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Flight school recommendation resource?

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soundthinker

Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2008
Messages
19
Location
Chicago
Hello all,

I've had little success in finding a resource for credible flight school reviews. Are there any specific forums or other websites you could point me to?

I'm in Chicago and there are plenty of schools to choose from but no student testimonials aside from those the schools publish themselves. I'd like to go beyond calling and asking the 20-How-To-Choose-A-School-Questions, as informative as that can be.

This would be for a PPL.

Thanks.


/jim
 

addaon

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Joined
Feb 24, 2008
Messages
1,686
Location
San Jose, CA
Hang out at the airport. Talk to people, see what people like. Compare prices; even a thousand dollars is enough to make a difference. Look at club amenities; you need nice places to wait, computers to check weather. Make sure that whatever you're flying (pretty exactly -- for me, 172 SP with G-1000 avionics was my trainer), the club has at least two and preferably three, so that when one is in the shop, you still have something to fly. Choose a club based on these factors, and then talk to their students to get a sense of what instructor to start with. Be willing to change instructors; it's not just skill or personality, it's learning style.
 

Topaz

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Jul 29, 2005
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14,255
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Orange County, California
I'll second addaon, and also suggest that you see if you can find a good club, as opposed to a regular FBO/Flight School (commercial flight-school business).

If you're serious about getting flight training (and by that I mean you aren't going to let the process 'drag out' unduly), flying clubs can cut the cost of your flight training significantly. At my club, for example, there is no aircraft rental fee. You pay only for instruction and tows (it's a glider club), and your monthly dues ($50) grants you free use of the aircraft. Instruction is $40 for a 1.5 hour block, and tows are prorated on release altitude.

If you're really money conscious, you might consider getting your PPL in gliders first. It's generally cheaper than getting one in powered aircraft, and when you want to take the next step, getting into powered aircraft is simply a matter of adding an SEL rating to your existing PPL - you don't have to go through all the steps to get a new license. Over the course of the whole process, this might save you quite a bit of money if you're willing to go that route.
 

Dana

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9,435
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CT, USA
You also need to consider how the school (and its aircraft) match the kind of flying you want to do. You want to fly fast, "going places" kind of airplanes, you want a school near the city with that kind of airplanes. You want ot fly classic airplanes around the patch on a Saturday afternoon, you want a laid back school at a smaller airport out in the countryside.

-Dana

America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.
 

wally

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Joined
Mar 31, 2004
Messages
930
Location
southwest TN.
Here is another little piece of info.

I attended an FAA/AOPA sponsored presentation on GPS last week. The speaker was excellent btw.

One of the many good bits of info I took home was about a study done (somehwere) about learning in a Glass Cockpit plane vs. learning in a conventional gages cockpit.

They took two groups of students all the way through an Instrument licence - one group in each type of plane. Then they switched groups to see if there was any difference in how switching to the other type of cockpit would be after you learned to fly.

The result was the folks who had learned in the conventional cockpit had an easier transition to a glass cockpit over the the people who went from glass cockpit back to conventional.

So don't worry if you are taking lessons in an old, tired C-150 or C-152 with steam gages. The real secret to getting a pilot's license is finding that right-for-you instructor to sit next to you. If he is a competent instructor and "on your wavelength" so to speak, and you really want to learn, then it will work well. And don't be afraid to switch instructors if you find the guy or girl and you don't "click" or fit well with after a few lessons.

Best wishes,
Wally
 

soundthinker

Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2008
Messages
19
Location
Chicago
Thanks for all the replies so far. I've always wanted to learn to fly gliders, but never thought to do that first. hmmm food for thought.

/jim
 

addaon

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Feb 24, 2008
Messages
1,686
Location
San Jose, CA
Yeah, my motivation on learning in glass was that I was smack in the middle of SFO airspace, and having one fewer thing to worry about really did save me training time. If I was learning somewhere else a bit less hectic, I would definitely have started with steam.
 

BBerson

Light Plane Philosopher
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Port Townsend WA
I saved money by rebuilding an Aeronca Chief and used it to build time after soloing in a C-150.
If you intend to buy or build an airplane, why not do that first. Then all you need is a solo signoff to fly it solo.
BB
 

soundthinker

Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2008
Messages
19
Location
Chicago
Most of the schools I've looked at have 172s in either flavor. I'm biased towards learning on steam.

addaon, what are some of the benefits of glass in a busy airspace? I'll be learning in the Chicago area.

/jim
 

addaon

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Feb 24, 2008
Messages
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San Jose, CA
Jim, there are two big advantages.

1) Instruments are easier to read. Yes, you get used to steam gauges pretty quick; it took me about half an hour to get comfortable with them on the Champ I'm flying now. But when it comes to remembering actual speeds for Vx vs. Vy, having them right there is about as good as it gets. This is even more valid for altitude. Sure, a round altitude gauge only takes a second or two to read; but that's still a lot longer than checking the glass readout and getting vertical speed... and when I'm skimming that 500 foot layer between air spaces, I'm likely checking altitude/VSI every ten or twenty seconds.

2) Which brings you to knowing your air space. You have to learn to read a sectional, and know where you are on it without a GPS; but lets be realistic, if you're flying busy airspace, how often are you going to have no GPS? I always do flight planning on a paper map; and then use GPS for the entire flight as my main navigation. In the case of a GPS failure (and no other system failure), my plan is to circle for however long it takes to transition back to paper map land, and probably avoid some of the trickier transitions. With the G-1000, I always have full airspace maps up on the MFD, and can use the cursor to ask about airspace at any position. For example, heading down the coast after a bay tour and avoiding class B means ducking to 1500 just off the coast; or 2100 a little bit out. I usually take this at 1200 feet or so; but if it's crowded (quite common!) or if I'm getting mechanical turbulence, I'm going to climb to 2000. So when can I cross the magic 1500 line? I'm looking at the GPS to tell me when I'm clear.
 

RacerCFIIDave

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Joined
Feb 8, 2008
Messages
412
Location
Asheville, NC
I would suggest finding someone that tells you up front that the FAA minimums are silly and that to be a proper pilot you must learn more than that just to start...and never stop...

If you are planning to become a professional pilot...you should seek out an instructor that has access to many different airplanes...

One that teaches aerobatics to every student...not so you can win competitions, or do airshows...though thats fun too...but to keep you alive!

I happen to know such an instructor...if you can make it to NC...:)

I have told this tale before here...but for the student pilots out there...and that is all of us...

I was once told by John Young... "I learn something every time I get in an airplane" and this was shortly after I got my CFI...and he was not long back from STS-1... so...if HE says he still has things to learn...so do we all...

In Liberty,

Dave
 

rpellicciotti

Active Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2005
Messages
43
Location
Memphis, TN
Hello all,

I've had little success in finding a resource for credible flight school reviews. Are there any specific forums or other websites you could point me to?

I'm in Chicago and there are plenty of schools to choose from but no student testimonials aside from those the schools publish themselves. I'd like to go beyond calling and asking the 20-How-To-Choose-A-School-Questions, as informative as that can be.

This would be for a PPL.

Thanks.


/jim
If you have not done it yet, join AOPA. Then, sign up for your free six month subscription to Flight Training Magazine. Lot's of good stuff in there. Flight schools that advertise in this magazine tend to be top drawer. As a member of AOPA, their member services department can tell you if any other members have complained about a particular school.
 
Last edited:

etterre

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Joined
Aug 30, 2006
Messages
313
Location
St. Louis, MO, USA
How much time can you spend on this every week? For me, one hour of dual instruction comes at a cost of four hours of clock time. Why? 1 hour drive to the airport + 0.5 hour preflight + 1 hour of flight + 0.5 hour debrief/logbook/turn in keys + 1 hour drive to home/work So, for me at least, I'd be a little more concerned with finding somebody who is "close" than somebody who is "real good" If I could have taken lessons somewhere closer, then it would have been a whole lot easier to take 2-3 lessons a week. Remember that you're going to the flight school to learn a skill - it's about getting the practice to train your brain to do things like maintaining speed and altitude without consciously thinking about it. The more often you practice a skill, the better you learn it.

Next question: There is also the "book learning" part to consider - airspace definitions, the FARs, etc. Do you need a classroom/lectures/tests sort of environment to learn this stuff or can you pick up a book and learn it on your own? If you don't need a classroom, then don't pay for one.

Last point: If everything else is equal, pick the school with the most planes of the type you'll be flying. My first flight school was great - I had a good instructor, I loved the airplane (a Luscombe 8A), it was close, and the rates were great. But they only had one airplane. If I had been smarter, I would have done everything I could to get 3 lessons a week. Unfortunately, I only scheduled one lesson a week... so weather and maintenance stretched my training out until someone really broke the airplane and the school went out of business. The place I'm going now has 3 152's, but I still had to cancel a flight yesterday because all three were down for maintenance. A canceled flight happens a lot less often, but it still happens.
 

addaon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2008
Messages
1,686
Location
San Jose, CA
Yep. I'd confirm that for a busy school, three seems to be the minimum of a type that would be safe, in terms of avoiding maintenance cancellations most (but not all) of the time.
 

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