When you've compiled a list of instructors and/or flight schools, call and ask for literature. You're looking for details of the curriculum, cost, training aircraft, instructor credentials (Gold Seal), instructional philosophy, customer service, convenience, and anything else that will help you begin to make judgments about the candidates. After reviewing the literature, it's time to hit the road, tour the flight school facilities, and interview instructors.
"Choosing A Flight School" guides you through the tour of a flight school. But what questions should you ask an instructor? It helps to know something about the instructor's aviation background and interests. When did they get interested in aviation, and why? Where and when did they train? What is their instructor experience ‚ how many primary students have they trained and recommended for the check ride in the last year, and of those, how many passed on their first attempt? How many students are they currently training?
Does the instructor have advanced instructor ratings, such as instrument and/or multiengine instructor? This indicates a higher level of training and knowledge, and possibly even a deeper commitment to instructing.
Ask the instructor about his or her aviation goals and objectives, and how they plan to achieve them. For example, most young instructors strive to acquire multiengine and, especially turbine-powered-aircraft flight hours to make themselves more marketable in the industry. Ambitious career goals are admirable and should be encouraged, but it should not result in instructors being unreliable at showing up for lessons because they are flying last-minute charters. No matter their long-range aspirations, a flight instructor must be committed to helping you, the student, realize your goal of becoming a pilot.
What curriculum will the instructor use to train you? Several options are available. Flight schools can be FAA Part 141 certified, meaning the facilities, personnel, and curriculum meet a set of FAA minimum standards. A part 141 curriculum tends to be highly structured and employed mostly in an intensive, accelerated learning environment such as at career-oriented flight schools. A part 61 school and curriculum are not certified by the FAA, but the objective is the same as a Part 141 program: to prepare students to pass the FAA written and practical tests and become safe, proficient pilots. A Part 61 curriculum has the advantage of being more flexible to meet individual students' schedules and learning pace.
Regardless of whether it is Part 61 or Part 141, a flight school and instructor should have an established curriculum that all involved can refer to as the basic instructional strategy, and as a measure of progress. Ask the instructor about this.
What texts and supporting materials will the instructor use during the training? How about ground school ‚ is the instructor available to teach ground school, or will the instructor support your decision to pursue home study to prepare for the next flight lesson and the written test?
Your interview should be designed to gather specific information about the instructor's experience, qualifications, and professionalism. You also should be forming an opinion about the instructor's personality and demeanor, and how they might mesh with your own characteristics. It's not that you must "like" an instructor for it to be a productive, successful relationship. However, if one of you is oil and the other water, you may never find common ground. Most likely you and an incompatible instructor will come to view the training experience as drudgery rather than a shared interesting and exciting challenge.