What to look for in a flight school?


New Member
I am going to go look at a few flight schools in socal pretty soon, *hoping* this will make my parents realize I am serious about aviation. Here are a few questions I would like answered before I go making judgements about each of them. What should I expect from them, what should I ask and what to look for in general? Any information about that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.



Well-Known Member
I just had a discussion with the guy who owns the building that I'm starting a flight school out of. We were talking about what potential students who walk in the door should be looking for.

I think you should look for a clean facility. Go look in the bathroom...the toilets tell it all.

Ask to look inside the planes. They could be old, used hard, trainers but does it look like someone cares about the condition of the plane. Is there trash in the back cargo area? Are the seats torn? Are there oil stains everywhere and does the plane need to be washed. My plane is a working plane, it was built in 1978 and has nearly 8000 hours. It's also clean inside, has a state of the art moving map GPS/comm, and the paint is good. It's also the least expensive trainer on the field.

You should personally interview several CFI's. Do you like them? How much experience do they have? Do they enjoy flight training? Don't shoot a guy down who is low time if you happen to like that person. All CFI's have met a high standard to be approved by the FAA. Some go downhill from there and have no business in the business...hopefully, you can weed them out.

Don't let the flight school "assign" you a CFI but tell them you want to meet a few.

Now, take everything you just read with a grain of salt because you can find a run down facility, with run down crap airplanes, and a brand new CFI with a good attitude, and it could all work out fine. Or you could have the nicest facility, with new airplanes, and a high time CFI that justs wants to be an airline pilot, and you'll be wasting your money.

I'd look for balance in all things you see. Let us know after you talk to a few places and maybe we can help you out.


Well-Known Member
I wish my boss could read that. We don't even have a bathroom in our FBO (a single-wide trailer). While our airplanes are extremely well cared for, well-equipped, and hangered- I wish our facilities were a little nicer- I think it sort of turns people off walking into a pink (yes, its pink) trailer when they go for their lessons...especially intros.


New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
Our toilets were so bad at Wings Over California, I'd go down to the pilot shop, buy a soda and say, "Hey, btw, can I use the 'john'?"


Well-Known Member
I wish our facilities were a little nicer- I think it sort of turns people off walking into a pink (yes, its pink) trailer when they go for their lessons...especially intros.

[/ QUOTE ]
Hey now, well ain't that America?

Here's a few

1. Ask to view their sylabus. If they look at you like, "what's that?" bells should be going off. IMO that is. Starting training w/o a clear plan tends to lead to wandering instruction. I speak from a little experience on this one.

2. How much and what sort of aircraft will you fly? i.e. $80/hr. could be a bargain for one type of aircraft and a rip-off for another.

3. Do I need to carry supplemental renter's insurance?



Well-Known Member
The one basic thing I looked for when I finally found the right flight school was I didn't feel like they had their hands in my pocket everytime I left the place.


I wrote a little thing about this on my site. Here ya go:

Flight Training Guide
Step 1: Find a Flight School
OK, so you have your medical certificate in hand. Now what?

First off, if you didn't jump up immeadiatly after reading the prologue to get your medical, don't fret. You can put it off for a while if you like, and you'll be able to take your first few lessons without one.

Now we move on to the next step, Finding a Flight School.

Flight schools are not difficult to find, though once you have a few selected it can sometimes be hard to narrow them down. You probably already know what airport you'd like to do your training at, and almost all larger airports have some kind of flight training facilities on the field. A good place to look is www.airnav.com. Type your airport name into the box, and all the facilities associated with your airport will pop up. You'll be able to link to their websites as well.

So now you have an airport in mind and a handfull of schools. How do you go from a handfull to only one? First ask yourself what kinds of airplanes you'd like to fly. High wing or low wing? Old or new? If new, are you willing to pay more? How much more? Keep in mind that all airplanes fly the same; the same principals apply. A flight hour is a flight hour no matter how you look at it; are you willing to pay more per hour for the same thing? Compare prices and planes from school to school. Look at their websites. Do they put the effort into their websites that you'd expect? Do they have a website at all?

Maybe it's down to only two now. Visit the schools and look around. Do they ask you if you need assistance? Are they courteous and welcoming? What's the atmosphere like? Is the building clean and well kept? Ask to see their planes. Get up close and personal when you look at them. You may not have any flight experience yet, but anyone can recognize a rusted old airplane. Talk to an instructor or two. Do they seem like the type of people you're willing to trust your life to? Will you be able to get along with these people for the entirety of your training? Ask for their business cards, thank them for their time, and leave. You can immeadiately eliminate any school that is lacking in the areas described in this paragraph.

Go home, relax, and sleep on it. In a day or so, decide which school you liked the best based on what is important to you. Now get up, give that school a call, and ask for an intro flight!

Part 141 vs Part 61

If you've searched at all prior to reading this, you've undoubtedly come across some notes about 141 or 61. This can be confusing at first. Part 141 and 61 are legal descriptions of ways flight training is to be conducted. Your flight training can be done under either parts, and the end result is exactly the same, a Private Pilot Certificate.

OK, so which is better? Which should you choose? I've waited until the end of the page to mention this for a reason: The school is infinitely more important than what Code of Federal Regulations it operates under!!! Part 141 tends to be more structured, and you have 'stage checks' to check your progress along the way. Part 61 tends to be more flexible, with the ability to jump around the syallbus and do things in the order you want. Some schools may flaunt their 141 status, but don't listen to the hype. I've experienced both and I can assure you that it does not matter!

One final note: You may be told that you can acomplish your goals in less time (and hence spend less $$$) if you do your training under Part 141. In all honesty, you will absouletely NOT spend less at a 141 school! The national average is something like 70hrs for a Private Certificate. You may (and probably will) 'beat' the national average - it's abnormally high due to the people who train without taking it seriously enough to progress and get to the point of taking the checkride. However, you certainly will not do your training in the minimum time required by the law. The laws were written when training was a lot less complex, and now it takes more time to learn how to be a competent and safe pilot, which is what you will become.