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.
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.
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!