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Flight School/Flight Training Question

UPSFO

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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
 

flywithruss

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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.

Tailwinds,

R
 

UPSFO

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R-

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


...John
 

bobbysamd

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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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SDF2BUF2MCO

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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 .
 

172driver

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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.
 

supsup

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training

UPSFO,
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
 

UPSFO

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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
 

Marcus

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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.
 

Timebuilder

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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.
 

172driver

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Marcus,

Fair enough. I respect your defense of ATA but I only speak of what I see out there and it is bad...much worse than Riddle, FSI, Comair, Air Orlando, or any of the FBO's. The CFI's seem lost and are constantly being griped at by approach. Maybe I just see the bad stuff? BTW, most of the CFI's trained at Comair and working at ATA are there because they didn't get hired at Comair or couldn't complete the program for a variety of reasons.

When was the last time ATA placed someone at an airline? You say they place people at several. So does Comair...before September of last year that is.

I'm sure there are many quality people there but I see and hear bad things and was only trying to share the info. Bottom line is that a sharp, hard working student can pretty much succeed anywhere.
 

Chunk

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172driver,

Lost, huh? I guess the comair guy that decided that self-announcing on CTAF tonight in VRB was optional (with 5 in the pattern) and noise abatement in Vero doesn't matter?

There are dumb@sses at all schools....Comair certainly doesn't have an untarnished image...

I go to FSI. I do not work for marketing, in fact I'm a mere student (not on the payroll), I wonder about you. Who signs your checks....I bet it's the marketing manager at Conair....



Chunk
 

Pirep1

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I, unfortunately, have to agree with 172Driver. I, also fly in the same airspace as ATA. I've had to many scary "coincidences" with redtails to make it random occurences (especially at Leesburg). Chunk is right that all schools have dumba$$#$ (even FSI), but there comes a point where you have to believe some places have more than others. See and be seen (and heard, with correct position reports). Chunk, I don't know how you would know it was a Comair plane in Vero's pattern at night, I don't know why they would fly that far down South to do touch n go's. Usually, all I see from planes anyways at night is nav lights and strobes, but if they weren't making calls, that's not a good thing. I've not had too many complaints against Comair guys, they are usually good, safe pilots to share airspace with. I guess the only complaint I would have is that there are too many of them making too many calls. Busy airspace! But I guess that makes for a good heads up pilot, we hope.
 

Brokepilot

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I realize that your friend is looking to go to school somewhere near Vero Beach, so this may not be of any help to you. But, please if they decide to train in the DFW area DO NOT LET THEM GO TO INTERNATIONAL AVIATION AND TRAVEL ACADEMY. This school. as I've said before on this board, will rob you blind. They are dishonest and even if you decide to quit they still want you to pay for the entire cost of the course. The owner and office persons that run the course are not pilots and do not understand many things that pilots take for granted. For example: it takes two pilots to perform simulated instrument approaches if one is under the hood. You know its the little things in life like SAFETY that they want to cut corners on.

OK, sorry to go off there for a minute. Just steer your friend clear of IATAC.

Good Luck
Brokepilot
 

PilotOnTheRise

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Before looking into a Part 141 school, look into what Part 61 instructors are around his area and what they have to offer. I understand that pilots recommend going to Part 141 schools for ratings, however aren't ratings, ratings afterall. Most Part 141 schools are very expensive for what you get. Flight Safeties basic program includes the following ratings; Private, Instrument, Multi-Engine, Commercial Multi-Engine. That leaves out all of the CFIs and a Single Engine Commercial. The total price is $44K. To ad the remainder of the ratings it costs around $71K. Not to mention that $1500 of the $44K includes 27 hours on Microsofts Flight Simulator at a computer like you are probably sitting at now. Yes, thats right, they charge $55/hr for Flight simulator, that I can by for less than that and play all I want. IMHO that is a complete rip-off and I will never go there. Im sure there is a Flight Safety guy ready to argue his case, but I'm sitting right here with their information I received in the mail and anyone is welcome to request it from them and see for themselves. I am currently working on my ratings Part 61. I can get all of the ratings I will need for starts, including; Private, Instrument, Commercial, Commercial-Multi-Instrument and my CFI for about a little less than $20K with my current instructor. I get more one on one, because my instructor is free lance and does not have to rush to fit 5 flights a day or more in, etc. I can do it at my own pace .. if I want to get all of them in 24 weeks as you would with Flight Safety or if I want to take a year or more I can. That is not to knock Flight Safety or any other Part 141 school, however, you do not have to go to a Part 141 school to get your ratings, often doing it Part 61 is cheaper and you also end up with more hours when you are done than with a Part 141.
My point is this .. he needs to go to the school he wants, if it be Flight Safety, COMAIR, Pan Am or whoever. But don't forget about the Part 61 guys out there. They are just as good and often more convenient if you have a guy right there in your own home town.
 

bobbysamd

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FlightSafety sim time

Your comment about FSI sim training is misleading. Below is the course outline I copied from http://www.flightsafetyacademy.com/career.htm :

HOURS INSTRUCTION
176.0 Academic Class
26.0 Crew Resource Management (CRM)/Human Factor
44.0 Dual Flight Warrior Cadet VFR.
61.0 Solo Practice Flight Warrior Cadet
55.0 Multiengine Instruction Dual Flight Seminole
4.0 Unusual Attitude/Spin Recovery - Zlin 242L
30.0 Flight Trainer (Frasca - 142)
110.0 Flight Briefing
27.0 Microsoft Lab
(emphasis added)

The course really isn't much different than when I taught there ten years ago. We didn't have Zlins, but taught the unusual attitudes in Aerobat 152s. Before we used those, we used either a Citabria or a Decathlon. The Microsoft Lab is new, which is understandable with the advent of powerful computers during the past ten years. But, most of the sim time is still in the Frascas. I don't believe that Microsoft Lab can count for flight training device time per Part 61.

Read some my other FSI posts. In a nutshell, I had my differences with Vero's management, which is why I left after just over a year. But, I know the people who are in charge now because I knew them back then. They are first-class people. Notwithstanding my experiences working there, I'd recommend FSI to anyone for flight training. Of course, price is a consideration.
 

PilotOnTheRise

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1) I never said that the sim training was done on Microsoft Flight Sim. I said that 27hrs that cost $1500, was sitting at a computer in a lab, they title "Microsoft Lab". That comes out to be around $55/hr you pay to play Flight Sim. The game itself cost less than $55, depending on where you get it. I think that 27hrs on flight sim does nothing and I can get a complete rating, or 27 hrs actual flight time for $1500 where I live/am getting my ratings. And you are correct, no you cannot log Microsoft Flight Sim time .. thats the point of it being ridiculous to play 27hrs at $55/hr on it, when you could be paying $55/hr to rent a 150 and get actual flight time. Yes, with FSI you do get actual sim time, that you can log .. Why not do more of that than charge $1500 to play Flight Sim.

2) My statement about what ratings you get in the basic program are not misleading. For $44K there is ALOT of things missing that any pilot, wishing to fly professionally should have! I realize that there are other programs they have that may get you those ... but from the brochures I got from them, to add the rest would cost approx. $71K. (Maybe I got a messed up copy of their training brochures and prices, maybe there copy machine went crazy, but Im not reading exactly what you are saying.)

3) The CRM training!!! -- Don't you get that while in training when you get hired by an airline anyway!?! And it is free with the airline -- wonder how much FSI charges for it?

4) There are some other things I am reading that they charge for as well that are ridiculous, that are listed on the back of the brochure with training costs. I do not wish to list all and sit here and start a huge argument over FSI ... although I probably already have.

I am sure FSI is a good school and I do not mean to make them to sound like a bad school -- if I had to recommend going to a Part 141 school, it would probably be them. However ... I don't feel the training you get there is better than anywhere else, I think all you get, honestly, is the name. I also feel as if some of their prices are ridiculous ... but it is not FSI I feel this way about .. it is most all 141 schools. I was simply making the point, to look into some Part 61 stuff and not just concentrate on Part 141 schools.
 

Chunk

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FSI

172driver,

How hard is it to look up the owner of an N-number....? Not very.


Pilotontherise,

You say you don't want to knock FSI, but then proceed to make judgments about things you know nothing about. The MS sim is free - unlimited use after checkout. The $$ is for the CFI to sit next to you for the first few (3) hours. No one I know pays that kind of dough for the MS lab.

I've trained in many different environments....FBO, university, military, and now large school (FSI). I'd certainly rank my military training in the number one spot, just because of the resources available to the student/instructor. However, FSI is a close second, in fact, better in some areas. For example, my weather classes are taught by a retired EAL dispatcher with 30 years experience PLUS a masters in Wx. Did my FBO offer that? No! Can yours? Doubtful. Is FSI for everyone? No. Is FSI the only way? Of course not. Should you, or anyone else, knock us who have made the financial and time commitment to doing our training at what we consider the best civilian flight school in the world, just because it's not what you chose? No!

On a few of the forums I participate in, it seems like a sport to knock anyone who goes to a big school. I'm kinda tired of it. I assure you, we don't sit around knocking FBO guys over lunch....that's where most of us started.

Just speaking my peace,

Chunk
 
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172driver

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Pilotontherise,

I agree that Pt 61 is a good route. However, I think you are exaggerating the lower cost. Come back when you have all of your ratings and tell us how much they cost. At the $20,000 you quoted, that works out to $80/hr for CFI and plane just to get your 250 hrs for Commercial single. Hmmm, sounds a little lower than any FBO I've ever seen. So, let's say $25,000 for CASEL. Then add 20-30 hrs of multi in there and you're looking at another $5,000. CFI, CFII, MEI will be at least $5000 more, probably closer to 10K. Miscellaneous ground work, sim time, etc will be added in. Minimum of $35K, if you do it in minimum time which most don't, hence the high prices quoted by 141 schools. Most of the reputable schools quote avg cost, not minimums. Yes, 141 schools have higher rates and you pay for ground school but the difference is not as great as you think. BTW, students can get a Commercial ticket at some 141 schools with around 120 hrs. The rates may be higher per hr but if you can cut the hrs in half...

de727ups,

Sounds like a great idea. Maybe they'll even find someone who wants a right-seater in a C172 seaplane? Hope it works out for you.

I work at a 141 school and though i am a low timer, I have signed off 12 IFR students and 8 CFI-I, not to mention a load of private, commercial, and CFI students. Sounds like in my one yr of instructing, I am pushing your numbers. I may not have your overall experience but am very, very current and proficient. What's more important...total time or recency of the time? I think both are important but don't think my lack of total time hurts my students too much. For what I train them to do, I am at the top of my game. If asked to fly a 727 or even a C172 into ATL or ORD, I might be lacking a bit. To teach approaches and holds at 90 kts, I'm your man. Of course they will pay a bit more than 3-4K to do it.
 
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172driver

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Agreed completely. I do want to get out of here but...i love instructing and will come back to it. I definitely give it my best effort. Hopefully, when I come back, it will be in the Part 61 world. It's the bureaucracy of 141 that makes instructing tough.

Yes, we fly in IMC, no GPS, no autopilot. Just a couple VOR's and an ADF, sometimes DME. How ridiculous would that be if we didn't...I would leave that school in a hurry. Nor would I ever sign anyone off who's never seen the inside of a cloud. At least I wouldn't sign them off with much confidence. The hood is hardly a substitute as you know.

Not much IFR outside of training, though I don't see much difference. An instrument X-C is the same as real life IFR flying and is MUCH easier than the training environment where we'll shoot 4 approaches in 1.5 hrs. That's tough. In real life you have 1.5+ just to set up for the one approach you're going to shoot. You're right though, it is experience that counts, and I'm working on it. I'm sure I could learn much from you and you a little from me. Good luck with your school. Sounds like a great idea and it will be fun to drive the little planes again with students, I'm sure.
 
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