Flight Training Schools

Written by Robert Mac
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Flight training schools are the first place to go if the next place you want to go is up--up in the wild blue yonder, that is. Due to mandatory regulations (there are lots of regulations in the airline industry), as many as 10,000 pilots will have to retire within the next five years. That's a lot of high-flying job opportunities, and the training for these positions is within anyone's reach.

First of all, it's convenient. There are hundreds of flight training schools across the country, offering classes at different times of day and at different schedules. Prices vary, too, but there are a number of directories that list many, if not all, the flight training schools and their pertinent information. Keep in mind, though, that becoming a commercial airline pilot is many steps down the path.

Flight Training Schools Teach You a Step at a Time

The first step in the long process of saying, "This is your captain speaking" over the P.A. of a 747 is getting a private pilot certificate. It's essentially a license--the FAA likes to call them certificates--that lets you fly a plane or helicopter, but only privately. You can't, for instance, be hired to transport people for pay; that requires a commercial license.

Also, a private license is the least technically sophisticated kind of certification. A pilot with this training uses Visual Flight Rules, or VFR. Another round of education, available at almost all flight training schools, lets you fly by IFR, or Instrument Flight Rules. Learning instrumentation is mandatory not only for commercial pilots, but for flight instructors who will teach instrumentation.

There are a number of other ratings and certifications imposed by the Federal Aviation Agency. On one hand, it's very bureaucratic: for each certification there are oral, written, and flying tests, called checkrides, to demonstrate your understanding of the material. But the bureaucracy is worth the safety and security that the tests achieve.

Becoming an Airline Pilot

After all the testing, studying, flight-hours, retesting, and paperwork, you can earn a ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) certification. This means you can strut down the concourse with your roller bag and captain's hat. At this point, you must have at least 1,500 hours of flight time, 500 of them cross-country, plus numerous other requirements.

Flight Training Schools Aren't Just for Pilots

Not everyone studying at a flight school wants to fly an airplane. For one thing, there are a number of schools that specialize in helicopter flying. For another, there are many aircraft maintenance programs at flight training schools. And just like pilots, prospective mechanics have a number of different kinds of FAA-certification.

Airline maintenance is a huge industry: the Department of Labor says 315,000 aircraft mechanics will be needed in 2005. And as the technology that goes into planes--especially the electronics, called avionics--continues to advance, specialists with up-to-date training will be in demand even more. For pilots, the sky's the limit; for maintenance personnel, there's plenty to learn at flight training schools on the ground.

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