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Researching Flight Schools

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
Getting the Most from Your Flight Training
December, 2006

Smarter Student Series: Researching Flight Schools | Managing Your CFI | Annoying Students | You're in the Driver's Seat! | Why People Quit Flying | Being a Better Aviation Consumer | You Get What You Pay For | Performance Anxiety |

When you call flight schools these days, its hard to get the information you're looking for.  They don't have the time or motivation to spend hours with prospective students talking about their 10 hours of accumulated flight time.  That's because there is too much work and not enough folks to do it with.  That all makes life rough for the prospective pilot to get good information before making one of the biggest investments of his life.  Here's a few tips that will help you get the most information.

Calling Around
1.  If you're going to make a call, introduce yourself.  The recipient of your phone call may not care what your name is but its a matter of basic etiquette.  Introduce yourself and take note of the name of who you speak with.  Get used to it, the world of aviation is about introducing yourself (or your aircraft).

2.  Before calling, know your stuff.  No one wants to waste their time giving you the basics of becoming a pilot when you can make that effort by doing a little web research.  If you're too lazy to do that research, then you won't make a good pilot anyway, so save your money and consider knitting.

3.  Before speaking to a specific school about the programs they offer, be sure to read their website!  Don't make them explain something you could have easily read on the website.  Save that precious phone time to get the real scoop on what's happening.  By appearing to be knowledgeable about their program, they are more likely to give you the details that AREN'T on the website.  That's the stuff you really want anyway.

4.  Don't ask them if they are Part 141.  It shows your ignorance.  If you needed Part 141 you'd already know it and you'd only be talking to the school if they were on the FAA list of Part 141 schools.  If you don't know what part 141 is, then you probably don't need it.  "Hey Harry, I got a live one on  the phone, he's asking if we're part 141!!"  Most flight schools are not.  Want a discussion of the differences between part 141 and part 61

5.  If you plan to visit, set a specific appointment with a specific person.  Duh.  But you'd be surprised how many don't do it right then are disappointed.  If you're planning an unannounced visit, that's ok, but don't expect anyone to drop their work to accommodate an unscheduled walk-in.

6.  Things to see when you visit.  Your first concern should be maintenance.  For obvious reasons, take a look at their hanger to see if its well lit, organized, well stocked, and clean.  Take a look a briefing rooms, ground school classrooms, FAA exam testing work stations, and their DVD training library. 

7. Choosing a flight instructor.  Get a full list of instructors available and perhaps even some biographical information on each.  Hanging out at the flight school can yield good information, particularly if you observe a debriefing.  See the associated articles on selecting a flight instructor: 
How to select a flight instructor  and  Advice to new student pilots

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