Any Current or Former Students Out There?


Well-Known Member
Are there any current or former Sierra students
who can offer info, opinions, facts, or any other
information about the school? Can anyone estimate
an average cost to attend? Is it worth it?
How are the instructors? How is the location?
I'm very serious about attending Sierra,
any information will help in my final desicions.
Thanks everybody.

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You would be best to leave with your money now and find a school that is actually there for you. I attended there in 99' and after spending over 12,000.00 in costs and no private pilots lic. my father thought that something was very wrong. To me this was a change of careers. I went in as an adult at the age of 31 with a mind set that this is a professional school. I had built up a company in my own right and wanted now to do what I wanted with the rest of my life. The instructors for the most part are good at heart but come from a line of the "blind leading the blind" the general upper staff changes each week and who you talk to then is no longer there. It required lawyers for me to get a refund, and a father who is typed rated in more jets( USAF COL.) than the total of them all. He flew with me and so did two Capt.s of major airlines and they both said to GET OUT NOW...the problem wasn't my abilities. Plus I dont like to be told to do things that the FAA would freak over. If you can get a plane over there working that isnot dedicated to foreign nationals great...otherwise prepare to wait..then spend more money to stay current and take three steps backwardfs for every step forward. Plus most of the FAA guys that I now know well..have told me to stay away from them... Plus ..this is CA and to live here you need lots of $$$. i found a good flight airline Capt that was an instructor there and he finished my Instr., comm. multi. CFI CFII MEI in under a year for a total of 4733.00 more than I spent at Serria and in 11 months including holiday delays. In my opinion don't go!!!! unless you have $ 70,000.00 you don't need and 3 years of life that means nothing and learning from instructors that the majority of them fail in the first few weeks of ground school at the commuters, and now have 70,000.00 worthg of loans....NOw what!
Wow a majority of the Sierra instructors fail their first few weeks of regional airline ground school. That's news to me!! I was told that they pass 100% of the time. That's why once they get hired and leave Sierra you hardly ever see them come back. So I assumed they passed. They are probaby working at Mac Donalds or something.

But anyways I attended Sierra in 2000 and proflyer is right on. I did not finish my private there I left after running into lots of problems with my part 141 syllabus. Mostly because my instructor was not good at documenting training. There is a lot of crap that you do have to put up with at Sierra. Such as syllabus approvals and stage checks. Sometimes you spend all your time waiting for a syllabus approval to only find out that you can't take a stage check because your last flight or stage check was 30 days ago. Which means that your last stage check is expired. SO your forced to retake your last stage check in addition to the other stage check that you waited 30 days for. It's a load of crap!!

Unlike proflyer I was not as patient I left after I spent about $6,000 for my PPL which I never recieved. I left to go get my PPL at Ahart and went to ALL ATPs for the rest of my ratings. Plus the people there aren't all that great. There are lots of people there with huge egos at Sierra Academy. Instructors and even commerical pilot students, you don't really see it at the private level, but they all have huge egos for whatever reason. They all think they are the best pilots in the world for some reason. Maybe because a handful of them got hired by SkyWest in 2000.

Good luck on finding a good flight school in the area. Sierra Academy is not it.
Hmmm...the former students don't seem to think too highly of Sierra. This is interresting because all of the current students I've talked to have nothing but good things to say, except for the cost. I took the tour last week and I was impressed. While giving the tour, my admissions officer let me talk with many of the students that we bumped into along the way. I heard nothing negative. I also met up with a student there who I had been talking to via email for several months and he gave a high recommendation. What impressed me the most is that my admissions officer recommended that I check out other schools. He specifically mentioned FSI, Comair, and Pan Am. These are not mom and pop schools, these are major academys - likely to take my buisness if I do check them out. This tells me that they care more about my sucess than my money.

So, are there any current students that can concur?

I find it interresting that the students that attended during the hiring boom a couple of years ago, who were almost guaranteed a CFI position and then an FO position at an airline, don't recomment the school, and the current students who's future is much less certain seem to think highly of it. Maybe its becasue they don't feel so rushed to get hired, or maybe some changes have been made recently, but from what I can see from first hand experience, Sierra is my #1 choice.
Some Changes have definitely been done at Sierra. I visited there to drop off a letter of recommendation for one of my former students at Sierra last week. He was telling me of all the good things that the Sierra maintenance guys have been doing. Like working overtime to make sure that planes are available. I'm surprised he stayed at Sierra. He's the only one of my former students that still attends Sierra. A lot of my former students have left.

This really surprised me since I was a student and used to Instruct there from 1998-2000. When I worked there the pay was horrible. Management was very cheap. They would do everything they could do legally to cut corners. I guess they got so tired of seeing instructors and students leave in huge numbers they probably did something to change that. I'm glad that they have made some changes. In Terms of recommending Sierra, I don't know, I never really trusted their management. They might revert back to treating people badly again the minute they get enough students.
It is unfortunate that all this negativity exists. We could spend hours appropriating each aspect of each comment posted toward it's true source. I'd like to respond to some of the preceeding posts. This will get lengthy, but hang in there until the last paragraph.

It has been said: Sierra isn't "there for you", it costs $12K for private license, instructors are "blind leading the blind", it takes luck to get a working plane, you must take every stage check within 30 days of the last one, the majority of Sierra grads fail when moving on to commuters, most people have huge ego's, and they ALL think they're the best pilots in the world. Before taking a closer look at those comments, I'd like to admit that Sierra could do more to alleviate the problems that caused the feelings of those who made these posts.

Sierra isn't there for you? - Sierra is one of the most long standing flight schools in the country . . . .been there since the 1960's, I believe. I've never known anyone with a question to be turned away by any instructor or anyone in the "chain of command" within management.

It costs $12K for a PPL? - Yeah, I wouldn't doubt it. However, you must understand this: Sierra is a school "geared" almost entirely toward pilot training ALL THE WAY TO THE AIRLINES. If I simply say, "$12K for a PPL" that sounds WAY expensive, and it is. If my focus is simply PPL, I fail to see the most important goal in training - quality. If my goal is to be the best pilot I can be, and spending $12K is what it takes, then so be it. I earned my PPL from an "average" FBO in Southern California. When I came to Sierra and trained along side those who earned their PPL @ Sierra, their level of knowledge and skill surpassed mine four or five times over. While working on my commercial, I spent several months bringing my skills and knowlege up to the level of my classmates. It is often said that Sierra private pilots are nearly as knowledgeable and skilled as the average newly rated commercial pilot from some FBO. (By the way, I'm not so sure I buy that 100%) My point is that Sierra private pilots are NOT the average private pilot - they are much more. Sierra's commercial students tend to have a very easy time with the commercial phase versus those of us who got our PPL elsewhere had plenty of catching up to do. Let's not forget that Sierra operates from an expensive area (Class C airspace that underlies Class B). In addition, it takes at least 10 minutes to get to the practice areas, and 10 minutes to return - that's 20 minutes of an average 90 minute lesson. Most small FBO's can offer practice areas with closer proximity to practice areas (making the smaller FBO cheaper) but NOT the extensive experience with ATC (making Sierra's pilots more experienced in dealing with ATC). It stands to reason that if Sierra students spend about 22% of their time traveling to/from practice areas that the overall cost to get a PPL from Sierra will reflect that valuable travel time - time well spent.

Blind leading the Blind - if Sierra instructors are "blind" then why are their success rates with initial CFI check rides higher than average? The initial CFI ride is with an FAA examiner and they obviously feel the pilots they certify as instructors are not "blind"
Working planes take luck? - I'm sure you're aware that the required 100 hour inspection is what often puts a plane in maintenance. Make note that for a while Sierra was inspecting every 50 hours. Also, the 172RG has recently been set aside for CFI candidates instead of commercial students, meaning fewer hard landings and fewer cracked actuators on the landing gear. Since these changes have been made, complaints on this matter have been greatly reduced.

Majority of grads fail - few things could be farther from the truth. Simply not true - almost none fail, the majority excel

You do NOT have to retake every stage check if it has been 30 days since the last one. That only pertains to certain circumstances. It helps to understand that retaking a stage check (which should be easy now, right) is being done to help ensure you pass the next one and to minimize forgetting. Obviously currency IS a big issue, that' s why there are so many FAA reg's on currency.

People with egos? - Yup, it is easy to understand how that opinion is formed. I won't mention any names but there are a handful of guys who come across that way and I couldn't stand them. However, I never met them either. During the past year, I have personally worked with each of those I thought were egomaniacs and found the opposite to be true. I was actually sort of embarrassed at my pre-judgements. Each of these guys turned out to be really cool & down to earth.

They all think they're the best pilots in the world? - Common sense tells us that this statement, at the least, is a gross exaggeration

TO CONCLUDE and end my ramblings I'll say the following. It is blatantly obvious to those of us reading some of these posts that these are disgruntled people - with some reasons more valid or less valid than others. When a post makes gross exaggerations like we've seen in saying, "they ALL think they are the BEST pilots in the WORLD," you only serve to discredit yourself. Any modestly intelligent person can see through those type of statements. Training at Ahart or elsewhere will get you your ratings for thousands less, it's true. However, you can bet they are not as thorough and I've seen them use a mentality of "meeting minimums" versus the Sierra mentality of competence and proficiency. Minimum requirements = minimum pilot. Sorry to put it so plainly. The fact remains that airlines and commuters are impressed with Sierra grads. I spoke with a guy who does hiring for United (he did over 2000 interviews) and he says the difference between a guy trained @ some FBO (like Ahart) versus a major flight school (like Sierra) is like night and day. He went on to say that guys who fail to get quality training (especially instrument) end up "paying for it the rest of their career" because of the bad habits formed earlier. The bottom line: Sierra is not for everyone, and great for others. Just because Sierra isn't the best school for you doesn't seem like a good reason to become disgruntled and take thier way of training as a personal attack. My mindset is to work for an airline, airlines are impressed with Sierra grads. So, if I want to work for an airline I'd be wise to become a Sierra grad. In today's pilot hiring climate, if I had earned my ratings at some place like Ahart, I'd hate to be competing for a job against some guy who trained at one of the major flight schools who have established reputations for quality training.

Wherever you choose to train, I wish you the best.