You feel excited, motivated and more determined than ever to achieve your goal and here you are, the very first step of your pilot career!
Choosing a Flight Training Organization (FTO) is not very difficult but it is crucial at the same time. You don’t want to fall into a scam and regret about getting into aviation just because you rushed and signed up with the wrong flight school.
Your goal is to collect as much information as possible on flight schools to know what to expect from them. Place yourself as a detective and try to find all that is related to the FTO in question. I will give you the advices you MUST know and will help you to make the correct choices.
At the end of the article you’ll find a list of 10 basic questions you must ask in order to be the more informed possible.
After you decide where you want to fly (Europe, US, China…) you’ll need to find all the schools around you that are eventually attractive. It’s a tough industry and flight schools are doing their best to give you the best image possible of their organization which is sometimes far away from the reality.
Take time to do a lot of research on internet about the schools you’re interested in. There’re several ways you can find valuable information:
- Random information on the web
- Aviation Forums
- Taking contact with students already there or former students
- Contacting the flight school itself
- Visiting the school
Your goal is to COLLECT INFORMATION, as much information as you can, that will allow you to answer your 10 basic questions (find the list at the end).
1) Random Information on the web
What I mean by random information are the things you can find out just by googling the name of the school. This first step will allow you to get the most general about the FTOs you’re interested in.
It will allow you to eliminate some of them because of some particular criteria (cost, location…).
Make a list putting the pros and cons for each flight school.
2) Aviation Forums
Aviation forums are very useful as you can find all kind of topics related to a particular FTO (selection process, training issues, organization issues…). Pay attention to what people have already discussed there because it is generally based on their own experience and their review is usually objective so very precious.
However, there’re also irrelevant comments written by some flight schools to show how good their FTO is. They usually overdo writing how awesome they are, so you can easily spot them…
Don’t hesitate to create an account on a forum to ask your questions or to contact people that may provide you information.
3) Contact the flight school
This will be your first contact with the flight school so make sure you show your motivation and your intentions, give them a positive image of yourself. You will do this by asking them the right questions (list at the end), being careful on not making grammatical mistakes in your e-mails, being polite etc..
I will advise you to get in touch with them both by phone and by e-mail on a longer period, not only once. By speaking often with them, they will remember you and will see how interested you’re in their organization.
At the same time, if you notice that after 2-3 e-mails they stop answering your questions…Don’t worry, you probably didn’t loose anything there!
Spread the dialog over a wider period. Don’t rush to ask all the questions at once.
4) Get in touch with students/former students
Another way to find what you need is to get in touch with students who already study there. You’ll have a more objective review than talking with the school itself. You could use social medias like Instagram or Facebook by searching through the hashtags and locations and in this way, you’ll find a lot of people studying in the flight schools you’re looking for.
Moreover, this will allow you to compare the information the flight school provided you to that which student pilots from that school will give you. You will easily spot if their goal is just to attract you to “steal” your money or if the services they provide are really of high quality and they’re honest with you.
In the same way try to find former students who’re eventually already pilots and get their review. It’s probably even more difficult to reach them, but you never know…maybe you’ll find somebody who will give you all you need, it’s definitely worth it to have a try. Ask also how the school helped them with their first job after they finished their training.
Many times, people will just ignore you because they already made it and they’re too lazy to bother helping others. But among 20 people you’ll find through social medias, there will be at least 2 or 3 who will be glad to help you, and their experience will be priceless for you.
Make sure you speak to as many people as possible who are related to the FTO you’re showing interest for.
5) Organize a visit
Well…this may be an option if you didn’t find answers to your questions during your web researches. Visiting the flight school can be very expensive for you (plane tickets, accommodation etc.…) depending how far it is from your place.
In my opinion, you should visit the flight school if you really don’t know much about them or if you only have spoken to the flight school itself during your online researches and you couldn’t reach any forum topics, students/former students to make your opinion.
However, if you can financially afford a visit there and you have time for it don’t hesitate….it can only reinforce your opinion on the flight school, by meeting people on spot and talking to collect even more information!
During your visit, make sure you have your questions list!
6) The Questions list
Here’s a list of the questions you should ask a flight school or important points you should check prior to sign up with them:
- How many students are studying there? How big is the school?
- What facilities do they have? Are they enough for all the students?
- What are the theoretical training supports (software, books, question banks…)
- Training scheduling: Do they provide it all at the beginning of the training or is it changing constantly?
- What are the payment plans? Are they quite flexible or not?
- How many ground/flight instructors do they have?
- Are the instructors experienced (pilots, engineers etc.…)? Are there former students who became their instructors just after the training?
- How many aircrafts do they have and how many of them are “ready to fly”?
- Did they already have issues with aircrafts (incidents, accidents, technical problems…)
- How many days do they fly per year? Do I have good margins to complete my training on time without any weather issues?
I really insist that these questions must be asked NOT ONLY to the flight school but also to the students and other people you reach who are related to that flight school!! Because the flight school will never tell you that their instructors are not good, that you cannot fly because of the weather or that the aircrafts are always broken…students already experienced it .
Don’t forget that it doesn’t cost you anything to TRY. Don’t be afraid or ashamed about speaking to people you don’t know and asking them advices. We all went through embarrassing moments doing embarrassing things, it doesn’t cost you anything but getting where you want!
Start looking for your flight school NOW and don’t waste your time anymore, you have a goal to achieve!
Atricle source: Panda the Pilot blog