In life, you have lots of options. Flying is no different. You have many instruction options for how and where you will learn, how much it will cost… And most importantly, what you will get out of it. Not all flight training is the same, so you’ll need to think carefully about your options.
I will show you the things you need to think about when deciding on your instruction options and give you a short list to help you decide.
Instruction Options, What’s Mandatory?
Before embarking on all the things you need to consider regarding flight instruction options, I need to be clear on a point.
There are minimum requirements that you must satisfy if you are to be awarded your pilot’s license. This is set in stone and can’t be altered, regardless of where you undertake flight training. In fact, it is a Federal Aviation Requirement.
I have a guide here detailing all of the requirements for your pilot’s license, but in case you haven’t seen it. Here is a quick recap:
- Train a minimum of 40 hours flight time, including 20 hours with a qualified flight instructor and 10 hours solo-flying time.
- Train 3 hours of cross-country flying (more than 150 nautical miles).
- Train 3 hours of night flying, including a cross-country flight over 100 nautical miles with 10 takeoffs and landings.
- Pass the written FAA knowledge test.
- Train 3 hours in preparation for the FAA practical test (checkride).
- Pass the FAA oral and practical tests
- Present a valid third-class medical certificate as proof of medical health.
You’ll probably spend more than 40 hours in preparation for your private-pilot certificate, but that’s okay.
In fact, many pilots quickly earn their student-pilot certificate, then take their time getting ready for the final checkride.
Once you have your student pilot certificate, you can fly around by yourself — as long as you adhere to your limits, such as no cross-country flying until you have a cross-country endorsement in your logbook.
Flight Instruction Options: What to Consider
Choosing where to learn to fly is no easy task, and there is so much to consider. Here are some of the things that you may want to think about: –
Location is actually one thing that is often overlooked when considering instruction options.
My advice would be to try your best to pick a flight school that is relatively local to you. This is advantageous for several reasons.
First, you can jump if there is suddenly a cancellation by another student. This means that you can squeeze more hours into getting you closer to that coveted license.
Second, if the aircraft does become unserviceable, you haven’t made a long (and ultimately wasted) journey.
Finally, staying motivated is so much easier if your flight school is only around the corner. If it seems like a hike every time you want to go flying, that is really going to sap your willingness.
We call it Frugal Flying for a reason.
Cost is obviously going to be a huge deciding factor in your flight instruction options. Based on my point above, you’ll have to strike a balance and consider what will happen if your closest flying school isn’t the cheapest.
As a general rule, flying instructors have had to meet a minimum standard according to FAA regulations. As a result, you can be reasonably assured that the flight training will be to a good standard.
And don’t be fooled. Paying twice as much for an instructor doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get twice the training value.
The best advice I could offer is to shop around and see if you can find a flying school that costs what you are willing to pay. Once you have made a preliminary decision, head down and speak to the instructors (and hopefully a few students) to find out if you like the ethos and ‘gut feeling’ you get.
A Big or Small Flying School?
There are actually advantages to both big and small flying schools.
Big flying schools will have a greater selection of aircraft and will have likely seen their fair share of successful candidates. They also tend to be pretty organized.
The downsides are that with a large school, it is often easy to get ‘lost in the crowd’, and they lack the personal interest you would get from a more ‘mom and pop’ style school.
Small flying schools have unique advantages too. As I alluded to above, there is more of a chance that the instructors will be personally invested in your success. They also tend to be significantly cheaper too.
Aircraft availability can often be problematic. If they only have two aircraft and one is away for maintenance, you will find your training opportunities somewhat limited.
Big Airport or Small Field?
Again there are advantages to both.
Flight instruction at a large airport will give you a great experience of what some sports pilots find daunting, like talking to air traffic control and taxying along with huge jets.
The downside is that big airports often have big jets and are surrounded by controlled airspace. It is zero fun sitting at the holding point, watching your hour’s lesson tick away while a huge airbus takes its time to land.
Small fields don’t suffer from this problem; however, you’ll be missing out on vital and valuable flight training and will probably have to spend a good chunk of your lesson flying further afield to gain the experience you would at a large airport.
Experience of Instructors
This is a real biggie which is why I have saved it until last.
If you have instruction options, I’d advise that you try and choose an instructor with the greatest amount of experience that you can find.
They’ll have seen and done it all and will be more than willing to help you as they share their own experience. This can be a downside to really large flying schools, which often have a constantly churning pool of fresh-faced “Wannabe’s” who only instruct until they have the minimum hours for an ATP license.
Not all flight instruction has to cost money. In fact, I’ve got a list of my own free resources here where you can gain a few key tips. Check them out:
- Why Are You Flying
- Navigating By Sight
- Navigating By Calculator
- Navigating By Radio
- Flight Software
- Knowledge Test Prep
- Inspecting Your Aircraft
- Starting and Taxiing Your Aircraft
- The Run-Up
- Normal Takeoff and Climb
- The Pattern
- Taking Off
- Your First Solo
- Stalling Your Plane
- Slow Flight
- Going From Here to There
- Where are You Going?
- Prep for the Tests
- Knowledge Test Prep
- Watch Your Attitude
- Watch Your Attitude
- Remember What You Forgot
Deciding on Instruction Options. The Bottom Line
Join 1,232+ Passionate Frugal Pilots
As with most choices in life, you will have to strike a balance between several factors. Many of which I have given above. While you will face several instruction options, it is vital to remember that you are a paying customer… So, if something doesn’t sit right, or you aren’t happy, you can change your mind. How much should you be paying for flight instruction? That’s a good question which I answer here.
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide