Alright so let’s say you’ve landed (pun intended) on flying and you’re looking to go to flight school full time, accelerated or not. How do you best set yourself up for success considering you’ve waved goodbye to your savings, your sanity, and taken out a loan that would make your ancestors cry?
First of all, if you’ve chosen this path, congratulations! The road ahead may very well be one of the hottest of messes you’ve walked on, but it’s freakin awesome! The first step is the hardest, but it’ll be well worth it in my opinion. You’re going to make sure you can do a couple of things:
You’re going to need a medical. Don’t wait until the last minute to get this. I’ve seen students sit around for a month at school unable to fly because they had an issue with their medical. Make sure you can get a first-class medical and do it before you spend $80k plus on school.
Aircraft renters Insurance
You’re going to need renters insurance for solo flights. I highly recommend SkyWatch because they’re the only place I’ve found that offers insurance by the day, week, month, or year, compared to having to dish out $600-$900 all at once for an entire year. I wish I would’ve heard of them when I was in training (could’ve poured more money into my caffeine habit), but I use them now for my CFI insurance. Here’s a link if you’d like to get a quote: See how much solo flying you’ll be expecting to do at your school. There’s a very good chance it won’t be much, so don’t waste your money on a year-long policy when you only need it for a handful of flights.
Make sure you’ve set yourself up financially. Be aware of all expenses: FAA written exams ($175 a pop), checkrides ($500-$1350 each), insurance (like I mentioned above), room and board, food, blah blah. Now, this is for the more accelerated programs: in case you do go over the timeline the school has laid out, make sure you’ll be able to support yourself. I could've finished my program a month early, but weather, maintenance, and instructor availability all come into play and can put a dent in your plans and therefore finances. Unless you’re a mutant and don’t need sleep, you won’t be able to hold down a job to support yourself. Take all your expenses into consideration and plan out an extra month or two just in case things don’t go according to plan.
Now this one is the big one. The name of the game for a zero hero type flight school is getting ahead and STAYING ahead. Without a doubt, this is going to be the most important thing to help you be successful and save you the most money in the long run. Time is money. The best way to save your time is to have all or most of your FAA-written exams done before you even step foot through the door on your first day. Numero uno, the big cheese, the head honcho, the big kahuna of things to get done are your written exams. Look, you are a passenger on the Titanic.
Getting your writtens done is your wooden door, your saving grace. Sitting around waiting to start school, NOT getting ahead on the other hand is remarkably similar to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Comprende? Seems self-explanatory for a fast-paced program, but unfortunately, I’ve seen it happen. Even now, if I listen close, I can still hear faint flushing noises, followed by the sobs of parents who thought their kid was going to put in the work leading up to flight school. Your flight school may have a deal with King Schools or some online ground school to prepare you for the writtens. You’re going to want that foundation of knowledge before you come in and they stick your face on a fire hydrant hose and turn on the flow of information. If you’re coming in with your private done, you’re a step ahead because you understand what training is going to look like. If you’ve got zero time...well you’re going in blind my friend, but that’s ok, grab your wooden door and yeet yourself off the side. Get your ground school in, take notes, and use other resources (like YouTube) if something isn’t making sense.
Here are the written exams you’ll need to take: Private, Instrument, Commercial, Certified Flight Instructor, Certified Flight Instructor Instrument, and Fundamentals of Instruction. Now you’ll need to use your ground school to prepare for private and instrument (you WILL need this foundation), but if you’re short on time I also recommend Sheppard Air to prepare for writtens. Disclaimer: Sheppard Air DOES NOT teach you the material. They have a test-taking strategy only, and it works. I cannot emphasize this enough, it will not teach you what you need to know, and you will not pass your checkride if this is the only thing you try to prepare with (think flushing noises). Online ground school will be your best friend, so use it.
If you’re going the accelerated flight school route all excited that it’s only supposed to take 5-9 months to get done, you need to know that the ONLY reason that timeline exists is that they built it around the idea that all the prep work and homework is done before your first day. If you come in with nothing done or just the bare minimum, I can almost guarantee you that you’ll go over the timeline and budget. Do the homework people!
Good luck, aviators!