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.