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10 Things to Consider When Choosing a Flight School

If you’ve always dreamed of flying, it can be difficult to know how to get started and choosing the right school can be intimidating. It’s important to find a school suited to fit your needs and long-term goals. You don’t have to limit yourself to local schools either. Many, including Sterling, offer affordable housing which is ideal for international students or those pursuing a career pilot path.

Here are some things to consider when choosing where to complete your flight training.

  1. Approved Programs
    As you begin looking for a school you will see the terms Part 141 and Part 61 thrown around. So, what does that mean? The most visible difference is the minimum hours required to obtain licenses and ratings. Part 61 schools generally have higher hour requirements and it is at the instructor’s discretion to deem you ready for testing based on progress. Schools operating under Part 141 are regulated by the FAA and offer structured courses and FAA-approved curriculum. Stage checks and regular testing keeps you on track with your training. If your number one goal is to become an airline pilot, Part 141 training is the better choice. You can also receive GI Bill tuition assistance if enrolled in a Part 141 school. Sterling is approved to operate under both Part 61 and Part 141 status, which means we can accommodate your training regardless of which path you want to take.
  2. Training Format and Scheduling
    At Sterling, your in-person training is completed one-on-one with a Certified Flight Instructor and complemented by our online ground school. Because of this, we are flexible and can schedule your flight training whenever works best for you. Some students fly only a few times a month, others a few times a week and some many hours per day. This gives you the ability to accommodate work or school schedules if you are not a full-tine student.
  3. Experience
    It is important to choose a school with a high success rate, quality instruction and industry connections. At Sterling many of our instructors are former students, meaning they have been where you are. We strive to match each student with an instructor that compliments their skills and learning style and it seems to be working – we are proud to say we have an 86% graduation rate. We have trained thousands of pilots over the last three decades, incorporating many airline best-practices into our curriculum, and our experience means we know the right people, in the right places, to help connect you for future job placement.
  4. Safety
    As you conduct your training it is important you trust the operations, fleet, and environment you are in. When touring a school or speaking with admissions, don’t be afraid to ask about safety standards, maintenance operations or dispatching procedures. Safety is the foundation of the aviation industry and everything we do at Sterling. Our strong safety culture means we put you first and our proven track record demonstrates industry-leading perspectives and professionalism.
  5. Cost and Financing
    The cost of training is very dependent on your individual ability and performance. Most schools will be able to provide you with what the minimum cost to train is based on FAA requirements or student averages. However, your cost could be higher if there are certain stages you need additional training on. Compare costs across schools and see what options they have available to assist with your instruction. Sterling offers two financing partners in addition to our pay-as-you-fly account option. We are also approved by the Florida Veteran Affairs office to accept VA benefits, or students can leverage traditional financial aid through one of our university partners.
  6. Fleet
    Lack of aircraft availability can be a deterrent to your training timeline if a school is not properly resourced. Be sure to ask about what type of aircraft are used in training and the size of the fleet. Does the school utilize any type of simulator training? Having this technology on hand gives students flexibility in the event of bad weather, the ability to reduce cost or train on new configurations. Sterling offers a high-quality fleet of Piper and Cessna aircraft, in addition to our Redbird Simulator.
  7. Diversity and International Opportunities
    A diverse student body can be important for those wanting fly internationally as a career. Schools located in the U.S. also can be much more affordable than their international counterparts. As we are approved to issue M1 Visa forms, our admissions team is highly trained to help you throughout your application and enrollment process. They will work with you to ensure you meet the minimum visa and FAA training requirements, and pair you with the best program and instructor for your needs.
  8. Partnerships
    If you are planning to pursue a career as a professional pilot, consider what opportunities the school offers during training and post-graduation. Can you become a flight instructor to earn hours toward your Air Transport License? Can you get a degree, which helps reduce the required number of flight hours? We are proud to be a flight training affiliate for both Liberty University and Purdue University Global. That means students can earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in aviation through the university while completing their flight training with us, making them a desirable candidate for airline hires. Our leadership team is also comprised of airline industry veterans, which allows us to connect you with career opportunities. 
  9. Location
    How is the weather around the school? What activities are there to do when you are not training? This is important because pleasant weather year-round means more flying and faster completion of the program. If your goal is to become a commercial pilot, you will be in school for a minimum of 10 months, so you want to enjoy the area you are in. Jacksonville offers both ideal weather and beautiful beaches and views.
  10. Reputation
    Current and former students are one of the best sources when looking into a potential school. Read through Facebook, Google and Yelp reviews to see how they rank or speak to a student directly when visiting. Student dissatisfaction is one of the leading reasons a student fails to complete their training. Many Sterling students are referred to us through past graduates, and we boast a 4.6 rating on Google.

There are many schools out there, but we hope you will consider Sterling Flight Training for your training needs. If you have any questions please contact us or stop in for a visit.

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