Choosing the Right Flight School
How Do you know which is the Right School for you?
One of the toughest decisions a student pilot has to make, is where to do their training.
There is no shortage of Flying Schools, Flight Centres, Academies, University and training Organisations/businesses offering different training courses in a wide range of aircraft types. There’s RA (Recreational Aviation) as well as GA (General Aviation) schools and planes.
An important factor to consider is the cost & how you intend to fund your study. Will you fund yourself, access a low interest loan, or use VSL (VET Student Loans).
With all the options to consider, when adding in aviation jargon used by the industry which can be confusing for someone just starting out, how do you know which is the right school for you? It can be a minefield, and making the wrong choice can be very costly. We always recommend that you seek some industry assistance and be more informed before making that important decision.
A safe way to determine the right Pilot Training Provider is by answering a few questions yourself and then asking each flight school/academy/University/trainer you talk to, a few simple questions.
For you to Answer:
What are you hoping to achieve with your flying? How far do you want to go? What aircraft do you want to fly?
Your first decision: Do you want to fly just for fun with friends & family, OR do you want to fly big jets around the World, Country or State?
If you want to just fly for fun on weekends or visit friends, An RA (Recreational Aviation) training provider is all you need.
If you want to go all the way to a Commercial Pilot License and fly larger commercial jets, you need to go through a GA (General Aviation) training school.
If you just want to get a Private Pilot License and fly friends around or fly for your own enjoyment, a GA (General Aviation) school would be more suitable for you.
General Aviation & Recreational Aviation - What's the difference?
Recreational Aviation Australia (RA Aus) issues Recreational Aviation (RA) licenses to pilots for the purpose of flying Recreationally. This is flying just for fun. This is not a CASA license. You are limited to the size of plane & the number of passengers you are able to fly with.
General Aviation (GA) is where CASA issues valid GA license such as a CASA Recreational Pilot License (RPL), Private Pilot License (PPL), Commercial Pilot License (CPL), or Air Transport Pilot License (ATPL).
With GA, you will start with training to gain a Recreational Pilot License, then Private Pilot License, followed by a Commercial Pilot License and then Air Transport Pilot License.
With RA, you will start with training to gain a Recreational Pilot Certificate. Once obtained you can then add endorsements to allow you to carry a passenger or fly & land beyond 25 nautical miles from your departure aerodrome. You can also choose to convert your RPC to a CASA issued RPL through Great Southern Flying School with additional study & flying time.
If you want to fly big planes or desire a Commercial Pilot License, it is important to understand you need to hold a CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) License, NOT an RA license or a University degree. You need a CASA License.
Once you decide on what your end goal is and which type, GA or RA, you can then start searching for a trainer suited to your requirements. For instance do you want to learn full-time, part-time, just on weekends, once a month, etc.
So now that you’ve answered the questions about what you want to achieve, you are armed with the knowledge of which type of school best suits your flying goal. Regardless of whether it’s a GA or RA school, the next questions are for you to ask potential schools you are considering.
Ask potential Pilot Training Schools:
- Do you issue CASA or RA training and Licenses? If they offer the one you are after, great. If not, move on/hang up. Don’t allow them to sell you a course that won’t meet need your needs by using industry terms you do not understand.
How many students per aircraft do you have? Any more than 4-5 and it’s safe to say you will not be flying daily. A plane can usually fly 4 sorties a day, sometimes 5.
How far is the training area from the Base? If the training area is more than 10nm away from the base you will be spending around 12 minutes of your 90 minute lesson just getting to and from your training area. This can add up over time. Some Melbourne businesses transit for 25nm to get to the training area which doesn’t leave much time for the lesson, and increases your training cost.
How many students per Instructor? Similar to planes, an Instructor can usually fly around 4 sorties a day. 4 x 1.5 = 6 hrs a day, 5 days a week. If you have 10 students per instructor, you know will only fly once every 2-3 days. Schools with more instructors also tend to have more Junior (grade 3 Instructors). 4 Full time students per Instructor is ideal for currency.
How many Grade 1 instructors do you have and how often do I get to fly with them? Grade 1 instructors have the most experience. They are more senior and should be capable of teaching to a higher standard. Not always the case, but generally they are easy to access in smaller schools and rarely available in larger schools.
If I fail a sortie more than once what is your procedure? In all learning throughout life, your brain has periods where it just needs to digest for a while and not take on new material. These are called learning plateaus. Sometimes we do not pass a sortie/lesson first or second go, it happens. But ideally, if you have failed a sortie it is nice to do the next attempt with a senior instructor, so that if there is a fault or misunderstanding, they are more likely to find it. If you are not flying with the Grade 1 or Chief flying instructor after a period of low progress you are in the wrong place.
Is your training organisation flexible, will it suit the hours you are looking for? (full time/part time) Aviation is expensive. That is a fact. You may need to hold a job down to pay for your training. So make sure the training organisation is flexible enough to fit in with your desired program.
Are there any sign up fees or non-flying fees charged? In particular for VSL or VET FEE students, much of the money set aside for your training can be used by the company for expenses other than flying. Some organisations have big entry fees or course enrolment fees. This can leave you short of funds at the end of your training. Be wary. If in doubt, give us a call and we can talk you through the minefield that is student funding.
Do you offer Theory Training for all subjects in house and is this costed in the course or extra? Not all schools offer theory education. Find a school that will at least help with, if not conduct theory for you. Self-study is possible for some, others may find some assistance useful. There are many theory trainers in the industry, make sure you ask around and seek feedback from previous students as to who has good theory and teaching skills.
Once you have the answers to all the above questions you should be in a position to select a shortlist of training institutions and possibly even select the one that is best suited to you.
Remember, you are the student and you are paying, if there is anything odd or not understood ASK QUESTIONS. Aviation has seen a lot more people start training than finish it.