Learning to fly is not getting cheaper, but there’s no substitute for the magic of flight. It’s a significant investment, but one with amazing benefits and rewards. Just as any savvy consumer would do, you should be confident you are receiving good value for the product or service you are receiving including flight training. To go a step further, there are key steps you can take to maximize that value while having more fun along the way.
Choosing the right school is the first step to maximizing value. Seeking a personal referral, consulting online reviews, speaking to other customers, and utilizing the benchmarks of any good organization you choose to interact with is always a good place to begin.
Lowest cost doesn’t mean the best value in training. The expression “you get what you pay for” comes to mind after speaking with clients from other schools over the years and there are, unfortunately, plenty of strategies for masking the true costs of flight training. In the end, a sound financial plan is key so an honest expectation of total cost is critical to your success.
Once you’ve committed to a professional flight training organization and a quality flight instructor, your total cost is most likely a function of hourly pricing – composed of the aircraft and instructor. Since learning to fly is a different experience for each person, and likely no two pilots will achieve certification in the same amount of training time, how you prepare for training will matter most when it comes to saving time and money. Here are some recommendations to help.
Prepare for each lesson – Coming to each flight or ground lesson prepared and ready to learn will save you the most money of all the strategies I will discuss. Having assignments and personal review completed prior to beginning a new task or topic will allow you to complete the task in less time. It will also give you better perspective venturing into the unknown.
Reviewing a procedure manual or checklist will pay dividends as it is sure to save time in the airplane. Spending time on the ground by yourself, or with your instructor, to review these flight critical items allows you to not waste time in the air discussing them with the engine running. It’s well known that the airplane itself makes for a terrible classroom.
Know what’s next – Working from a syllabus is imperative to maintaining focus and an awareness of how the various training components fit together. You can’t come prepared to a lesson if you don’t know what to study in advance. Keeping your training records up to date is another commonly missed detail for those who are working from a syllabus. Make sure that you also have a copy of your records if your school keeps a copy for their purposes so that you are aware of your own progress and areas of strength and weakness. Own your experience.
Use a home study course – Having a specific program that helps you study and prepare for both your written exam and checkride is a great way to save significant time and money during your training. These courses allow you to see (rather than read) what many of the maneuvers and knowledge areas are about. You can view and review material at your own pace and in the comfort of your home, office or while you’re on the go.
Train consistently – Ask any instructor, flight school, or other pilot on the topic and you’ll receive a similar response: frequency and continuity of training = time/money savings.
Too much time between lessons allows skills to degrade and your aviation knowledge base to weaken. In order to regain the ground you’ve lost, you’ll need to re-learn some material which equates to more time and money.
We recommend at least 2-3 days per week to commit to your aviation learning. Although you will spend money at a faster pace, your total investment will be less and your overall experience more enjoyable. If you’re unable to train at this frequency, try “chair flying” at home to review your last flight before you go back for your next lesson – mentally replaying the training session in your mind.
Communicate issues early – If you feel that your training is not going the way you expected, or you are having a difficulty with a specific area, address these concerns early! Don’t allow problem areas to fester into feelings of hopeless or frustration. You’re not the first or the only one feeling this way.
Discussing concerns early and often will allow you to get around obstacles more quickly. Instructors have techniques and experience for getting through road blocks, but they aren’t mind-readers. While common issues may be apparent to your instructor, communication is the only way to make sure you are both on the same page. Remember, own your experience.
Let’s get it done! Your training won’t always go as planned. You’ll have good days and bad. You’ll have ups and downs and triumphs and challenges. This is normal and every pilot experiences it. Among all the strategies discussed, it’s important to stay energized and focused on your goals. Make adjustments when necessary and remember why you’re here – this is aviation, it’s FUN!