Join the Club
The main problem any new student faces is that, by definition, they will know very little about flying and particularly the mechanics of flying training. This does not put you in a very good position to make decisions when you are just about to invest a fair amount of your money.
As students have little choice, assumptions tend to be made. The most common one is that all schools and instructors are fundamentally the same — therefore a choice can be made (for example) based on the most attractive price, whereas actual value for money should be the determining factor. Certainly all schools have to meet the stipulated standard, but how they do this is very much up to them.
The foregoing notes will have given you some ideas on key areas that will affect the value of your training in standards, money and human terms. We will now give you some general advice on how you can employ that information.
Your most valuable information source is word-of-mouth referral from people who have similar goals and outlooks to yourself. They have been ‘hands on’ and will know how the interface with the school felt like subjectively as well as objectively.
If you do not have such an information source then you will have to make decisions for yourself. The first step is finding a school that has an aeroplane type suitable to your intentions and which has a location to meet your travel and time needs.
You now need to get a ‘feel’ for how the school will work for you — is it a bit cold and commercial, or friendly and ‘clubby’, or somewhere between. You could take a TIF to try them out, but also spend some time watching the operation and studying the general activity on the airfield. See how they handle their students and talk to those students yourself to get their impressions.
You may not be able to do much assessment by visit if you intend travelling some distance to a course. In this case, an important factor is to assess how much the school is trying to inform you and help you versus how much ‘selling the product takes precedence’. In our case we are rather blunt. We would sooner take the time to give you information, to make valid decisions on, than have you here for our product when you do not actually need it. That would only waste your time and ours — better to sort it out now.
In addition to the above you should be given a reasonable idea of what is going to happen to you. At our school you will receive one-on-one training with the same instructor and possibly flying with another for just isolated exercises for a change of pace. You will either be on your own or with one other person, usually one of our casual students who will be different on a day-to-day basis.