds my entire body tensed up. It was the most disorienting experience I had ever had. I asked him to please take over the radios so that I could get a feel for it. I highly recommend going into IMC multiple times during your training to truly understand the mental aerobics that come with completely trusting what you see on the panel.

Keep a Reminder of Why You’re Doing it

I won’t lie, I thought about quitting a couple times during my training. Everyone said that Instrument training either makes or breaks you as a pilot, so I thought that if I could not get it down then I was not fit to be a professional pilot. I watched as a few of my friends switched majors or quit their training because it was just too difficult. Every time I had to remind myself that this has been my dream since I was a young girl, and I could not quit until I had given it all that I had. It absolutely pays off in the end if you dedicate the time and effort, and keep motivated.

I wish you all the best in your instrument training, and I hope that these tips will at least encourage you to stick with it. Stay safe and keep working hard towards your goals!

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Aviation Safety | Flying | Tori Williams

Aerospace Education Program moves to new headquarters at Bowman Field

by GlobalAir.com 12. February 2015 10:57
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Louisville, Kentucky - Air+Space Academy, America’s leading provider of aerospace educational programs for students in grades 9-12, is establishing the national headquarters for the program in the Hangar 7 complex at historic Bowman Field. The program was first established in 2010 by educator Dr. Tim Smith as the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education and based out of Frankfort. Over the next five years, the program grew and expanded to include more than thirty schools in Kentucky and Tennessee. As the program continued to grow, the need arose for a permanent headquarters to house the program staff, educational and training activities, and aircraft that have been donated to the program.

“We are thrilled with the Hangar 7 property and location,” said Dr. Tim Smith, Executive Director of the program. The location is highly visible and accessible, there is room to grow, and right out our back door we have access to one of the premier general aviation facilities in America. We are excited to bring our program here and to bring new life, energy, and activity to Bowman Field and to the Louisville community. We owe a big thanks to LRAA for making this possible.”

Hangar 7, which was originally housed an Army Reserve Aviation unit, has been empty for a number of years. The structure, which can be accessed from Cannons Lane, has a combination of outdoor, office, and hangar space. While facility is in need of a major renovation, the program is making minor improvements and will operate from the facility while contributions are raised to do a complete makeover and create a 21st century aerospace education facility. It is anticipated that this process will be complete in the next two years.

Originally a regional project, the Air+Space Academy is now offering it program to schools across the country. In a ceremony held February 10th, 2015 at Hangar 7, members of the AOPA executive team and the mayor’s staff will join the board, staff, teachers and students of the program to officially kick off and celebrate this nationwide initiative. The program is nationally recognized as one of the most effective tools for teaching skills in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and producing career and college ready graduates.

Hangar 7 will serve students, teachers, administrators, and instructors from the program on a local, regional,and national level. Participants from all around the country will come to Louisville and Bowman Field to participate in training programs, competitions, aircraft maintenance and restoration, simulator flights, satellites launches, flight training, summer camps, as well as day to day after school programs for students in the local area.

National Air+Space Education Institute is a 501(c) 3 non-profit educational organization based in Louisville, Kentucky and is the nation’s leading provider of aerospace education programs for students grades 9-12 that develop and promote study and proficiency in the STEM subjects, produces college and career ready graduates, and is training the next generation of aerospace professionals. Their new website is in development at www.airandspace-ed.org.

Editor's Note: Welcome to the neighborhood!

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Aviation History | Airports | News | Press Release

Part 61 and Part 141 Flight Schools – What's The Difference? Should I Care?

by Tori Williams 1. May 2014 11:25
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Sometimes picking the right flight school can be as confusing as your first time seeing a sectional chart.

Every student pilot knows that where you train is as important as how you train. When I first began searching for a flight school, I quickly learned that the style of training offered by one flight school could be wildly different from another. There can be a huge contrast between having an independent CFI and being part of a flight school with rigid schedules and precise syllabi. I was constantly urged to learn about the instructing styles of multiple schools and instructors before choosing one.

For a number of months I attended a distinguished flight school in Louisville. They were great at training, and despite the fact that I was 12 at the time, they treated me like any other student. I remember attending a group ground school session where I was the youngest student by at least 40 years. I was this young girl trying very hard to fit in with the adults, and to learn advanced concepts of aviation at the same pace they were. In reality I had just started learning algebra a few weeks before.

The flight school was top notch and I gained a great deal of experience there but my training was quickly halted as money and time became an issue. After more searching and talking with other pilots, I was able to find The Institute for Aerospace Education, a high school program that was based at a school less than 30 minutes from my house. A couple years passed from when I had been instructed in Louisville, so I began this program with a new motivation and passion.

At the time I joined the program, it was a Part 61. This week, my great little flight school became certified as Part 141. This is a pretty big deal for a high school program, and further assured me that I have made the right decision for my future in attending this school. For those of you who do not know the difference of Part 61 and Part 141, here is a quick rundown. The number refers to which part of the federal regulations it is authorized under to train pilots.

Part 61

Schools certified under Part 61 are the most common type of flight school. All FAA-approved flight instructors, freelance or otherwise, may train students under Part 61. Typically Part 61 schools have a more relaxed schedule, working with the student’s preferences and availability. They have less accountability and paperwork requirements for the FAA than their Part 141 counterparts. These tend to be better for students who just want their first couple ratings or do not plan to pursue aviation as a career.

Part 141

In order to be a certified Part 141 flight school, the owner must go through a process that involves hours of paperwork and close examination of the actual teaching procedures at the school. All curriculum, training, and operations must be in accordance with the regulations outlined in Part 141 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. There are benefits to going through such a long process to certify the school, as students are able to get their licenses and ratings in fewer hours. This does not make a huge difference for Private Pilots, as they only have 5 hours taken off the standard of 40. However, once you reach the Commercial rating you can get a certification at 60 hours less than any Part 61 peers.

Which is better?

In reality, that depends entirely on you. If you personally learn better with a rigid schedule and lesson plan, then seek out a 141 certified flight school. If you tend to learn better in a more relaxed, casual environment, 61 would be better suited for you. One disadvantage of a Part 141 school is that many students can reach the point of feeling overwhelmed with the fast pace. I have always felt that a Part 61 would be better for a pilot who has never been exposed to aviation before their training, so that they can ease into the material.

I hope this has helped you grasp a better understanding of the different types of flight schools. Good luck on your training, whether it be Part 61 or 141!

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Tori Williams



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