Is Sierra a good school?


Well-Known Member
I'm thinking of attending flight school but do not know how to choose one. Sierra academy really appeals to me. If there are an Sierra students out there who could you give me some feedback on what you think about Sierra. Another school I have thought about is Pan Am but I've read a lot of bad things about them. Is Sierra a good choice? Are there any other schools you would recommend. I'd prefer to be in CA. how likely is it to be hired by sierra as a direct track intern? How likely is it to get hired by an airline upon completion of the Direct Track Internship program. Are the Instructors good? Is the cost estimate accurate? Do they have good facilities and aircraft?
Any information would be great in helping me decide on where to attend flight school.
Sierra will give you a good education (in terms of ground schools, very in depth.) In terms of flying aspects, I would rate them as average, I don't think they turn out expectional pilots, but I would say they are all competent at the controls. The real problem with Sierra is the money, I know they quote you around $35-40k for everything-don't count on it, expect at least $60k for PP through MEI and at least 2 yrs to finish all your ratings. Private pilot alone will cost you $12K-14K. When you factor in the additional teaching time you will need to do, you will find there are better ways to get to the airlines. I would stay away from schools like Sierra, Comair, Pan Am, etc. They focus on money making-not flying. Sierra especially is a propaganda mill, they like to think that if you are not trained at Sierra you must be crap. Do your research and think long and hard before you spend any money at any flight school. Good luck to you and with persistance you will make it. -Okflyer
Well, to each his own, I guess. The $$$ quote is possible, but certainly not average. Personally, I have spent about 30K @ Sierra and I can say with reasonable cerainty that the remainder of my training will be 12K or less. The only training I have left @ Sierra is CFI, II, & MEI. That's quite a bit less than the previous post " least 60K." Anyway, like most other schools, cost depends primarily on YOUR PROGRESS. Yes, Sierra is expensive. However, you must consider your location . . . a Class C airport - that isn't cheap to operate from. As far as the quality of pilots is concerned, the best place to look is toward those who hire. Relatively low-time Sierra grads are competing well against higher time pilots, often with double the experience. Within the past 2 months, we had 3 guys get hired by AmFlight and the guy who trains others in the sim said they prefer "Sierra guys" because of their quality. And, for the record, there are other schools that train top-notch pilots - Sierra is among them.

When trying to sift through info in picking a school, I try to pay closest attention to info that comes from unbiased sources such as those who do hiring. I am confident my factual sources are reliable. I do realize anyone reading this may feel what I've written is biased, and that's OK. What certainly seems biased to me is an opinion from someone who is progressing so slowly as to rack up "at least 60K." I wouldn't be happy either.

My advice, don't place your trust in opinions, mine or otherwise. Look for facts. They are more difficult to find but mean much more when it comes to finding truth.

Need2AV8,did you come to Sierra with your Pvt. lincense?
Also where do most students live.I was looking at the cost
of housing and it looks very expensive.

Thanks in advance...
This will be my final thoughts and my honest opinions. I will leave the rest to you to sift though and make your own decisions. First, you will spend approximately $60k at Sierra. I do not know of any people who have gone through the pp this year who have spent less then $12k (for 172 which is what most people will train in.) Things may have been different last year, but you find that your first day of school they will have you sign an enrollment agreement which basically says to expect the program to cost at least $53k (again using a 152, which most people don't, so expect more- a 172 is $128 hr plus a $9.60 pre/post charge.) You will spend a lot of time waiting for stage checks and having things rescheduled numerous times which means you have to fly more to keep yourself current-cost to you = more money. Another fact is that if Sierra was all that is cracked up to be people would stick though the whole program. And need2av8, I am afraid that you can not deny that students have left that place in droves over the past few months. My class alone started with 12 people and now there are only 4 left. I only wished I had left earier-it would have saved me some $$$. This is not because Sierra is too grueling, it simply is because people get tired of the BS. As for Am flight, Sierra definitly has priority in hiring there, and if you want to fly single engine Lances between Oak and Fresno for $10 or $12/hr go for it! Pan Am Academy has similar connections with AirNet. I have been lucky enough to work for several major airlines and one thing I have learned from management and airline pilots is that Sierra, Pan Am, ATP, etc. will not get you any brownie points on a resume. It boils down to hours (type of a/c, PIC, SIC etc. is very important), how well you do with the interviews, and the tests they will give you. That will make or break you-"I went to Sierra will not give get you a job anywhere" that part is up to your skills. I hope this has been helpful and need2av8 is right, seek as many unbiased opinions as you can and put the facts together in your head and make an informed decision. Good luck to you-Okflyer
To the original question, I do recommend Sierra.

When sifting through opinions, a few seem to remain constant. Sierra is expensive - primarily due to location. Not too many will argue that this is a prime location. The best way to keep expenses down is to progress rapidly by making the most of every flight lesson. The surrounding area is also expensive to live. Many are able to share housing for close to $300/month (not me, I have to pay $900/month for a place big enough for the family). Also, choosing the 152 makes things much cheaper. The previous post did a good job of giving you the rates, the rest is up to YOU.

As far as people leaving, that seems to be true. However, almost no one was leaving pre-9/11. Sierra has continued to train as usual, and yet students are leaving. Common sense tells me that it has more to do with a difficult hiring future than anything else. That's really too bad for those who have quit. Some have left because of being fed up, run out of money from poor planning, tough program, and (I think) primarily due to the overall aviation outlook has shifted to mid-range instead of the short-term (pre 9/11). It has become a matter of maintaining your focus.

In regard to the 'tough' program, it's really as tough as you take it. What I mean by that is, if you progress at a relaxed pace, its not that tough. But if you try to get through the ratings quickly, it can make it tougher. In essence, toughness is proportional to your pace.

Most also agree that the training is of good to excellent quality. As said in previous post, walking up to an airline saying, "Hi, I was trained @ Sierra" will not get you a job. It's the quality of training that is giving Sierra grads the ability to perform well in these interviews, and therefore, fare well - even in this tough hiring market.

You can PM me with any specific Q's you might have
Hope this helps a bit.
I thought Sierra Academy was a pretty good school. I used to instruct and was also a former student there from 1998-2000. I received all my ratings in about a year and a half and instructed for six months before landing a job in May 2000 at SkyWest, flying CRJ-200’s, at 21 years of age and no college degree. The SkyWest personnel department is pretty much impressed with Sierra Graduates. Because I had Sierra Academy on my resume my interview was real easy not too many questions, they assumed I knew everything since I went to Sierra. The down side to Sierra is of course is the cost to attend. But they do offer grants and loans for those who qualify. And during my final days at Sierra they did have lost of maintenance problems especially the RG.

But if you can hang in there I think the rewards are great, they are a pretty good academy with a good reputation among airline personnel offices. Most of the newhires at Sky West are from Sierra and I know of plenty of old flight instructors and students that are currently flying for other regional airlines as well some (like my old instructor) have already moved up to the majors like JetBlue.