Smiling? I must have been thinking about the actual flying part!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

part 141 vs part 61 and choosing a CFI

Well, time to look at the CFI and the part 61 vs part 141 schools. Seems thats whats on the minds of my readers right now, so thats where we are going, hold on, the rides gonna get a little bumpy!
You have a ton of questions! Questions regarding the length of time this journey is going to take, and you are getting all kinds of seemingly conflicting answers, whats the best way to go? Well, I guess that only you can decide that for yourself, but here's the info you need, from my perspective.
Unless you want to spend that big money on the high end school and come out with a degree and your flight ratings, which is a nice way to go, but entirely unneccessary unless you are into overkill, or just really want the degree, (or have an overactive ego)--(oops I slipped) there are better ways to go that will cost you much less, but you HAVE to be able to study on your own and stick to the plan. Disclaimer, not ALL students in the high end schools have overactive ego's, just don't let yourself come out with that attitude that your training is better than anyone elses, you would be amazed at how high the fail rate is on these guys when they get to the airline training, they are so cocky they think they already know it all! Not even close! And your classmates will revel in your failures! Hold on to your humility-and stay humble! the saying there are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old bold pilots, is a very true statement!

What about the middle of the road 141 school? This one is pretty pricey huh? If you've done any homework on this one, you know they charge quite a fee for having access to their nice simulators, they are charging you a ton for your flight instruction and aircraft rental fee's and promise the FAST TRACK. Ok- so they have a catchy name and everyone is dressed so professionally, it feels like maybe this is a good option. Look very closely at this, and ask yourself, does my flight instructor suddenly become a better instructor than another just because of his or her clothes? NO! Is my flight instructor more experienced here? NO again. Does the CFI enjoy working here? Probably not, they might get paid a little better, but, if you could choose between a uniform and a casual dress policy at work, wouldn't you rather wear casual dress? This is a gimmick to make you, the student, feel like they are better! Put that CFI in full uniform, or even shirt and tie into a cessna in the heat of summer days, and you have one very miserable CFI! Some actually require YOU the student to dress up for the occasion-- this will not make a lick of difference in the quality of your training! There is one in particular that operated across from the part 61 school I was GM at that made me laugh so hard! They had lots of foreign students, old aircraft, charged a ton, and their students were in full pilot uniform, with,, and here's the funny part, eppaulets with 2 BARS-- ok-- explanation needed? In the US world of aviation, Captains are 4 bars, First officers are 3 bars and FLIGHT ATTENDANTS are 2 BARS! I tend to be a little too heavy on the teasing humor and let me tell you that these foreign students were not real enthused when I explained this to them one day while they were outside smoking! Apparently playing dress up was fun for them up until this point when I wrecked it for them! Of course I laughed for the entire explanation and teased them pretty badly. Needless to say, I wasn't real popular with them after that! Anyway back on track- if you are going this route- which is fine, just don't expect that your training or aircraft will be better, or any faster. How quickly you move forward will be decided upon your study and flying frequency for the most part. Many of these types of schools also schedule you according to who's available to fly with you when you want to fly. Ok sometimes there are times when a different instructor can be of value to you, but not like this. You need a CFI that will be the same one through the majority of the rating you are working on. You need to develop a relationship with your instructor- they will then know your strengths and weaknesses and coach you accordingly! I'm going to say it again, having the right instructor matched up with the student is very important. People have different learning and teaching styles and need someone who can be on the same level with them. If you get the wrong instructor- perhaps they are not patient enough or they tell bad jokes or distract you, conflicting personalities, for what ever reason, you find yourself frustrated, DON'T QUIT! Get a different instructor! Clarification-- there ARE 141 schools out there that don't get weird and fancy, and don't overcharge you!

Part 61 Schools, well in general, this is a good option, less expensive, but these vary alot. Look for a part 61 that has the following: a good track record,(zero to few incursions) Good maintenance on the aircraft, good management, happy flight instructors, cheerful and celebratory environment, regular scheduled ground schools offered, preferably a complex and multi-engine aircraft and, while not neccesary, but highly recommended, a Cessna Pilot Center affiliation (CPC). I am a believer in the CPC affiliation when the school properly utilizes it. However just because they have a CPC affiliation does not mean it's all clear! Cessna doesn't run these schools and therefore their influence is marginal. But I do believe that if you take the CPC curriculum, add a GOOD ground school to it, a good CFI who follows your training in the curriculum, and your committment to home studying & flying 3 times a week, that you have a winning combination! You've covered your bases and are good to go assuming that the school is stable. What I have laid out here for part 61 also applies to part 141. So why do many think 141 is the way to go? Well here's the plusses, easier financing, close supervision of your curriculum through FAA guidelines and some of your ratings, such as commercial rating time require fewer hours, ie less money spent in the end, in THEORY. Generally the only one of these you can truly count on is easier financing. So if you have the money to just pay for it- going part 61 is actually more fun and less hassle. IF you are attending a good school.

Here is a tip when shopping for your perfect school- have them show you their aircraft! Are they clean? Are the small details taken care of? Pitot tube covers, gust locks, doors and seats work correctly? Is there a fresh bottle of oil and funnel in the back? What condition are the checklists in? This will tell you alot about a school and their level of concern for safety and your needs!

OK, one last option here. SO, your town/city hasn't got a single one of these schools that feels right for you. Prepare yourself, I'm gonna get on the soap box! Find a CFI who is offering their services independent of a school. Now this can get tricky, because most schools won't rent their planes out for training with anyone not on their payroll. The CFI you find will know how to resolve this issue. This method of training is nice especially when you are doing your instrument rating and up. Why? Because, the majority of these instructors are doing this because they LOVE teaching! They tend to be more experienced and are not under the dictatorship of a school that is lousy! AND they CARE about YOUR dreams! I still recommend that you get a CPC, CBI(computer based instruction) kit. If you don't know them yet you will, John and Martha King, King Schools, develop the CPC CBI kit. You can purchase it through Cessna or through King Schools. While good old John and Martha, God love them, are still wearing the same hair cuts they had in the 70's, and can seem even annoying after watching too many of their lessons in one day, they have a very thorough and effective training curriculum. I have met them, they are VERY nice people, and extremely knowledgable. They earned their reputation, and it's a very good reputation! One more thought on choosing a school, part 141 part 61, in the end- when you get to training for a part 121 carrier-(airline) none of this will mean squat! It's a whole new training and completely different world! You will study more in 1 month of your airline training class, than you did for your entire training put together up to this point!
As for the CFI questions, well, yes, the majority of CFI's are doing it for the time building, this is a step in their ultimate goal as well. Yes, they are still learning too! This does not mean they can't teach you what you need, everyone starts somewhere. However the more experienced your CFI is, the better off you are. Private instruction is perfectly fine for the new CFI, but as you move up to instrument, ask yourself how you felt about your instructor, (assuming you will use the same one) before moving into a more complicated rating with them. If you don't already know this- yes, they have to have a seperate rating for training instrument students, CFII. So does this rating mean they are good enough to get you through it? Probably, but will your instruction be as thorough and excellent as it shuold be? mmm, maybe not. Depends on the CFII. The best instructors have high times and are instructing because they LOVE it! And they don't really have an interest in the airlines, they look more towards FAA examiner goals etc. Ask your instructor what their goals and total times are, how many sign offs they have and what the pass/fail ratio is for their students! Again, this does not mean a newbie won't be a good instructor- just that they are less experienced.
In the end, how long it takes you heavily depends upon you in most circumstances and part 61 makes it easier for you to move quickly, where 141 can hold you up at times. Keep in mind however that the more experienced you are, the better pilot you will be. Nothing can take the place of experience. Also keep in mind that in part 61, you may have to change schools to get complex ratings as many of the part 61's don't have the complex aircraft. A part 141 school who has these aircraft can still train you under part 61 and they generally have the complexes and aren't neccesarily more expensive in certain circumstances. ME is another issue all together and may mean yet another change. SO, now you are thinking it's easier to just go with the more expensive school who already has all these aircraft, and can give you an ATP as well. The choice is yours. They all have their positive and negative points, only you can decide whats right for you!
On a personal level- some of the best CFI's I employed, had alot of fun while training their students, they made every cross country fun, they went fun places and did silly things while there. These are memories for students and they matter! If the student is having fun, they will love aviation always, have better study habits and look forward to pleasing their CFI!

So now that I have answered a few questions I am sure I also made you think about new questions,, I hope I have shed light on some things, and next time hope to further that goal!
One of my goals for the future, once this blog gets more notice is to host a web site, and have more services available-- including a listing of independent CFI's, their experience, ratings and location. If you are a CFI who is interested in this let me know and I will start a new section for listing you here on this blog!


Anonymous said...

I'd like to address your comment about brand new CFIs gaining experience by instructing private students. For the sake of argument, I'll use a 275-hr. CFI with no prior instructing experience for my example (250 hrs. to obtain a commercial license plus a generous 25 hrs. to obtain their CFI).

Rather than using this 275-hr. CFI to learn HOW to teach by teaching someone who has never set foot in an airplane, wouldn't it be wiser (and safer) to put them with someone who already has their license and some knowledge about flying? The new CFI needs to get comfortable in their skin as a CFI. If you take away some of the multi-tasking a CFI must do with a new student (i.e., talk on the radio, look for traffic, teach the student a skill, watch the student, etc.) and put them with a student who is already capable of talking on the radio, looking for traffic, "flying" the airplane, that new CFI can focus on teaching and learning how to get across concepts correctly and accurately.

Putting a brand new student with a brand new CFI as a guinea pig seems to almost do that new student an injustice.

Cher said...

excellent point! and yet,, beyond the private we have instrument which is one of the most difficult, and technically important of the ratings, so, for safety sake- do you really want to be trained by a less experienced CFII and take the crap shoot? (by the way- if the CFI doesn't have a CFII, then who would you suggest they train?) Will you bust the checkride? Then beyond that, commercial for which a majority of the flying is time building solo, other than the complex portion. So really- either way, (sigh) it's a good point- so again, catch 22, (this could go on forever!)as pointed out in the earlier blog comments- how does a pilot go about getting experienced without going bankrupt if not by instructing? Once a pilot has gotten that 275 hrs, their CFI, CFII, they are pretty familiar with the learning process, and have recieved their training and certification to teach from the right seat--so the private training is really the base of all the training they have to give, I feel like I am going in cirlces! (around a point!) Probably looks like that too! it just doesn't seem to have a good answer- (then we can talk about the hiring minimums right now and REALLY get freaky!) So then am I suggesting that a CFI is worthless if there is not at least a CFII to back it up until they are more experienced?? I don't know the answer! It really boils down to skills, and the skill level of the teacher who taught your teacher who taught the teacher- who......... I'm getting dizzy! Thanks for the comment, all are appreciated and it really does point out that it's a complicated subject, and subjective,, circles again-- ahh, I'll think about it again tomorrow! Goodnight all! fly safe, and hope your instructors, instructors, instructor,,, had great skills, and lots of teaching savvy! (Anyone out there have a better answer? Please? Apparently not even the FAA has one-- well, no surprise there,, they are slower than an ultralight on everything! AHG! government) Maybe in the morning I'll make more sense!

Anonymous said...

Interesting thought about the instructor who teaches the instructor. This issue definitely goes beyond one or two "generations" of CFIs. Throw in how little real-world experience one needs and it really gets interesting. For example, an instrument rating used to require 125 hours of total time; now it requires no minimum total. A private license used to require a long solo cross-country of 250 NM straight line; now, it is 150 NM total distance. If a CFI hasn't ventured about beyond their own comfort zone, how can they be expected to teach a new student to want to explore beyond that "$100 hamburger"?

T-Bucket said...

The answer to that question, (like most things in aviation instruction), varies wildly with the individual instructor... There are some guys out there who will have no problem teaching a private student at 275 hours. There are others that still have a pretty small comfort zone at 800 hours... Another good reason to spend some time and get to know the CFI you're flying with!

Cher said...

thank you oh mighty T-bucket! thats the truth all wrapped up!

Jill said...

Unfortunately, Tbucket makes the assumption that the CFI will be around long enough to get to know. As Cher has alluded to, the airlines are picking up pilots with lower and lower flight times. As many instructors are looking to go to the airlines as a career, versus instruct as a career (a whole separate subject for Cher to address), it is extremely difficult for a student to establish any kind of relationship with a CFI. Many of them end up with 3, 4 or 5 different CFIs before they solo or even go for a check-ride. Makes it hard to find consistency, let alone a personality match!

Jill said...

T-bucket makes a great comment to get to know the CFI you're going to fly with. Unfortunately, many CFIs will not be around long enough to get to know. As Cher has alluded to, the airlines are picking up pilots with lower and lower flight times. As many instructors are looking to go to the airlines as a career, versus instruct as a career (a whole separate subject for Cher to address), it is extremely difficult for a student to establish any kind of relationship with a CFI. Many of them end up with 3, 4 or 5 different CFIs before they go for a check-ride (or even solo). Makes it hard to find consistency, let alone a personality match!

Cher said...

Which brings us back to the low time CFI as the only option-- so again- ge to know who they are and talk to management and see if they know squat about who they are sending you up with! Listen up schools! CARE about your students and CFI's! and hire CFI's who do too! It's time to take an active interest in who you are employing. Know them! skills, experience, teaching style, goals, reliability and personality. Are you sending a brand new student up with someone waiting to hear back from an airline? or actively applying for an airline position? When a CFI leaves are you taking the care needed to make sure they are getting the right CFI to pick up where the last left off? This is going to be a blog subject this week!

Metalflyboy said...

Finding a good Flight Instructor can be a full time job. In this industry it seems that the most inexperienced pilots are the ones that have the responsibility for teaching the new ones. The cards are stacked against you as a new student from the very start. Many Flight Instructors are using new students as a steping stone to build flight time. That does not mean that they are bad instructors. As I see it there are 3 types of Instructors. Number one are the Instructors that are just using you to build there flight time. This is the worst type. They could care less about you and all they are looking out for is there selves. You will learn very little if anything from this type of Instructor. The second type is the Instructor that is building his or her time but is truly interested in being a good teacher. This is what you should be looking for in an Instructor. Although they may not be the most experienced pilots in the world they care about you and your goals. The third type are the very experienced Instructors that are not interested in time building but are teaching because they love to teach. They have no interest in the airlines and usually are very experienced.

The life time Instructors are very hard to find. They make up about one percent of the Instructor pool if even that.

As a student you need to stand up for your rights. Remember that you are the employer and your Instructor is the Employee. Thats right! When it comes down to it you are paying your Flight Instructor to teach you a skill and if they are not doing a good job then you need to fire them. I did this to a Flight Instructor back in 1983. After an agonizing flight where my instructor pounded on the flight pannel and screamed the whole flight telling me that I would never learn we landed and shut the plane down. I told him that he was fired. I will never forget the look on his face. He said you can't fire me. I explained to him that I was paying him to teach me how to fly and he wasn't doing a very good job. Thats right! If you find that your Instructor is not doing a good job then fire them. After all you are paying a lot of money to learn how to fly and if you keep a bad instructor then I guarentee you will pay a lot more in the end.

Through the years I had a lot of bad Instructors. When I found myself Instructing, I was determined to not make the same mistakes that all my bad Instructors did. Yes, I was Instructing in order to build time for the airlines like the other 99% of the Instructors are doing. As an Instructor I wanted to be the best that I could be. I cared about all my students and loved teaching. I was more concerned with teaching safety than any thing else. Any Instructor can teach someone how to fly eventually. It takes a special kind of Instructor to teach a person how to fly safely. My favorite saying was safe and legal are two different things. It is perfectly legal to take a single engine airplane across a mountain range at night but is it safe? You can operate in class G airspace in the day time with one mile visibility but is it safe? You can land in VFR conditions with only a half an hour of fuel in your tanks. For a Cessna 172 that is about 3 to 4 gallons. Let me tell you if I knew that I had only 4 gallons of fuel in my tank after landing I would freak out. Pilot decision making is the most important part of teaching.

141 versus 61.
If you have all of your financing worked out and can spend all of your time flying then part 61 is the way to go. Yes the hour requirement for part 141 is less but I would challenge anyone to actually finish in the minimum time. I guarentee it won't happen. I blew through my Commercial, CFI, and Multi engine ratings quicker than any of the 141 students in my school could even get thier Private. In fact I ended up Instructing some of them before they finished their Privates. Make no mistake about it, if you have your financing in order part 61 is the fast track.

To some all of this up, interview your prospective Flight Instructors as if they are going to be your employee. Ask for refrences from current students as well as former students. As for Flight Schools, don't get involved with the ones that want you pay them thousands of dollars up front. Don't be afraid to shop around.

Jill said...

Amen to those comments. NEVER let a CFI dictate how you're going to spend YOUR money! Your life, and that of your family and/or friends (or your passengers when you fly for an airline), is the bottom line and should be the guiding force behind your decision-making. Fortunately, unlike metalflyboy, I had many good instructors. I knew up front they were heading for the airlines but while they were instructing, they put everything they had into it. When you can take the best characteristics and abilities from your instructors, it will make you a better pilot and instructor.

Cher said...

metalflyboy ,, well put. Thank you for your comment. I 100% agree, if your CFI is not getting the job done in a way that is helping you-- key word here "helping/helpful" then FIRE them! Yes metalflyboy is right! You DO pay them and that DOES make you the employer! The problem is in so many schools that they forget that they are providing a service, and customer service is part of that picture! It is NEVER appropriate for a CFI to treat you badly or insult you. You can tell when you first set foot inside the doors in nearly every circumstance, how they are going to treat you, and if they aren't excited about your dream to fly, act like you are not important, or they don't lay out all the information and options, then shame on them! This is not a one time visit- it's a relationship you build with them and trust enters into this equation. These are the types of things that really irritate me. I can assure you that a CFI who works in this unfriendly environment is not happy there either; Certainly not the ones that are good instructors, who know what's important, and that is the students dreams and goals. I worked very hard to ensure a happy & celebratory environment for both students and CFI's. It was worth every effort I made and I loved every one of those people.
flyboy is also very right on "legal doesn't equal safe." Your flight instructor should be teaching you about situational awareness and good decision making! Ok- new blog entry tomorrow-- !! Fly safe!

Anonymous said...

I need some advise. I have a CFII that is not so hot. He has had 6 students leave him and he might be on the way to add a 7th. He is not very positive in fact he is mostly negative. He is very quick to make fun and in result will say don't take it so hard. He will call his student's (trying to joke) a sissy if they don’t want to fly in high winds. I am at the end of my rope. We had a ground lesson just today where I watched the clock close. He charged me an hours worth when we only did 40 min. Is that normal to round up? I use the Jeppsen foggles to do my IFR training. He felt that I was trying to cheat and see to much so he put a sectional on the dash of the plane to try and reduce my visibility even more. I still flew the approach as I normally would and he said that it wasn’t as good in his defense. We never have confronted or have had an argument but I am frustrated. We will have a 2 hour block to fly and I will get there on time and pre flight the plane to sit and wait for 20 min after having done the preflight for him to walk outside. I am so close to being done, should I can him and just finish the last week with someone else? Or should I just grit my teeth for a few more days?

Cher said...

Dear anonymous, I haven't posted for a while, just getting my feet under me, but, aviation always has my heart. So I will respond here while trying to keep it from becoming a full on diatribe. Sounds like you are on the fence, almost finished, but frustrated. My biggest concern here is this, because you are nearly finished with your instrument rating, have you done a check flight with any other instructors? While I think it's important to have the same instructor throughout the rating, getting that check flight is also very important. It gives everyone an opportunity to see where they are at, including you knowing if your instructor is giving you the skills you need to passs that check ride! If you are in a 141 school surely you have done a check flight with a chief pilot. It's unfortunate that you and your instructor aren't well matched, especially this late in the game-- if you only have a few more days as you say- and have had a check flight with a different CFII or a chief pilot, and you KNOW you are going to have the skills you need to pass that checkride, then stick it out. Thats my advice. If it's more complicated than that, then I would advise analyzing the situation more thoroughly. At that point the question becomes one about the management and other CFII's available. It could very well set you back time wise to finish up with a different instructor. I really need more info in order to give you better advice. Hearing that he has had 6 students split on him really is a bad sign. I'd have to say the problem is truly him in that case.
As for rounding up time, no, the time should be exact and seperated out in your billing between ground time and flight time, usually ground time is less per hour-- if it was all flight time and you were charged for a full hr on flight when it was only 40 minutes- well, I wouldn't pay for 10 gallons of fuel for my car when I was only getting 7.
Again this comes back to management,, and do they care? If so why is this guy still on the payroll? Let me clarify, I know students who love to have a CFI who has a great sense of humor, and have had them love to elbow eachother, but that's a consenting situation. I would never put a smart ass CFI with a student who was very serious. I am really big on CFI matching. But this guy sounds like he makes more enemies than friends with his brand of "sense of humor." How much do you really know about his record? How many passes and fails etc?? Tough decision- but at this point I sure would be thinking it out thoroughly before making a decision and I certainly wouldn't have a confrontation at this juncture unless you know he has given you less than acceptable training. I would on the other hand point out to management that he overcharges you, have them look at the logs- it's all there! I'm about to go on overdrive here and start talking about why the CFI is charging you according to his watch and not the school charging you according to the logs as well as why you are out sitting on the tarmac for twenty minutes waiting for him! Unless of course he is not affiliated with a school, then thats another subject entirely, again I need more info. If I can help you with anything else let me know-- and all my other readers- please, chime in!