Flight Schools: Check the facts

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What are the factors that help you choose a flight school? Are you considering all the facts? Do you believe everything that the schools are telling you? Over the past 30 years in the flight training industry I have had a lot of feedback from our students. Frequently students come to us who have started flight training at another school and now choose to finish with us. Here are some of the things that they were told and some things that schools and flying clubs are still telling their new customers.

“Enroll now, tremendous career opportunities exist”

Many of us in the industry cannot imagine doing anything else for a living. How did we get here, or how has any pilot reached their present flying position? Does the school you are at provide you with a realistic assessment of your future as a commercial pilot? We find that most don’t. They are trying to sell you flight training. Period. New students are shown pictures of glass cockpits, large jets, and being told that the airlines are hiring and now is the time to get started.

Here are the facts:

The reality is that all pilots have to start with entry level flying jobs. Entry level flying jobs are hard to get. After the completion of your commercial licence, a new hire has one problem: you have minimal experience. You are competing with other commercial pilots who have the same problem. You will have to sell yourself, have the type of training and experience that the entry level aviation companies want, and you will need some timing, (right place at the right time). This has always been the case.

Even during several recessions I have seen pilots land their first flying jobs when there were supposedly no jobs to be had. How did they do it? Proper training for realistic entry level jobs and they were determined and had a love for flying that made them stick it out even when times were hard.

If you have that determination and love for flying, then and only then will you be successful as a commercial pilot. If flying is not something you really, really, want to do as a career, then forget it. If it’s a passing fancy, get a private licence first. See how well you like it before committing to all the training. At Harv’s Air we’ll sit down and talk with you, and give you a realistic outlook on what a career in aviation could hold for you.

“Train with us, we will guarantee you a job! (as a flight instructor)”

I have seen all too many times where a student is told that if he completes all the required training with that school, he will get a job as an instructor. Only to be told on completion that due to some change (any change will do) that they cannot hire you now. Oh, and by the way thanks for giving us all your hard earned or borrowed money. Good luck and be well. Another scenario has you getting the job only to find that there are half a dozen other instructors sitting around waiting for the next student to walk in. The flight school doesn’t care how many instructors they have “employed” because they are on commission only. Meanwhile the instructor flies so little that he or she is below a starvation wage. Also consider if the flight school hires everybody as an instructor…how good of an instructor might you be getting? The numbers just do not work to promise flight instructor jobs to all students.

What do we do? First of all I cannot guarantee anyone a job. When someone is considering the instructor rating we look at how many instructors we currently have, which of them, if any, are thinking of leaving and what the likelihood is of this person being hired upon completion. If the person is someone that we would want to hire and there is no opening, that person is then the next person to be hired when there is an opening. We have hired many of the instructors that we have trained over the years and will only hire pilots we have trained. Something else to consider is that we have 3 Class 1 instructors on staff with a combined total flight time of 30000 flight hours.

“We provide all levels of training”

Some schools advertise experience staff (100% turnover every 6 months), Multi training (no twin), Taildragger training (no taildragger), and various other training that they either don’t have the equipment, or the personnel for. Harv’s Air offers the training that we advertise. GUARANTEED. If the training is not as described in our promotional material I will refund your expenses that you have incurred.


What does all this mean? It means that you must get all the facts first. Research aviation. Talk to pilots already in the industry.  Talk to students, and graduates who have trained at the school you are considering. (We can supply references from former and current students.) Even better, visit the school that you are considering. As difficult or expensive as it may be, it could be money well spent.

I would like to close by saying that for myself aviation has been the greatest career that I could have ever chosen. If you feel that aviation is the career for you, then come talk to us and let your dreams take flight.

Happy Landings
Harv Penner

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