Learn from my mistakes for those seeking one of the major flight schools


New Member
So you can get better prepared. I started at a major flight school June 12th. I'm in the VFP course right now (before going to instruments) which is a Private pilot proficiency course as well as learning EVERYTHING this school requires (their flight standards, their standard communications), their airspace, the surrounding airspace, the weather here, as well as how to actually get in manuevers between dodging other aircraft, not busting airspaces, (when you are not used to having to worry much about it when most of the flying was done in class G), scud running clouds, dealing with 90% humidity, cancelled flights due to weather, and preparing for your oral and stage check all in 6 lessons, make it 5, the 6th is the stage check and oral. My ground instructor told us the course was designed to be overwhelming. If you have decided on a school, PLEASE, if you can "get" the time BEFORE you go to the school of your choice, make sure you are absolutely proficient, then improve on that BEFORE you get to the major school. Even if you think you're pretty darn good for your rating, when you get there you may realize that is not nearly good enough, or you probably will do great if you REALLY ARE good and have been flying often. If it has been awhile since you have flown or looked at the PTS for the last rating you received, STUDY to beyond knowledge proficiency as well as beyond PTS for flight. If you have these two to above PTS for your rating you will do OK because then you can handle all the other things that are required and just concentrate on how the major flight school wants things done. Get a sectional of the area of the flight school you choose WELL ahead of time. If you had time & money to stay proficient, had a good instructor for your rating, fly often and can teach your rating to someone else you will do very well. I will use myself as an example only because I want to help someone else NOT make the same mistakes I have as disheartening as it is to talk about.
I hadn't flown for about 2 years, hadn't really looked at the FAR's or books in just about the same time period. I had so much to do in order to get myself to a position where I could actually "GO" that I had VERY LITTLE time between the time I finally got to leave my state and the time I enrolled to fly. I leave behind 5 kids, and two grandchildren, 2 of my kids are still at home with my husband. It's hard to leave your kids when your are a Dad but it's twice as hard when you're a Mom. After I got my business properly cared for while I'm away, I had only 2 days before I left the state to take the annual standarization written, make & model annual written, 6 one hour videos to watch (required by the aero club where I am a member before I could fly), get my Biennial Flight Review, and night currency. I did pretty good I thought for not having flown for so long, ( I only had 90 hours TT at this time) but had no time to get myself VERY proficent and be able to ace an FAA written knowledge test (without it actually having to be done again). Once I arrived at the school, numerous things happened you can't forsee that I had to push back my enrollment date by 3 weeks. I finally got settled in regarding my living arrangements and had a little bit of time to study and I decided since I needed to get proficent anyway, that I'd add single engine sea to my license. I passed the FAA checkride after 5 hours of flight & ground instruction and thought I'd be ready for the flight school. Even still, I decided to enroll 5 days early and pay for a couple flights to get to know the local area and practice landings on the ground instead of the water. The flights went well. The flight instructor I had for those two flights is the best instructor I've ever had. I was feeling pretty darn confident except for brushing up on airspace and weather since neither was much of a factor in the Southwest area from where I hail. My first flight school VFP lesson actually went well with my new instructor. ( a different instructor from my two orientation practice flights) Even got a compliment that my steep turns were better than some CFI's he's flown with, and received several "above averages" as grades. Wow, now I'm feeling even more confident. Ground school for four days was overwhelming for me. Book after book of this flight school's standarization, and in depth info you need to know & memorize for the oral and stage checkride. I figured I'd get through it OK because my flying was going pretty well so I thought I'd concentrate on standz and study up on all the"detail" knowledge you forget when you haven't used it in awhile. Second VFP lesson my instructor was off so he set me up with another instructor for that flight. This CFII for some reason told me a bunch of negative things about the school and what she claimed they "really" expect which totally eroded my confidence and pi$#ed me off because I thought I had been lied to. I found out the next day what was said to me is claimed to be BS, and probably is, but what was done is done and I can only say each lesson after that has been worse than the one before. Things I nailed on the first lesson started going downhill and on lesson three I'm receiving an UNSAT because I'm so frustrated I can't even pull off a decient landing that I could have done perfectly all day long before. These flights cost me $200 + each so far. It sucks to pay for going downhill. I just can't understand it. I need to find out what's going on, what I'm doing or not doing that things have gotten to this point in such a short period of time. My dream was to get here, excel through and get to the airlines. My family & I have had to do so much to make this happen, I was so gun-ho, blessed to have this opportunity, to now shaking my head wondering what is going on and dreading going to the next flight. My admisson officer has been great, most of the flight school employess have been wonderful, I just don't know how to deal with my situation right now but I will repeat, if you want to go to a major flight school, if you think you're pretty good, you'd better get yourself "even better" way ahead of enrollment time. Lesson three over and I now ask myself whether I should disenroll, spend less time, money, & frustration "perfecting" my rating elsewhere then enroll in my second choice of flight schools truly prepared or stick it out here and "figure out" my current trend within 3 more lessons. Any suggestions, other than one making me feel worse than I already do, of course, would be welcomed.
My advice is to keep going, it will get better. There were times during my training at Comair, when I was actually hoping for a maintenance or weather related cancelation. But, it got better and better, and now my 727 job is the best I've ever had. It's rough at times, I don't know of anyone that hasn't had to climb over some sort of wall, but I had an awesome instructor, Greg, who is now an FO on the 70 seat RJ, I talked to him 2 months ago, and he's loving his job, too. Most of the time flying is a lot of fun, but sometimes, during training, it can be a chore.

Keep your chin up!
Welcome to DCA! I am a former student and left for financial reasons. Coudn't afford to remain for the remainder of my ratings past Commercial and have a good instructing and charter job lined up once I finish my rating elsewhere. My suggestion to you is to take a day or two off from flying, relax and try to take your mind off it. Don't worry about the unsat. I made it through private and 2/3 of instrument before my first unsat, and my next two lessons were to crap. Took a about 4 days off from flying, recouped myself and I was back on my game. Don't worry about your mistakes. Think about them, try to visualize what's going on and maybe you'll see what your messing up. Don't be afraid to ask to fly with another instructor, heck maybe even a group leader. They have an immense level of knowledge and will be more than happy to help you over your slump.

One thing to remember, in flying, you will never acheive perfection. Some flights may be near perfect, but I have yet to meet even ONE pilot that can fly to perfection even 50% of the time.

Hang in there and let us know how your progressing. You picked a good school. Expensive, hell yes. However, I am more than happy with my decision to attend there for at least half my ratings. The amount of knowledge I obtained, both via groundschool and fliying is immense and in my opinion worth it. Yes, you will hear negatives, even from instructors, however, if your work hard at it, apply yourself 100%, you will get through. There are parts of the school that I didn't like as well, but that's a fact with every school. My main problem was the financial aspect. I was quoted 45K to finish, I added 10K on top of that from knowing the 45 was for minimum hours. I still would have ended up spending about 70K in the end.

If you want, PM me about what that instructor said, don't include her name, though I may know who it is, and I'll tell you what I think from my experience.

Hang in there and good luck!
Thank you for the encouragement. All I can do is my very best and remind myself often why I'm here and try to stick with it for myself and for all my wonderful friends and family who have supported me on this journey with conviction.
Hi! Thanks for the reply. You're right, I need to stop and think about what's going wrong, isolate the problem(s) and move on. I have a good idea what the problem is and I hope I can get it solved beofre my next flight. I WISH I was able to have the instructor with whom I did my two orientation/practice flights. He went right into how the flight school I attend does things. Clear, consise yet absolutely in a positive manner. If I had him I'd bet I'd sail through and LOOK FORWARD to each flight, instead of how I feel now, like PLEASE give me some input, instead of letting me flail. My current instructor is a really great guy, very friendly, seems very concerned, and it is obvious he absolutely loves what he's doing which is refreshing, but his style of teaching isn't my style of learning. Who knows, maybe he feels the same way. I just feel awful about asking for another instructor because he is GOOD, just not for me. But I actually like him alot, on the first lesson after the flight I kind of in a tactful way asked him if he could be more assertive until I get it drilled into me how the school wants things done and tried to tell him what I needed. So my previous mistakes as far as how the school wants things done which I am not used to just compounded and made me more and more frustrated, along with this CFII who didn't help matters any. So, I've been chair flying to the school's "standards" as much as that can be done but at least I'm getting the swing of the flow slowly but surely. Fortunately I have two days off because my instructor has these days off and it couldn't have come at a better time. I still think I made the right decision and this is the best school for me. I have been doing alot of praying, and soon I hope to have my confidence back.
Thank you, I will let you know how I am progressing and I will PM you. I talk to my family about things and they are lovingly sympathetic and supportive, but they just don't really know what I'm talking about or how it feels like other pilots do.Yes, the money is an issue. I did not take out a loan, it's all coming from my bank account so I really need to stay within a reasonable budget around the $45,000 quote, realizing there probably will be an over run, and if I continue on my current trend, it could become very costly. I have money in other accounts for my two girls education ( the last two children at home) and WILL NEVER dip into that and definitely don't want a loan after spending $45K of my hard earned cash.
Good luck with the rest of your ratings... lucky you to have something lined up waiting for you to finish! That's definitely a motivator!
I can relate, I had the same trouble where I am at. Flying is expensive here and my second instructor (first one was hired at a regional) I got stuck with was awful. I never looked foward to a flight with him and I was so upset after each flight. I know my attitude could have been better, but everyone knows if it is always bad, something must be wrong. After I was finished with him (course completed) I had never been so happy. Now the flying is going great and I enjoy going out the airport now.


get another instructor, I almost quit flying all together because of this guy, so if it feels wrong, switch. It is your money and your career. I wish I would have switched, but didn't, and I regret it, but I have moved on and things are on the up.
Hi! Thanks for the reply, all of you have been really helping me out. Yes, I believe right now the instructor is my problem too, only because of the "style" of teaching. I just feel awful about it because he is a nearly newly minted CFII and I know how hard he had to work to get to that point. He is probably adjusting to teaching at the school as I am in learning at the school. I did try to talk to him several times in the hopes we could make it work out for both of us, but the instruction is still the same, and that's his perogative, he earned it, but I just keep getting worse to the point everything is going downhill, not just doing the school's required "flow", and that's bad because I've always had compliments from instructors on my flying like "you really have a good feel for the plane" or "you really picked up how to use the constant speed prop" when I had never flown with one before. I felt proud to get my seaplane rating in 5 hours and I could have done it in a little Piper J3 Cub but I chose to do it in a Maule M7 "super rocket" which is a high performance complex airplane, for the challenge, getting proficient and because I have wanted to get a seaplane rating but where I'm from all we have is desert.And what FUN it is to land on and step taxi around a lake or river. Now I question whether I even deserve the Private pilot rating I earned. I'm not being sarcastic, I'm serious. So, realizing you're not as good as you THOUGHT you were is a tough pill to swallow, I had my pity party, now I HAVE to take action to get myself back on track and proficient. Thanks for the encouragement. How much longer do you have until you finish your ratings? Is your goal the airlines or something else? I'm glad everything is going well for you. I hope to be able to say that soon.
Well if all goes well, I'll have my commercial multi in May 2004. Then start the CFI and then the CFI-I and graduate from UND in Dec. 2004. That is if everything goes according to plan, which could change, but is looking great right now.

Not sure what my goal is yet, except to fly professionally. Instruct for a while, then fly cargo anywhere in anything and work my way up that ladder from there. Corporate is also on my mind too, but that requires a lot of experience which I could get from flying cargo at night, hopefully in a twin. It is all a crapshoot, take what I get and run with it.

Good Luck to you in your quest to become a pro pilot.
I have been EXACTLY where you are, Comair Academy/VFP/new ly minted instructorI/usat lessons/expenses mounting/frustration/low self esteem ect ect. Here is my advise: Back seat every chance you get, same lesson you are working on. Have a heart to heart talk with your instructor, clear up any confusion, come to an agreement. If bad comes to worse, go to Mr Murphy and request assistance with your struggle (and don't settle with a pep talk), get a evaluation flight with the group leader (really helped me, thanks Jason and Bill).
I finally did throw in the towel at Comair on lesson 31 Instrument, final stage check (failed for failure to set 10* of flaps on the ORL VOR7 approach, "airplane not properly configured" but, not a requirement in the PTS) after spending $25k. I went to ATA and lost another $25k (stolen). I struggled throughout the VFP and Instrument training, it took me a year and about six months to complete, a record time I believe, but I hung in there and I did it. I am now commercial single/multi instrument, since last Thurs. I begin CFI next week at Avion. The point to all of this is nobody has struggled more than I. You just have to hang in there and donot measure yourself against others. When I look back on my struggles and slow progress I like to compare it to the tortuse and the hare story. Now chin up, move forward.
WOW! I think that is a record! As for ATA, sorry to hear that man. At least you kept your head up and didn't give up. You've been through more than most people I know!

wan2fly, listen to 172_captain, he brought up a good point about the backseating. I forgot to mention that. I didn't back seat all through my private rating since I thought what could I learn extra? Well, when I backseated in my Instrument and COmmercial ratings, I realized it was a GREAT help. You get to see other instructor styles, other students styles, learn from there mistakes and you get to see everything from a completely different perspective.

Just remember, I know you have kids and such, there will be times when you'll look at the financial situation and such and wonder how your going to pull it off. You have to hang in there. I left a decent paying financial position to learn to fly. I'd say for the first 3-5 years of flying for pay, I'll be making less then half of what I did before. But I still have no regrets, none whatsoever. No matter how hard I tried, I could not imagine myself, sitting inside a cubicle at 60, after 40 years of doing financial crap. I can easilty imagine flying until retirement though. I love flying, I have always loved airplanes and I am always itching to go up again.
Thanks man, you guys are great for being so encouraging! I KNEW I'd get help on this board. I did fly with a group leader 7am this morning and I can say the lesson is now SAT and I feel 100% better and know WHAT I have to work on. Plus I spent my two days off from 9am -10pm STUDYING and memorizing which paid off today. Burned out, but it's what I had to do. I also decided to have a heart to heart with my instructor tomorrow. I'd like to try one more time to make it work between us, if not, I've got to get another instructor who "drills" me. I need it. I'm sorry to hear you had alot of difficulties, but I applaud you, you have stuck with it, and you're an inspiration for me to stick with it.
Thanks for the taking the time to comment!

I finally did throw in the towel at Comair on lesson 31 Instrument, final stage check (failed for failure to set 10* of flaps on the ORL VOR7 approach, "airplane not properly configured" but, not a requirement in the PTS) .

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Nice BS busts these idiot checkpilots try to give. "Not properly configured". What a freaking crock! We're talking about a 172 here, not a damn SR-71!

So much for standardization.

I hate idiot CFI/Is that pull this kind of crap. Makes me dislike the profession of Certificated Freaking Idiot that much more.