In all of my travels and interactions in the world of aviation, I am always most personally inspired by Student Pilots.
Through their excited conversations, frustrations, and enthusiasm, I am reminded of my own flight school days.
How exhilarating it was to be flight training! First struggling through, then perfecting a new skill – dreaming of my future days in the jet propelled flight levels (and wondering how I would ever get there).
And the most savvy “Pilots-In-Training” I meet are those few that are seeking to build a plan for their career path – even before they are actually able to enter the job force!
I have concentrated much of my efforts on discovering the best, most effective techniques and strategies for newly licensed pilots to move quickly through the ranks and directly into their Dream Jobs.
But there is also a way that a Pilot-in-Training can optimize his or her time in flight school in order to “hit-the-ground-flying” without delay, directly after graduation.
In other words, a Student Pilot can gain a significant advantage from the very beginning of his/her pilot career and reach his/her goal much quicker than the competition (and there WILL be plenty of competition!)
WARNING: I’m probably going to get a lot of hate mail from the flight schools about what I’m about to tell you here. And they may not be YOUR biggest fan if you decide to follow this advice because it just might be the complete OPPOSITE of their “recommendations”!
Don’t get me wrong…
Without a doubt, Flight Schools provide our industry with a valuable service. And most of them train pilots to an incredible degree of ability and professionalism. Without these essential establishments and the administrators, mechanics, and Instructor Pilots that work there – commercial aviation would cease to exist altogether!
The most savvy “Pilots-In-Training” I meet are those few that are seeking to build a plan for their career path – even before they are actually able to enter the job force!
But… they are a business and they must be profitable in order to sustain operations. And as with any educational institution, they are in the business of educating their clientele up until the point when they will inevitably leave the school to start their careers.
So once a Pilot-in-Training becomes a licensed graduate – they are no longer a paying customer!
Therefore, a flight school must make as much profit as possible from each Pilot-In-Training while he or she is still enrolled. (We’ll discuss the various ways this is accomplished shortly).
So, keeping all this in mind…
HERE IS THE 2 STEP SECRET to becoming a pilot – WITHOUT SPENDING A FORTUNE – so you can get your Dream Pilot Job as soon as possible: (I WISH someone would have told me THIS years ago!)
- Get through flight school as quickly as possible.
- Only spend your money on those things that are directly related to passing your next checkride.
It sounds so simple yet almost no Pilot-in-Training can do it! That’s why so many ambitious and deserving flight students run out of money before they earn all of their licenses – and have to DROP-OUT of flight school before they are qualified to enter the job force.
You probably already know that the more time you devote to your training – the more quickly you will learn to fly. It could take you a year or more to get a Private Pilot’s License if you only have 1 flight lesson a week – simply because you will spend so much time “remembering” the skills that atrophy over the course being away from the airport for extended periods.
That’s why I highly recommend attending a reputable full-time flight school and flying as much as possible EVERY day. That alone will save you many hundreds of dollars.
But the real secret to your success as a Pilot-in-Training lies more in what you should NOT do.
As I mentioned, the flight schools must take advantage of every day you are there to sell you as much as possible. (It’s okay – that’s how they afford that nice glass cockpit Cessna 172 you enjoy so much!)
And a major source of income is earned by selling the “extras”.
The real secret to your success as a Pilot-in-Training lies in what you should NOT do.
You know what I’m talking about. Pilots love shiny gadgets. They crave knowledge. They want to be “the best”. And they have money to spend – or big loans.
So the flight schools – and the “pilot supplies industry” – are happy to part you and your money by convincing you that you “need” all kinds of juicy extras.
Think about all of the fabulous toys that you could purchase above-and-beyond the actual requirements of flight training:
- Aviation “Special-Topics” Books and Magazines
- Training and Nostalgia Videos
- A Handheld GPS or EFB Tablet
- Flight Planning and Simulation Software and Apps
- ANR Headsets
- Chart Subscriptions
- Yolk Mounts, Kneeboards and Other Cockpit Junk
- A “Little John Portable” (ew, gross!)
I could go on and on…
But guess what?
You don’t “need” ANY of that stuff!
All those books can be bought in used condition online at a fraction of the price. (Even most of your REQUIRED books and charts can be downloaded for free).
You can use someone else’s videos and software.
And a GPS and fancy headset won’t help you pass your next checkride.
In fact, most of that stuff is more of a DISTRACTION than an ADVANTAGE!
But even more money (and time) consuming is what I call “extra-curricular” training courses often offered by flight schools.
They have various names, but they all fall into one of several categories:
- Advanced flight training like High Performance, Tailwheel, Aerobatic, or High Altitude
- Pay-for-flight-time or block hour time-building programs
- Crew Resource Management Training
- Glass Cockpit or EFIS Training
- Fast-Track or Airline Prep Courses
- Any training in a Level D simulator that does NOT result in a type rating
You get the picture.
It’s not that these courses aren’t great. I’m sure they are.
But taking them before you have earned all of your licenses and have built some real-world flight time is most likely a huge waste of time and money – for two reasons:
- You won’t be able to apply most of the skills you would learn during your first few years as a professional pilot. And you WILL forget them by the time you are in a cockpit that requires all that advanced training.
- Most prospective employers you meet won’t care anyway! (And they might wonder why you would pay for time in a B737 simulator when you didn’t even have enough flight time to get “insurance approved” to fly in the actual airplane!)
It’s simple. The most valuable training you can receive above-and-beyond your flight training will be earned “in the field” – while you are getting PAID as a Pilot-in-Command.
No “Fast-Track” courses can take the place of the skills you will gain while Flight Instructing or flying during your first job as a pilot.
And smart employers know this.
As a Chief Pilot, I would ALWAYS choose to hire a pilot that has proven himself in the real world – than one with a CRM Training Certificate and a Bose headset,but little or no PIC time.
So what can you do as a Pilot-in-Training NOW to get into the cockpit of your Dreams as quickly as possible after flight school graduation?
Here is my advice, take it or leave it:
When you are faced with the possibility of spending ANY of your money, get used to asking the question, “Is this absolutely necessary to pass my next checkride?”
It’s that simple.
Ask this question to yourself, ask it to your instructor, and ask it to the administrators of your flight school when you enroll or start your next rating.
Get used to asking the question, “Is this absolutely necessary to pass my next checkride?”
If the answer to that question is “No” – then DON’T buy it!
Resist your natural desires to “know it all” and “have that cool thing”.
This will give you two BIG advantages:
- You will inadvertently put yourself on an “information diet”. You will learn only what you need to know for your current rating and avoid crowding your mind with a lot of extra information. And because of this, you will pass your written tests and checkrides easier. You will know the right answer to any question asked – no more, no less.
- You will save a TON of money! And you can use that money for truly useful things, like your Flight Instructor rating (if you weren’t already planning on getting it), a Visa or work permit to fly abroad, or your first jet type rating that could enable you to apply for your Dream Pilot Job.
The objective of flight school should be to earn your pilot’s licenses. That’s it!
Everything else you need will come through the process of building your pilot career.