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Charter Your Flight Path

Simply put, flight is freedom. Traditional and iconic images of the leather flight cap clad barnstormer or elaborate patch bedecked flight jacket wearing pilot such as Tome Cruise’s character are forever etched in the minds of many. Aviation has always had a sense of mystique, adventure, and power. Shortly before the turn of the 21st Century, with the advent of technology and proliferation of smaller and affordable aircraft, obtaining a pilot’s license became more practical to obtain but still at a hefty price tag. More people are pursuing pilot’s licenses and enrolling at flight schools at much greater numbers than ever before. However, it still comes with an ocean of challenges.

Becoming a pilot, or more in-depth an aviator is expensive if obtaining a license outside of the military. Therefore, on your quest for the friendly skies from the very initial beginning is what type of pilot are you seeking to become because that will have a large effect on cost, time, and where you train. For example, if you want to become a recreational pilot will be very different than if seeking to become a career pilot. Also, there will be a difference in whether you are seeking to become a fixed wing as opposed to a rotary pilot. All of these and so many other intricate factors will determine where you will learn to fly.

Some may pursue a pilot’s license at an actual aviation school or college/university such as Spartan College of Aeronautics, the University of North Dakota Aerospace, Auburn University, a flight program at a junior college such as Wallace State here in Alabama. There will be significant differences between a four year institution as opposed to a junior college. In the event of a flight school or flight training center is where you will find a host of differences as well as a selection. When selecting, there are many things to consider that will in more ways than one, save time and money.

For starters, feel free to ask questions and lots of them. In your general area look at all of your options. No two facilities are completely alike. The best person to speak with is the owner or manager. Mind you, they are all in business to make money and how they manage is set to benefit them. However, as a paying customer you will want what is best for you. The first thing to ask is how long has the flight school been in operation? Second, approximately how long have they, or other staffers been a Certified Flight Instructor? Thirdly, approximately how many pilots have they trained and produced? Look for all pertinent certifications to be posted such as Aviation Accreditation Board International certificates. To obtain information about pilot training, contact the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), which maintains a current file on all schools within its district.

Wisdom is golden, but modern resources provide treasure as well. Especially if it is a flight school that existed pre 9-11, has it modernized itself? If the intended flight school doesn’t utilize any form of fight training devices, or computer flight simulators such as X-Plane 11, Microsoft Flight Sim, AeroFly FS2, or Real Flight RF9 to name a few is a tell tale indicator that it is not modern and perhaps overly cost conscious. In order to meet the expectations of today’s NEXTGEN aviation industry, you must be trained with the most modern, state of the art 21st Century technology.

1. Consider Your Budget and Timeline. Flight training is not monolithic and neither is cheapest is best. Do not make the determination based on financial concerns alone, because the quality of training is very important. Prior to making a final decision, visit the schools under consideration and talk with management, instructors, and students. Request a personal tour of the flight school facility Your timeline and budget are important factors in deciding the tone, and duration of your training experience. If you take out loans to pay for flight training and want to quickly. How much does it cost to rent the aircraft? Other viable questions are: How many primary pilot training aircraft are available? Planes require repair and maintenance checks. What if the aircraft are grounded and your training is placed on hold? If there are other aircraft available, do all the training aircraft have the same hourly rental cost? Does the flight school have a flight simulator to supplement aircraft time and how expensive is it? What does your flight instructor charge? Do other instructors at the flight school charge the same rate in the event your primary instructor is unavailable?

2. Consider the Availability of Aircraft and Flight Instructors. Many flight instructors are time-building for the airlines or other flying jobs. If there’s not a high volume of students coming through, there’s a lot of idle time. A profit must be generated to keep the doors open and the instructor must generate personal income. Many are “moonlighting” as well. It is possible that during your flight training, your instructor will be flying elsewhere. You should ask if the flight school has other qualified instructors that will allow you to continue in your flight aspirations.

3. Try Before You Buy — Take a Discovery Flight. If you’ve never been in a plane or a cockpit, a discovery flight is ideal so as to give you literally a front seat look at what things will be like and if you are truly up to the challenge. Be mindful that many enter into military flight programs only to find out that it is not for them and choose to voluntarily opt out of training. Most flight schools allow you to take these introductory flights for a low, flat fee. They usually last from an hour to an hour and a half. Before committing to a training schedule, investment, or curriculum, do an intro or discovery flight.

As long as you do a discovery flight with a Certified Flight Instructor, it is recordable as flight training. Use this flight as your opportunity to interview the instructor about what it’s like to be a student pilot at the flight school. Ask questions about how scheduling works, how the school handles cancellations for weather and mechanicals, and what additional investments you will need to make in your flight training beyond aircraft rentals and hourly instruction.

4. Lastly, look for a flight school that has the appearance of being clean, professional and organized. This standard will carry over to having well maintained and clean aircraft. This in due in part of the flight facility seeing their aircrafts as investments. Although cosmetic, these outward presentations of the professionalism of the school suggests that the school has an attention to details of making first rate pilots who represent the brand and eventually brand recognition of the flight.

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