Why the Right Training Center Matters!
At FTI one of the biggest questions we get is “Why should I choose you over *competitor xyz*?”. Of course, we always have the same answer, but the question itself has an even deeper question/answer. Why should you care about which training center you choose? Many salespeople will claim their training center as being the best thing since the Wright Flier, FTI’s no different, but what really makes one facility better than the other? Obviously, the price of training is different between facilities, quality of training becomes a concern, and the little additions that add up to the full package. There are a lot of things that a perspective student needs to think about before they decide what to do, and hopefully this post gives you some more to think about. Now, while these questions can come up for any type of flight training this article will pertain mostly to Commercial Flight Schools (Part 142) like FTI.
Starting with quality of training, which should be the easiest one to answer of the others. You will want make sure that the instructors are experienced and have the time to back up the training. Anyone can go out, get a CFI certificate, a B737 Type Rating, and start teaching on the type without ever actually stepping into the aircraft and feeling what it’s really like to fly. That CFI could only have 300 hours and be the one telling you how “I would fly that approach” never really knowing what it’s like. The right training center is going to employ instructors who have real world experience and can teach you how the plane really flies verses what the book said during their initial training. An even better training center will have instructors who not only flew the plane, but also taught on that aircraft for the airline they flew for. Another concern with quality is very rare, but should be a concern. If at any point the FAA pulls a training centers certificate, or their TCE’s (check airman’s) authority for reasons that they deem bad enough; then the students who were issued certificates under that authority will need to pass that check ride again, under their own funding. If you find a center that is selling easy certificates; you should steer clear.
The next concern, pricing, is subject to how the training center operates. Is it a general aviation school that owns their own planes that you rent for training? Is it a commercial flight school that Dry Leases SIM time from another facility? Obviously if the facility owns their own SIMs, they are going to be able to offer lower prices than a facility that dry leases time, but only to a point. Owning SIMs creates a whole new payment structure for the facility. They end up having to pay to maintain the SIM, pay to maintain the SIMs currency, and pay for the initial cost of the SIM which could be $20-$30 million. The cost of SIM time will be slightly lower for a facility not dry leasing time, but there is a point where you should wonder where else the company is making cost cuts. A “300hr Wonder” is not going to be paid the same as an instructor with thousands of hours of experience and could be an effect on pricing. Another concern that has become rarer lately, are hidden fees. Some training centers will not include all taxes and fees (especially TCE/Check Ride fees) in their initial quote. All of this adds up to the age old phrase “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is”.
Lastly, you’ll want to see what else, is added on top of good instructors, and reasonable price? Does the facility have electronic record keeping where you can, at any time, look to see where you are in your training and see your grade sheets? Do they offer off site training so that you can knock out important ground school topics before starting? What kind of flexibility do they have if your life is disrupted by some sort of virus that may plague the world? Does this facility train anyone other than individual students like the military, small airlines, or corporate groups? Are you a military member looking to use VA benefits? All these questions could add up to an easy answer for you but another thing to watch for is the sales tactics of the person you are talking to. Are they just trying to sell you whatever they think will get them a quick buck, or are they advising you based on your personal goals? What may be the best course for your goals, may not create the most revenue for the company. The right training center is going to be able to help, to keep their customers happy; which will be better in the long run.
“Why should I choose you over ‘competitor XYZ’?”
Obviously, we are biased, but we want everyone to be aware what makes a good or a great training center. Becoming a pilot isn’t an easy thing to do, and it takes a lot of time and money for good reason. Next time you are looking to complete training make sure you are getting back the personal value for what you are putting into the course. At FTI we want to make sure we are setting up pilots to be the best they can be without taking needless, and sometimes dangerous short cuts. But we also work to provide the most value we can, from instructors with thousands of hours in their aircraft, financing options, electronic records, the flexibility provided through dry leasing 80 Full Flight SIMs, and a tight knit staff that will do whatever we can to help you achieve your goals. Make sure that you are making the right choice for yourself next time you go to complete training… and if it happens to be FTI we won’t complain!