This checklist will help ensure that you have asked all the important questions and have gotten useful answers in return. Read the article linked to each subject for greater insights into why it matters, and how to interpret the facts you uncover.
Your Goals: Ask yourself what you wish to do with your pilot qualifications. Is your goal to become a commercial airline pilot? Or are you learning to fly to enhance your business efficiency? Or just to cross another challenge off your bucket list? Cornerstone has FAA-certified training courses and customized instruction to enable any future aviator to realize their dreams.
Your Level of Commitment: Ask yourself how much time, money, and effort you can commit to your training. Cornerstone is flexible, and can craft customized training plans for anyone: those who can accomplish ten training events per week, and those who only have time for one.
Safety Record: Aviation is an unforgiving business, so having a frank discussion about a provider’s safety record is crucial. Since its founding in 2003, CSA has never experienced an injury or fatality during training. Some schools experience accidents nearly every year, while others go decades between mishaps.
Experienced Leadership On Site: There’s a good reason your fifth-grade teacher was not a sixth-grader, and the principal wasn’t a seventh-grader. You are at a disadvantage if all of your school’s current teachers were last year’s students. You’re not joining a social fraternity to make friends. You’re looking for a resource to give you the credentials and wisdom necessary to succeed as a professional pilot.
Longevity in the Industry: Experience matters. Your money should help you learn how to fly and launch your own career, not help your trainer advance his own career or keep him in business while he figures-out how to do flight instruction properly.
Pricing: CSA’s programs can take you from zero experience to making decent money as a professional pilot for less than $68,000, which includes every expense for its FAA-certificated ground and flight training. Compare that to other un-accredited schools that charge more than $93,000 to reach the same career milestone. How’s that even possible?
All-Inclusive Fixed Price or Itemized Billing: Some schools guarantee completion of a course or program for a fixed price, meaning there are no additional charges for extra training. But why bet against yourself? Those fixed prices are often tens of thousands of dollars more than what the average student would ever actually spend on training at a school like CSA with an efficient syllabus. The provider has to set the price higher for everyone to ensure that they make money training below-average students.
Full Payment Up Front or Pay-As-You-Go: Some training providers require pre-payment of the entire program fee before the start of training. If the provider fails to deliver as promised, or just turns out to be a bad fit for the student, the customer is stuck. Don’t lose your leverage over the provider: It is never necessary to pre-pay in order to receive top-quality instruction. CSA’s ethic is to have the student pay only for training actually received. We believe in earning the privilege of enrolling you in your next course by exceeding your expectations on the prior one.
Type of Training Operation: What might work best for you? A private instructor? A flying club? A Pilot School? A university? They all have advantages and drawbacks, but you will have much greater funding options and career opportunities with a Pilot School or university, and a quicker path to earning money as a commercial pilot with a Pilot School.
In-Person Ground School: CSA encourages its students to exploit all available methods of learning: online distance learning; pre-recorded videos; web-based test preparation; software-based courses; and one-on-one ground instruction and tutoring. We incorporate all of those methods into our ground instruction. However, the core of our ground instruction is classroom-based, formal instruction led by experienced and certified Ground or Flight Instructors. The instructor serves as teacher, mentor, and advocate for the student, taking a personal interest in their progression and success.
Part 61 or Part 141: Early in your research, you will likely hear the terms “Part 61” and “Part 141.” Part 61 is a section of the FAA’s rules that governs the certification of a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and the training of pilots. A CFI instructing under Part 61 does not need to be part of a school. Part 141 governs the process for certifying the entire Pilot School (as the FAA calls it) and its syllabi. CSA is one of Utah’s very few private Part 141 flight schools, but also conducts training under Part 61, whichever is better-suited for the student’s long-term goals. In general, Part 141 courses provide the quickest path to Commercial Pilot certification, the most post-graduation job opportunities, and the lowest expenses for the student.
Insurance Coverage: Flying today is very safe, but mistakes DO happen. No matter how you intend to earn and use your pilot license, a basic understanding of aviation insurance is very important. Let us give you some of the essential knowledge you need to help you verify a prospective trainer’s insurance coverage. That will help you determine how well they are covered, and how much financial risk they are actually transferring to you. Just a few questions will also reveal what the expert risk analysts in the insurance world think of their past performance, and where they may be cutting corners today.
Maintenance Support: Flight training is hard on airplanes, and the last thing a student needs is an imperfect training tool. The best schools have dedicated Aviation Maintenance Technicians on staff so they don’t have to compete with an outside maintenance vendor’s other customers for priority attention.
Aircraft Fleet: For your flight training, you should look for three things in the fleet: the number of aircraft; model continuity; and engine horsepower.
Online Reviews: Early in your research, you will probably find online customer reviews for the larger flight schools, and even for some free-lance instructors. However, selecting a flight training provider is a lot more important and complicated than choosing a mobile phone or picking a restaurant for dinner, and the online review systems are poorly designed for that purpose. You need to look beyond the Average Review score, which is likely to be misleading, and evaluate the valuable data in the comments.