Want to be a pilot? Curious about flight school?
You’ve come to the perfect place!
In this article we’re going to be talking all about flight school, and answering all of your most frequently asked questions. And don’t worry - we’re going to start with the basics, and we’re not going to get too technical, we’ll explain terms as we go along if we need to.
We’re going to be talking about both flight school and ground school, and covering what to study before getting into flight school, how to choose a flight school, and what to expect in your very first lesson!
And let’s now take off!
What is taught in flying school?
Flight school is exactly what sounds like, it’s where you take practical lessons in piloting an aircraft. You will learn how to perform all sorts of maneuvers, procedures and tasks associated with operating an aircraft.
But exactly what you’re taught in flight school depends on whether you’ve chosen a Part 61 school, or a Part 141 flight school. Part 141 pilot schools have a set structured syllabus to follow.
But in contrast, with Part 61 flight schools, the training very much depends on the flight instructor’s discretion. And these schools also differ in terms of how many hours are spent on an aircraft.
That said you should reach the same standard of flight proficiency, regardless of whether you’re learning at a Part 61 or Part 141 flight school.
Pilot school is taught in two main parts, ground school and flight school. In ground school you will get to know the aircraft, learn the principles of flight, learn about different weather phenomena, and learn about flight rules and regulations.
In flight school on the other hand you get behind the control board, and your instructor will teach you many different skills from preparing for your flight, how to take off and land, how to fly straight, how to deal with turbulence, and of course what to do in an emergency.
If you intend to become a commercial pilot, then you will also be required to demonstrate knowledge of high-altitude operations and to prove that you can drive at night.
What should I study before flight school?
The topics most highly recommended before pilot school are aviation, aerodynamics and meteorology.
These topics are not typically taught in high school but if you could study them at university, it would give you an excellent foundation and head start before you join pilot school.
That said, a degree is not necessarily required to become a pilot. Though many major airlines require that you do.
In pilot schools, you will cover a lot of material in ground school, but anything that can help you prepare for this will stand you in good stead. More broadly speaking, you could be looking at subjects such as maths, physics and geography.
What you cover in ground school before you begin at flight school can include the following: basic aerodynamics, Federal Aviation Regulations, familiarization with the aircraft, aeromedicine (the effects of flight on the human body), using weather information.
If you’re eager to become a pilot, you don’t have to wait to start learning any of these things. You can grab yourself a few textbooks, or look for an online course.
Should I do ground school first?
It’s strongly recommended that you take and complete ground school before going onto flight school.
It may not seem quite as exciting as flight school, but you will need to pass tests on your knowledge of the topics covered in ground school before you can earn your pilot licence.
If you complete your ground school training in good time, the stress of it all can be over, leaving you to concentrate on actually piloting an aircraft.
It’s not always necessary to complete ground school before you start flight training, but to be honest we can’t recommend it highly enough.
As for how long it takes to complete, you could be looking at as little as two weeks, or several weeks depending on what type of licence you want to work towards. To get a commercial pilot license, your ground school syllabus will be that bit more advanced.
Ground school training can be tough at times, but if you’re determined enough, you could even become a commercial pilot.
What should I do after flight school?
After flight school, you will have an array of options as to what jobs you can do. Let’s walk you through a few…
You can become a mainline carrier, transporting passengers to destinations all over the world. This could include working for the likes of Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines.
You can pilot a low-cost carrier, such as those that run for Spirit, JetBlue Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, again transporting passengers.
You could work for a regional airline, predominantly transporting passengers to domestic locations. Think Delta Connection, American Eagle, and United Express.
You can be a cargo carrier, working for companies like FedEx and UPS to destinations all over the world.
You could work for the military, although this would require additional training.
Similarly, you could also work for the government or in law enforcement, but again this will require additional training.
You can go into corporate aviation, transporting either cargo or passengers for various businesses.
You could join a charter operation and effectively work as a “for hire” pilot, where you would have shorter flights and work on smaller planes.
Or you can become a flight instructor (more on that a little later).
And the good news is that securing a position as a pilot may be easier in the future, as there is such great demand for pilots.
How do I choose a flight school?
You may be tempted to simply join the nearest flight school to where you are based...
However, not all flight schools are equal, and you should do your homework before joining one, or applying to one. That way you can better judge what the flight school has to offer and whether it sufficiently meets your requirements.
The first thing to consider is whether the flight school has the particular aircraft that you want to pilot.
You may also want to learn whether the flight school is a Part 141 or a Part 61. In case you missed it earlier, Part 141 pilot schools have a set structured syllabus to follow. Whereas in Part 61 flight schools, the training very much depends on the flight instructor’s discretion.
Out of these two types of flight school, the one that we would recommend most strongly is the Part 141, because that way you can be assured of having a very thorough and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of all of the various elements of aviation.
We also recommend that look into the ground school provision, and look into whether the school offers real-life aircraft simulations that you can practice before you actually have your first flight lesson.
What should I expect from my first flight lesson?
You can almost certainly expect to be nervous. You’re being asked to perform a series of complex tasks, and it’s not a simulation.
If however you’ve done a lot of your homework beforehand, you will feel better prepared, and this will certainly help to put you more at ease.
The lesson generally starts with a briefing and you will be given a list of objectives that you need to meet for that particular flight. Then you get your hands busy and start to practice the actual maneuvers!
Following the flight, your instructor will debrief and explain how well you did and where you need to improve.
But it’s worth noting that you will be doing a lot more than simply taking off and landing, you will also be learning how to fly straight and level, and how to take basic turns.
Ideally you should already be very familiar with the aircraft before you step through the door. In ground school you will have gone through the familiarization process and know which controls are where and how to use them.
But regardless of how familiar you are, it can feel a little daunting. But you should be put at ease by having a very experienced instructor beside you who can take over at once if needs be.
How do I start a flight school?
If you’re already a fully qualified pilot, you may be interested in becoming an instructor yourself. And if you don’t want to work for someone else, you could take a more entrepreneurial approach and actually open your own flight school.
But consider yourself warned, being an entrepreneur and setting up your own business requires a different skill set than flying an aircraft.
There are several steps you can take to start your own flight school. The good news is that many of the steps are straightforward enough. Others will take a little work or may require a helping hand.
- Write up your business plan
- Establish a legal entity for the business
- Register for taxes
- Open a business bank account
- Set up your business accounting
- Obtain all the necessary permits and licenses
- Acquire business insurance
- Establish your brand & logo
- Have your flight school website created
Before you carry out any of these steps however, the most important thing to look into is whether the business is viable. Before you can write your business plan, you will need to do some market research to determine whether there’s a gap in the market for a flight school in your area.
And if you do decide to make a go of it, we would like to wish you the best of luck!