Learning to fly isn’t just about turning up at the first flight school you find and handing over your money.
It is important for you to understand which is going to be the right flight school for you based on a number of crucial factors.
Here’s what you should be considering…
Which are your local flight schools?
Statistics show that most pilots who complete their flight training and earn their private pilot’s licences do so from a flying school close to where they live – typically within a 30 minute drive.
So find out where your nearest airfields and airports are, and make a list of the flight schools that are based at each one.
Visit the flight school and meet the instructors
Again, it’s not just a case of picking the closest flight school and handing over money. Each of the schools on the list you made at your nearest airfields will have a different way of operating, different aircraft, different prices, and different flying instructors.
You will be spending thousands to complete your training, so visit each school and meet the instructors or Chief Flying Instructor to get a feel for what they are like to talk to.
You might like to ask some questions about how they handle training – do students have multiple instructors, or just one? What days do they operate? How do they structure their training?
Do the flight school hours fit with you?
Make sure that the school is open and has instructors available at the times you will want to take lessons. For example, if you can only fly on a weekend, make sure the school has instructors available for lessons at weekends, and that they’re not tied up constantly with experience flights or aircraft away on overnight trips during these times. Similarly, if you can only fly during the week, make sure the instructors are not away doing other jobs at those times.
Find out which aircraft are used
Whilst there are a number of ‘standard’ training aircraft in use at flight schools around the world, it is always good to check which aircraft you’ll be learning to fly in at each school you visit.
If possible, ask to go and see the aircraft. This will give you an idea of how well maintained it is, and how clean it is.
Whilst training aircraft are built to last a long time and take a few bumpy landings over the years, their appearance should give you an indication about whether they are cared for.
The type of aircraft used will also determine how much lessons will cost; it doesn’t matter which type you learn on for your licence, but if a school is operating much newer, more advanced aircraft, chances are the prices will be higher.
Got commercial ambitions? Make sure they know!
If your aim is to become a commercial pilot, make sure you tell the flight schools you visit and ask them how they handle this. Do they have particular instructors who look after these students? Do they offer any additional ratings or training that will help you achieve your ambitions? What experience do the instructors have of going down this path themselves?
A professional outfit that understands the whole training process will be much better suited to a student who wants to fly for the airlines, whereas a small, club-based establishment might be better suited to those who want to fly recreationally.