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I am considering enrolling in a PPL course, and am getting information about the flight schools in my city (Rome, Italy).

  • What should I be looking for?
  • How can I choose among them?
  • Their fees differ by at least €3000. Are there differences between the schools that justify such different prices?
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    $\begingroup$ One reason for a very large price difference could be the aircraft: a newer aircraft with advanced avionics will typically cost much more per hour than an older one with standard instruments. But there could be other reasons too, and it's definitely a good idea to investigate that in detail before making a decision. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Apr 27 '15 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ If they'll let you, go pay for a lesson with one of the instructors you'll fly with. You need to know whether the program fits your expectations. $\endgroup$ – Tim Apr 27 '15 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Tim - agreed. I took lessons at 3 different schools w/ 3 different instructors at the beginning of my lessons & found there's nothing more important than a CFI that you can get along with. You'll be in the cockpit with them a lot & under stressful situations. You need to be able to work with them comfortably to get the most out of your lessons. $\endgroup$ – jt000 Apr 28 '15 at 1:25
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I'm not sure how it works in the EU as I am an American PPL student but let's ignore the small specifics and look at some general points.

Number of planes

Where I fly there are 2 flight schools; one has a fleet of about 20 planes from Grumman trainers all the way up through a Seminole. The other school has 2 planes... The obvious thing here is down time. The fact is that planes break, need routine checks and get rented by other students. A flight school with more planes (and an appropriate amount of instructors) will be able to handle these issues better. Many times I have booked a plane to find that it's in the shop and I get assigned another plane (same make and model).

Type of planes

While you cant be as picky here since sometimes geography limits you, some schools may be significantly more expensive than others. One of the nearby fields flight schools I looked at had just bought a new fleet of SR22's and were renting them at 250 USD an hour wet compared to the 100 USD an hour wet that I pay for a Piper Warrior. This can make a big difference in cost of training. Not that you are thinking this far in advance but if you do intend to one day buy a plane you may want to consider training in the type although its hard to say what kind of plane you would buy before you start flying :). If you intend on getting your instrument rating (I assume there is an EU equivalent) you will also want to make sure you are at a place that has instrument-capable planes and possibly even a precision approach system.

It also stands to reason that a place with older planes may see more down time as the planes may need more service but most old planes that I have flown are well kept. Here in the US trainer planes need to be inspected every 100 hours so they are out somewhat frequently for that already.

Number of instructors

Here in the US many instructors are doing so to get enough hours for their ATP. With that in mind instructors are subject to leave at any time if they make their hours and find a commercial job. Bigger schools will be able to reassign you to another instructor or may have better luck hiring a new instructor to fill the gap.

Type of airport

Again sometimes you can't be picky here because of geography but training at a towered airport as apposed to an uncontrolled field can help you hone in your radio work from day one. A bigger slightly more busy airport may also give you real experience with things like wake turbulence avoidance. Most larger airports also tend to have 2 runways which can help you on those windy days (depending on direction and such). They also tend to have better services like plowing, precision approaches, fuel (not all airports have gas!), pre-heats that don't take 20 minutes to show up etc. This can also be a but of a curse sometimes as larger airports are subject to traffic and you may find your self sitting on the runway waiting to take off on a nice day.

Cost

This can be a big factor for some people. Some are lucky enough to have the money to fly where its easiest for them (close to home or work) etc., while others don't have this luxury and must fly where its the cheapest. Here in the US a cheap school will still get you the same PPL that a super expensive place with a brand new SR22 will. So if your goal is simply to fly and cost is a serious factor there is nothing wrong with going with the cheaper option (which may involve driving a bit farther) as long as you factor in the potential down time of the planes or difficulty of booking them.

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Your question is a nice but at the same time, very broad. It is similar to What to look for in a flight instructor?

I've pointed out some resources which provide very valuable information about the topic. However, please keep in mind that the most important factor is how quickly you can master a particular tasks of flight training. The question I referenced above will answer your next question once you settle down with a flight school.

Good luck in following your dream.

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protected by J Walters Mar 19 '16 at 19:30

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