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Flight School/Flight Training Question

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Well-known member
Dec 1, 2001
I've got a friend who's interested in a career as a professional pilot. I've been out of the Part 91/141 environment for quite some time so I was hoping to get your input on the quality of flight schools.

Do you think the Ab Initio programs are the best way to go? Which one's are the best. Which one's are the worst. What would you recommend to someone just starting out (besides don't do it! I've already tried to talk him out of it!!) I think flight instructing is one of the best ways to develop a solid foundation for an aspiring professional, however seniority is everything so I've suggested he look at some of these schools that offer bridge programs.

He's looking at Flight Safety in Vero Beach. I suggested he look at Mesa's program as well. I understand they provide an interview for a Part 121 flying job following the completion of training. I don't know if they are any good, though. He lives in the DFW area, so if anyone has input on Ab Initio programs in that area, I'd appreciate your input as well.

Thanks for your help!.....John
College degree?

John --

Does your friend have a college degree? If not, then I would STRONGLY recommend a program (ERAU, UND, Purdue, etc.) that would combine a college degree with flight training.

If s/he already has a college degree, a Part 141 school is an excellent idea. FSI in Vero Beach has an excellent reputation, from all reports, and would seem like a good place to go. The feedback I've heard on it has generally been better than on Comair, though I do have some friends who've come through that program.

As for the Mesa program (and other similar ones), remember they only guarantee an interview ... being hired is quite another matter. Mesa currently still has folks on furlough, if I'm not dreadfully mistaken.

Schools in the DFW area ... ATP is the only program I know of that is in the area ... they're down at Grand Prairie (GPM). Upshot of ATP is that you do almost all your flying in twins. Some programs (ATP is one) require a single-engine private pilot before you start. I believe Monarch Air at Addison (ADS) is one of the larger flight schools in the Metroplex.

My advice to your friend is to ask lots of questions, make lots of phone calls, and get ready for some lean years. Almost everyone winds up flight instructing for a while, and while a rewarding and educational experience, it is not a high-paying one! There are lots of opportunities in this business, but you have to have a lot of perseverance to see it through to them, especially in today's environment.



Thanks for your input. Very good point about the degree.
I meant to mention that he has one. I will forward your

FSI and Mesa

I instructed at FSI and Mesa. If he goes to Mesa, he still has to earn the A.S. in Aero Science at San Juan College. Really, there's nothing wrong with that. The coursework and classroom settings are good experiences. I taught Advanced Commercial Ground for one term. Depending on what he studied at his four-year school, chances are he'll only have to take the aviation courses. Maybe just 30 hours at the most.

True, Mesa offers a chance to have a chance at an interview. I worded it that way on purpose. Nothing is promised. This is not P-F-T. MAPD trainees have plenty of hoops through which to jump to get to "the interview" and they have to walk the line. No personality types or screwoffs will get "the interview." The hoops and line are a challenge in and of themselves. Mesa does not officially offer a single-engine Commercial rating, and does not offer a CFI.

I like Mesa's ab initio program and it's a good way to go, provided that one can segue right into class. Otherwise the skills and learning can go stale quickly.

FSI is an excellent Part 141 program. Students get great training. They do most of their instrument flying in Seminoles. They get a full serving of spin and unusual attitudes training. Mesa students don't get that. The FSI program takes about six months to complete. One thing I like about FSI is a student's nose placed against the grindstone, but the workload is not an overwhelming, firehose approach. Three of the folks who are in charge of the place were there when I was there ten years ago. All three are top people. Now, after graduation, students can get their single-engine commercial under Part 61 and can get their CFIs. Those are not included in the 141 Commercial-Instrument-Multi course. There are job opportunities after graduation at FSI, but I've heard that there is a seven-month waiting list for instructor slots. Of course, the way that aviation operates that could change overnight. The commuters pick up FSI trainees. You can't beat FlightSafety for name recognition.

Both programs are expensive. I think, though, that you get what you pay for if you put forth your best effort.

Hope that helps some more.
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Greetings John,

Wanted to relay what a buddy of mine experienced as he did training at both Comair (SFB) and ATA (ORL) in Orlando. He liked ATA better mainly because they were more "realistic" in their marketing.
I would suggest your friend tap into this message board. There has been a lot of debate regarding PFT and it is still on the board.
As far as having a degree, I got two of them he can have...I never use them:D .
Any big flight school can be a pain in the a** sometimes with all of the hoop jumping but, for the moment, Comair has the best thing going. They are hiring their students as CFI's right after the completion of CFII and they are providing the guaranteed interview at 1000TT/100ME/800 dual given academy. The people being interviewed are being hired for the most part, though some are not.

Not many other regionals are hiring right now, definitely not at 1000/100. Comair mins from the outside are 1800/500 and those are well below competitive. Not to mention the fact that Comair is an excellent airline, not some podunk operation.

Not many other big flight schools are hiring CFI's right now either without a long wait.

Yes, it's more expensive than Part 61. Probably cheaper than Riddle or FSI. But at the end there is something there. This will probably change in the next few years and Comair won't have the only low time jobs to offer but for now...

Now, I did mention that it could be a pain in the a$$, so don't you all accuse me of being a marketing rep. Those who have stuck with it and run the gauntlet have found themselves in a very nice position for low timers.

BTW, I hear nothing good ever about ATA. I would stay as far away from that place as I possibly could, contrary to the earlier post. Judging from what I see in the practice area, at the airports, and hear on the radios, they are not the greatest pilots. This goes for their "airline" too--Discover Air. If you see a red and white Brasilia up there, look out. They generally have to receive their clearance at least 5 times to get it right.

I think that the programs offered at ATA or FSI all offer great training. My problem with these programs is that many don't offer single commercial programs or cfi training. Here is an example. A guy came to our fbo recently wanting to get his cfi, he was a recent graduate of the mesa program. He got his interview and started flying with mesa for about a week. Then 9/11. Ten's of thousands of dollars later he was furloughed with 350 hours of flying time. The CFI who started his training at our fbo said he lacked some of the basic knowledge about flying which slowed his training dramatically. The student became very frustrated with his progress and we never saw him again. I guess my point is that when being trained to fly a beech 1900 and being trained to eventually become a cfi can produce a totally different pilot. Also, don't let these programs offer something that they can't provide, as we all know the job market is definetly below par.

I would recommend finding a fbo that offers flight training. If the fbo has charter this is even better. Find an fbo that provides training for a local college or university, this will insure plenty of students. The time will add up quickly. I've been a instructor for just over a year (part-time) and have flown over 600 hours. I think the safest bet would be to stick with the fbo's, there are more oppurtunities for potential jobs.

Just my opinion.

Supsup, 172 Driver, SDF2BUF2MCO, Bobbysamd, and Russ:

Great info! Thanks so much for taking the time to offer your
insightful comments. I'll pass them along to my friend and direct him to follow this message board.

Let me know if I can ever return the favor....John
172driver, I take your comments about pilot quality at ATA very personally. I happen to be a graduate of that school and I don't think the students there are any worse than any other that come from an academy environment. First of all, 90% of the instructors at ATA got their CFI's at Comair but either didn't want to work there and recieve meager wages and be treated like dirt by their employer or they didn't want to wait for 6 months to get hired by them seeing how there is currently a 3-4 month wait for standardization class (required to instruct there). Not to mention that they're putting out way more CFI's than they can hire. I have a friend there right now working on CFI's and he said there are around 100 CFI students. There is no way they are going to hire all of them. I also personally know 5 people who graduated from Comair and who don't have CFI jobs. Second of all Discover Air, owned by the same people who own ATA and not related to the academy in any way, hires pilots from the outside, many of them flight instructors and 135 charter guys with several thousand hours. Don't get me wrong, Comair is one of the best flight schools around, I did my private, instrument and commercial tickets there. Check it out. Just don't believe everything the marketing reps tell you! ATA's program is very similar to Mesa's except that we train to fly a Canadair Regional Jet instead of a 1900 and they place grads in several airlines rather than just one. They also don't include a college degree. Check it out too. I have heard very good things about FSI but remember all of these schools are very expensive. You are basically buying a seniority date sooner with an airline bridge program than if you build time the old fashioned way.
From personal experience, I'd be wary, at least initially, of the FBO program associated with a local college. It is extremely likely that the FBO cannot possibly absorb, i.e.: hire, the number of CFI's being generated each year, particularly a two year type of program.

Otherwise, start with the above info and do some legwork. If we all are fortunate, hiring will pick up by the time your friend completes his program.

I vote for the CFI route no matter what program he undertakes. There is nothing keeping him from doing that concurrently with other training, and it may even be a help to have the CFI training as an additional skill in a program that doesn't normally include the CFI.

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