The biggest thing to remember is that aviation is very versatile. You have pilots who fly hot-air balloon, gliders, helicopters, and even ultra-lights. The thing is that many people dive right into flight training, pay $4000-5000, get to about 30-40 hours, run out of money, time, motivation, or all three, and just give up. Unfortunately I’m here to tell you that if a person takes flying lessons and does so without first doing research into the process, that is almost a sentence to feel for sure. So, before a person even begins to consider taking flying lessons (here is the key)-they must know the process as thoroughly as if they were going to be tested on it. In other words you must become a professional student pilot, essentially anticipating what is coming up next your training. You must become an active manager of your training, learning the jargon and/or lingo of aviation.
Ground School Saves You Airtime=Saves You Money
Another thing you must do: buy a ground school course! I’m not talking about one of those silly courses that just focus on getting you to pass your written. If you just want to pass your written, go buy a book! Don’t pay $200 for a DVD course that only focuses on the knowledge part of flying (e.g. rules, navigation, etc..). You need something that is going to teach you how to actually-actually fly. The course that you select should contain information on the four fundamentals of flight, take-offs and landings, stalls, steep turns, and performance maneuvers. If it doesn’t include actual in aircraft footage, you are wasting your money! There are two fantastic courses available that incorporate the knowledge and practical aspects into one course. I want the reader to know however that I don’t endorse one for the other. The first one is King Schools, and the other is Sporty’s. Now I selected Sporty’s, why?
Well to be honest I am partial to Sporty’s because it was easy to understand and pretty straight forward. The seven or so DVD’s were packed full of everything you could ever possible want to know about flying. The whole course was shot in or around airplanes, and you felt like you were flying a lot of times just watching the course. Sporty’s can pretty much be used at any flight school. So whether you are taking lessons from a individual Flight Instructor, or you are going to a pretty sizable flight school with multiple instructors on staff, these course will still benefit you.
What about King Schools? Well, I think King Schools is a great option, but there is a catch. In order to use King Schools ground-school, you must be taking lessons from a Cessna Pilot Center. The thing about a Cessna Pilot Center is that it generally costs about $6,000 to get your license from one. The training is great, and the instructors are usually extremely trained beyond your conventional instructor, but it is for that reason that you will pay more. Speaking of flight schools did you know there were two types?
The government differentiates between flight schools by putting them in two categories. Part 61, and Part 141. So Part 61, what is that? A part 61 school can be as simple as a flight instructor who owns a plane and gives lessons, or it could also include a larger school. Part 61 has its own set of rules for earning a certificate, and are pretty standard. Part 141 schools are usually more career oriented. However they have the distinct advantage of reduced training requirements. Also some 141 schools allow you to use your training as part of college credits. The thing to remember is that a 141 school is usually gonna cost more. A Part 61 school is usually gonna be your best bet on a budget. Some Part 141 schools have gotten approval to train their students without ever requiring them to take an exam. The reason being because they have passed so many students that the government goes ahead and waves the requirements. Part 61 schools don’t ever have that option. In comparison you could view a Part 141 school as a University vs a Part 61 school as a trade or technical school.
To be honest both ways you will end up with a license, your license won’t say where or how you earned it. Both types of schools are subject to government inspections, and are held to very strict standards.
So you have decided to take lessons… That is excellent! However there are a few things you should be aware of. First of all, you can save a great deal of money depending on the aircraft you rent. Since you are only charged for the time that the engine is running, it works out pretty good. The thing is no matter what airplane you decide to train in, you still will end up with a private pilots’ license. It doesn’t matter if it is a 4 seat Cessna 172 or a 2 seat Cessna 150/152. Here is another important tip: When you first start off, why not take your lessons in the smallest and cheapest airplane available. That means that for 30-40 hours you will be flying something that costs way less. Don’t pay for extra seats if you don’t have to! Just before your checkride it is just as simple to transition over and get checked out in a larger roomier airplane. That away you will only spend 5-10 hours in the more expensive airplane vs a full 40 hours. The savings could shave off an easy $1000 from your training!
Two For The Price Of One
Another thing, if you have gliders where you live my recommendation is to get a few hours in them first. You could even get a glider pilots license, then transition over to airplanes. Glider time is interchangeable with powered flight time. So in the end you could end up with two pilots’ licenses, and for less than $4000! I did that back in 2010, for less than $4000 I got my glider and powered license. Impossible you say? Well I have the receipts to prove it!
Ok, now I bring you to the point that you must always, always remember. What I am about to tell you can save a bundle, and it is summed up in this one phrase: Never learn to fly in an airplane… Ok, before you turn off the computer thinking I am some crazy guy, let me explain. The thing that gets most students, and causes them to spend a bundle is this: they show up at the airport, hop in the plane, and just takeoff. The instructor says; OK show me slow flight… Of course you have no idea what slow flight is, so then the instructor shows you and then you end up spending the entire flight on that one maneuver. What can you do to remedy this problem? First of all learning a new concept should be done before the engine ever starts, and remember when the engine is running you are paying. You should be familiar with what you are going to do before you do it. The time you spend in the air should be time that you are simply spending to hone your skills, not learn them! The time in the air is to practice what you are already familiar with, not to learn what you don’t know!
Know Thy Maneuvers
Before you takeoff you should already have an idea as to what you are going to do, and how to do it. Your instructor must be viewed as just a safety pilot there to make sure you don’t do anything dangerous. The best way to practice maneuvers is to buy a simulator. I recommend either X-Plane or Microsoft Flight Simulator. Watch your training video, and then go practice the maneuver in the simulator. That means when your instructor asks you to show him slow flight, you will not have to ask what it is. You enter right into the maneuver and get the feel of it in an actual airplane-which is exactly the whole point. The only thing your instructor will need to do is just offer tips on how to fine tune your technique. And then guess what, if you do it satisfactorily the instructor will mark that training area as complete. This means that you will be able to move on to other areas, and complete your training within your budget. Now I must caution you that simulators do not do a good job of teaching you how to land. But they are good at teaching procedures-such as traffic pattern entry, steep turns, or even emergency procedures.
Money Tight? Simulate Your Lessons
The last area I’d like to discuss is that of how frequently you fly during your training. Now, I’ll admit that flying as much as possible is a good idea. But, let’s face it, if you are on a budget, it doesn’t always work out that way. You honestly can get away with flying once a week, even once every two weeks. How? It goes back to that little investment you made toward a simulator. When you can’t fly, use a simulator to remain sharp. So whether you are flying each week or not, continue using your simulator. Apply the techniques your instructor pointed out, and you won’t lose to much in the process.
So, to sum it all up: Buy a DVD course; buy a simulator, practice-practice-practice at home before your lessons. Familiarize yourself thoroughly with the training process, and be an active manager of your training, anticipating each step and phase of your training! If you apply these techniques you will be assured of earning your pilots license on a budget!