As student pilots, you have two basic school structures or training curriculum to choose from. You can choose to learn under a Part 141 school or a Part 61 school. So what’s the difference and which one is better?
Part 141 flight schools must follow a structured training program. This means they will use a syllabus to ensure all necessary training is provided in order through lesson plans. Students need to attend a formal ground school as well. They will utilize stage checks to monitor the progress of students done by the Chief Flight Instructor or assistants, keep accurate/detailed records of the student’s progress for FAA review and provide instructor standardization. Part 141 schools must also undergo FAA inspections of facilities, aircraft and training equipment. In a nutshell, Part 141 flight schools are very regimented and structured, “by the book”.
Part 61 flight schools provide more flexibility in that the student does not have to have to follow an approved training syllabus. Instructors can re-arrange lessons to suit the student’s needs but they still must adhere to the FAR requirements that are needed to train their students under Part 61. The flight student does not need to attend a formal ground school and can complete an approved home study course, use a ground instructor or attend a formal ground school.
Ideally, Part 141 schools would take less hours (35 for a private pilot vs. 40hrs under Part 61) to complete the private pilot training thus costing the student less money. Regardless of the type training chosen, the student needs to pass the FAA Knowledge and Practical exams in order to receive their certificate. Some schools choose not to obtain their Part141 certification in order to provide the flexibility to the local student population while others want just the opposite. In my opinion both formats offer great training, it’s simply a matter of what environment the student is most comfortable in and what works for he/she. If a student needs formality in their training but also flexibility in their schedule, they are welcome to follow a syllabus with their instructor under Part 61 as I don’t know any CFI that would turn down an opportunity to teach. I’ve learned in both environments and believe both to be sufficient. The most important thing a student can do is to interview instructors, find one they are comfortable with and study hard and train hard. Most students will go well over the required hours to obtain their private pilot certificate so it’s important to make sure, as a student, that you are most efficient with your dollars. Have fun!