Large Flight School Question.


New Member
With all the bantering around in the last cpl of week, I was wondering a few things.

How may students are enrolled at the big schools like FSI, ATP, Seirra, CAA, etc.

It is one hundred or one thousand?

Most all of the school websites will tell you we have 9,000,000 % graduation, placement so on so on. or some like claim.

So if they are placing or reffering or what have you, How many of the graduates are still working in the industry ( not counting furloughs)

Basically if they graduate 500 in a year, do 250, go back to accounting or what ever their previous life was?

And finally, how many ARE still working in the industry? (again not counting furloughs) does Acme Airline have 100 pilots from School X? or is it one or two from that school....
The only answer I can give is some numbers Delta gave me, maybe they are true, maybe not. They said something like 97 students started in Jan and another set of 40ish in summer and another 30ish starting towards the end of the year. He acted kind of like that was a record number so it sounds like perhaps they don't usually get more then maybe 150 a year??
I can't answer most of those questions, but right now enrollment is pretty low at FSI. But, it seems to be picking up a bit as we get into the fall. At the peak of things (I've heard) there were about 500 students flying. That included airline contracts, etc. Well, the airline contracts are down to a couple here and there and the student load now is around 100 flying.

A nice side effect of that is that there's no shortage of aircraft! Plus, I couldn't imagine having 2-3 times more planes buzzing around in the practice areas.

I think that FSI has been pretty good about not touting the "zero to hero" bit and other than the ASA bridge program (which is no more) they haven't promised any "guaranteed interviews" or anything like that.

Unfortunately, the somewhat more realistic approach that FSI takes (in my opinion) doesn't make for a nice glossy ad with a lot of unrealistic claims.

Let's just browse through AOPA's Flight Training magazine for some juicy quotes:

<ul type="square">[*]Your direct line to... Airline and Corporate Careers
[*]Record hiring on the horizon
[*]Choose an Academy whose only goal is to get you hired at an airline - sooner than possible ANYWHERE ELSE.
[*]Your Airline Career Starts Here!
[*]Single Mom...Airline Bound (my personal favorite...)
[*]Dad got me started in the cockpit - FlightSafety Academy go me started in a career. (ok, just to be fair...)
[*]Being owned by Delta means everything!
[*]Placing pilots with (insert airline here)!
[*]We have the seats no other school can fill!
[*]The investment in your future is secure... Delta owns School X
[*]School X GUARANTEES a job interview to our graduates within the Delta Connection system** (see fine print #2b(i))
[*]Accelerated 12 month "Jet-Direct" program
[*]Come for the degree. Leave for the majors. (What's that, major disappointment?)
[*]School Z First Officers are Airline Trained and Airline Sought
[*]Call now and find out what the Airlines want you to know that the flight schools won't tell you. [/list]

As far as the other questions, I have no idea. Hopefully things are working out for those who want it to. I know that some people come to this and other schools because they have nothing better to do and they like spending money. Some of them leave before finishing their instrument ratings. Ooops.

I understand what you're getting at and I agree with you. Luckily I had to help dispel some of the myths and hype involved in the larger schools. I'm at FSI and about to finish my CFI. I'll probably do my CFII and then head off into the "real" world where the planes don't quite work like the manufacturer intended
(j/k). 91.205 and 91.213 are overrated anyway.

Looking back, I'm glad that I made the decision to come here, but that's only because it fit my set of circumstances. I wouldn't just automatically recommend a 141 school to somebody if their situation didn't warant it, i.e. an 18 yr. old, just out of high school. Of course that is unless they had money to burn and that's what they wanted to do...

Maybe we could all chip in some money and get an ad in Flight Training magazine so more people could enlighten themselves... That's a good one. A pilot with some money! hahaha

Hey, Eagle, it's a pyramid scheme! (just kidding)

Thanks for the chuckle, Dave -- those ads from the AOPA mag are amusing.

For the industry veterans on the board: Were the ads this bad when the economy and pilot job market were better? Or are these schools simply preying on the student pilot's insecurity in a bad market? Just curious.
The sad part is that they are real. Verbatim.

Even sadder, a lot of people believe them. I did when I first started looking at academies. FlightSafety wasn't on the top of my list until the last moment. I was like, "But school A has a CRJ simulator. And school B has a 'Phase III' where you get to actually 'work' in a cargo airplane for 300 hours. And it only costs $10,000! Wadda deal." Then I began to see the light, and low and behold I started to see the amount of BS that I was wading through. What's that, you can't log that CRJ simulator time? Oh, and the only way that I can get PIC time on my cargo "job" is if the cargo "captain" lets me fly? Hmmmm. Let's see, I'm sure that he must not want to build hours. That's why he's flying checks and radioactive material at night. Sounds like a good idea. Not.

I came this close (imagine my thumb and forefinger almost together) to attending ATA. Thank god I didn't. I feel so bad for all of the people who lost out on that deal.

I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed when FlightSafety and ASA suspended their program, but I had figured on completing the instructor route anyway so it wasn't that big of a deal to me.

Please note that I'm not commenting on the quality of training or the competency level of the pilots that the schools produce. I just think that some of the advertising is a bit over the top. I suppose that's what advertisements do. I guess.

This website and its users (actual customers/students) are what helped me to reach my decision.

Thanks Doug. Pat pat. (on your back)

Thanks Doug. Pat pat. (on your back)

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I wouldn't run the ads unless they passed the 'smell test'. I honestly am under the impression that one bad ad on my website can permanently destroy the credibility of website.

In fact, one school offered me 'phat bank' but it would have gone against everything I founded this website upon.

It's too bad that in such a competitive business, some schools resort to "Jerry Springer"-like claims, but I guess they're voraciously competing over a finite amount of students.
What sucks even more is that the huge majority of students from most schools finally get hired by the regionals after years and years of being a CFI. Notice how they never give the graduation date of people placed LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!
For some, you won't be a CFI until a year or so. Even better you, can be a CFI immediately, but won't have many students LOL.
I was all set to attend a part 141 academy in Lakeland, FL called "ACA-The Academy". Supposedly, ACA stood for "Aviation Careers Academy" .... but, also stood for "Academy of the Culinary Arts" as they had a school for aspiring chefs in the same building.

Weeeeeellll - after 9/11 - and some in depth investigation by the authorities, turns out the school lost it's financial aid - and went Tango Uniform.

That was a fortunate thing in retrospect as I still have a job in this suck-*ss economy, I still get to fly three to four times a week, and the GM of my FBO has already said they would love to have me on board any time I am ready., I'm just trying to get "ready".
I like to dig around a lot. If a school says "X amount of our graduates go onto the regionals", this is what I'd ask.

"Specifically, what is 'graduation'?"

"Is it completion of the CSMEL-I certificates/ratings, or is it the completion of a second phase where I obtain my CFII-MEI, stay on a waiting list, instruct for a specified period of time?"

"If I go to work at another job in the meantime between obtaining my CFII-MEI, can I then come back to XYZ, instruct, 'graduate' and then be placed at a regional?"

"How many people start compared to how many people 'graduate'?"

That was a fortunate thing in retrospect as I still have a job in this suck-*ss economy, I still get to fly three to four times a week, and the GM of my FBO has already said they would love to have me on board any time I am ready.

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Where do you fly in Tampa? My brother in-law lives just outside of Tampa and is (was?) heavily consider flying lessons.
Where do you fly in Tampa? My brother in-law lives just outside of Tampa and is (was?) heavily consider flying lessons.

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I fly out of TPF (Peter O. Knight Airport). It's on Davis Island, near downtown.

Where does your bro-n-law live?

It'll be another 4-6 months before I get to the CFI level, but HEY - never too early to start recruiting students!!
When I get my CFI, I'll drop you a line with my phone number. Have him call me if he is still interested.
I wasn't really getting at anythig I was just wondering, I was at EWR the otherday with only flying mag to read, and was shocked at all the ads for flight schools.

If you told me combined these schools put out 10 grads/pilots a year, or 10,000 a year I would have accepted any answer.

No ulterior motive, no set up waiting to pounce on the posters. Honest!! (I know, rare but true)
Sierra Academy probably gets about 7-15 new students a month in the professional airplane pilot program from Private to Commercial at the Oakland facility. However this number does not include the helicopter program or the A&amp;P program or the Koren Air students based out of our livermore facility as I am unfamiliar with those operations. Overall I would guess we have about 100 active students in the professional airplane pilot program.

Sierra Academy does publish ad's as do many other schools and although they state in their ad "guaranteed job interviews with leading airlines and commercial operators" I have never personally been guaranteed anything by any of the admissions staff or employees of Sierra Academy and although when I first started going to Sierra I was under the impression the paid Intership was guaranteed, they make it clear to everyone on day one at orientation that it is conditional upon you getting good grades, and doing well in school. As of current, the waiting period for a CFI slot is estimated at around 2-3 months.

The majority of our CFI's end up working for Amerflight or Skywest, and personally know of many who have ended up getting jobs at both.

As for job networking, Sierra Academy sponsers lectures from guest speakers on a monthly basis from companies in the aviation industry, such as Delta, American, Ameriflight, CHP, Coast Guard, etc. However these lectures are only mandatory once you become a CFI at Sierra, although all students are encouraged to participate.

Sierra is a good school with quality instruction and as a person who has been to two other flight schools (1 was Part 61, and the other a big Part 141 who will remain nameless) and see the differences I can tell you Sierra is the best school I have been to so far, although I will be the first to admit, there facilities and C-172's leave alot to be desired, but then I am a firm believer that its the instruction, and management that counts, not the planes or the facilities, although air conditioning would be nice

I dont have any information or how many continue in the industry once placed out of Sierra Academy, although the people I know of who are flying Part 135 or for a regional continue to do so.

Back when CFIs would leave with around 800-1000 hours it worked out well. Now, with CFIs flying out to 1500 (lucky) to 2000 (typical) before they get hired it leaves no room for the new CFIs. The school I work at pretty much hires everyone that gets there CFI so we have way to many instructors, which further compounds the problem. You need twice the hours and you fly half as much.

Our placement program hasn't placed anyone for over three month. Hiring is slower right now then it has ever been in the post 9/11 era.
One school I visited over a year ago in Phoenix had a wall of fame with all the people that they placed and the different airlines they worked for. Everyone was greatly impressed...... Until I pointed out that one of the pictures was of a Scottsman that worked as an instructor for a different flight school that was bought out by this now huge flight school (hint....used to be the name of an old airline that flew flying boats)....... So they had nothing to do with this pilot, let alone getting hired by an airline. And oh yeah, he was hired almost 8 years prior by that airline. The other school wasn't even a twinkle yet.