10 Types of Flight (Training) Schools

At some point in their lives, a lot of people have daydreamed about becoming pilots and there is little wonder why. Few things make you feel freer than being at the helm of a gigantic plane as it flies through the air and experiencing all that this offers. What a lot of people don’t know is that there are numerous types of flight schools and the good news is that, thanks to these, there is truly something for everyone out there.

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The Advantages of Becoming a Pilot

Commercial pilots have a median salary of roughly $92,000 but military pilots are paid according to their ranks. To become a pilot, you must have an associate or bachelor’s degree. It is predicted that the need for pilots will increase by roughly 10% in the year 2020.

As with other types of school, a good flight school varies when it comes to cost; it can cost anywhere from $3000 to more than $30,000 even though the money is well worth what you get in return.

Girl playing with toy airplane
Have you been dreaming of becoming a pilot forever… ?

Fortunately, schools that teach people how to fly airplanes can be short or long, depending on the type of plane you wish to fly, and they are usually specific to a type of plane.

When your goal is to become a pilot, you can aim for a commercial, airline, or corporate pilot’s license. It is also good to keep in mind that not all of these schools are the same.

Most schools teach “ab initio,” or “from the beginning,” which is very comprehensive training. However, there are also local schools that will train you for all types of missions, including training for those people who simply want to fly for fun.

Types of Flight Schools

Student pilot in the aircraft cockpit
Student pilot in the aircraft cockpit

1. Independent Certificated Flight Instruction

Usually accommodated by your local airport, this type of flight school usually offers both flight and ground instruction via per-hour fees. More often than not, these certified flight instructors (CFIs) do not use their own airplanes to teach prospective pilots how to fly.

Instead, most of the students will rent a plane from a local fixed base operator, or FBO, which is found at nearly all airports throughout the country.

This type of training is mostly utilized by people who will use their pilot’s licenses for personal business use or just as a hobby because they want to fly planes for fun.

The pros of this type of school include one-on-one training, flexible scheduling, local knowledge, and costs that are usually lower than other types of flight schools.

On the other hand, the disadvantages include limited access to both the facility and the aircraft, the possibility of having to hire other instructors for more advanced lessons and licenses, and at least occasional downtime due to maintenance and other issues.

2. Local Flight Schools

Local flight schools usually offer either Private Pilot or Sport Pilot programs while others provide even more. These schools often have a few planes available to rent and to train in.

Many also have the needed facilities to train in all aspects of flying, including flight planning rooms, basic classrooms, and some small flight simulators. If you want to fly for fun or even as a profession, local flight schools should be considered.

Young man in small plane cockpit
Young man in small plane cockpit

With local schools, students can access many types of aircraft and can train close to home. These schools also tend to be inexpensive.

On the other hand, maintenance issues can require downtime during your training and the training itself could be limited if you’re there for any type of advanced training and knowledge.

3. Large Universities or Academies

If you intend for professional piloting to be your career, you’ll want to attend a large academy or university because they are specifically intended for people whose goal is to take the job seriously.

If you only want a pilot’s license because you think that flying a plane will be fun, these schools may not be what you’re looking for.

Although the costs can be high and the training isn’t as personalized as the smaller schools, there are many advantages to this type of school.

These include state-of-the-art aircraft and training facilities and even access to job interviews near the end.

Military Flight Training on Simulator
Military Flight Training on Simulator

When it comes to larger schools for prospective pilots, you also get very little, if any, downtime due to maintenance issues, excellent simulators, and the possibility of becoming an instructor after you graduate.

This is a top-notch education that fully prepares you to be a commercial airline pilot so the money you spend on that education will be well worth it.

4. Part 61 and Part 141 Flight Training

Many times, you’ll be asked about Part 61 and Part 141 training and they both have to do with federal regulations that have minimum requirements to train future pilots.

Basically, all FAA-approved instructors can train a student under Part 61 regulations whether they are associated with an FAA-approved school or not.

Part 141 refers to the schools themselves. To train under Part 141 regulations, the instructor has to be associated with an FAA-approved school.

Both of these options, however, will prepare a student for his or her future career as an airline pilot.

There are also many types of pilot licenses, which informs the type of school that you’ll need to be enrolled in, and they include the following:

5. Private Pilot License

This is roughly the same as a driver’s license. To receive a private pilot license, you have to complete a minimum of 35 hours of flight time and pass a test.

This type of license is by far the most common type of pilot license and the training is a lot more intense than it is for people who wish to fly a plane for fun. They are allowed to fly most types of planes but they need a bit more if they wish to fly for commercial purposes.

Pilot using aviation apps
Pilot using aviation apps

6. Recreational Pilot License

This is the perfect type of license to get when you’re interested in flying more than just the planes listed under a sport license but you aren’t quite ready for more advanced training.

This type of license requires a minimum of 30 hours of flying time, which includes at least 15 hours of dual instruction.

Recreational pilots cannot fly more than 50 nautical miles from the main airport that they use and can only fly during daytime hours.

In addition, they have to stay out of controlled airports, which includes Class B, C, and D airspace.

7. Sport Pilot License

This is the least restrictive and the simplest type of pilot license to get so it can be a little easier to find the right flight school to attend.

It is meant for people who only want to fly locally and at low altitudes as well as in light aircraft.

You can earn one of these licenses in one of several categories including glider, powered parachute, airplane, rotorcraft, and “lighter than air.”

Sport pilots cannot fly at night, above 10,000 feet, or with more than one passenger.

There are advantages, however, to this type of pilot license. Although they are not able to fly in Class B, C, or D airspace, these pilots only need 20 hours of flight time and the law doesn’t require that most of them get FAA medical certificates.

8. Commercial Pilot License

If you want to get paid for your flying services, you need a commercial pilot license. With this type of schooling, you learn how to fly aircraft that are quite complex and have features such as flaps, retractable landing gear, and controllable-pitch propellers.

You need precision and specific knowledge about flight operations and you also have to heed any regulations that pertain to any type of planes and are required by the government.

Pilot and copilot in cockpit of corporate jet
Pilot and copilot in cockpit of corporate jet

9. Airline Transport Pilot License

This type of license requires a minimum of 1500 flight hours and you have to be at least 23 years of age. To date, all commercial airlines require this type of license for their pilots and this is by far the most advanced type of pilot license to obtain.

There are also restricted ATP licenses that have lower requirements and are meant for students graduating from certain approved universities or who wish to fly for the military; however, this type of license is generally preferred for anyone who wants to fly commercial airplanes.

10. Flight Instructor Pilot License

If you wish to be a flight instructor, this is a separate type of license that will be required of you. In this type of training, you’ll learn about instructional design and go into great depth on a variety of topics related to commercial airlines.

One of the biggest advantages to getting this type of license is that you can get paid to fly and gain more experience in flying at the same time. If you’re going to go for extra training and experience anyway, why not become an instructor and get paid to do so?

This isn’t to say that getting a flight instructor’s license is a necessity for professional pilots but it does allow you to log in even more flight hours and be able to help other people fulfill their dreams of becoming pilots.


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