Professional Pilot Program-status?


New Member
Hello. I am trying to decide between Sierra and DCA. DCA seems like a MUCH better program, but I live in the Bay Area and do not want to move to Sanford, FL for 2 years. I have heard recently that Sierra got bought by a new group and that they have had some financial problems and have lost some funding. I have also heard that their maintenance program is pretty sketchy. I have had a VERY hard time getting anyone in their admissions office to repsond to my questions, which certainly worries me, as DCA is overly responsive and is actively trying to get me to come there. Sierra doesn't even bother to return my calls or emails. That being said, I am wondering what anyone knows about the current status of the Professional Pilot Program at Sierra. Please let me know.


I'm planning on starting in October. It is actually the A&P program that got sold, not the whole academy. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong). Actually that might mean that the pilot program may get some money comming their way, but I'm not holding my breath just yet.

Sierra has a bad reputation that I feel it dosn't deserve. The admin department I will admit really sucks. I have had similar problems as you with not getting responses to calls and emails and have talked to several students with similar concerns. This is probably part of the reason they have such a bad rep. Also their facilities are kind of old, and thier planes are old as well, and are kind of lacking in that they don't have the "state-of-the-art" gadgets that some schools charge and arm and a leg to use. I've also heard complaints about the amount of time it takes to get a CFI rating, and that the whole program is too expensive.

Now I'll tell you why I chose Sierra. Once I finally got a chance to schedule a tour I liked what I say. I took my first tour about a year ago. They go through admin reps faster than J-Lo goes through husbands so its kind of hit and miss as to how good your tour goes. I was introduced to students on my tour and every student I talked to seemed to really like it there. The instruction is top notch, granted I don't speak from experience (yet), but have heard this from numerous students and CFIs. I've been told that the average private pilot from Sierra will have about the same knowlege and skill as the average commercial rated pilot from most other schools. They are extreemely thorough. The weather in the bay area is ideal for flight training. You get plenty of chances to train in actual instrument conditions in calm winds. At the same time you get plenty of good VFR weather. The weather here is also very predictable. There are rarely weather conditions that would cancel a flight. It is also comfortable weather to live in as oppoesed to the brutal wet heat from Florida. (DCA's planes do not have A/C by the way. I heard that straight from the horse's mouth.) Sierra also opperates in bravo and charlie airspace which is good experience because that is what you'll be in as a professional pilot.

Yes the facilities are old, but they can't do much about renovations. The building where they are located is in an old hotel and is a historic building. They can't legally make many changes. They do have everything a student pilot needs, just nothing fancy. The aircraft are also old, but they are safe, and they do their job. Sierra opperates at a major airport, and its not cheap to opperate there. If they had a fleet of brand new aircraft they would have to charge us so much it wouldn't be possible for the common man to train there. I'm satisfied in the fleet they have for the price I'll be paying. Yes they are expensive, again its not cheat to opperate where they do, and they are thorough in their instruction. Its kind of a trade off. Superior instruction, good experience, and good weather in exchange for not having top notch facilites or aircraft. Besides if you look closely at the prices, they are more or less in line with other large schools. I think they are actually quite a bit cheaper than FSI and I rarely hear complaints about FSI being too expensive because of the quality of the training there. I'm a lot more worried about the high cost of living out here to be honest.

The reason it takes longer to become a CFI is because they expect their CFIs to know so much. Again, they are thorough. It takes longer but you will be a better pilot, and will have better pilots training you. Also, the backlog isn't as long as it is at many schools to become employed as a CFI so it evens out.

Sorry for the long post, but I keep hearing negetive things about Sierra that I feel are un-founded, and since I'll be a student there I kind of feel the need to share what I've learned about this school. I've researched many schools and looked into the positive and negetive aspects of each and this is what I've come to know about Sierra and why I feel its the best fit for me. Keep in mind I am not a student at Sierra yet so my opinion may change. Please feel free to do more research and pick the school that best fits your needs. Since you are in the bay area feel free to PM me if you want to talk IRL. Perhaps we can get together. I also keep in touch with a CFI who might be able to answer some of your questions as well.

Good Luck!
Personally I've never had a problem with the admin dept.. then again I did most my talking to them in person as I lived close by anyways.

He is correct.. the building can not be modified as it is a historic building.. and while I agree the facilities are old.. they do what they were intended to do.. Most the planes are old as well.. and while maintence has slowly been getting better about planes being down.. they just started a night maintence crew which should solve morning flight cancellations due to maintence issues from the prior evening flights. While no one likes to get cancelled I do have to admit they have been getting very quick about getting them fixed and returned to service quickly.

As for the instruction... they are the best school I've been to so far.. and I've been down the FBO and another big Part 141 route before and I am very pleased with the quality of instruction I've received.. In fact sometimes it seems a little overkill, but they profess their goal is to over-prepare you so when you do your checkride it will be a walk in the park.

The weather is very predictable at KOAK, and you get some good opportunities to get some actual IFR when you take your instrument rating.. VFR pilots are usually a little more prone to get cancelled in the morning as alot of time the fog roles in in the morning and there is a overcast layer over the airport.

The price of Sierra Academy is pretty much in line with other big part 141 flight academies from my research. Just keep in mind most schools just quote you the minimum times to complete the program and if you need more work lets say on IFR then you will go over budget and may run out of money unless you planned ahead for this possibility.. so keep that in mind when taking out a loan so you get enough to make it through the entire program.

The end all and be all of it is Sierra Academy is a good school, nice facilies and new planes dont make you a good pilot.. if you want to pay for fancy gadgets, GPS and powerpoint presentions by all means do so.. but you will get the same education regardless. If you have any questions let me know..


Having a current student re-affirm what I said makes me that much more confident that I have made the right decision. Thank you! PM me if you want to get together sometime.
Flyguy is right, only the A&P part is being sold and I don't think that's a 'done deal' yet. It probably should be from what I hear. At any rate, my son is taking the professional pilot course and I'm pretty happy with his level of instruction (both ground and air). It's not very fancy over there but as a pilot for over 30 years, I still think it comes down to your instructor and the 'attitude' of the school. My son thinks people there are very friendly and helpful and that means a lot. We didn't look at other schools simply due to proximity. I haven't had any problems with admin but then I haven't dealt with them much. They're using C172's for private now (sure beats the 152's) and pretty good looking Seminoles for multi. There have been some recent changes in staff to assure more availability of planes. Apparently there was a hugh backlog of parts needed. The shop is working long hours to keep planes in the air. I rode backseat the other night with him and his instructor and when we got back at 10:30 PM, the shop was still buzzing. Oakland is a busy place (but not overwhelming) and I think that and the weather really helps increase your pilot skills. He also has been able to shoot the ILS twice (while still working on his private) to get down through the fog ( dual of course). I'm not trying to 'sell' Sierra, only saying that all schools are going to have some type problem(s). I know how hard it is to find the info you want prior to spending your 'hard earned cash'. Good luck to all of you!!