question on training....


Staff member
I'm trying to get a little perspective on the academy vs FBO subject; something that I've had a little time to contemplate in my time here.

In reference to flight academies, PanAm/Comair/ATP/DCA etc, et al, there's no guarantee of a "VFR-direct to the airlines" after graduation, and for that matter no guarantee of a CFI job post-graduation, much like FBOs. Seems you finish, get your ratings, then drop into the saturated aviation job market In that respect, couldn't these flight academies then really be considered nothing more than a "fancy FBO?" The only differences being everyone wears a uniform, the planes are all painted the same, they normally don't rent their planes, and you pay more $$$?

I seem to think that the type of training is more rigorous and well rounded at an academy type facility.

It seems in my opinion that the people at the academies tend to be more career oriented where as people at FBO's are interested for the sheer enjoyment.

2 worthless cents.

couldn't these flight academies then really be considered nothing more than a "fancy FBO?" The only differences being everyone wears a uniform, the planes are all painted the same, they normally don't rent their planes, and you pay more $$$?

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Yup. That's all these "academies" are: "fancy" FBOs. To think otherwise is to be nothing more than duped by their shwanky PR.
where does the 80000 come in? The only one that I have readily seen advertising their price is ATP for $34,995 (or something like that). That does not seem too unreasonable given the timeframe it is completed in. I doubt that I could get that done at my FBO for that price. Maybe, not sure though.

I know they have good advertising, but how is ATP viewed in the Aviation industry vs. the others?
i wasnt referring to ATP i should have clarified that.

I was referring to comair/Flightsafety/Pan Am.

*dont flame me people, i m not dissing your school just their outrageous prices.
i wasnt referring to ATP i should have clarified that.

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I didn't mean to infer that either. I was just wondering where the number was coming from. I always thought that those other places were quite expensive. I just cannot figure out the reason for the dif. in cost between the differening places or the differences in training. When there is no price advertised, I get scared.

Apoligize if a flaming was what came out.
Lots of places are overpriced, you pay a lot for name and regimented training. The 'big ones' DCA/Flight Safety/Pan etc are all are extremely over priced, not to say that the training is poor quality (I wouldn't know). I've never really had my eyes set on any 'academy' other than ATP, if you could call it that. ATP really doesn't follow the mold of the others groups, probably one of the more unique programs around. ATP is starting to inch toward that zone of being a bit over priced, but for the big ones it still beats the competition.

I would have no opposition for FBO training, but it varies so much from area to area. Limited availibility of instructors and variety of aircraft can be a big killer if you are planning on training all thr way through at a particular local place.

I would never pay 60k for my flight training, though..
I had to make this decision recently and in (my situation) this is what I decided, I just finished my instrument rating and I have just over 100 hr. @ one of the academy. If I go to an FBO part 61 I will need at least another 150 hr to get my comm. If I stay at the academy I will problably get my comm. in about 50 to 60 hr. and althought the academy is more expensive per hr. I will save time and money.
my decision is to finish comm and CFi at the academy.
Hmmm, IMHO, I would tend to disagree with you on this. Granted, it MAY be cheaper to go the FBO route, however, it may not be. You must consider the time involved, especially if you're starting out as a low/no time pilot. I know while working on my PPL at my local FBO, it can take a few days to get an available slot to get in the air because of working around the instructors schedule and life, THEN, when you do get there, hope that the weather is good enough. I know that I have paid for more then 1 hour of training time over again just due to those two factors alone. The plane is down, as in ONE plane. Unless you're lucky enough to live near a FOB with more then one used for training. How about paying $110 an hour for air/instructor time at the FBO when the larger flight school/academy charges $60? Sometimes for multi-time. There are several reasons why the FBO route could be better. You get to keep your job, do the flight thing on the side on your days off. Don't need to leave your family for months while training. To name a few. However, look at all the facts and be careful, and, this I do agree with you on, be careful not to let those flashy ads, neat looking folders and sales pitches suck you in. NO ONE is going to hand you an airline job on a silver plater, no matter what the ad says.
You need to take into account what it is you want to accomplish, THEN figure out how much time and money you want to invest. If you are just starting out and want all you ratings as well as your CFI's but don't care if it takes you 5 years to get them then thats fine, go the FBO route. If you want to change careers, want to go in debt to pay for everything at once and get it done in 90 days to a year then take the academy route.
You cant say that ALL of the larger schools are the same and not worth the money because some are, depending on what you want.
Like I said, just my HO.
Over-priced would imply that the training is sub-par for the price. I feel that I certainly got what I paid for at FSI. I did my multi, instrument, commercial, CFI, and CFII at FSI for around $45k, maybe less. And that included 70 hrs. of multi time, 7 hrs. of spin/URT training, CRM, and Spatial D training. So I don't know where montanapilot is getting his "$80k" figures (I could guess, but that'd be inappropriate). As long as you're not a complete muppet and work hard, you can get through FSI under time and under budget, no problemo.

The nice thing about the large schools is you get "total immersion" in what you're doing. Studying and training every single day is more intense and proven to be more beneficial than just doing it when you have time. That combined with their excellent reputation was the biggest draw for me to go to FSI.

From an objective standpoint, I can certainly agree 100% that the FBO route combined with a good instructor and capable aircraft can theoretically be just as effective as going to a big school. I just have yet to see one come close to the quality of FSI.
The individual is the one who determines the cost effectiveness of his/her training. When I was at FSI, my crew partner and I studied together every night for 2 hours. Others in our class (or atleast that started with us) studied off and on spending most of their time at Riverside. Needless to say I finished my ME Comm. Inst., SE Comm. in 6 months and about $1500 under budget. I do not regret going to FSI and if I had to do it all over again I would go back. I did my private at my local FBO part 61 and I just was not into the training because I was just another jo shmo out flying. At FSI you were part of a community of other pilots and that made it feel more professional and kept your mind on what you were working for and what your goals are. Academies are just another fancy FBO, but the atmosphere and other individuals can make the difference.
I have done all of my training in the Part 61 FBO environment. I am a strong advocate for the local flight schools and believe it is important to support the "grass roots" aviation businesses. I don't have any problems with the big schools because they have their advantages, but it's just not the path I chose. I can see myself going to ATP to finish a rating or two in the future. I probably would've enjoyed going to one of the "academies" so that I was totally immersed in my career, but I had started out at the FBO route and was enjoying it. I don't see any problems with either route, as long as you get to your desired career in a way that suits your needs.
IMO it is a function of several things that make both options viable. The current state of the commercial aviation industry to start. When times are good and the airlines are growing, getting on during this time period is critical for the next downturn..(which the will alway be). It could be worth the exrta cost to be in a hiring position. Conversely, during a depressed state it may be better to build experience over a longer period of time and reduce cost. But, herin lies the conflict, will you be qualified once hirng increases? I also believe the age of the prospective pilot plays into to the cost/value proposition. The older you are the more criticial it is to be qualified when hiring picks up, the younger aviator will likely see more upturns and downturns and have more opportunities over a life span. Finally the financial aspect. Not everyone will have the ability to attend an academy, based on credit and cash reserves. The FBO pay as you go maybe someones only choice. I guess you have to look at training as an investment in your future, and just like any investment there are risks associated with returns. Each investor has thier own risk tolerance. In the end it is just good to have choices.
The Academy/FBO argument does not really have a clear cut answer. I attended FSI for all my training and currently work there as a CFI. I received good training, much better than was available at my local FBO. The training included a significant amount of multi-time and spin training. The school also uses the Frasca FTD in the instrument training, which I think is a plus. The CFI training was very thorough, as was the CFII and MEI. It cost alot, but was not unreasonable. I was able to finish my ratings much faster than would have been possible at home, with a level of detail that most FBOs cannot compete with. Unlike some schools, FSI does not make unrealistic claims or promises. I have had no complaints and would not change any aspect of my training.

The difference between the good Academy and the FBO is the difference between a community college and a major university. FSI has everything that a University provides for it's students. Everything from financial aid, dorms, cafeteria, bookstore, library, etc. They make it very easy to focus on training. They also provide organized groundschools. Over the course of your training students will spend about 13 weeks in groundschool. This is far superior to having your CFI toss you the Gleim and telling you to study when you have the chance. You still have to work hard, but it is much less likely you will miss anything or misunderstand a key topic.

Overall most of the instructors really know what they are doing. The combination of motivated instructors and the close supervision we receive helps insure that you receive the best training. The maintenance is also very good, and the large number of aircraft makes delays in your training unlikely.

I have had several students come 'from the outside' who had received very poor instruction and it took significant amounts of time to bring them to an acceptable level of knowledge and performance.

The Academy also provides a better work environment. You usually have several students who fly almost every day. Most students are very motivated, making instructing a pleasure. You are gain large amounts of multi-time, and get to do a lot of instrument and commercial instruction. Our instructors have a good reputation in the industry and it is relatively common for groups of instructors to be interviewed by airlines. It can be nice to have the inside information on interviews and be with someone you know during your training.

It is true that you can get quality instruction at some FBOs, but this depends on you being lucky enough to live by a good one. It is also much harder to divide your attention between work and flying, and your training will probably take longer even if you live near a good FBO. Either way, it is possible to get the same ratings and the same jobs, so pay your money and take your chances.
As echoed by a lot of the posters on her already, you need to do what is in your best interest. If there is a local FBO that can provide good instruction at a cheaper price than by all means do it.

I also went to FSI 141 route and now instruct at a Part 61 school while on the wait list @ FSI. I can honestly say there is no comparison between the level of instruction at the two places (keep in mind this is just my particular situation and this FBO not all). I try to bring in as much knowledge and experience as I can, but it's difficult.

As far as the price goes...that also depends. I was able to go from zero hours through CFII in 12 months and did it far under FSI budget by about $2500 - $3000. I was also very motivated though and studied my butt off. If I went to my local Part 61 FBO the price of a 172 is $113 per hour and $40 per hour for an instructor ($153 total). At FSI the cost was $93 for a Warrior and $55 for instructor ($148 total). So I actually saved money at FSI. Not to mention the time difference. At a 141 school I finished my private in about 39 hours. The national average is about 65-70 hours going Part 61. My Commercial I finished with exactly 190 hours...30 of which I believe were Frasca time which is a lot cheaper than A/C time and can be just as productive.

Next come the job oportunities. I did well and was hired by FSI. Yes I am on a wait list right now, but the call will come soon enough. The steady flow of motivated students, the condition of the equipment, the good weather, and the multi-time are what make it a good opportunity