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I attend a local flight school for lessons once or twice a month. I normally wear a hoody and some tracksuit bottoms as they are comfortable for me and I like to be comfortable whilst doing something that I need to apply focus to (I dress similarly for my job as a developer).

Most people that are there for lessons are dressed very smartly, usually in a shirt and tie. I presume this is because they want to impress people, as they are attending the airport they hope to work at in the future (it's a big airport). I am just doing this for a hobby, but the fellow students often look me up and down, usually looking confused and/or disapproving.

Do flight schools typically or traditionally have more formal dress codes or expectations than this? Are there substantive reasons for why certain clothing choices would be required or expected?

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    $\begingroup$ Just don't actually be wearing a hoodie with hood pulled up in an aviation situation please! Nothing says "I don't care about situational awareness and am not really interested in what is going on around me" louder than than, unless extreme cold demands it. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Jun 21 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps it would also be wise to avoid synthetic clothing that is flammable or has a low melting point, as that would significantly add to your task load in the event of an in-flight fire. $\endgroup$ – Eric Hauenstein Jun 21 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ I know that when JAR was replaced by EASA in the UK, flight schools had to have a dress code, though I think the specifics were left to the ATO forums.flyer.co.uk/viewtopic.php?t=80302 $\endgroup$ – Dave Gremlin Jun 21 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ I really don't see why this question has a close vote on it (allegedly, it's "opinion-based"). Whatever your opinion of dress codes, whether flight schools typically have dress codes or expectations is not a matter of opinion: either they do or they don't. $\endgroup$ – Daniele Procida Jun 22 at 18:39
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If you are learning to fly as a hobby and are paying the school your painfully earned money, you can dress however the hell you want, within reason. Formal attire in that circumstance is ridiculous. If you are in a professional school in some airline related program, or a government subsidized school with a formal dress code, that's another story, and you follow the rules as they are.

Anyway, the problem with hoodies and track pants is really loose clothing and hoods can be a problem in a cramped cockpit and especially if trying to get out in a hurry on the ground.

A cotton or wool shirt without a hood and good pockets, and cotton or wool cargo pants (cargo pant pockets are really handy) is my favourite dress for flying. Avoid "plastic" synthetic fabrics. Having fibres made from plastic, your clothes will melt into your skin if things get "hot".

Same with shoes. Wear shoes that will let you walk at least some distance on a rough surface. You may find yourself walking a mile over rough terrain after a forced landing.

Dress for comfort and contingencies, without getting carried away (like buying a nomex flight suit) in other words.

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    $\begingroup$ If there's a dress code (whether formally specified, or just one of expectations) in any situation, it's always a good idea to be aware of it, and usually a good idea to abide by it (unless you're confident that your remarkable deviation from the norm will come to change the dress code itself, but that's probably easier to achieve at a high-society event than at a flying school). Whether a dress code is ridiculous (as indeed some are) is a different question, but a dress code in a flying school is probably there for a reason. $\endgroup$ – Daniele Procida Jun 21 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ "If you are learning to fly as a hobby and are paying the school your painfully earned money, you can dress however the hell you want" I disagree with the sentiment here. It smacks of "the customer is always right" entitlement. You are not their king just because you paid them your "painfully earned money". You and the instructors have agreed to exchange your money for their knowledge, experience, and pedagogy, which are also valuable and may also have been "painfully earned". You are both contributing something to this arrangement, so they are allowed to set expectations too if they wish. $\endgroup$ – Jared K Jun 21 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ The customer is always right because he's allowed to take his money elsewhere. He's going to a small flight school. No flight school like that is going to impose a "dress code" beyond certain safety related common sense practicalities, and drive off customers. The idea of a private flight school, competing for business with other flight schools, imposing some silly dress code like shirt and tie to take recreational flying lessons is absurd. $\endgroup$ – John K Jun 21 at 23:17
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    $\begingroup$ The idea that the customer is always right when the customer is a student pilot is horrendous. Students are not and should not be customers. That is a very dangerous relationship, bad enough in an academic subject, potentially lethal in aviation. The student is there to learn to fly safely, not to be satisfied with their purchase as if they were buying a dinner. The duty of the educators is to provide the student with a good education, not to satisfy their wants. The student's free to go elsewhere if they dislike the contract, but let's not pretend it makes them "right" (or wrong). $\endgroup$ – Daniele Procida Jun 22 at 9:44
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    $\begingroup$ The problem is you are interpreting that phrase literally. The phrase refers to attitudes to customer service and they way the customer is handled and has nothing to do with being technically correct or incorrect about something. A school competing for students that can cross the street to another one would be crazy to impose a dress code with no useful purpose other than the school owner's sense of aesthetics. $\endgroup$ – John K Jun 22 at 12:54
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Expectations

Learning to fly is not cheap, and you are likely (depending where you are studying of course) in a minority, if you are there as a hobbyist, because I would expect that most of the other students have a professional future as a pilot in their minds. For them, it is a serious business in all respects.

Professional pilots, in civil aviation or the military, will generally wear a uniform. The uniform, like much of the profession, is derived from naval traditions, where rigour and discipline are valued in appearance as much as in conduct and exercise of duties.

Dressing smartly doesn't mean someone is a better pilot, and dressing casually doesn't mean the opposite. However, attention to dress indicates attention to detail.

In aviation, precision and formality in thought, actions, speech and behaviour are key to safety and correct operation (we wouldn't be too happy to hear an airline pilot announce "Uh, yeah, we'll be, you know, heading in like an easterly direction an' that.")

If crisp formality is key to good piloting (and I think it is) then it seems reasonable to expect to hear it, feel it and see it all around you in flight school - including in the way fellow students dress.

Practical matters

Then there are more practical considerations. If everyone is dressed similarly, in something approaching a uniform or at least a standard, then it becomes easier to see when something is wrong or out of place (for example, if someone is unwell).

When actually flying or working around machinery, some attire is certainly suitable or unsuitable. Flappy garments that obscure instruments or catch controls or switches as you move are obviously dangerous. Shoes need to be appropriate for the job, and so on.

Depending on the kind of plane, the cockpit can also be a potentially hazardous environment, in which smoke, fumes, fire, fluid leaks and so on can occur.

A shirt and tie don't offer you better protection than a tracksuit from those (unless you like to wear, say, a nylon tracksuit), but wearing otherwise appropriate attire is a signal that you are generally aware of the environment and its demands and expectations.

School requirements

It could also be that your flying school formally sets out an expection or a requirement ("For classroom-based instruction, we expect [or even, require] male students to wear shirt and tie, etc etc.") and that somehow you have missed it - in which case perhaps your fellow students are aghast at your daring flouting of the rules.

It never hurts to ask: is there a dress code?

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    $\begingroup$ Besides, leaving dress codes to the side for a moment, one doesn't necessarily need to "dress up" to fly (or to learn to fly), but dressing appropriately is likely a good idea. If I was getting on a plane and someone who's going in the cockpit is wearing a dressing gown, I'd get off it in a hurry, regardless of whether it's the little Ikarus or Cessna at the local club or a commercially operated jetliner. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jun 21 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ I have to disagree about people learning to fly for their own enjoyment being outnumbered by career-oriented people. In my experience, and especially at smaller places, it's just the opposite. FWIW, I don't recall wearing anything but jeans and a t-shirt during any of my training. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 22 at 5:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Agent_L ...or have their employer (assuming they're flying commercially; otherwise, the pilots themselves, if they like to wear a tie while flying) invest in tie clips? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jun 22 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ @jwenting You make it sound very rigorous and disciplined. What we really mostly do is the same thing over again in the hope of getting a different result. $\endgroup$ – Daniele Procida Jun 24 at 7:37
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Flight schools that are oriented toward career pilots may require (or at least strongly encourage) those students to wear a uniform to help reinforce the sense of professionalism, to prepare students for what they will face in the workplace, and to present a more professional look to attract like-minded students and impress their future employers. It is especially common if they are affiliated with an airline cadet program.

Hobby students will exist at (nearly?) all flight schools, though what fraction they represent will vary wildly. At some places, you might be the only one. At others, it may be everyone. I've never heard of a requirement for a uniform for hobby students, even at schools where they're uncommon.

However, as others have noted, your attire should still be appropriate for flying. For instance, a hoodie's large front pocket could get caught on the yoke/stick, causing a loss of control, and nylon track pants could catch fire. Jeans or shorts, golf-shirt or t-shirt, and a normal jacket are safer choices and are commonly seen on the ramp and in FBOs.

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The FAA has an opinion on this although there are no hard regulations (so far as I know)

Speaking of clothing, this is one area often overlooked when it comes to surviving an aircraft accident. As clothing is your primary shelter in a survival situation, plan your attire accordingly for all areas and weather conditions along your route of flight. Dressing in layers is always a good idea. That way you can adjust as conditions change. Consider cotton or wool outer garments rather than synthetics, trousers rather than shorts or skirts, and closed toe shoes rather than sandals.

The two flight schools I trained at did not really care what students wore so long as it was in line with the above statement. Instructors were required to be in a company shirt of sorts and were usually well dressed. Slacks were not uncommon in the colder months but shorts were acceptable in the summer because the flight school owners understood the reality of a PA-28 interior on a hot July day...

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