About the Author

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Southport, Manitoba, Canada
Steve Pomroy is a professional flight instructor and aviation writer. He has been teaching since 1995 and holds an Airline Transport Pilot License, Class 1 Instructor and Aerobatic Instructor Ratings, military QFI, and an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. He's written and published three flight training books through his company, SkyWriters Publishing, and has several other books under development. Steve currently teaches RCAF pilot candidates on their Primary Flight Training course.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Choosing a School Part 1: Recreational Flying

Once you’ve made the decision to learn to fly, the next step is to choose a school.

There are many variables to consider when choosing a school: price, quality, aircraft availability, industry connections, etc. Each of these variables will be presented by the school to place the school in the best possible light. So you need to take all information with a healthy dose of skepticism - and you need to double check against multiple sources whenever possible.

There are some great flight schools out there. There are also some, er, not so great flight schools out there. A high quality school will enrich your experience and ultimately make you a better, safer pilot. A not-so-high-quality school can poison your experience and turn you off of aviation altogether. So be sure to take the time to gather information and make an informed choice.

If you’re planning on mostly personal flying, and you already have a career and/or a family, you’re probably constrained to choose a local school. This makes your decision a lot easier - even if it does limit your options. If there are multiple local schools (there often aren’t, but if you’re in or near a large population center, you might have options), take your time to compare them.

When you are considering a school, especially when you have the option of comparing multiple schools, here are some questions to ask:

  1. How many aircraft do you have?
  2. How many instructors do you have? How many of them have more than 2 years of full time experience in flight instruction?
  3. Over the past 5 years, what percentage of your starting students have finished their PPL (without changing to a different school!)?
  4. Over the past 5 years, what has been the average flight time for your students to obtain a Private Pilot License?
  5. Over the past 5 years, what was your students’ pass rate on the PPL written exams? What was their average mark?
  6. Over the past 5 years, what was your students’ pass rate on the PPL? What was their average mark?

When asking these questions, insist on answers, but don’t take the company’s word. Seek other sources of information. Contact regulatory authorities (Transport Canada, FAA, JAA, CAA, depending on what country you’re in). Ask staff members how they like working there. Ask current and past students about their impressions of the school.

Ultimately, the quality of your training is what you make of it. Work hard and you can overcome mediocre training. Slack off and all of the expert instruction in the world is useless. But it doesn’t hurt to have an edge in the form of a high-quality school with high-quality staff and high-quality aircraft. So do your homework first. Identify the school or club that best meets your needs. And then get started.

Happy Flying!

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