How to pick the right flight school

FLIGHT SCHOOL
TRANSPARENCY PROJECT

In recent years we’ve noticed an uptick in people who are interested in recreational and professional powered aviation. If you’re a fan of this hobby or would like to become a professional pilot, this is the place for you.

The increased demand for flight courses on the Czech market saw the founding of several flight schools, offering a wide range of flight courses. First, you need to figure out what you actually expect from flying and which road you should take accordingly. Both roads usually begin at the same place, i.e. with a PPL(A) course to get a private pilot licence. If you intend to fly recreationally only, you can also pick a course in flying ultralight planes and get a UL or LAPL licence which is a compromise between UL and PPL(A). If you’d like to become a professional pilot, you’ll need to pass a PPL(A) course eventually; the total number of course hours is lowered for UL or LAPL licenced applicants.

A PPL(A) licence allows you to fly on non-business days, i.e. for private purposes. If you decide to make your living as a transport (commercial) pilot, this licence will be the cornerstone of your career. The hours flown during your PPL(A) course will be figured into your future courses. To sum up, a PPL(A) licence is a ticket to the world of aviation and one of the main criteria when choosing a flight school.

SO HOW DOES ONE PICK THE RIGHT FLIGHT SCHOOL?

Below, we clearly describe the most important criteria to keep in mind when picking the right and fair flight school.
1

TRAVEL DISTANCE MATTERS

Although the distance from your home to the airport may seem irrelevant, remember that flight courses are time consuming and long intervals between individual lessons can result in a higher final price. Think about it as a driving school—if the interval between individual lessons is longer than one week, it’s likely you soon won’t be able to as much as pull away.

Ideally, you should choose a flight school you can drive to about twice a week so that you don’t have to repeat flying lessons and pay extra fees.
2

READING CONTRACTUAL TERMS PAYS OFF

Flying is a business which gives flight schools many opportunities for unfair conduct and price tricks.

First, you should expect the costs to go over one hundred thousand crowns. Some flight schools offer payment schedules, i.e. payment in two, three instalments, etc. where you simply prepay credits for a certain period. Realistically, it’s good to have all funds available at the start of your course. This prevents insolvency, which leads to course suspension. If you spend too much time outside the cockpit, you may become unsure and will need to fly more than the prescribed amount of flight hours which increases the total course price.

One of the most important things to take into account when picking a flight school is the contract—read what you’re signing! We don’t recommend you sign an agreement that covers all course stages at once (applies primarily to those who’d like to fly professionally in the future). Otherwise, you rob yourself of the opportunity to switch schools if you’re unhappy with the quality of the services being provided. Also, cancellation fees tend to be so high you most likely won’t be able to leave such a school anyway. If you have prepaid hours (credits), they usually become invalid if you switch schools in the middle of a course. So choose carefully.
3

AIRWORTHINESS IS IMPORTANT

There can be other explanations for a low course price besides hidden fees—such as the low airworthiness of the school’s fleet. In practice, you can encounter airplanes that are primarily intended for pilot courses and where only the necessary parts are serviced. Coming back to our driving school example, the cars tend to be dented and their overall condition would improve if the clutch were replaced. Make sure the fleet is being serviced and the airplanes don’t contain just the basic equipment or outdated avionics. Sometimes you can tell at first glance what condition a plane is really in. The type of hangaring (inside/outside) also affects the general condition of an aircraft.
4

BUSY OR NOT?

How busy a flight school is affects how well your course will go. The number of employees / instructors / planes is definitely important. It’s an individual matter, however.

There are schools that can handle many courses without a hitch. But if a school accepts more students than it can deal with, it can affect the course price or quality. In some cases, additional fees are charged for the option to fly whenever you need, i.e. you pay a one-lump sum for being able to book a date and time of your choice. Conversely, you may have to wait several days for a free plane or instructor, which ultimately prolongs your course and increases the price. In extreme cases, the course can be suspended for reasons of insufficient capacity. This can take months if the school has other obligations, e.g. to another institution.

To make a course cohesive, you should be instructed by 2–3 instructors at most. If there are more involved, their individual habits might make the course rather complicated.
5

NO TWO PRICES ARE CREATED EQUAL

For most beginner pilots, price is the most important criterion when picking a flight school. Many flight schools count on beginners being ignorant and usually list only the basic price of renting a plane + instructor, multiplied by the number of flight hours. So, if you as a future pilot are looking into flight schools in your vicinity and compare course prices, using the information listed on their websites, you most likely aren’t anywhere near close to the final price of your course.

To help you figure out the actual costs of a PPL(A) licence, as this is the one most beginners start with, we decided to create a simple calculator where you can calculate the price of a PPL(A) course, learning the actual course price so that you don’t end up paying additional tens or hundreds of thousands of crowns.
Expense item
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
Price of plane/hour x 45 course hours as per the curriculum
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
2 990 CZK
12 000 CZK
45
CZK
Instructor x 45 course hours as per the curriculum
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
500 CZK
1 500 CZK
45
CZK
Course fee
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
5 000 CZK
15 000 CZK
1
CZK
Theory
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
7 000 CZK
30 000 CZK
1
CZK
Landing fees
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
5 000 CZK
30 000 CZK
1
CZK
Practical exam in a plane type of your choice x 2 h.
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
2 990 CZK
12 000 CZK
2
CZK
Radiotelephone operator course
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
2 000 CZK
7 000 CZK
1
CZK
Questions for written exam
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
0 CZK
4 800 CZK
1
CZK
Other fees
(Fuel fee, headset rental, navigation, navigation fees, handling, booking a term, briefing, de-briefing)
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
0 CZK
130 000 CZK
1
CZK
In total
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
182 030 CZK
843 300 CZK
x
21% VAT
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
38 226 CZK
178 143 CZK
x
Radiotelephone operator exam
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
450 CZK
2 700 CZK
1
CZK
Written PPL(A) exam
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
4 500 CZK
4 500 CZK
1
CZK
Medical fitness certification (Medical)
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
1 500 CZK
1 500 CZK
1
CZK
Liability for aircraft damage (Insurance)
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
4 000 CZK
5 000 CZK
1
CZK
Total course price, 21% VAT included
Min. price
Max. price
Number of items
Your assignment
230 706 CZK
1 040 143 CZK
x
The maximum course price listed above is unlikely as it includes the highest possible costs and price tricks. The real price of a PPL(A) course tends to be ca 200–350,000 CZK, VAT included. Unfortunately, there have been students who were unaware of course price standards and ended up paying up to 850,000 CZK. On average, students pay an additional fee of ca 50–100,000 CZK.

The final course price is usually increased by charging other fees (Fuel fee, headset rental, navigation, navigation fees, handling, booking a term, briefing, de-briefing). These flight school price tricks aren’t communicated to you if you don’t ask about them specifically. So don’t let an unpleasant employee deter you and insist that all your questions be answered. Additional fees aren’t a standard part of the course price and there are still flight schools which don’t charge them. If you want to be sure you know the actual final price, carefully communicate with your favourite candidates, discuss every single item we’ve listed in our PPL(A) calculator, and create your own price comparison. Such an analysis will save you lots of future trouble and money.
6

FINAL TIPS

Currently, this project is the only fully transparent cohesive manual in the Czech Republic that openly discusses the issue of correctly picking a flight school. It’s based on the real experiences of students we have been fortunate to meet.

If you want to be really careful when picking your future flight school, we recommend you also follow these 5 rules:
  1. Use our calculator when picking a flight school; then you won’t be surprised by any additional costs incurred during your course.
  2. Before the course, ask all the questions you can think of. It’s your investment
  3. Don’t let unpleasant staff deter you. Insist on having all your questions answered.
  4. Don’t rely on a recommendation from your friends. Many flight schools offer their students commission for new contracted courses. Your friend might not be concerned with the school’s actual quality, only with their commission.
  5. Read public reviews.

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