This is not intended as an indictment of all flight schools. It is merely a general narrative of those practices generally found throughout the traditional flight school industry -

DON’T JUMP IN THE AIRPLANE And, do not enroll in a ground school prematurely. The objective of a great many flight schools, and the affiliated flight instructors (CFI), is to put you in the airplane as fast as possible, and keep you there at a rate of $200 to $250 per hour as long as possible. This includes a recent trend towards encouraging students to invest in expensive ground school training long before it is appropriate, or needed. Our objective is to keep you out of the airplane and ground school as long as possible, or at least until you understand the consequences of the financial decisions you are considering.

FLIGHT TRAINING To receive a Private Pilot license, the FAA requires student pilots have a minimum of 40 hours of flight time, of which 20 must be dual (flying with an instructor). However, these are MINIMUMS. No one completes their training in 40 hours. The average time is approximately 65-70 hours. This traditionally has been completed in four phases:

  • Phase 1: Duel training - Stick & rudder mastery - Learning to fly the airplane - 15-20 hours.

  • Phase 2: Duel training - Flight safety, stall and ground reference maneuvers, emergency procedures, airport traffic operations and cross country planning and execution. At least 20 hours. Realistically, 30 hours. Plan for more.

  • Phase 3: Solo - Student practice and cross country. At least 15-20 hours.

  • Phase 4: Duel training - FAA check ride planning of 2-5 hours.

  • Total hours - Plan on at least 70 (Many students take considerably more time). Total cost @ $200.00/hr = $14,000.00.

  • At least 30 hours @ $50.00/hour can be done in the simulator. Savings: 30 hours x $150.00 savings/hr = $4,500.00 minimum. It’s time to read Rod Machado - “The Power of Flight Simulators”, November 7, 2018 -

THE FLIGHT SCHOOL The flight school operator and CFI have parallel objectives; neither of which serve the student pilot in an immediately useful way. The traditional flight school is generally not profitable, or marginally so, and frequently provides flight training as an adjunct to other aviation related services, products or personal objectives.

Many flight schools require a substantial prepayment, or a contractual agreement with the student. To facilitate this objective the flight school industry has established financial assistance programs that bind the student in order to lock-up a predictable income stream. These agreements often capture students in a pre-paid web of protracted and unnecessary training accompanied by added expenses without a foreseeable outcome. This practice often leads to frustration, and is believed to contribute to the high failure rate among primary students.

GROUND SCHOOL Many flight schools rush students into early ground school training as a means of generating additional revenue. This training does nothing to prepare the student for the FAA Knowledge exam, and adds little worthwhile experience unless carefully integrated into the formal flight training. These 1-2 day ground school programs costing between $200.00 and $500.00 range from 6-12 hours, and provide little more than a general survey of the test requirements. In reality, the average student will spend 50-100 hours in preparation for the Knowledge exam, and will employ a variety of instruction methods from prepared text to Internet data base providers. Furthermore, it is the CFI’s responsibility to guide test prep as a planned course of events during each phase of training. Do not take an accelerated course until after your medical, and unless it is recommend by your instructor. These courses should never be necessary. However, if you do enroll in a ground school program be certain that it is scheduled in close proximity to your date for the FAA knowledge exam.

THE CFI There are very few CFI’s flying as full time teaching professionals. The economics of the business generally foreclose on the potential of a sustainable income stream. Most CFI's are employed in other industries and teaching part time. Many are recently minted commercial pilots supplementing their income until they reach the big bucks. The remainder are inexperienced and building the required civilian time of 1000 - 1500 hours for an ATP rating. Whether full time, part time or building time their common purpose for existence is to get student pilots in the plane and keep them there as long as possible. As more and more aspiring professionals enter the field your mind doesn’t have to wonder to far in order to foresee the consequences of an increasing number of new CFI’s chasing the clock.

YOUR OPTIONS There are two general aviation certificate options other than Single Engine Land rarely disclosed by flight school operators. Sport Pilot and Recreation Pilot. Each of these certificates limit the passenger manifest. Both impose limitations as to gross weight of the equipment, power plant performance and air space operations. There are also exceptions as to the medical requirements. These certificates can be obtained in considerably less time, with less money. Be sure that you understand your privileges pursuant to these options if you do not intend to fly as a professional.

CONCLUSION These issues are not caused by some conspiracy between the flight school operators and flight instructors, but by an inefficient FAA and lobbying influences that have descended into traditional flight school practices often antithetical to the interests of the student. There are good schools, and good instructors. Be smart. Enroll in Lesson 1 of “Stick & Rudder Mastery” today, and we will help you plan your future.