Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Selecting a Flight School

Selection of a flight school is an important consideration in the flight training process. FAA-approved flight schools, non-certificated flying schools, and independent flight instructors conduct flight training in the United States. All flight training is conducted under the auspices of the FAA following the regulations outlined in either 14 CFR parts 141 or 61. 14 CFR part 141 flight schools are certificated by the FAA. Application for certification is voluntary and the school must meet stringent requirements for personnel, equipment, maintenance, facilities, and teach an established curriculum, which includes a training course outline (TCO) approved by the FAA. The certificated schools may qualify for a ground school rating and a flight school rating. In addition, the school may be authorized to give its graduates practical (flight) tests and knowledge (computer administered written) tests. AC 140-2, as amended, FAA Certificated Pilot Schools Directory, lists certificated ground and flight schools and the pilot training courses each school offers. AC 140-2, as amended, can be found online at the FAA’s Regulations and Guidance Library located on the FAA’s web site at www.faa.gov.

Enrollment in a 14 CFR part 141 flight school ensures quality and continuity, and offers a structured approach to flight training because these facilities must document the training curriculum and have their flight courses approved by the FAA. These strictures allow 14 CFR part 141 schools to complete certificates and ratings in fewer flight hours, which can mean a savings on the cost of flight training for the student pilot. For example, the minimum requirement for a Private Pilot Certificate is 35 hours in a part 141-certiflcated school and 40 hours in part 61 schools. (This difference may be insignificant for a Private Pilot Certificate because the national average indicates most pilots require 60 to 75 hours of flight training.)

Many excellent flight schools find it impractical to qualify for the FAA part 141 certificates and are referred to as part 61 schools. 14 CFR part 61 outlines certificate and rating requirements for pilot certification through non-certificated schools and individual flight instructors. It also states what knowledge-based training must be covered and how much flight experience are required for each certificate and rating. Flight schools and flight instructors who train must adhere to the statutory requirements and train pilots to the standards found in 14 CFR parts 61.

One advantage of flight training less than 14 CFR parts 61 is its flexibility. Flight lessons can be tailored to the individual student, because 14 CFR part 61 dictates the required minimum flight experience and knowledge-based training necessary to gain a specific pilot’s license, but it does not stipulate how the training is to be organized. This flexibility can also be a disadvantage because a flight instructor who fails to organize the flight training can cost a student pilot time and expense through repetitious training. One way for a student pilot to avoid this problem is to insure the flight instructor has a well-documented training syllabus.

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