Picking a flight school? need experienced advice!


Well-Known Member
Ok guys, i am facing a dilemma that all you guys that have made it through the PPL and are into more advanced ratings can help me out with.

Basically I finally made it to the point where i am searching for a flight school at my local FBO (BJC, Denver) to start my training and hopefully become a CFI with the hopes down the road of bigger stuff. I have it narrowed down to Air West, and McAir.

I got very good vibes from Air West which has pretty good prices on older aircraft (152s and 172s et..al). 152s are about 20 years old and cost $51/hr. 172s are about same age and cost $65/hr. It seems that Air West's schedule is pretty flexible too. I have also heard they love to hire CFIs from within the program which is a huge plus down the road.

Then i went next door and checked out McAir aviation and they have a really nice setup with state of the art and fancy brand new everything. They are a Cessna training center (however important that is) and their fleet consists of pretty much brand new (2001 and newer) 172s. These things are expensive as they cost about $93 an hour but are fully loaded with GPS and all kinds of other stuff. They dont seem to hire instructors from within either, and they seem to be pretty crowded with over 300 active students for 20 instructors. I noticed all the older(cheaper) aircraft were gone and all the new ones were left on the apron.

My question is, when you are starting out, is it a good idea to learn the basics in a older 152/172, or is it worth it to go for all the bells and whistles of a brand new 152/172 and pay alot more for it?

I guess it boils down to, do i want the Chevy/Ford/Honda, or do i want the Mecedes/Audi/Beamer flight school?

Any advise from people out there that have went through this before? Has anyone opted for the Audi and wished they would have got the Honda instead? I feel like i can get more personal attention from the less expensive school, not to mention alot more flying done. Im making the decision soon, hope i make the right one! Any one else have advice for a startup such as myself?

Thanks in advace guys!
I assume that $93/hr. doesn't include the intructor fee? At that price, you might as well come down to Vero Beach and do it at FSI! New planes are nice though.

Common problem, I think. I'd say go for the older aircraft. You'll save so much money in the end!! I really don't think there's any advantage to learning in the newer aircraft unless they start having problems with the older one's (I've also seen brand new "hanger queens". If they flight school with older aircraft gave you good vibes, the instructors are squared away and they're cheaper....that's the thing to do!! Remember, after you get your rating, you can always go get checked out in a brand new skyhawk and fly it just the same!!!
It really boils down to the quality of instruction, choose the one is all set-up with a great syllabus, eager instructors, and a success driven culture.

You do not need a new plane with GPS, autopilot, leather seats, etc, best instruction is what training is all about.

Now when you have your PPL and are taking girls flying, the bells and whistles are worth the extra money!

Think of it like sex..........(I am not going to finish that analogy!)
at 51$ an hour, 100 hrs will cost you 5100$. at 91$, it is 9100$

and you will fly 100 hrs. so is it worht an extra 4k? I doubt it.

4000$ buys a lot of miester brau.

the airplanes work the same new and old, pull back buildings get smaller, push forward they get bigger.

Stick with the cheapest airplane you can.
Save the $$$ while you can; you'll need it to buy top ramen when you're a CFI.
Top Ramen? Man, a CFI can afford name brand top ramen these days?! I was cheated!
I've flown 172's that have barely more than 100 hours on them, and I've flown 152/172's that looked worse than a Yugo run through an acid car wash. Sure the newer planes are nice, and have all the fun stuff, but the older ones get off the ground just as easy (usually
) and fly pretty much the same. My advice: Fly the older planes and use the money you saved to get more X/C time.
If I were you, I would look for flight instructors who are starving and will pay a lot of attention to their students. Also, save as much money as you can. Why pay 50,000 for your ratings, when you could pay 25,000? Keep in mind that the ratings are exactly the same no matter where you get them.
Top Ramen? Man, a CFI can afford name brand top ramen these days?! I was cheated!

[/ QUOTE ] Nope you weren't cheated at all! I buy the generic kinds! And I'm still saving up someday for one of the spacious double wide trailors too! Hey, a cfi has to be able to dream too!

My vote definitely goes to flying the older aircraft. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really nice to cruise around in a new Skyhawk, but is it really necessary? If you’re concerned about having a GPS, which definitely is nice to have around, just buy a handheld.

One more thing to consider is the use of a free-lance instructor as apposed to one that’s employed by the school. You can usually save some money like this, and often times you will find an excellent instructor that has more time in his/her schedule to fit you in.

Good luck, and be sure to let us know what you decided on!
In fact, flyitup has a Garmin 196 for sale IIRC...

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Very funny aloft...

Actually I've decided to keep it. Considering the age of the aircraft I fly, you never know when an important instrument is going to fail in IMC. It's times like those that the Garmin pays for itself 100 fold!
Not to be repetitive, but go with the school that offers the best training!

I would not even consider the aircraft, unless of course there are maintenance issues to be worried about. The #1 concern should be quality of instruction!!!!!
I would worry mostly about the upkeep of ANY planes you think about flying. I would go to each school and take a look at maintence records reguardless of age of the aircraft.

Bells and whistles are nice, but that school may have a better maintance program, than they guys who have the older planes or vice versa.

Bottom line, I would pay more if I felt safer in the aircraft I was flying.
Wow, thanks all you guys for your replies. I think I will try and get more info on the schools and do some more thinking. I have been mulling it over all night long and every time i start leaning toward one i then think the other is better.

How do you go about looking up their mx records? just ask the school about it?

I noticed that the more expensive school has less older airplanes (four 172s) than new ones. The thing is that if i can get the older ones then the price is about the same as the other school. I am just wondering how often they are available and if not then I would be stuck with renting the expensive brand new 172. I guess these are all questions i should write down and ask the school.

Also how reasonable is it to do alot of your private in a C152 for a guy that weighs 205 lbs? I notice when people talk about the $4,000 private rating it is done in a 152 but flight schools always try and sell you on doing it in a 172 for $2,000 more.

Thanks again for all your help you guys, I am sure I will have tons of questions in the future. Man this website is awesome!

go doug!!
If I may interject my not-always-so-humble opinion:

Fly the older planes. Save money. That's the crowd I'm runnin' with.

For me - it's working out beautifully. The Warrior I fly for my IR rents for $70/hr and the "Traumahawk" and C-150 (that's right - 150, not 152) rent for $45/hr.

Needless to say, I use the IFR rated Warrior for my lessons with my instructor and the T-bird for my solo cross-countries for time-building. They're slow..... slow = more TT.

The main thing is ask around. Find students and ask them about the maintenance. Find out if there are issues (planes constantly needing "squawks").

But, you know this already, Timbuff - you've been around a while. You seem to be a smart feller!

GOOD LUCK!! Keep us posted!

Also how reasonable is it to do a lot of your private in a C152 for a guy that weighs 205 lbs? I notice when people talk about the $4,000 private rating it is done in a 152 but flight schools always try and sell you on doing it in a 172 for $2,000 more.

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I think I remember you saying that you’re tall as well right? I personally think the 152 is waaay too small, but then again I'm not a small guy. I guess if you can comfortably fit, then why not... I did all my training in a 172 and my total costs for the private ended up being just a hair over 4 grand...
Number One element for your choice (as it has been said): Quality Instruction!!!

( I can recommend an amazing instructor in Montrose if you would like. He is unbelievable with his ability to teach!)

If I were you, knowing what I know now, go with the old cheaper planes through your instrument. That way you concentrate on flying and fundamentals as well as learning instrument flying with analog equipment also is a really great way of really learning to fly. After that then upgrade to nicer planes.

You won't benefit from an elaborate cockpit in the early hours of your training. Once you have the skills to understand how to use an instrument approved GPS then go out and us it.

I trained zero hours with a nice GPS until two days before my instrument checkride. I then plugged in my Garmin 196 and voila, it was amazing.