How to choose a flight school for airline pilot training?

This guide helps you to choose the best flight school for your commercial pilot training. If you are looking to fly as a hobby, not all of the points in this article may apply.

Before we summarize all the key factors, let’s think a bit first – why do you actually look for a flight school or what do you actually pay for in the flight school? Is it for pilot training, or to become an airline pilot? The second answer is correct.

So, the most important thing when choosing a flight school is its connections to airlines and its ability to provide you with a pilot job once you have finished your training. If there is no support from your flight school, then you are on your own once you start searching for a job, which may be very difficult sometimes.

This also ensures the quality of the flight school. Flight schools with lower quality would probably not have any connections with airlines. They won’t be interested in collaborating with a training organisation that provides cadets of a low standard.

But to start from the beginning, here is a complete list of the factors to consider when choosing the best flight school.

1.) Cost

Cost is usually the first thing which comes to mind when choosing a flight school. But if not absolutely necessary, this should be actually one of the last aspects to consider.

Don’t compare just the price itself, compare also what is included in the price. Different flight schools include different things in the cost they advertise. Things which may or may not be included are VAT, landing fees, navigation fees, instructor cost, fuel surcharges, exams and training materials.

How the flight training is paid is also important. In general, there are three options – everything in advance, in several instalments or pay as you go. The last one is usually the most beneficial for you. There is no risk you will lose your money if something happens with your flight school and you also don’t need all the money available before you start your training.

2.) Training environment

You should choose an established flight school, which has been in the training industry a long time. The flight school should have its own training facility with all the necessary equipment (classrooms, briefing rooms) and enough personnel to cover the training requirements. Avoid “one man show” schools.

The flight school should operate from suitable airports. You need different equipment for different phases of the training. You can’t expect the whole training to be done on a local grass strip.

Flight training devices or flight simulators are an advantage. Usually only large flight schools own them.

3.) Aircraft

Look for modern-equipped, new and well-maintained airplanes. As a rule of thumb, you can consider a plane to be new if it’s no more than 10 years old. So, it’s bit different than measuring the age of a car. You can easily find many flight schools using planes 30 years old or older.

As most airlines use glass cockpit-equipped aircraft nowadays (LCD screens instead of classic gauges), it makes sense to use glass cockpit-equipped planes for the training as well.

The flight school should have more than one plane available to prevent training gaps during maintenance. Airplane to student ratio is also important. As a rule of thumb, the school should have 1 aircraft per 4 – 5 students.

4.) Instructors

The flight school you choose should have well-trained instructors with experience. It’s usually OK to have instructors with less experience for the initial part of the training. But look for experienced instructors for the key phases of your training, such as instrument rating or MCC. It’s usually better to have airline pilots (or former pilots) to train this.

In non-English countries, it’s necessary that the instructors speak English with you. This will pay off significantly in the future.

The school should have the number of instructors to cover the training requirements. Instructor to student ratio should be 1 instructor per 4 – 5 students.

Instructors should spend sufficient time with the students. This means not only training flight, but also briefing and de-briefing.

5.) School policy

It’s also important to know what happens if you quit your training. Some schools demand that you pay all the training in advance or in a few instalments. If, for example, you cancel your training for medical reasons, be sure you get your money back.

6.) Career opportunities

As stated in the first few paragraphs of this article, this is actually the most important thing. Choose a flight school that helps you to get a job once you finish your training.

There are many flight schools or other training organisations that cooperate with airlines or offer MPL schemes with a secured job at the end of the training.

To make an informed decision, it’s highly recommended to visit several flight schools in person before you start. Some flight schools can have top-notch website presentation, but in reality, you may find out it’s a one man show that does not really have the environment ready to train airline pilots.

List of questions to ask when you visit a flight school:

1.) Cost

  • What is the cost of the complete flight training?
  • What is included in the cost and what is not included? (VAT, landing fees, navigation fees, instructor cost, fuel surcharges, exams, training materials)
  • How is the training paid? Is it paid all in advance, in instalments, pay as you go…?

2.) Training environment

  • How long have you been in commercial pilot training?
  • Can I see your training facility?
  • What airports do you use for the training?
  • Do you have any flight simulators or flight training devices?

3.) Aircraft

  • How many airplanes do you have and what types?
  • What is the average age of your fleet?
  • What is the airplane-to-student ratio?
  • What is the avionics equipment? Are airplanes glass cockpit-equipped?
  • What types do you use for which phases of the training?
  • How is the maintenance? Where are the airplanes maintained?

4.) Instructors

  • How many instructors do you have?
  • What is the instructor-to-student ratio?
  • What is their background?
  • How long is usually spent on briefing and de-briefing?
  • Do you usually use English as the main training language? (for non-English speaking countries)

5.) School policy

  • What is the training cancellation policy?

6.) Career opportunities

  • Which airlines have your cadets recently got jobs with?
  • Do you have any established cooperation in terms of cadet placement?