Advantages to FSI vs. FBO?


New Member
I'm not sure if this is the best forum to place this question but since I'm deciding on FSI or CAA and this forum is pretty popular I'll poss the question here.

Is there a real advantage to going to a major part 141 academy vs. the part 61 FBO route?

I ask this because it seems to be that regionals come to FSI or CAA and other to interview instructors. Are they coming to these academys because they trust the training and reputation? Do they come looking for pilots at FBOs?

I know the FBO route can be cheaper and some say that more contacts can be made however it still seems like you have a better chance of being hired as a CFI from say an FSI or a CAA then a local FBO.

Am I just falling for the marketing hype?
I have the same question if anyone can respond. I will be 28 years old and changing careers (current PPL & Inst.). I am trying to decide between the $academy$ and FBO route as well. Some here have said that it is all about what you do with your ratings AFTER you get them, while others point out the reputation and focus of an academy like FSA.
Regionals go to the academies because they can trust the standardization of training.

Regionals also hire from the "streets" with FBO training because they realize it's not how a pilot flies the airplane that matters. It's attitude, judgement, personality, and decision-making abilities.

So determine if you can get the same amount of skill and decision making ability at your local FBO.

If you can, and you like the equipment, instructors, and management, do the FBO route.

If your FBO reminds you of a used car dealership selling lemons. . . If all of the aircraft belch oil and fuel on the ramp, even the Cessna 172s. . . If the instructors are so desperate for cash they will take any flight, no matter if it's a new student and they will be departing into the gust front of an approaching thunderstorm. . . Then take a look at the various academies out there.

Don't let Part 141 status fool you. What city business leader is friends with the school owner and has enough political pull to get the F.A.A. to back off? Even if the local examiners are refusing to do checkrides in their airplanes and the school is next door to the FSDO.

Don't let Part 61 status fool you either. 61/141 doesn't matter. Instructors, airplanes, and management does.

Jedi Nein
I can't speak for contented academy students/grads. But here's my experience: I chose to go the local FBO route last fall after completing my PPL in October. I'm 26, single, full-time job, mortgage and car payment. I'm just finishing up my commercial now (checkride in two weeks or so), and should have my CFI by the end of August. I chose this route because:

a) I could keep my full-time job and not go immediately into $60K debt with little/no income (I took out a $12K Sallie Mae loan to the flight school - this is an option even at Part 61 schools - just talk to the manager and they can fill out paperwork to get on the "approved" loan list)

b) I didn't have to move (again).

c) I can work at my own pace. (Yes, I could probably have finished in about 9 months with ALL my ratings if I had chosen to fly 5-6 days a week, but sometimes it's nice to just go home and take a nap. Instead, it's been just over a year to this point.)

d) I don't have to wear a silly uniform.

I think there are some things that I am missing out on not going to a larger academy, such as CRM training, both in the classroom and in the cockpit, and some simulator training, which would be useful (someday) at an interview. Our planes are really old and I have only once used GPS or even an HSI. But the cameraderie at my school is great, the instructors are not just there "filling a slot", and you have all the flexibility in the world.

I doubt that there is much difference in getting a CFI job after graduating - an FSI/PanAm/CAA certificate is not gold-plated, and does not automatically grant you a job, even at their academy. However, it's your attitude that will determine the worth of your ratings. As far as regionals hiring, before 9/11, no one had a problem getting a job from our flight school after teaching for a year or so. At the larger schools, they may have agreements to have some of the regionals guarantee you an *interview* (read, not JOB), but there are TONS of other jobs (cargo, corporate, etc.) to be had, who do not send reps to schools.

Visit the schools, talk to the students, take stock of your financial situation, and choose what's right for you /ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif

(Did I mention, no silly uniforms?)
How much are the instructors at your FBO making? Bennies? Didn't think so! How much networking are you getting sitting in a pilot lounge with "weekend warrior" pilots?

Here's the golden question:

How much multi time?

Avg FSI instructor with have 300-400 multi when they hit the 1000 hour mark. Can't touch that....can't downplay that.

Academies aren't for everyone, but if you don't do it because you are afraid of the commitment or don't want to wear a "silly uniform", perhaps you should re-examine your goals and your willpower. If you can't leave your job and commit to aviation, you are putting yourself at a great disadvantage. What the heck do you think you'll be wearing if you ever get a job? Jeans?

Oh, and how many of your FBO's instructors have been hired since 9/11? ....crickets....That's what I thought.

We've had something like 15 in the last two weeks.


PS---Don't come into the FSI forum and tell us all what a big mistake we are making by coming here. Thanks so much! /ubbthreads/images/icons/smirk.gif ***Oh, and did I mention, 15 instructors in the last two weeks?***
Silly uniform, huh? I guess you are going to have issues with any airline company if and when you get hired? Comraderie? You can't even begin to fathom the amount of comraderie at FSI. FSI has some of the best people, both employees and students, that I have ever met in my life. Chunk and Kdrake (forum regulars) are great guys and all FSI people have a mutual respect for each other and the aviation industry. Diane, I'll see you in the cockpit, but I'll be looking at you from the left seat! Be careful about what you say regarding FSI and the academies!
Well I didn't mean to start yet another 'my way is better' thread. I was mearly trying to understand the advantages over an FBO, are they real or marketing hype. Some say 'hell yes' others say it doesn't matter where you get the tickets, just get 'em.

I'll be touring FSI next week so I'm very excited to see the campus.

Also if you are really concerned about the uniforms try Comair. The student can wear whatever they like, only the instructors wear 'em. I never realized this until I had a tour of the joint since all their literature is happy employed pilots instead of students.

Looks like the answer is always the same. Both ways are valid. You just need to determine what is in your best interest. For me I'm leaning at FSI or CAA. I want the faster more structured pace. Plus I have a grant that I can only use at an accredited school.
Down boys! Down! Geesh...she was just expressing her opinion, isn't that what this board is about? While I admire your loyalty to FSI, there are many people who have made it to where they want to be going a different route. As they say, "there is more than one way to skin a cat." Here is my $.02:

Part 61 (local FBO): This is how I started, before coming to FSI. Some of the positives are self paced (although some of the smaller 141's are too) training, close to home, no silly (YES I SAID SILLY...TOO MUCH POLYESTER) uniforms, more casual atmosphere. The fact that not everyone there at the FBO is there to fly professionally some day is nice, it reminds you that this is fun! & that sometimes you should fly just for fun!

Drawbacks are many, time being a big factor. Not only the time you take to fly at your own pace, but there are other factors as well. Part 141 schools get a break on the req'd minimums. What about equipment availability? If you're holding down a 9-5 M-F job, you can only fly on evenings & weekends like all the other part-time pilots at your FBO. Multi-Engine time (as Chunk suggested)? Even if you have your MEI, most FBO's only allow their most senior CFI's train in the twins for insurance reasons. Maintenance? The list, pro & con, goes on...

Part 141: This is where I am now (at FSI if you didn't know). The positives are mostly obvious: plenty of aircraft, facilities, curriculum, etc. The fact that everyone there is there to be a professional pilot is a motivational factor. My first instructor is in the regionals now. Coming out of a pilot mill, you're more of a "known quantity" in that future employers are more likely to know of your previous training environment. There are many more positives such as the ones listed on previous posts.

Negatives? The upfront cost/ piling on of debt is a huge factor. While going 141 will get you to where you want to be faster (all other things being equal), it also leaves you with a mountain of debt! Coming out of training with $60k (+/-) of debt for a $16k/year to start job is not a good financial position to be in. That $500/mo loan payment is going to leave you eating a lot of mac & cheese. Of course the upside is the future earning potential, but that doesn't pay the bills in the present.

There are certainly positives & negatives going either route. I chose the full time 141 route to accomplish my training in the quickest manner possible. And of all the 141 schools, I chose FSI for it's facilities, reputation, etc. I am comfortable with the latest GPS, have done hours of aerobatics in a Zlin (BIG GRIN! /ubbthreads/images/icons/cool.gif ) & have met a lot of people who are either in the industry now, or will be in the very near future. You're not necessarily going to be able to say all that coming out of your local FBO. But I'm also lucky enough to have access to a airplane outside of FSI, so I can hang out with "plane people" who have a different perspective on flying. They don't believe flying is punching your flight plan into your CRJ's FMS to let the plane do all the flying while you think about what your going to do on your next time off. For these people, flying is there time off! There is a distinction, & while not all people going into this as a profession are this way, sometimes at a school like FSI you can get caught up in the "rat race" of it all. You're not as likely to find that attitude at your local FBO, & that can be refreshing!

One more thing:

"Diane, I'll see you in the cockpit, but I'll be looking at you from the left seat! Be careful about what you say regarding FSI and the academies! "

Really, now kd, was that necessary?

Wow. I thought everyone had just gotten over the "post only what you know" thing. I WAS only expressing my opinion on what I know, and why I made that decision. Here are some answers to your questions:

How much are the instructors at your FBO making? $12/hr for the first 100 hours of "dual given" (probationary period); $15/hr for anything else; $18 if you are a check airman or asst. chief.

Bennies? No. Does this have me worried? YES. Not having health insurance or ability to contribute to retirement scares me. Can you do it on your own though? YES.

How much networking are you getting sitting in a pilot lounge with "weekend warrior" pilots? Ummm. I fly out of a busy class D airport with 135 ops all around. Most of our students are going through a community college program (we have both 141 and 61 ops at the school), so they are not "weekend warriors". Even so, stopping by a little one-strip airport on weekends and talking to the regulars around the coffee pot yields a lot of information and some good old-fashing "flying sense". The FSI/PanAm/CAA "way" is not always the ONLY way.

Here's the golden question: How much multi time? Approx. 200 hours. Yes, ATP will start you in multi as soon as you finish private. FSI and others will give you more. Am I worried? Not a bit.

Oh, and how many of your FBO's instructors have been hired since 9/11? Out of 10 instructors who started last summer, 6 have been hired. One for Piedmont. One for Stat MedEvac. Two corporate. Two AirNet. The others are still building their hours (working on about 800-1000 hours now)

We've had something like 15 in the last two weeks. We don't have that many instructors.

I was going to add onto my post that you (Chunk) made a decision based on your own needs. You were getting off AD, moving back to the states, you had researched the schools, and determined your own direction. And that direction seems to be the best for you. It may not be the best for everyone.

PS---Don't come into the FSI forum and tell us all what a big mistake we are making by coming here. Thanks so much! I have NEVER slammed anyone for making the decision to go to an academy. I researched that option as well last fall. I have brochures from every flight school out there. Don't slam MY opinion based on facts that I present here from the route I chose. I have presented all the information of my journey in an honest and up-front way.

As for my silly uniforms comment, I am not averse to wearing a uniform if I fly professionally, whether that be at a major, regional, cargo, or flight instructing. However, I like being able to wear shorts and a t-shirt when it's 100 degrees in the summer and not look like a wannabe without any ratings.

Diane (Forum Regular Since August 2001)
Well said Dianef!

I usually do not post on the Academy sites as I don't attend one, but I stumbled upon this particular thread and felt compelled to post. Please bear with me:

There seems to be a huge misconception (and/or miscommunication) when someone (like Diane or myself or a number of others) who are going the FBO route offer our experience about going the alternative route to the Part 141 academy: That being that we are slamming the academy route and that could not be further than the truth.

Personally (and I'll speak for myself from here on...) I made the decision not to attend a big academy base on what I felt was best for me. That had to do with financial reasons, logistic reasons and just plain personal reasons. I chose to keep my job - have an income during training while still being able to fly 3-4 times a week. That is what was best for me and my family.

While I respect what the academies have to offer - in one respect, Chunk is right - I could not make that commitment. BUT, does that make me any less committed to the pursuit of aviation? Absolutely NOT! I'm in this 110% as I'm sure the folks attending the academies are.

What is beginning to bug me is that those of us offering/experiencing the alternative route are continually getting slammed when we say "It CAN be and IS being done this way"! What warrants that, I don't know.

From everything I read and researched regarding FSI - it's a FANTASTIC place to do your training and I applaud anyone who chooses to attend. Great choice!! But that's your personal choice- not the ONLY choice. That's the bottom line.
I come to this forum because I have great envy and respect for FSI and it people.

I think it is good to restate, because it has been said before here, that academies are not the only 141 schools out there.

Again, as it has been said, assess your personal needs and make your own choices, meanwhile respect everyone elses too. /ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif

As most who have been on the site have seen and can attest to, there are a gazinion ways to get there (there being the proverbial place we all want to go, Left seat 777 perhaps). The point of being here is to see what other people are up to and how they are moving along. I personally get a tremendous amount of valuable info from being here. I also hold the option to alter my course to the left seat at anytime based on what I learn and see along the way.
Perhaps I WAS a bit harsh...

I never said that academies were the only fact in my post, I clearly stated that it wasn't the only way. I earned my private at a small FBO (which was 141, Donalbain) in Logan, Utah. Far, far from the big FL schools. I even worked the desk at an FBO in DE for a while....

I think kdwilkes was a bit harsh, too, but I think we both (If you disagree kdwilkes, please speak up) felt you were attacking our chosen "method". The "silly uniform" comment didn't help your cause, either. Perhaps, our "history" antagonized the situation a bit, as well. (For those of you who don't know, diane4f, nee' GirlInTraining and I have had a few "disagreements" in the past.)

My apologies to those who took offense. We all like to be reassured we made the correct decision.....

There ARE many ways to the "big cheese".

Nope, wasn't attacking your chosen method at all Chunk.... Maybe if the post wasn't in the Flight Safety thread it wouldn't have started the mud-slinging.

It's cool that you guys are going to an academy - If I wouldn't be taking a loss if I sold my house and if I could afford to move and pay the bills with just a CFI job (anywhere!) I would be there right with you. Or maybe at Pan Am. /ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif

I still stand by the uniforms comment though - it's $#%! hot up here in PA, I can't imagine what the South feels like. Our CFIs wear uniforms (button down shirts/tie/khakis - polo shirts on the weekends), but then again, they aren't the ones sweating it out in the left seat thinking "did he just say stall this plane in a 30 degree descending turn while cross-controlled????"

Ditto again, D.! IF and that is a HUGE IF - there were not other circumstances holding me here (just bought a house being one of them) - I would quite possibly be over there sweating it out with you guys!

Through my research, FSI was the most appealing of the academies and IF...... Well, if frogs had wings, they wouldn't bump their asses, so.....

My point: I am NOT against the academies. But, did feel like over the recent days, the FBO route was being slammed as un-doable, unacceptable and rediculous. As you said, chunk - we all need reassurance that our choice was the right choice.... but, that answer really comes from within.

QUESTION: How are you Vero guys doing for flight hours? The storms have been a bitch over here in Tampa and I FINALLY got to go up last night for the first time in 6 days. Sucks. Hope you guys are having better luck!!

Fly safe!

Apologies for the harsh comments. Like chunk, I felt attacked for my decision to come to FSI. I will defend, however, that my conversations with professional pilots and CFI's in the industry, have led to a general consensus that FSI is close tto, if not the most reputable flight school in the country. There is nothing wrong with the FBO route. I trained Part 61 in Orlando at an FBO for my Private. However, it was not the place for me. My opinion is that there is not enough structure at Part 61 FBO's to satisfy my liking. Again, apologies for the harsh comments.
No problem KD - I know what you're saying about lack of structure. I slacked off in May of this year while doing my commercial x/c's and there was no one but myself to motivate me to take yet another x/c to some airport that I haven't been to before. Plus, after a really hard day at work, driving an hour to the airport and finding that a thunderstorm just popped up over the field really sucks. But if you've got the drive to make it work, whether here, there, or Timbuktu, you'll make it work for yourself. In the end, won't we all be flying left seat? Good luck!
Hey Ready...

I don't know how the FS guys are doing regarding flight time, but I was up last Thursday afternoon (4:30pm) and it was actually pretty nice. Seems like the storms have been early evening or late morning. I'm up again on Friday at 10:00 am, hopefully it will be good then....

The wx has been working out perfectly for me! For my initial part of my training when I needed VFR, I had VMC. When I was doing my instrument, I needed IMC & I got hours of it. I credit my good wx fortune to my method of animal sacrifice. Really, when I switched from herbivores to carnivores, I got IMC! Works like a charm.

Here's how it's been working out for me wx wise:

Friday, mostly cloudy all day. 5:00 p.m.(last)show up to the airport, get out my car - BAM - Rain, thunder lightening.

Sunday Beautiful morning, start's to cloud up around 11: a.m. ...1:00 p.m.- show up to the airport, get out of my car - BAM - Rain, thunder, lightening.

Monday, Crappy day all around. Show up to the airport at 5:00 p.m. - all hell breaks loose. BAM - Rain, thunder, lightening.

Tuesday, Crappy all day. Show up to the airport around 5:00 p.m. Actually get to fly today. BUT - there are thurnderstorms and rain literally surrounding the airport in about a 20 mile radius, so I just stay within that radius and tool around, so some solo work, ground reference stuff. The air was SMOOOOTH as silk. GREAT flying conditions.

Wednesday - took my FAA Written (Private Pilot - Airplane), then went out to fly. Literally - I sh*t you not - absolutely GORGEOUS wx SURROUNDING the airport - but sitting DIRECTLY over the airport - BAM - Rain, Thunderstorms, lightening.....moving at about 5 kts.

Can't wait to get into my instrument training in about a month because I'm sure this stuff will still be around.