Starting Flight Training

For as Long as I Could Remember…

I’ve been obsessed with flying. I knew I caught the bug shortly after my 3rd birthday when I attempted to fly with nothing more than a cardboard box shaped like a wing, some duct tape, a hill, and a light headwind. Of course I was very disappointed with the result, but nonetheless, I was still fascinated with flight. Ever since then I’ve been trying to get in anything with an engine and wings. When I finally decided to seriously start flight training, I was about 16 years old. Growing up in a small Kentucky town, it wasn’t very difficult to choose a flight school considering there were not many to pick from. I took flying lessons here at Kentucky Airmotive (a part 61 school) and earned my Private Pilot Certificate shortly before graduating high school. After that, I moved on to Eastern Kentucky University and pursued a degree in professional flight. It wasn’t long into my first semester that I realized the cost of flight training at a college is very expensive when coupled with a degree. I was looking at about a $100,000 bachelor’s degree and a starting salary upon graduation of about $25,000 a year. I started to get discouraged and ultimately decided to drop the flight portion of the degree (shortly after earning my instrument rating) and pick up an aerospace management degree. At the time, I recently took a job working at Kentucky Airmotive as a lineboy running the fuel trucks and towing airplanes. Fortunately, the company has helped me work my way up to getting my CFI via the part 61 route. Now that I’m starting to get some experience, I wanted to write this blog to share some stories as well as some tips from the lens of a new flight instructor.

So Many Choices

 Probably the most common question with flight training is “where do I start?” With the many choices of flight schools nowadays, it’s easy to get lost and confused about what each school offers and the various incentives between them. Probably the most confusion starts with whether to attend a part 141 or part 61 school. The short version of this story is that both schools produce the same pilot certificate and they both demand the same standards to achieve that result. The specifics can be somewhat tricky but basically, a 141 school is a structured school with a FAA approved curriculum that’s typically most suited for fast-paced, career-oriented students. That being said there are still plenty of students that take the 61 route who pursue careers in aviation (such as myself). Part 61 flight training (in my experience) is a bit more laid back and more enjoyable in my opinion. You get to “interview” and pick your instructor, there is usually more of a “mom and pop” atmosphere to the part 61 schools and you get more 1 on 1 time with the instructors, and I’ve found that there is more of a “train at your own pace” feel with these types of training facilities. My experience with a 141 school was a positive one as well, but I felt more at home at the part 61 school. In the 141 world, there are a few more hoops that the school may make you jump through like “stage checks”. Stage checks are flights where usually a different instructor fly’s with you and checks on your progress periodically throughout your training. To me, it’s wasted money and time. I believe that your primary instructor knows what’s best for their own students and should have the final say so whether to move on or practice more in a particular subject area. Veterans who want to utilize their GI bill should look at part 141 schools since their benefits only apply to part 141 schools. Use the hotlink below to find your closest flight school www.aopa.com 

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Table from FlyingMagazine.com shows the pros and cons of both schools.

Let’s Be Honest…

It’s Expensive! It’s been said that the only way to become a millionaire in aviation is to start out as a billionaire. Even those blessed with respectable salaries have a hard time budgeting flight training, but there are ways to make it more affordable. Our flight school offers block time purchases which allow the student to purchase 10 hours of flight time at once and receive a 10% discount off the aircraft rental price. This is a good incentive we offer and could save nearly $800-$1000 or more off the total price of your certificate. If you have any interest in flight training whatsoever, I would highly recommend at least taking a discovery flight with an instructor at your flight school of choice. Typically a half hour discovery flight will run in the realm of $1oo. This is a great opportunity to meet your instructor and discuss the requirements per the Federal Aviation Regulations for you to get your private pilot certificate. Also, discovery flights are a great gift to purchase for someone who might be interested in taking lessons or for any thrill seeker in the family. Another way to save you time and money during this expensive endeavor is a little practice pilots call chair flying. Chair flying is somewhat like it sounds; sit in a chair and pretend to fly. As silly as that sounds, it’s actually a wonderful tool that will make each lesson go smoother and more efficient. For example, your instructor walks you through a soft field takeoff procedure. After your lesson, go home and practice the whole procedure over while talking yourself through it and moving your hands to the approximate location of the components you’d be utilizing during the maneuver. Believe it or not, this is the one tool that will save you more money than any discounts a flight school can offer you. Simply leaving your flight lesson at the airport so to speak, and not practicing at home will set your training back significantly and only lead to frustration.

Go Have Fun!

A lot of us forget why we started flying to begin with. Begin your flight training, remember why you started in the first place, and never lose sight of that. Flying should be a very positive and enjoyable experience for all ages so find a flight school you like and take to the skies!

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