Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Best Flight School in Canada

I have received a number of questions in the past little while basically asking which flight school in Canada is the best. The question makes sense and I do not wish to criticise the askers. In fact, I would applaud their conviction for wanting to strive to be the best that they can be in order to succeed at their career.

In my opinion however, there is no one best flight school or college in Canada.

Choosing a flight school is a very personal issue. What would be the best school for one candidate could be an awful choice for another. There are sundry factors that can determine which school or type of school is best for each person. Most important thing to remember when deciding where to complete your flight training is that no one school in Canada will allow you to skip directly to flying for the airlines.

As I outline in my book, there are different routes to getting your licence. In this post I will not be looking at the military route, but that is still an option. For strictly civilian flying, there are a number of options:
-a traditional flight school
-an organized commercial pilot course at a traditional flight school not associated with an accredited college or university
-a college program that contracts out the flying portion of their program with a local flight school.
-a college program that operates its own fleet of aircraft
-a university program that contracts out the flying portion of their program with a local flight school

The questions still come up though:
So which is the best? Surely a university degree is the best option? Wouldn’t the training from a recognized college with their own fleet give me the best quality training? Wouldn’t doing it through a traditional flight school give me the most flexibility in my training? Wouldn’t doing an accelerated organized program through a flight school get me out in the industry quicker? Does the most expensive program mean it’s the best?

The answer of course to all these questions is: It depends.

In this past post I talked about the benefits of getting a degree for persons interested in becoming a pilot. Overall I think getting a degree is a good idea. But when deciding on whether to get one, you must take a hard look at what you want to do with your career, if you would succeed in such an atmosphere and if having a degree is really worth the extra money and time you’ll spend getting it. I think a degree opens up a lot of doors, especially outside of aviation, but it will not automatically mean you’ll succeed.

The cost of a program can be an issue too. I wish it wasn’t the case, but entry level flying jobs do not pay well. Things are really tight financially for the first few years and if you have a huge debt to pay off at the same time, it will be hard to survive.

Going through one of the subsidized colleges in Ontario (Sault, Confederation and Seneca) could help alleviate that problem, however, they can be very academically demanding and can take extra time to complete compared to going through a traditional flight school.

Taking an accelerated program through a local flight school could be a great way to get out into the industry quicker while still having extra ground school classes. But these programs can be expensive and just because a flight school calls these programs ‘college programs’ doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to receive student loans or have the program be recognized as a college program by the airlines.

Finally, the location of the flight school can play a major role in determining if it is a good fit for a particular individual.

Obtaining quality flight training and getting your licences is an important factor in finding your first (and subsequent) job in the industry. But once getting the minimum requirements, the most important factors, often more important than where you went to school is your personality and attitude. Are you someone that would fit in well with this airline? Are you a team player? Can you be responsible and professional in your decisions? Will you be safe and make the company money?

I have met pilots from all different backgrounds. Their attitude and skills have varied across the board, but so too has their training background. Some pilots who went to college or university are great pilots, easy to get a long with and responsible in their decisions. Others are difficult to get along with or not that skilled. The same can be said about pilots who did their training through a local flight school.

Although the airlines like to see a degree on a person’s resume, the smaller airlines that hirer low time pilots generally don’t care.

So, there really isn’t one best school to do your training in Canada.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Future of Aviation?

More bad news from the Canadian Airline Industry with Air Canada Jazz announcing that they'll be laying off approximately 270 employees. This is a blow to pilot movement in the industry as up until just a couple of weeks ago. Typical of the industry is that from grapevine it seems that Jazz is still training new hire pilots even after they've announced layoffs. While to a certain extent this makes sense as a half trained pilot is of no benefit to you, it shows how quickly things can change in the industry.

In the US, a number of the major airlines announced massive job cuts and fleet reduction to save fuel costs. So while I won't harp too much, be wary if your main goal for being a pilot is to be an airline pilot - there looks to be some unsettling times ahead.

News from General Aviation seems to be better. In the past week, both Piper and Cirrus have made advances in the developments of their single engine jet and Diamond continues to develop it's light jet.

Here's a video of the PiperJet's first taxi tests:

Here's a video of the Cirrus The-Jet's First Flight:

And's here's an information video about Diamond's D-Jet:

So, will these new single engine jets transform the nature of the industry? Will flying in the future be reserved for the wealthy who can afford to pay higher airline fares or own their own personal jet? I wish I knew.