First Steps and Flight Ride-Along

I spent 4.5 years at ERAU surrounded by thousands of student pilots and never bothered to learn anything about flight, flight schools, flight programs, etc. My bad.

Fortunately, I found this:

It conveniently lists everything one would need to know about starting a flight program (so I think – note I just started my first online ground lesson today).

Next: time to pick a school!

I found 6 schools in Fairbanks. Proflite, Warbelows, Kirst, FlightTrain, Larry’s, Tamarack.

Maybe this opinion is too ‘modern’ of me, but having a up-to-date website is important! That eliminated 3. I am doing all this flight stuff in fall….and can eliminate 1 school because they’re only taking students in summer. 2* to go.

Their websites are both great. Costs are fairly close. Time to visit the schools & make the final decision.

From AOPA’s pages, I made a spreadsheet of questions to ask. Posted here for the curious:

Are progressive flight checks given? (These checks evaluate your progress during the pilot training program.)
Instructor-to-student ratio: desire 4/5 full-time students/CFI, 10+ part-time
Who schedules flying lessons, and how is it done?
What happens when weather or maintenance problems cancel a flying lesson?
Who’s responsible for rescheduling lessons and reporting maintenance problems?
What are the insurance requirements of the school, and how do its liability and collision policies work?
Will you be responsible for a deductible; how much is that deductible in the event of a loss?
What is your coverage as a student pilot?
Who keeps your records?
Ground school – classroom or at-home-online?
training airplane maintenance policies and procedures
training and experience of the flight instructor
average flight time
pass/fail rate is among the instructors
books and supplies, aviation ground school, flight testing, and FAA written examination fees
refund policy if I need to stop for some reason
instruction cost
aircraft rental cost
is instructor is paid for pre- and postflight briefings in addition to flight time.
student pilot certificate – which medical examiners are recommended?
medical exam required before ground school?

Without going into details*, one school had an awesome instructor I’d be completely comfortable learning with, but the other school seemed to have a more comprehensive and structured program, many instructors to choose from, and many more types of training aircraft.  The ability to rent the training aircraft after I got my licence was also an important factor (I wasn’t sure if I wanted to join a flying club and graduate students certainly don’t make enough money to buy their own planes). It was a really hard choice! After some general facebook queries to pilot friends, I finally decided.

*specific details not posted because I don’t want to get sued for defamation or anything like that. Please note I didn’t find anything at the 2 schools I visited that I would disqualify them from my consideration. Either would be a great place to learn! Comment below if you’d like more information in a private communiqué.

— advice from my Facebook wall —

Aircraft avionics: at ERAU, all trainer aircraft were ‘glass cockpit’ meaning a LCD display of all your instruments. In Fairbanks, all trainers I’ve seen are the traditional ‘6-pack’ instruments:


Recommendations were to go with 6-pack trainers unless you plan on being a professional airline pilot one day. Planes with traditional instruments are cheaper to rent and will probably be the type of plane that a normal person would be able to afford (when buying a personal plane)

Choosing an instructor: ERAU has the bad practice of sometimes bouncing student pilots around a lot of CFIs during their training. This was a major concern of mine after visiting the second school. Would the instructors even remember where I was in my training when they had to juggle many students? Double check the record keeping practices of the school concerning your flight progress.


Today I went to fill out paperwork and get my books.


Went up for a super short flight when the school was testing a new transponder…made n00b mistake of not shutting my door hard enough….heart still pounding that the door opened at 2000ft. oops. Hope I can live this down.

Books & online Jeppesen ground school course were $350. Wow. Haven’t paid that much for books since freshman year, sheesh. But having my private pilot certificate will afford me a freedom to explore Alaska that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I could just explore the state with commercial Era flights, but it would cost me about the same. This way, I’ll have a lifetime skill forever!



2 thoughts on “First Steps and Flight Ride-Along

  1. Don’t feel too bad about the door, especially if you’re flying a 152 because there was an AD (you’ll read about those soon) about the door that was optional and not everyone fixed it. My last school didn’t and my door always opened on take off. It happens.
    I did the same as you at first and wrote off schools without good websites. I ended up switching to one of the schools with an older website due to problems at my old school and then a recommendation from another pilot for my new school. Best thing I ever did, I do want to try to convince then to get a better site, but they are older men who don’t know too much about technology. They do know a lot about flying though!
    Good luck with your flight training! Can’t wait to read more!


    1. Yep, a 152. I can’t tell how beat up it had been before my school bought it (it’s ‘new’), but we went over a small bump in the taxiway and were showered with water droplets (rain accumulation from earlier in the day). Hope it is well sealed before -20F flying…. 😉 Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in the door experience, haha.

      I really look forward to reading through all your posts – great insights in the entries I’ve read so far. It’ll be calming to experience stuff through your eyes first.

      Best wishes for your flight training too!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s