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A word about trends. General aviation is undergoing a dramatic change, and with it flight training. Not so many years ago most fixed base operations (FBOs) were affiliated with one or more of the large general aviation aircraft manufacturers, and provided one-stop shopping for practically every need: flight training, aircraft rental, sales of new and used general aviation aircraft, fuel, maintenance and repair services, and charter fights. If you were interested in learning to fly, most likely you would train through the FBO's flight school at your local airport.

That is much less true today. Economic factors have forced many FBOs, especially at larger, urban airports, to abandon primary flight training and concentrate their efforts on more profitable businesses such as fueling, maintenance, and repair of aircraft.

Instead, flight schools that operate independently of other aviation businesses have sprung up, with many specializing in career-oriented training. At the same time, a strong job market for professional pilots has thinned the ranks of full-time flight instructors.

What does all this mean for the new student pilot? Simply that finding the best flight school and instructor may require more work than in the past. You may have to look farther than the closest airport, and be flexible when evaluating a candidate school. It may not meet all of your criteria, but if it satisfies the most important, it may be the one for you.

The trend in general aviation is positive. More people are learning to fly, manufacturers are building new light aircraft, and technologically advanced tools are changing the way flight training in conducted. It's a great time to learn to fly.

This information is sponsored by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and Sporty's Pilot Shop. Converted for the Web by 4VFR.COM.

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