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Flight Schools – How to Choose a Flight School and Learn to Fly

By Jeff Miller
September 7, 2008

For those considering a career as a pilot, experienced pilot Jeff Miller offers information and advice about how to make some important decisions in the beginning of the process. Filled with valuable insights, Miller's two articles will help aspiring pilots understand much more about their pursuit.

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Photo © Alexander Watts

It all starts with a dream to someday learn to fly. Just as it started years ago with the Wright Brothers, it has somehow started with you. People ask us why we fly. Why do we enjoy it so much? Well, after 22 years of flying experience I still have only one answer to that question. It’s in our blood, I tell them. It’s something innate that we just can’t describe. We have a passion for airplanes and all things aviation.

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When I began my journey, I didn’t have many aviation mentors. I knew that I wanted to fly but wasn’t sure of the best way to start. With this beginner’s informational article, I hope to start you in the right direction whatever your aspirations in aviation are. Whether you want to simply fly for fun on the weekends or if you want to become a captain for a major airline, I will share some insider’s information that will help you get started. Use this article as a tool to help you save time and money in your aeronautical quests. Enjoy. You are about to embark on a journey that only a small percentage of the world is capable of doing.

The following should be considered when deciding how and where to begin your flight training. This by no means is a complete list. It will, however, get you started in the right direction.

Will you train at an FAA part 141 or FAA part 61 flight school?

Do you want a flight school that offers flexibility or a rigid curriculum?
Part 141 schools offer a more structured environment than their part 61 counterparts. (A more detailed explanation of the differences between these types of schools is here).

Do you want to become an airline pilot or will you be flying for your own personal use?

You need to research your flight school options. Don’t just jump in with the first school you come across. A large part of your decision will be based on whether you will fly professionally or if you simply want to fly for your own personal business or pleasure. If your goal is to fly professionally, there are many schools that offer accelerated training programs. Upon successful completion of their curriculum, you are typically guaranteed an interview with one of their affiliated airlines.

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Photo © Raymond Wang

Another critical issue is the flight school instructors. Your flight instructors will obviously play a vital role in the type of pilot that you become. You need to speak with the instructors at the flight schools and determine if they will meet your needs and goals.

Based on your goals, you need to do a bit of research. Have an idea of what ratings and licenses you will want to obtain. Additionally, you need to know what the difference between a license and rating is!

Before you start spending money on flying, you should know the FAA medical requirements for the licenses that you seek. Obviously, you don’t want to waste money on training if you don’t meet the medical requirements! Go to the FAA website for medical requirement information (here).

Financial aid may be available to you. In your research, this is an option that you can explore. A link to research various scholarships and grants is here.

Speak with previous and current students of the flight schools you are researching. In my opinion, this is one of the most critical steps. With this step, you will develop a true understanding of the inner workings of the flight school.

Create two checklists to bring with you on your flight school research. One list should be a flight school checklist and the other should be a flight instructor checklist. Some sample checklist items are:

•How long has the school been in business?
•What is the school's safety record?
•What is the availability of aircraft?
•How long has the instructor been teaching?
•How many students has the instructor taught for the license or rating you seek?

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Photo © Erwin

With your decision to learn to fly, you will invest a great deal of time and money. Before you get started, the proper research is critical so that your time and money are not wasted!

Written by
Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller has been flying professionally for 22 years. In addition to flying, Jeff has a consulting business. His services range from general aviation consulting to providing advice to those looking for direction in the pursuit of pilot certification. Additionally, Jeff has published a book entitled "The Path To Flight-An Insider's Guide To Pursuing Flight Training." His book provides over 60 pages of insider's information for those looking to learn how to fly. He is currently a Captain on a Boeing 737 for a major commercial airline.

For additional information on Jeff's book, see his web site at http://www.dansonaerosource.com.

Additionally, you can contribute to his newly created blog here.

11 User Comments:
Username: Pilotwings [User Info]
Posted 2008-09-16 12:01:53 and read 32768 times.

Hi Captaine , I thank you alot for this nice article , I'm at school at the moment And hoping to become a Pilot when i groW up in GOD WILLING , I need to know what are the subjects At school that i need to be good at to become a PILOT , IS it hard to become a PILOT ? Welll Sir, Aviation Is in HEART AND BLOOD , I think about it everyday , My room is full of cockpit pictures and planes , PLease help me , And I thank you alot for this nice article :)

My email is shutup_jebrony@hotmail.com

P.S: I want to get my ATPL . PLease reply soon SIR.

Username: Irvin340 [User Info]
Posted 2008-10-11 09:08:04 and read 32768 times.

hello sir!
I would like you to reply me the same question of the member above"pilotwings"

Username: Jeffmiller [User Info]
Posted 2008-10-12 20:53:45 and read 32768 times.

Hello Irvin340

I looked in my email sent messages file and could not find the correspondence that I sent to Pilotwings. Basically, this is what I conveyed to Pilotwings:
I think what really matters at this point is that you work hard in school to achieve good grades. In doing so, you will show that you have the determination and discipline necessary to be be successful in your future airline career. As you move forward and pursue your aviation dreams, you will be presented with various paths to take. Options range from attending a University with an aviation program to taking flying lessons from your local airport flight school. When you choose where to accomplish you flight training, you will be presented with the proper aviation curriculum to start you on your way to becoming a professional pilot. You ask if it is hard to become a pilot. I must say that anything worth doing does not always come easy. However, I will say that if you have a passion for aviation, the road to success is a very enjoyable and rewarding process!

Username: AAboy757 [User Info]
Posted 2009-01-07 15:43:48 and read 32768 times.

Thanks for the article. Currently, I am a junior in high school. In about 3 months, I will be visiting Texas State Technical College in Waco TX to get more information about their Aircraft Pilot Training Technology course. Out of curiosity, have you ever heard of this college? If so, please tell me what you think about the college. I have already contacted students and staff from the APT department of the college and asked them various questions and opinions. I tried my hardest to come up with any questions before making phone calls, though I did not even think to ask the 5 questions you recommended. However, I'll be sure to write them down and ask them in the near future. If there are any more "must ask questions before selecting a flight school", then please comment or email me.

email address: huisman@our-town.com

Below is the link to the college if anyone may be interested.


Username: Pilotwings [User Info]
Posted 2009-01-08 13:05:27 and read 32768 times.

Hi againe Captaine , I just want to say thank you againe for this article . You have gave me the courage to make my way to succes , in God willing I and everyone having the same dream will achive his GOAL ! I like that sentence of yours "You ask if it is hard to become a pilot. I must say that anything worth doing does not always come easy. " And you showed us how much you love aviation , you told me that your parents use to take you to the airport and sit there for houres :) Wow ... I congratulate you for becoming a great and a profesional pilot . Take care CAptaine , and for me now I shal do good in school and clear alot Exams ! LATER CAPTAINE !

Best regards : Pascal EL-Hakim

Username: Johnny2307 [User Info]
Posted 2009-02-08 04:50:57 and read 32768 times.

I am from Serbia.Can you write some good flight school in America but not
so expensive.Does flight school more expensive for international pupil and how much?

My email: niknikic@yahoo.com

Username: Shaq [User Info]
Posted 2009-02-14 22:42:02 and read 32768 times.

HI captain !
I hope that in 2013 I found an article like this , in GOD willing i want to became a pilot when i grow up , everytime I fly on FSX I think of flying a real airplane. Also in school I need to study commerce , or science ?
Hope can help me
email: sysf95@hotmail.com
Best regards .

Username: Goodluck [User Info]
Posted 2009-04-07 14:31:45 and read 32768 times.

Hi Captain Miller!
I am really glad that i found this forum, because all the other forums that i was looking for information are based on mainly Asia country, so for the whole time i really hope that I can find something that guide the US aspiring pilots.

I am currently 19, second year in a prestige university, I have always love planes, but never really into the thought of becoming a pilot, mainly because i have short sight, around 2.5 - 3.0. I thought this will not allow me to become one, until recently doing lots of research, and realizing that pilot can have a certain degree of short sight, and then my feelings and my passion just came really quickly, and i know i really want to become a pilot.

As you suggested on the earlier post that at this time we should be studying hard, which i do agree and trying to get a degree (for backup).

But at this time of not able to know what's the future is, i was looking into a lot of other options that can get my foot into the aviation field. I am considering to join the Civil Air Patrol, I am wondering have you heard about that? and Do you think that would be a good idea?
Also, I was looking into Delta Connection Academy. Do you think this can be an option for me after i graduate college and to pursue my interest to become a pilot?

Sorry for the long post, but Thank you!

Username: Srinidhiys [User Info]
Posted 2009-06-11 04:25:31 and read 32768 times.

sir, i would like to thank u for giving such an interesting article for aspiring pilots.
sir, i am interested to do take aircraft maintenance as a career . i request you to kindly guide me in this regard too . as how to choose a correct training institute.

Username: Pilotwings [User Info]
Posted 2009-06-29 02:40:20 and read 32768 times.

Hello , Captain .
It's been a long time since I haven't wrote on this wall . We haven't heard from you ; even though , we sent you a lot of messages . I hope you get to read this .

I am in grade 11 now . Ana I am lebanese , will American Airlines accept me or not ? Maybe because I am Lebanese . Because some people told me that after the 9/11 ATTACKs , no Lebanese has entered an American Airline ; However , that's STEREOTYPING , Lebanese people are ACTUALT GREAT , and kind .

I say this again , it's my dream to sit in the cockpit of a great airline on the left seat transporting people from one destination to another .


Best regards : Pascal El-Hakim .

Username: Highflyer380 [User Info]
Posted 2009-10-04 02:44:11 and read 32768 times.

Can anyone answer which subjects we need ? Email: holdenve06@hotmail.com
Thanks Stephen

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