Saturday, February 28, 2009

Picking a flight school

The path from cubicle to cockpit isn't easy. Pilot training can be accomplished through hundreds of facilities around the United States. Which one is right for you depends on what you are looking for.

When I was looking for training I wanted a program that was standarized, affordable and flexible. When looking at pilot training there are two main types, Part 61 and Part 141.

Part 61 training is the most common. Part 61 training is more relaxed training and allows students to take their time on each topic and skill. The amount of flight hours for needed for each rating is higher than 141 due to the more relaxed curriculum.

Part 141 training is closely watched by the FAA. Part 141 is very rigid in the curriculum. Students go through stages and flight checks. Because the program is closely watched by the FAA the flight hours needed for each rating are lower. One big advantage of Part 141 training is that Federal Student Loans can be used to pay for the training. Interest rates for Federal Student loans are normally much lower than private loans (used for Part 61).

Regardless of which training program you choose, both produce the same ratings printed on the same piece of plastic.

I looked at both programs and felt Part 61 was a fit for me. At the time I was working 40 hours a week in a cubicle job. I wanted the flexability to study at my own pace, and to choose when I took my checkrides. With Part 141 checkride events are scheduled throughout the program and can not be changed. After completing X number of flight hours a checkride event must be accomplished. If the student fails they will have to go back through a portion of the training and try again. With Part 61, if the student or instructor feel they need more time before a problem.

Since I settled on Part 61 I had to find a place for training. My situation at the time required me to keep working while training. I looked at several flight schools in my area.  Most of them were Part 141 only. The Part 61 schools were affordable, but the facilities and planes seemed worn. I didn't care about training in a brand new fancy plane....but I wanted something clean and well kept. All the schools I looked at simply didn't compare to one I looked at years ago....ALL ATPS.

ALLATPs is a proven flight school. They have a large fleet of planes that are inspected and maintained very well. They have a set price for training (something that MOST schools I contacted did not have!) and allowed me to train at my own pace. I chose the Self Paced Private Pilot and Self Paced Career Pilot Program.