- What courses are taught at the school?
- How long has the school been in business? (AAFT has been in business at PDK airport for over 35 years)
- Accident record?
- What COVID precautions are in force at the school? (They should require all students and employees to wear proper masks at all times, sanitize hands and and take a temperature check at the beginning of each session, sanitize furniture, aircraft and simulator touch points at the beginning and end of each session and maintain social distancing on the ground – this will indicate how serious they are in general when it comes to your safety).
- Student test scores and first time pass rate?
- What form of ground school does the school provide? (DVD, home study, weekend test prep course or a full formal course with an instructor. AAFT provides over 100 hours of one-on-one ground school for the Private Pilot course).
- Do the instructors provide thorough ground briefings before and after every flight lesson? – each flight lesson should begin with a question and answer period, followed by a thorough ground briefing on the procedures to be learned on the flight, so they will be easily understood and applied in the air without confusion. A thorough post-flight briefing should also be conducted to give you valuable feedback on how well you did and how to make further improvements. At this time, you should also be told what to prepare for on the next lesson and where you are in the syllabus. A good preflight briefing could last at least 30-45 minutes and a good post-flight briefing could last that long as well. A thorough, professional instructor will provide this valuable instruction with each flight lesson and charge a professional fee for all of this time well-spent. A school which charges you nothing for briefing time will give you just the quality you paid for!
- Does the school provide private offices or classrooms for instructors to conduct ground briefings with their students? The lobby or airport restaurant is a terrible place to conduct ground training due to the noise and distraction of people talking and walking around.
- Do the instructors observe and evaluate each student every time the student is conducting a preflight aircraft inspection before each dual flight? – this should always be done for your safety and the flight instructor is ultimately responsible as pilot-in-command in the Private Pilot course.
- Are the instructors full-time employees of the company? (This is highly preferable)
- Flight instructor background (Safety record, violations, experience, age, leaving for another job soon? Is the instructor you might be placed with a full-time instructor or is instructing a weekend hobby for him or her? Are there other piloting opportunities that might interfere with scheduled lessons, etc.)
- For non-employed flight instructors – do they carry liability insurance? (You may also need to prepare a form 1099 for taxes on these individuals if they aren’t incorporated).
- Do the students take a simulated check ride with an FAA Pilot Examiner before they take the official check ride as part of their test preparation?
- Do the students get to take their FAA final check rides with the local examiner for this area or do they have to fly to another city to be tested? (This is very important!)
- Who performs the maintenance? (employed mechanic, service center, freelance mechanic)
All flight schools must use FAA-certificated mechanics, however, some mechanics are better trained and more highly-experienced than others. Some do more thorough inspections than others. Typically, the more expensive maintenance facilities provide the best and safest maintenance service – such as Epps Aviation at PDK. Generally, the cheaper the school aircraft rental rates, the less money the school owners have to spend on proper airplane maintenance.
All schools will say they keep their planes well-maintained, but at some schools, the airplane mechanical condition may say otherwise. The highest – priced airplane rental rates usually indicate the best – equipped and safest airplanes to fly. (This is a very important safety factor to look at closely!)
- Does the school provide both aircraft equipped with glass cockpit and analog panels for initial training?
- Does the school provide a commercial – grade, FAA-approved simulator for training? (Over 40% of the flight schools nationwide do not) (Also, do the instructors know how to use it effectively? – many do not)
- Does the school provide airplane power hook-up on the ramp for learning glass cockpit procedures?
- Does the school provide inflight audio / video recording of flight lessons for review after dual and solo flight sessions?
- Does the school have a base station radio and antenna system to communicate with the students who are out on solo flights?
- Look at a copy of their formal training syllabus for ground school and flight training. (A detailed formal training syllabus for both ground and flight is essential for proper training).
- Look at a list of the aircraft and hourly rates for their aircraft and instructors and a copy of their training and rental contracts.
- Obtain a list of references (former students) with phone numbers or email addresses and contact them.
- What are the typical course hours – ground school, briefings and flight – dual and solo?
- Typical cost per lesson?
- Total course average cost?
- What training materials do they use and what is the cost?
- Do they offer the convenience of providing all the training materials and pilot supplies you will need to purchase at their training facility?
- Do they provide high-end electronic active noise cancelling headsets for rental to their students for training flights? (American Air provides Bose A20 headsets for rental that are thoroughly sanitized after each use).
- What are the typical number of ground sessions and flight lessons per week?
- What are the typical number of months to complete the course? ( If just a few months – that may be a red flag)
- What is the schedule availability of the instructors and aircraft?
- Get someone to take you out on the ramp to see all of their aircraft.
- Look at their simulator and classroom.
- What are the requirements and cost for aircraft rental after you get your pilot certificate?
- Does this airport have an operating control tower, multiple runways and significant traffic
activity? (If so, this would provide the best training environment)
- Do they require and provide spin training for Private Pilot students before they solo? (This is highly desirable)
- Do their students get actual training experience on a short grass runway?
- Do their Private Pilot and Instrument Pilot students get actual Instrument weather (IFR)
experience in their courses?
- Is the instructor you will be assigned to a former or current FAA Pilot Examiner with over 45 years of experience as a full-time flight instructor? (At American Air – yes)
- What methods of payment do they accept? When is payment due? Is financing available?
- How soon can a student start at their school?
- What are the reasons why they feel that their school would be the best choice for you?
Another comparison you might be interested in is how American Air Flight Training, Inc. compares with all of the other schools nationwide when it comes to graduate pass – fail results on the final check ride.
Here are a couple of examples:
The check ride first-attempt passing rate for Steve Shaner’s Private Pilot course graduates is 99% –
using only the most thorough FAA examiners in Atlanta. The check ride passing rate for Private Pilot course graduates nationwide is 74% – including many check rides given by “Santa Claus” examiners.
The check ride first-attempt passing rate for Steve Shaner’s Flight Instructor course graduates is 100%. The check ride passing rate for Flight Instructor course graduates nationwide is 67%.
Steve’s students typically pass the check ride at the grade of outstanding, and not just meeting the minimum standard. All checkrides for AAFT graduates are given by a legitimate FAA examiner, not a Santa Claus examiner.
You do not necessarily need to ask all of the questions listed above at each school. They are provided mainly as food for thought, so you can ask the questions that seem most pertinent to your interests. You should also take note of how neat, clean and organized the facilities are at each school as well as how professional the employees look and act. This can be an indicator of how much they care about the important details of the quality and safety in your training and the maintenance of the aircraft you will be flying. The employees should look and act professional.
Your decision may boil down to whether you are looking for “quick and cheap” or “thorough and safe”. Unfortunately, there are no schools that can offer you thorough and safe training that is also quick and cheap. After you finish this process with the schools you are considering, you should have a good feel for what’s out there. You will then know what kind of time and cost commitment you will have to make. Once you have decided when and where to train, getting started is easy. Usually with a one to two week notice, a flight school can get you on the schedule and begin your training. You will then set out on one of the most wonderful and challenging adventures of your life!