Are Part 141 Flight Schools Really Better?

When we are asked this question, we often respond, “is a Boeing 747 Commercial Airliner (bus) or Cessna 172 (compact car) better?” Of course, it depends on the mission and circumstances.

What is a Part 141 Flight School?

Pilot schools, or flight schools as they are also called, are regulated by Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 61 or Part 141. These numbers represent the sections of the rules under which the school must be operated and the students must function and learn. These regulations differ in several areas and create both advantages and disadvantages to the student.

Part 61 flight schools are easier to manage, offer a more flexible lesson order (not always desirable though), incur less Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight (also not always desirable), do not require experienced managerial supervision, nor require approved curricula or even to complete a curriculum beyond the minimum the subjects listed in the regulations. The Part 61 school is not required to perform flight instructor standardization (think “continual education and best practices refinement”), nor maintain aircraft maintenance quality control beyond the regulatory minimums, nor educational quality assurance provisions beyond the minimum in the Part 61 regulations. To be fair, a flight school operating under Part 61 could choose to do all these things….

Both sets of regulations allow the student to set their own pace (think training events 2-5 times a week or more based on availability of aircraft, instructors and student schedule). The Part 141 flight program is slightly less flexible in lesson order, but lessons are ordered, in writing, in a very specific and purposeful structure according to accepted and proven educational principles. The order of lessons in 141 can be flexed but only when the educational process is not compromised. Not so under Part 61. In Part 61 the order of lessons may or may not be coherent and progress may or may not suffer to a significant degree depending on the (inexperienced?) instructor’s ability to discern the educational principles at stake. USAeroFlight management teaches under Part 61 and Part 141 and uses the same syllabus (set of written lesson plans), the same educational principles, the same 141-qualified instructors and the same management to perform Part 61 or Part 141 obligations which makes the question of which is better a moot point in USAeroFlight’s operation.

The greatest differences between 61 and 141 to the student are that

Part 141 Flight School regulations guarantee certain things:

Experienced Oversight of Instructors and Students

All flight schools, Part 141 or 61, have the same staffing problem. Due to the rapid attrition of instructors to higher paying passenger airline, cargo airline and corporate flight departments etc., all flight schools of either type have to live with the fact that the majority of flight instruction is carried out by the newly-minted flight instructors who will teach many flight hours per month for a year or two, create another instructor (or five…) in their own image and in so doing gain the requisite flight experience and skill and move on to a jet job. After all, “he who teaches learns the most.” This is the way aviation in US (yes, in the world) is structured: the inexperienced pilot-teachers do the majority of instruction. Yet, the system can work quite well.

Part 141 requires that the supervisory positions of chief instructor and check instructor are to be filled with experienced pilots with significant teaching and evaluation experience. A 141 school is required to have experienced oversight of instructors. It is not an option.

A 141 instructor must pass chief pilot proficiency checks, attend regular standardization meetings on best practices for safety, efficiency, teaching methods, etc., and is always under the direct daily supervision of the chief instructor and experienced check instructors. The “on-the-job” questions that every new instructor inevitably has will be answered promptly on the basis of experience; someone else’s experience rather than experimentation. In a 141 school experienced people are required to be daily on hand or available by phone to mentor the new instructor into best policies and practices right away with no experimenting with the first few students to “see what works.” The chief instructor and other management personnel are required in a 141 school to pass on “what works” from day 1, lesson 1 and in the form of a written FAA-approved curriculum and formal and regular instructor meetings.

Under Part 61, the flight instructor may or may not be operating under the direct supervision of experienced educators and essentially may experiment with his first few students reinventing the wheel for a while until he gets his initial teaching experience under his belt. If you are his first, second or fifth student, well, it’s tough to be you.

An FAA Approved, Written Curriculum

The curriculum under Part 141, called a Training Course Outline (TCO), must be written, approved by the FAA, and updated regularly to reflect the inevitable changes in industry and federal regulations. It is this document that standardizes the instructor’s approach to teaching, requires the proper order of training events according to sound educational principles, and documents student progress through the training to make sure no knowledge or skills “slip between the cracks.”

Guarantee of a Quality Assurance Program

Part 141 requires “stage checks” which are essentially student progress checks consisting of a ground and flight session with a highly experienced instructor (who has not moved on to other career goals). This individual will evaluate the knowledge and flight skills of the student as well as the thoroughness of the instructor’s documentation of training. This occurs at several points in the training curriculum prior to certification. Under Part 141 these stage checks are required with no exception. Under Part 61, stage checks are optional or non-existent. The stage check is a second set of eyes on the student’s progress – quality assurance if you will. The student receives an oral exam and then flies with the check instructor and receives a formal evaluation. He either passes and moves on in training or receives additional training and gets rechecked. This method of quality assurance catches many areas of aeronautical weakness that otherwise might go uncorrected. More importantly, it catches these inadequacies early on in training.

Decreased Hourly Requirements for Certificates and Ratings

Part 141 has provisions to reduce the total number of hours a student is required to train to complete a certificate or rating. For example, in Part 61 the individual seeking a commercial pilot certificate must achieve 250 total flight hours to test for that pilot certificate. In Part 141 that requirement is reduced to 190 hours resulting in substantial cost savings.

Guaranteed Benefits of Part 141 School for Flight Training

Choosing a Part 141 or Part 61 Pilot School for Flight Training

You may be looking at a Part 141 school but feel you know little about who you’re looking at. Rest easy. If you’re looking at a flight school offering a Part 141 program, there are certain things you can count on:

Some minor disadvantages of the 141 school may be: A Part 141 Pilot School may not be available in your area.

So, if 141 is so great, why does USAeroFlight provide training under Part 141 and under Part 61 of the regulations? It comes down to a couple disadvantages of the Part 141 flight school for some individuals who are in specific situations. For example, if a student began training for a private pilot certificate at another school and then transfers to a Part 141 school, there are significant limits to the transfer credits the receiving 141 school can offer. As a result, students arriving at USAeroFlight from a different Part 61 school can have credit for all their training under Part 61 regulations. They then can finish the private certificate under Part 61 regulations and start the next pilot certificate in Part 141, if they wish.

Individuals training in our Part 61 school receive the best of both worlds: the flexibility of transfer credit but yet all the other benefits of being trained under essentially the same curriculum, the same 141 qualified instructors, the same experienced supervision, and the same facilities and equipment regularly inspected by the FAA. Flexibility and quality at one flight school!

Additionally, under Part 141 the student MUST complete all lessons in the curriculum to graduate. No exceptions to this. There is the occasion where a student reaches proficiency and practical exam eligibility prior to completing all Part 141 lessons. In some cases, the student can be disenrolled from 141 and tested right away under Part 61 of the regulations saving time and money.

So, is a Boeing 747 Commercial Airliner (bus) or Cessna 172 (compact car) better? The answer is, it depends. The bottom line is, students will be coached by experienced USAeroFlight management into the regulatory structure that is in the student’s best interest for each pilot certificate or rating they desire to pursue.

If you’re looking for the right school for you, USAeroFlight is an FAA-approved Part 141 flight school in Greenville, South Carolina with the flexibility to teach under Part 61 if it is to your advantage. Our instructors work with students in small group and one-to-one settings to deliver academically sound, exceptional flight instruction. It would be our delight to serve you!