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How To Pick The Best Flight School For You

Figuring out how to become a professional pilot is a daunting task. Here's what you need to know about choosing the best flight school for you.

1) Decide On Your Flying Goals.

Before anything else, you need to ask yourself what your long-term goals in aviation are. It doesn't have to be anything too specific. It could be as simple as "professional pilot" or "hobby." Making that decision will help you determine which type of training you'd like to receive.

Each flight school will have a different feel, some more profession-oriented than others. Choosing the wrong school based on personality, learning type, or training goals is a leading cause of student pilot dropouts.

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2) Personal Connections Are Valuable.

One of the best ways to analyze the quality of a training program is by talking to people who went through it themselves. Have an honest conversation with another pilot about the pros and cons of the school. It probably won't be perfect, and that's ok. There's no such thing as a perfect flight school!

If you have some friends in the program, they will be a great support system as you get started. Use their help!

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3) How Important Is Location?

From the freezing winters of North Dakota to the sunny skies of Arizona, you'll find excellent flight schools in every corner of the country. Location often determines price ranges for training. Like anything in major urban areas, flight training is usually more expensive than outside the city.

Don't forget to consider how busy the airspace around you is. Spending extra time and money navigating airspace to fly out to a useable practice area could increase your training costs dramatically. If you're new to flying and don't know how airspace works, talk to the pilots you know and bring up this question.

Aspen Airport Operations

4) What's Your Intended Training Schedule?

Some flight schools have a syllabus and requirements for ground school. Make sure this fits in with your schedule. If becoming a pilot is something you really want to do, you'll need to make flight training a priority. Delaying flight training due to extenuating circumstances may greatly increase your costs. If you don't fly on a regular basis, especially at the beginning, you'll never gain adequate muscle memory.

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5) Part 61 Or Part 141?

This is a big one. Part 61 and 141 schools have pretty substantial differences. We can't cover all the differences in this article alone, but here are some things you should know... Part 61 usually allows you to complete training on an "as needed" basis. That means you'll be able to train a little more flexibly, both time-wise and lesson-wise. As opposed to Part 61 schools, Part 141 schools utilize FAA approved training courses, which you must follow.

Simply put, Part 141 schools are known for being more structured than their Part 61 counterparts. This can either be a good or bad thing, depending on your personality, learning type, and available time.

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6) Do You Want To Combine A Degree With Training?

One of the most common methods of training for young pilots is to attend a university-run flight academy. Your degree will likely be related to, or focused on, aviation. If you're looking to combine the college experience and a degree with flight training, this is a great option for you.

UND

7) Plan A Visit And Introduction Flight.

Once you've narrowed the list down and it's time for your first visit. Call the school and schedule a discovery/introductory flight with an instructor. Keep your eyes and ears open during your visit to get a good feel for the environment, staff, safety policies, and satisfaction of other students.

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8) Does The School Offer "Pathway Programs?"

As airlines feel the tightening grip of a nationwide pilot shortage, flight schools are signing more and more pathway programs for their students and instructors.

As a newly licensed pilot, you'll likely have the opportunity to apply for cadet programs which offer a clear path to your first regional airline job. They provide mentorship, benefits, interview preparation help, and even pathways to major airlines. If you want to become a professional pilot, see which schools have these programs available!

Remove Complexity From The Beginning Of Your Career With The American Airlines Cadet Academy

In the American Airlines Cadet Academy, you'll train with select flight schools and be paired with an American Airlines pilot mentor to walk with you through the program. Accepted flight school candidates will have the option to work with Discover® Student Loans to apply for a loan.

After you complete the program, AA's three wholly owned regional carriers (Envoy, PSA, and Piedmont) will offer you a guaranteed interview. If you're hired by one of these regional airlines, you will be well on your way to working at American Airlines.

Want to learn more? Check out the AA Cadet Academy here.

Discover Student Loans are not offered or made by American Airlines or any flight training school, but are made by Discover Bank.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and commercial pilot for Mokulele Airlines. In addition to multi-engine and instrument ratings, he holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525). He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.

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