I remember when I picked my flight school. Filled with excitement to get in an aircraft and start flying. The flight school I ended up choosing was the one closest and that would let me learn to fly right then.
This is a list of factors that I wish someone had sat me down and said, “Paddy Ol’ Boy, this is what flight schools don’t tell you to consider”.
1.) Licence Issuing Authority
My dream was to fly in Botswana. Playing with the donkeys and cows but mainly to look at the pretty animals. I got a South African licence which was perfect for Botswana. The charter companies are well known for taking expats with South African pilot licenses.
Every country has an organisation that oversees aviation. One of the duties of this organisation is the issuing of pilot licences specific to their country. If you want to fly in another country, a foreign licence conversion or validation is required. Costing more of your hard-earned dollar dollar bills.
I had a friend at flight school that had a girlfriend in the States (he swears it wasn’t to just get a green card). He did his license in South Africa and then found out that he would have to convert his license to an American one. Lots of dollar dollar bills out the window, but he is now flying there after having to convert his pilot license. He does have a green card (still think he’s only with her for it).
2.) Getting a Degree
This is a biggy and you get to wear a super cool cape when you graduate. Besides the obvious of making you more employable, flight schools with degree programs tend to be more structured. This helps insure that your time is spent efficiently and not spent playing PlayStation (definitely not me, a “friend” I knew).
You are going to be studying anyway to get your licence so hey, why not get a degree at the same time. When you’re in that study zone. It is possible to just do your licence, but if you have the option, do a degree.
3.) Type of Airport
Each type of airport has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s up to you to decide what suits your needs. There are so many categories I could put airports into. These are the ones that I think are important: (please comment if you think others should be included)
The busier the airport, the easier it is to build many relationships that may help you in obtaining a job once you get your licence. At busier airports it may take longer for you to get your licence, spending more time on the ground than in the air. Small training aircraft with no ventilation are perfect for those wanting to sweat a way a few pounds!
Most people at the airport get to know each other well. As soon as a job is available, everybody knows. Those pilot jobs may take some time to pop up though. More time spent in the air and better availability of aircraft, less pounds of fat lost though!
Large passenger airport
If your goal is to become an airline captain, getting familiar with the environment you will be working in is valuable as part of the learning process. Again, helping you to make relationships with people within the industry you want to be working in.
Small private charter airport
If your goal is to become a private charter pilot, this is the place to go as many of these jobs are all by word of mouth.
Small training airfield
Usually focuses on getting your licence completed in a short time span. Meeting other pilots that are in the same situation as you can help with the learning process. Not so great for opening up future job opportunities unless you intend to be an instructor.
Basing yourself at any of these locations depends on what your goal is, for a bush pilot I would suggest a small private charter airport or small training airfield.
I went through a quiet airport and this held me back slightly as I could have obtained the hours I needed in a shorter time. If I had gone to a small training airfield and done my pilot license there.
She can be the nastiest of creatures, delaying your training by months. When you first start flying the weather has be decent. Pick a flight school that has fair weather majority of the year. Rainy days are for studying and making supersonic engine noises in your chair time!
5.) Future Employment Opportunities with the Flight School
Some flight schools guarantee flight instructor jobs if you complete all your flying through them. Instructing is usually the first job majority of freshly qualified commercial pilots get.
Other flight schools have charter companies directly linked to them. What better way to get into a charter company than through the place that you have spent the past couple of years training.
In summary these are the questions you need to be asking your potential flight schools:
- Which authority will issue my license?
- Will I receive a degree after completing my training?
- How busy is the airport that you are based at? What are the main type of operations conducted?
- How long should I factor in for days of training that will be missed due to weather?
- Are there any employment opportunities that the flight school offers after completing a commercial license?
If you’re just looking to find a flight school here’s a post from a fellow blogger that takes you through what to consider.