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Orescan: What to look for in a Flight Training School

When you go out in search of a flight school, be sure to take your time and do your homework thoroughly as you will have a great deal riding on your selection.


September 27, 2007
By Chris Orescan

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When you go out in search of a flight school, be sure to take your time
and do your homework thoroughly as you will have a great deal riding on
your selection. The direction you want to follow will dictate to some
degree what you need to look for. Even though the industry is doing a
great deal of hiring it can still be daunting for freshly licensed
pilots; be sure to give yourself every advantage.

Regardless
of what type of flying you want to do, you will want to check several
aspects of a flight school. To the best of your ability, check the
financial strength of the school and always avoid putting large amounts
of money down; many students have lost considerable money doing this.
Check their equipment, the condition of the aircraft (more than one);
look for missing equipment and lots of duct tape. If they have a
simulator, confirm it’s operational and was manufactured post-Korean
War. Talk to current and if possible former students; ask them about
the school, the ground school, aircraft, maintenance and instructors.
Ask them if they would go back or somewhere else. Approaching Transport
Canada about a school will do little other than let you know the
school’s pass ratio rate.

For a career-oriented pilot’s licence,
one still has many choices; but the flight school you choose may assist
or hinder how fast and how well you secure your first job in aviation.
You need to understand all the different options available, and that
there are careers other than the airlines. Once you know your options,
then knowing how they fit into your personal lifestyle will help you
greatly. As an example if you see your career flying in the north then
it would benefit you to do your training in the north where you can
learn about the unique challenges of flying there.

All flight
schools must train according to standards and people must meet the
standard to receive a licence, but just as in other professions this
will only bring you to a certain point of competency; as an old friend
and DFTE used to say, this now gives you the licence to learn. The
age-old problem with flight instructing is that the majority of people
teaching lack any real world experience. For someone in the infancy of
their training this is not much of an issue, but when it comes to the
later stages of training experience does count.

For multi-engine
and IFR training, be prepared to do a good deal of searching. Look for
instructors who are well experienced and if possible have practical
experience. Sadly, there are not enough experienced people teaching
these ratings. As a training captain I have seen first-hand people who
knew nothing of some approach types, SIDS or STARS; this does not look
good when starting a new job.

Although training in a
high-traffic area can increase training costs, it also has many
benefits. The student who started training in a high-density area will
generally have better skills in dealing with large volumes of traffic
and ATC. Some of these students will also be exposed to other
professionals, companies and opportunities.

A select number of
flight schools have formed relationships with charter operators and
have added valuable training programs as the “Professional Pilot
Program.” This type of program gives students in the later stages of
their training exposure to advanced aircraft-specific technical ground
schools, advanced avionics training and systems training.

Depending
on the program it can expose the student to interviewing skills and
simulator evaluations done by company management or training captains.
These types of programs are so valuable, they not only teach future
professionals, they can also introduce them to potential employment
opportunities. These relationships between charter operators and flight
schools can be beneficial to both parties; generally the charter
operator will have a practice of hiring low-time pilots; this allows
them the opportunity to view and consider these students and/or
instructors. With an increasing turnover in staffing, finding
experienced instructors for both schools and students will become
increasingly more difficult.