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|
|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!