Things Learned About Flight School

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Rick James, Mar 2, 2021.

  1. Rick James

    Rick James Filing Flight Plan

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    Hi everyone,

    I'm creating a resource to help new pilots to our fantastic world of aviation by creating a guide of things to look out for, or be aware of when selecting a flight school.
    Training is expensive and the more money we can save students the better the further their funds will go.

    If you have any great tips for things to ask or look for when selecting a flight school I would love to hear them.

    For example:
    • How many aircraft can be in a traffic pattern at one time?
    • Does the school have in-house examiners?
    • Does the school have a flight simulator?
    • How far are the closest alternate training airports?
    • Does the school have housing within walking distance
    • and so on....
    Any tips or questions you wish you had known before going to flight school I would love to hear them!

    Thanks,

    Rick
     
  2. EdFred

    EdFred Taxi to Parking

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    Why would this be a question unless this is a privately owned airport in restricted airspace where the school can control everything, including the airspace? If there's 2 flight school airplanes in the pattern, are no transients allowed? Does that go out as a NOTAM on AWOS fo anyone inbound? Are you going to try and kick transients out? What about other aircraft based at the airport? "Sorry, Joe, there's already two airplanes from POS flight school in the pattern, you can't go up until they are done." If local, non-flight-school aircraft are in the pattern, are students and instructors from POS flight school not allowed to fly? Are they at the only airport in a 50nm radius, and heading off on a 15 minute mini XC to show traffic procedures and different sight picture somewhere else is impossible?
     
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  3. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    Things to ask:
    Obviously the first is how many organs do I need to sell to afford to train at your school?
    What kind of aero-planes can I expect to do my training in (private, IR, multi, comm)? Are they all run-out 172s with no gps and one radio with interiors that smell like a 1000 mile road trip with your high-school buddies? Or are they nice, shiny new flying machines with glass panels and auto-pilots and doors you don't have to slam 83 times to close?
    What is the average age and experience level of your esteemed CFI(I)s? Are they young enough to have no idea what a compact disk is? Or are they so old they actually gave primary flight instruction to Chuck Yeager?
    See question 1. It is important.
    How easy is it to schedule an aircraft and instructor? Do I need to plan 2.3 months in advance and only get to fly at 5:30 AM because the schedule is booked?

    That's just off the top of my head. Other stuff like average time to complete each cert/rating, examples of the curriculum, how many students, how many instructors, how many aircraft....
     
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  4. aterry1067

    aterry1067 Pre-Flight

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    I took it to mean "How many can fit in the traffic pattern at a time?" Reasonable question, as a small airport with one short runway in confined airspace is going to be busy with only 4 or 5 planes in the pattern. A larger airport with 2 or more long runways that is located out in the middle of nowhere with wide open airspace, 20 small airplanes could easily fit in the pattern with no issues.
     
  5. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    20 flight school 172s flown by primary students buzzing around two parallel runways. Some with instructors, some solo/pre-checkride. Imma plant a lawnchair outside the hangar and have my handheld tuned to CTAF or Tower for that sh***show.
     
  6. aterry1067

    aterry1067 Pre-Flight

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    But of course! That would teach great situational awareness! And you could get an STC to fit bumper-rails on 172s, like bumper cars at the fair. :)

    Yes, 20 is an exaggeration, but you get the point. Nothing wastes a students money faster than sitting on the taxiway for 30 minutes with the hobbs running, waiting to take off for an 8 minute trip through the pattern.
     
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  7. Witmo

    Witmo Pattern Altitude

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    A lot more primary students can be in the pattern if they're doing overheads instead of box patterns. Just sayin'
     
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  8. aterry1067

    aterry1067 Pre-Flight

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    Not if their flying under a Bravo shelf.
     
  9. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    That's the truth. Used to do the mental math to calculate how much money I was spending waiting number three to depart behind two others waiting for a 150 on final doing like 20 kts. HEF. Two parallel runways and a bunch o' flight schools. Helo doing those weird things they do. Jets on 5 mile finals that you can't depart in front of for some reason. Even five aircraft in the pattern on each side would d*** things up severely
     
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  10. Daleandee

    Daleandee Cleared for Takeoff

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    Any Light Sport instructors?

    Can I use my plane for training?

    Will you share the accident record at your school?

    Which is better ... low wing or high wing?
     
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  11. murphey

    murphey Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    #1 with a bullet - when a potential student walks in, will the first person they see be sufficiently knowledgeable AND understand the concept of Customer Service to ensure the potential student doesn't walk away with a bad image of GA?

    >Does the school have housing within walking distance

    Really? This seems to be geared towards the "commercial pilot for a living" student than our GA around here.
     
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  12. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot En-Route

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    Insurance limitations after training on rental utilization. Some schools are so restrictive the aircraft is essentially useless for anything other than training.
     
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  13. kath

    kath Administrator Management Council Member

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  14. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    Airplanes: Yes, glass is nice but the airplane will likely cost more per hour. Better to ask if everything in the airplane works, or are half the radios dead or do they have Narco displays with missing number segments? Empty holes in the panel? Ratty interiors? Seat locks that don't lock properly? Seat belts from 1977? Bald tires? Stuff like this indicates that the school doesn't want to spend money doing maintenance properly, and sometimes that's because they're on the edge financially. You don't want to deposit a big bunch of money with them.

    Yeah, young CFIs that studied just hard enough to get past their exams, and end up teaching the same mistaken stuff they picked up. Watch the flat, fast landings, evidence that they don't understand basic stuff like the relationship between airspeed and angle of attack. Watch them pull the throttle back while they're still levelling off from the climb, then having to dork with the trim for the next five minutes while the airplane slowly accelerates to cruise speed (which is just more AOA/airspeed stuff). Listen to them tell students that carb ice is just a wintertime thing. It might be interesting to ask about the school's average written and flight test scores.
     
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  15. Daleandee

    Daleandee Cleared for Takeoff

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    Does your flight school currently use any of the following (photo borrowed from another thread):

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2021
  16. Rick James

    Rick James Filing Flight Plan

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    Hey EdFred,

    Yes, this does appear to be an odd question but I saw how it affected my students pretty hard in the bank balance. The school I taught at was a large school and it was the airport that placed a maximum aircraft rule on the school. For each flying block, the school could have 15 fixed-wing and 13 helicopters wanting to work. The airport limited us to only 5 fixed wings in the circuit and only 3 helicopters in the helicopter practice area to keep the airspace from getting stupid. The airspace was always open to other traffic as normal.

    Because of this, the rest of the students had to leave the airport and fly to other airports or training areas. This time spent transiting to other training areas amounted to hundreds or thousands of dollars extra for the student over the space of a professional pilot program. Had a student known this about the flight school, they may have chosen to go to a smaller school where they could be training within 5 minutes of liftoff, rather than transiting 15 minutes each way before getting to practice.

    Rick
     
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  17. Rick James

    Rick James Filing Flight Plan

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    Love it! I know exactly what you mean when it comes to the smell!! Ahh the memories - Good & Bad!
     
  18. Rick James

    Rick James Filing Flight Plan

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    I really felt for some of our ATC staff! You could tell the students were running them ragged at times hahaha
     
  19. Rick James

    Rick James Filing Flight Plan

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    Hey Murphey, I wanted this guide to help as many students as possible. Even those just doing as full-time PPL that don't have a car benefit from being able to walk or ride a bike to school. Not every student is able to have a car, or may be from a different country and training under a visa.

    Rick
     
  20. Rick James

    Rick James Filing Flight Plan

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    This is great stuff everyone! Some really good pointers that students can use to help them! Keep them coming!
     
  21. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    No organs - we learned a while back that risks a future medical denial which makes it difficult as a pilot to meet the conditions of your debt servitude. Just your first born should do it.

    For the former, just the usual multi-decade indebtedness. But that shiny new glass stuff with door latches that line up? Well, as the old saying goes "If you have to ask..." :eek:

    The former will call you "Gramps" and the latter will refer to you as "the kid". We aim to satisfy. Whatever's your preference. :)

    Our grizzled old veteran instructors can't get up that early. The ear bud generation instructors won't. So you're safe from the risks of "dawn patrol" either way.
     
  22. Clip4

    Clip4 Final Approach

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    • How many aircraft can be in a traffic pattern at one time? A. No flight school ever has control over how many aircraft can be in the pattern at a time.
    • Does the school have in-house examiners? A. Very few do
    • Does the school have a flight simulator? A. It doesn’t matter because you are not going to be using it.
    • How far are the closest alternate training airports? A. 5-10 minutes Airplanes go fast.
    • Does the school have housing within walking distance A. How far can you walk?
    • and so on....
     
  23. TommyG

    TommyG Pattern Altitude

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    you can’t be upset about dying to other airports to do landings. How many landing do you think you would get with all those planes in the pattern, doing 10 mile downwind legs.

    And a good CFI makes that travel time to the other airports a learning experience.
     
  24. Dana

    Dana Pattern Altitude

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    Are the instructors full time or part time who only instruct after getting out of their day job?
    Are the instructors kids building time who will leave as soon as a regional job opens up?
    Do the instructors also fly charter so they'll cancel a student at the last minute if a lucrative charter comes up?
     
  25. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    As a student pilot still in online ground school, I wanted to say thank you everyone for your comments. I am in the process of figuring out where to look for a good CFI and/or school. A few more details if any of you have more comments:
    • I'm 49 years old and am pursuing a PPL simply because I love aviation, so not as a career or work option.
    • I'm a full-time professional in a non-aviation career, am married, have a teenager and 3 dogs. Free time will always be a challenge for me. On the flip side, I am not in a rush to get licensed.
    • I'd like to think I am very safety-oriented and safety-conscious. I hope to become a pilot with habits similar to how I am as a hiker: I'm a lifelong hiker and spare no expense to mitigate all risks as much as possible, and take no risks whenever possible. I own an In Reach satellite beacon device for long hikes, and carry a fully equipped backpack with me that contains first aid materials, appropriate clothing, bear spray, fire starters, light emergency gear, etc., for any significant excursions I go on even if merely day trips.
    Sorry in advance about my age bias, but I do think I have a problem with ending up with a CFI who is too young and inexperienced for my taste. In my profession it takes 10 to 15 years minimum to become extremely competent and skilled at what it is I do for a living. I'll probably carry that bias into my search for an instructor.

    How hard will it be to find a seasoned CFI, do you think? Any tips or comments very much appreciated.
     
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  26. Will Kumley

    Will Kumley Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I still consider myself a low time- new pilot after earning my PPL last March and here are recommendations I make to friends when they ask.
    -Flight sim is not required for VFR training, so unless they plan to immediately follow up with IFR training the Flight sim requirement may be a non-issue.
    -How difficult is it to get on the schedule? i.e.- what is plane availability and what is instructor availability.
    -How many instructors do they have and are they okay with you locking in on one or two instructors? I've heard some crazy stories of student pilots getting the CFI shuffle and it takes longer for them to progress and costs more money.
    -If the preferred plane goes down for maintenance, how long is it typically down for and who does the maintenance? My flight school had its own maintenance department that kept planes on the line and made repairs quickly. However, when they decided to wait until the last minute to comply with the ADS-B mandate I discovered they didn't have an avionics shop and the plane was down for over a month getting the new transponder installed. It was also done at an airport roughly 80 miles away and getting the plane back took time as we had to wait for the instructors to have time to go get it. In hindsight I did this to myself by choosing to fly the only Piper Cherokee the school had instead of 1 of the 4 Cessna 172s. Although I could also argue it was easier to schedule the Piper since not many people wanted to learn in it as it was not IFR capable.
    -Speaking of IFR capable, if the person plans to jump straight into IFR training, how many IFR capable planes do they have and how many CFIIs do they have?
    -Does the school require renters insurance when the student begins to solo? What about after getting their PPL?
    -Is the rental rate of the aircraft wet or will the student also have to pay fuel costs on top of rental rate? Not sure if this is a thing or not but I could see it adding to the cost and if unaware it could cause some serious heartache.
    -Do they offer ground school and if so what is the cost?
    -How close is the actual testing site when it comes time for the written test?
    -What is the cancellation policy when you have a plane and/or instructor reserved on the schedule?
     
  27. FancyG

    FancyG Pre-Flight

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    Beware of undercapitalized/one man band outfits. I flew briefly with one that couldn't solve/afford to fix the radio issue in his 172. Being a student this wasn't the red flag it should have been. Yes we are trained for emergencies, but as a student its a bad time to experience one unnecessarily.

    At 42 I'd recommend developing a relationship with an instructor that you'd trust to teach you how to drive at least. If the instructor doesn't work for you, change instructors, its your time and money.

    I also found bouncing between 2 or 3 different 172's was not helpful as they all do fly differently - prop pitch, trim/rig, cruise speed etc. Maybe join a flying club or partnership, rental planes suck.

    I'm starting with my third and hopefully last CFII this week. Look for someone you can train with beyond private. My mission after ppl is IR then eventually onto CFI/commercial but done in my plane (tailwheel). If you're buying a plane, someone that can transition you into your plane will be a good fit.
     
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  28. TCABM

    TCABM Pattern Altitude

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    The 172s at the local school are a mish-mash of avionics from basic stream VFR to six-pack with GNSS430 or GTN750 to two different full-glass/no-vac birds with wholly different approaches to getting to that capability.

    What I’ve seen is that swapping between birds is highly regressive for the students.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2021
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