Choosing A Flight School

Find a flight school that offers all the Helicopter Ratings (Private, Commercial, Instrument, Flight Instructor, ATP).

Besides military training, there are basically two types of Flight Schools. They are Part 61 and Part 141 Schools. What this means, is the particular FAA rules that the school is teaching under.

A Part 61 program is like learning to drive a car from another driver or parent. The individual Flight Instructor develops his/her own syllabus and individual lessons. The training is one-on-one. Usually the academics are a home study course with some one on one ground instruction. When you meet the requirements of the FAA’s Part 61 and your instructor feels you are competent, he/she will recommend you for the test.

In a Part 141 program it is like learning to drive a car from a formal Driving School. The flight school writes the course’s syllabus and presents it to the FAA. The FAA then inspects the school’s curriculum, classroom, aircraft, and maintenance. Once the school meets all the requirements, the school is then approved to use the Part 141 program. All instructors at the school then follow that particular course. There is usually a formal ground school and the flying is controlled at every stage. Upon graduation of the course, you take the test.

Some schools offer both types of programs; the majority of flight schools offer only the Part 61 program. Lakeshore Helicopter is a Part 61 school. As you may have guessed, there are advantages and disadvantages to both programs. The program that is right for you will depend upon your circumstances.

Part 141 School Advantages:

  • Structured
  • Financing available (i.e. GI Bill, VA loans, Fannie Mae, etc.)
  • Clear progression of syllabus

Part 141 School Disadvantages:

  • Structured (difficulty in scheduling around personal responsibilities)
  • Restricted flight environment (e.g., weather minimums, when and where you can fly)

Part 61 School Advantages:

  • Flexibility (works around your schedule)
  • Training can be customized to you
  • No restrictions on where and when you can fly

Part 61 School Disadvantages:

  • Not as Structured (may be difficult for people who are not self-motivated)
  • Limited Financing
  • Limited Ground Instruction (Home Study Course)

Regardless of which program you enroll, everyone takes the same test at the end and there is no difference in the certificates.

The place where you get your instruction and the people with whom you’ll be dealing should be a “good fit” for you. You should feel comfortable with the competence of the instructors. Talk to the flight instructors and see how their personalities blend with yours. If you can’t find anyone you like (even if they offer the cheapest training cost) go somewhere else. Since you’re going to be spending a lot of time in some pretty close quarters, in a fairly intense learning environment, it’s important that you can get along with your instructor. Helicopter flight training is a fun way to spend a lot of money. Use your time and money wisely. Enjoy your flight training but take it seriously. You will get the most for your money if you realize that it takes a little bit of hard work to get a helicopter license.