Sierra Academy - Hmmm......Is this the perfectly designed school?


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I am trying to choose a directional path for my goal as to becoming an airlines pilot. So far, my opinion is that Sierra Academy is the best path. They have a 1,500 hour program to obtain the ATP rating and they offer classes through Embry Riddle University to obtain a degree which is a must to become a captain for a commercial airline. I live in Florida, would the cross-country move be worth it? Are there any other Academies that offer the 1,500 program. Many of these academies say they have an ATP program, but it is not part of their curriculum. I have checked out Flight Safety: Good name, but not a structured ATP program and way to costly! Regional Airlines Academy - not structured either. Thanks
I would really ask a lot of questions about how their ATP quarantee really works.When my son was looking at schools,we checked a number of schools ,including Sierra. They all seemed to have the basic same business model. The student pays for all the time up through the the completion of all the tickets, and the rest of the time is built instructing. Most programs have 80-100 hours of dual instruction,therefore it takes 12-18 students to build the1500 hours needed for the ATP. I would check out their student to instructor ratio and the number of students currently in their program. Make sure they have the flow of students necessary to get you the hours you will need. .
Good luck in your training.
Outstanding points made by PilotsDad. I don't know the specifics on Sierra's program, but I strongly suspect there is a heavy dose of CFI-ing for them to get to 1500 hours, which is great ... instructing is a great way to build EXPERIENCE, not just fill the logbook so you can move on. If your goal is to be airline-eligible as quickly as possible, get your training someplace that can get you all ratings through CFI/CFII/MEI quickly (get all three CFIs off the bat if finances permit, it'll make you more marketable for CFI jobs), then go to work as an instructor at a school where you'll fly a lot ... in a lot of cases that's the "pilot factories" (ERAU, DCA, ATP, etc.) or places in the southern part of the country with flying-friendly climates, but I have heard of flight schools in the Northeast where CFIs are getting 80-100 hours a month. Maybe Sierra is right for you, maybe not ... but don't get the "airline tunnel vision" so much that you lose sight of all the steps between here and there. Instructing and experience-building is an important part of your total development as a pilot, and shouldn't be looked at as a minor nuisance on your way to the cockpit of an RJ.

Good luck selecting a training provider. Hope I've been of some help to you ...

Thank you gentlemen,
Sierra is a 22 month program where you do CFI work to acquire the 1,500 hours. I was told by the admissions rep. that it is up to a 4 week waiting period until you start the CFI work, but once in, they pay you 30K (bring home). This is how their curriculum is structured, it isn't a hopeful option due to a student's success that the other schools offer. All of these places say that their is no guarantee when it comes to flight instructing. This is true if a student's grades are marginal and their attitude is like a sour apple.
4 weeks to wait to instruct, or to take a STANDZ class . . . that seems pretty good compared to a lot of other schools/academies/factories.

I'm not looking into Sierra, just reading posts and saw that--not trying to influence your decision or anything . . . just saying that 4 weeks is pretty good.
My concern is that the time building as an instructor model is going to produce far too many pilots for future demand. To get one CFI the additional 1250 hrs they need to reach the 1500 hr mark will require 12-15 students per CFI(assumimg they give 80-100 hours of dual instruction per student) . In a school of with 25 CFIs coming out of the program , management will have to recruit 300-375 new students to get them the additional 1250 hrs the CFI's will need .At some point the numbers get silly. I realize that a lot of people build time by other means,but this does appear to be the primary means of time building. At some point the system will choke on itself if the airlines don't start hiring with lower minimums which isn't likely given the number of furloughed pilots on the market. My caution to you is that the schools are out to make a profit;not ensure you a job with an airline. This isn't a shot at the schools( which I think most represented on the board are very repituable), it is just a harsh reality of business. Make sure you verify the numbers the recruiters give you by talking to students that are in or finished with the program. Also understand that the process can speed up or slow down at any time. Make sure you have the financial reserves to make ends meet.
Remember, it is YOUR responsibility, each and every individual pilot, to make yourself marketable and desirable as an employee for an airline, charter operator, corporate flight department, fractional operator, or whomever your desired aviation employer is. Don't count on any flight school or academy to deliver you in to the hands of *insert airline here* without you having to do anything more than draw a breath.

You are not entitled to anything except what earn for yourself. Go out there, work hard, and make your resume that much better than the other folks chasing the job you want for yourself!

I'm sorry if that sounds at all selfish or heartless. I see a lot of people who seem to think that if they choose the right academy/college/training provider/whatever, their way to the airlines will be paved with gold. It doesn't work that way. Riddle, UND, Sierra, ATP, DCA ... no matter what they say you're not an airline lock by going there. I know people from Riddle, ATP, and DCA who completed the programs successfully and are not at the airlines right now. Separate the marketing hype from the reality, make the best decision you can on what training provider is right for you, then take control of your own destiny and make yourself the best aviator you can be. Good luck!

I am a student at Sierra and I hope to shed a little light on the subject. We don't have a 1500 hr ATP program per se, the program we have is more or less the same as every other large academy. The program has 3 phases. Phase 1 is private through commercial multi, phase 2 is CFI CFII, and begin instructing, and phase 3 is CFI-MEI through ATP. All three phases are designed to take 9 months each, however according to most of the students I've come to know in my short time as a student here, it can take up to 12 months for each phase, especially if you plan to work while getting your ratings.

Please understand there is no guarantee of employment as an instructor and thus no guarentee of moving on to phase 2 past the point of CFII. If you are hired as an instructor even then there is no guarentee of employmnet, but they do guarantee interviews, however most of our graduates are getting hired by companies that are not given a guaranteed interview.

Employment as an instructor is bassed on need (which now is looking excellent for newly minted CFIs) and performance throughout the program. You must get an average of 90% on all written tests and must make good progress through the program, and there is an interview process. According to our chief flight instructor however, attitude is the most important aspect in the decision. For example, if you have an 87% average and a good poitive attitude, you will likely get a job (again bassed on need) even though you didn't satisfy the 90% requirement. Getting a 90% average is not hard if you stay on top of things, and if you have a passion for flying, it shouldn't be a problem.

Let me address PilotsDad's comments on the program creating too many instructors for demand. Believe me that is not a problem here (at least not nearly as bad as you might think) Only about 1 in 6 students actually go on to become CFIs. Before you freak out about that statistic, know that the majority of those who did not become instructors quit the program somewhere along the way because they decided that flying was not for them. Many of them had no idea about what it would be like and jumped into the program without doing any research. Others quit because they decide that other schools are a better fit, because they run out of money, or because they simply washout. Most of those that really do want to be professional pilots stick with it and go on to become instructors. And furthermore, its not that they only hire 1 in 6, its that 5 out of 6 for whatever reason did not complete the program. It certainly does not mean that you only have a 1 in 6 shot. If a class of new students all make it throught the program, the whole class could end up instructors, but hisorically thats simply not what happens. Our ratio is about 4-5 students per instructor and with only about 1 in 6 becomming instructors, you can see that it works out well for flow through especially now that hiring is increasing at the regionals.

One other thing to keep in mind is that this is the way pretty much all of the big academys operate. You get your ratings and then become an instructor to build time to get hired by an airline. It is true that many do not offer an ATP program, however I would not move all the way from Florida just because we offer one. The reality is that even since 9-11 most students get hired by an airline before thy complete their ATP. It works out better that way because most airlines pay for their pilots to get the ATP.

There are many advantages that we offer that other schools don't. My post has already gotten long enough so I won't get into it too much. Look through Sierra's Website. They highlight the bennefits of our location. One thing that is not advertised though I think it should be is the quality of instruction here. I don't have experience anywhere else and have nothing to compare it to, but I have recieved what I believe to excellent instruction. Also I have talked to students who have been to other schools and everyone is in agreement that the instruction here is about as good as you could find anywhere.

Now, after writing such a long post, I will tell you that I do not think that it would be worth the move from Florida. There are a lot of good flight schools with good programs and most of them are located in Florida. I came from Colorado and I believed Sierra to be the best fit for me, and since I had to move cross country anyway, I decided to come here. However had I been in or near Florida, I would have gone to a school out there. Look into DCA and Flight Safety. I've researched both those schools and I think they both have excellent programs. I think that Sierra offers the best option for my training, but not so much so that I would have moved all the way from Florida.

One more thing I must add:
Current Sierra Students, if you have not talked to your instructors about the recent situation, please do so before reading on.

We had an A&P school that we recently sold. As a result of the sale of that program, we lost a couple buildings on our campas that as of tonight are no longer ours. In order to qualify for part 141, we have to have a certain number of facilities that as of right now we do not have. As a result, all operations have been suspended until January 5 so that we can re-model and consolidate our facilities into 1 building. We were given no warning and just found out today. There will probably be numerous rumors floating around, but I have been assured that we will re-open, we have not nor will we be sold, and once we do re-open things will be even better. All the money that we got from the sale of the A&P school will go into the flight school and we have no other interrests so focus will be on us. I don't know whether that is true or not, but nobody is happy about the situation and I am almost positive that some instructors may find employment elsewhere, and some students may leave as well. Personally I'm not too worried, I think its worth waiting and seeing what will happen, but I am kind of upset that we were not given any warning.
This is just one more reason I don't think it would be worth the move from Florida. Don't be too concerned about picking a school that offers ATP, as you will probably not get it until at an airline anyway, and if you really wanted to get it ahead of time, you could get it at any number of schools after you get the rest of your ratings and build time elsewhere.