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Of East Texas


Q. Where are your operations conducted?

A. All of our flight ops take place at the Athens Municipal Airport in Athens, Texas. We operate from sunrise to sunset seven days a week by appointment, please feel free to contact us by phone or email using our contact page for precise directions to our hangar. 


Q. Is learning to fly an airplane difficult?


A. Learning to operate the aircraft is not particularly difficult, most people are able to demonstrate mastery of the airplane within +/- 50 hours of flight time in the span of 3 – 6 months. My syllabus is designed to move you through flight training from “zero hour – zero experience” to certification efficiently, safely and smoothly.


Q. When will I begin to fly the airplane?


A. Immediately, your instructor will usually handle the takeoff and landing on the first introductory lesson, while you do all the rest of the flying. Second lesson onward – you will conduct the entire flight operation other than situations where the instructor must take the controls to demonstrate a procedure or process to you.


Q. I worry about engine failure in small single engine airplanes, is this a rational fear?


A. modern airplane engines are extremely reliable. In addition, well maintained aircraft operated by safe, capable pilots are among the safest forms of transportation in the world. Small, single engine airplanes also make for very efficient gliders. If for some reason you lost engine power at altitude, the typical training airplane will glide approximately 6 to 8 miles at the altitudes we frequently use for training. Given that our airplanes usually only need about 1000-1500 foot of ground roll to land and stop… virtually any hay meadow in East Texas makes for a good makeshift airport in a pinch.


Q. Will I need to pass a physical or obtain a medical certificate?


A. Yes, the aviation medical examiner – of which there are several in the area – will administer a physical, similar to a normal athletics physical, to test your eyes, hearing, blood pressure etc. Once this is out of the way he will issue you a third-class medical certificate. You won’t need to do this immediately to start training, but you will need it before conducting solo flight operations. If your ultimate goal in aviation is to fly professionally as a career, I would encourage you to inform the examiner of this and obtain a first class medical certificate, this way, if there are any underlying conditions preventing you from obtaining a first class medical certificate, you can learn of them now, rather than later.

Q. What if I have a drug or alcohol related offense on my record?


A. This complicates things considerably. As part of your application process for a medical certificate, this sort of background is considered by the FAA. The status of conviction, length of time elapsed between now and the date of offense, as well as the degree of guilt or innocence do not matter - the only concern is that there was any offense involving acohol or drugs including but not limited to possession, DUI, DWI, PI, actual physical control etc. You can still obtain a medical certificate, however, the issuance of your medical certificate is usually only approved by the FAA after you have (1) consulted with a "Human Intervention Motivational Study - Aviation Medical Examiner", (2) completed a Psychological Evaluation, and (3) agree to submit to random drug and alcohol testing for the first 12-24 months of issuance of your certificate. Other requirements may be needed. Additionally, the FAA may deny your medical certificate outright with little or no recourse. The process can take several months, and can cost several thousand dollars. While we are aware of students in the past who have successfully navigated this process and obtained both a medical certificate and a Private Pilot Certificate, many prospective students find the process not only cost prohibitive, but encounter great difficulty in maneuvering through the various bureaucratic requirements without the additional cost associated with the guidance of an aviation attorney. If any drug or alcohol offense relates to you, we should discuss your options in detail before you proceed.


Q. Speaking of Solo flight operations, when will I do that?


A. There is no set minimum number of hours to achieve before you can fly solo, one fine day, when your instructor is satisfied that you are safe and capable of operating solo, he will hop out of the aircraft, tell you to make a few landings on your own, give you a friendly wave and you’re off! We have all done it, and it is a right of passage and a heck of an accomplishment. You will be required to build at least 10 hours solo flight time, 5 of which will be “cross country” time obtained while navigating to another airport at least 50 miles away from your departure point which comes later in your more advanced training.

Q. How old do I have to be in order to start training?


A. Though you may technically begin training at any age, you must be 16 to solo and 17 to obtain a Private Pilot Certificate. I have trained pilots who were 15 years old, mere weeks away from their 16th birthday who took their solo flight on their birthday… but then they have another year to wait until they can qualify for the check ride flight to obtain a Pilot Certificate. While you can train at any age, if you are not yet 17 years of age, I encourage you to at least be within a few months of your 17th birthday.


Q. I have a physical disability, will I be able to obtain a medical certificate?


A. Maybe. There is a process you can go through to obtain a “Statement of Demonstrated Ability” (SODA). Believe it or not, there is a young lady who was born with no arms who is an accomplished private pilot, her name is Jessica Cox. Another Pilot, Douglas Bader, became one of the most well known fighter pilots of World War Two, he had no legs. So, depending on the disability, you might qualify for a SODA.


Q. I heard that wearing glasses or contact lenses, or having a history of eye surgery is disqualifying, is this true?


A. Absolutely not true! As long as your vision is corrected 20/40 or better with glasses, contacts or surgically any of those are perfectly acceptable. You must also be able to perceive red and green colors clearly enough during the physical to obtain a medical certificate. Those with red and green color deficiency may obtain a medical however you will be limited to day time operations only. A Statement of Demonstrated Abvility mentioned in the question above, once successfully passed, will remove the night flying restriction.


Q. How long does learning to fly really take?


A. This is a tough question to answer because so much of the answer depends on the individual. Those students who commit to quality study habits and fly at least 3 times per week will obviously finish faster than those student pilots who are only able to fly once a week or are unable to study as frequently as they should. A dedicated student, when combined with ample aircraft availability and good weather conditions should be able to finish their training in about 3 to 6 months. Obviously, there are circumstances beyond anyone’s reasonable control that could alter this timeline, but that’s a reasonable average. We have had students go from zero hour/experience to fully certified at the Private Pilot level in about 90 days. A "Start and stop" approach to learning to fly is a costly, time consuming, and above all - a very dangerous way to go about learning to fly an airplane. 


Q. Do I have to be a U.S. Citizen?


A. Some schools will accept applicants and process all the paperwork for non-U.S. Citizens, they are extremely efficient at what they specialize in – training non-U.S. Citizens to fly. If you are a non-U.S. Citizen I would encourage you to seek out one of those schools who specializes in the training you need. At this time, we do not provide instruction to non U.S. Citizens. 


Q. What is the difference between a part 141 school and a part 61 school?


A. As a student pilot, the quality of training you will receive from a Part 61 School and a Part 141 School are more or less the same, the difference is in the scheduling flexibility, formality of the training, and the time and attention spent on each individual student. A Part 141 environment is normally associated with a technical school or a university and the student will usually work with many different instructors while following the guidance of the school as a whole. In a Part 61 environment, the student will normally work with one or two instructors who will work as your own personal "aviation mentors" - such instructors normally will serve as your guide through your aviation training and syllabus progression at a pace that works for you.

Q. Is a Part 61 school better than a Part 141 school?


Neither is inherently better than the other. Start by asking... what is my goal, and what level of committment am I capable of? If your goal is to become a professional pilot - both programs can do this for you - however, Part 141 schools will have you on campus for a large chunk of every day, advancing through your training at the school's pace, whereas Part 61 schools have the flexibility to build either an incredibly demanding and rigorous schedule - or a less demanding pace that you have more control over.


SkySchool of East Texas is a Part 61 Flight School, this allows us the flexibility to have you at the airport three times a day, every day OR have you at the airport twice a week in the evenings. In short, we can provide you with a rigorous "fast tracked" style of training meant to pack on certificates and ratings in the shortest time possible - or- we can provide you with a slow and steady pace that works best with the schedule of your daily life.


Q. How do I pay for my expenses? Do you accept the G.I. Bill or Hazelwood Act?


A. SkySchool of East Texas accepts cash, checks, paypal, cashapp and debit / credit cards. Financing is available through participating lenders, however, the interest rates on flight training financing can be relatively high (18-24% in some cases). You can pay as you go following each lesson, or you can place money on a “flight account” and fly until that account is depleted and requires additional deposits. Flight account users receive a reduced rate on flight instruction and aircraft rental fees. GI Bill and Hazelwood Act, and other similar veterans benefit programs are normally only available at nationally accredited colleges and universities or specific Part 141 type flight training programs, so, unfortunately we do not currently have this option. 


Q. How is scheduling accomplished?


A. We are currently using a smart phone app which allows users to access the flight schedule via an online calendar where students may add themselves to the calendar at the desired date and time they wish to fly. Once a student adds a flight to the calendar, a notification is sent to all users system-wide alerting your flight instructor to the newly scheduled event. We find that this cuts out the "middle man" approach to scheduling thus preventing an influx of calls with questions like "is the airplane available next Wednesday?", and allows students the highest degree of flexibility and autonomy when deciding their own schedules.


Q. How often can I fly?


A. I encourage three lessons per week, these can be all on the same day, or spread out however you desire, each lesson will take as little as an hour, or perhaps two to three hours depending on the material covered. Be aware that aircraft, student and instructor availability and weather are fluid things, and some weeks will see a lot of flying, and others less. The more frequently you are available to fly, the less time it will take to get you certified, and the easier it will be on your pocket book.


Q. How is ground school handled?


A. We are currently utilizing online - at your own pace - video based instructional programs through a third party training platform. Once construction of our new flight training center is completed, we will resume conducting all ground school training in a class room environment using powerpoint presentations, instructor demonstration and lecture and group activity in a hands on learning environment. 


Q. Do you recommend an aviation renter’s insurance policy?


A. Aviation renters insurance is not a requirement for renting the aircraft but is generally a good idea to have such a policy in your back pocket. Policies are abundant and affordable through various carriers. I can coach you further on selecting a policy if needed, but normally a policy with $100,000 hull insurance is sufficient. Such policies are normally as low as $700-$1000 a year depending on the policy options you choose. As an aircraft renter, even when the flight school or rental agency has a policy in place, it is always wise to have your own backup policy when training!


Q. What is your pass rate as an instructor?


A. As of March, 2024, our "first attempt" pass rate is 90%, of those that require remedial instruction and a "second attempt", our pass rate is currently 100%! Instructors with greater than 80% success rate are exempt from attending a Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic which is required every 24 months. Despite exemption our instructors still attend a FIRC every two years. If you do not pass the check ride, there is good news… normally, the deficient maneuver is reviewed with the instructor, and you are retested only on the deficient maneuver on a second check ride, meaning you do not have to repeat the entire check ride, only the part you were marked deficient on. More often than not, depending on the examiner’s schedule, the second attempt at the check ride can be taken on the same day. Seeing you succeed and seeing you grow to a safe, capable and competent pilot is my number one goal. Because of this, we often hear our students come back from a checking event saying "That was EASY compared to what you guys put me through!" - and we love hearing that, because it means you were well prepared!

Q. So, what is a "check ride" and what is that process like?

A. A "check ride" is pilot lingo for what the FAA calls a "Practical Test". Check rides are normally administered by a highly experienced instructor who has been approved by the FAA to conduct such tests, these people are called "DPEs" or "Designated Pilot Examiners". Being evaluated is naturally stressful, but I assure you, the examiner wants to see you succeed as much as you want that for yourself! On the day of your check ride you will meet with your examiner and they will review your medical, log book entries and application paperwork etc. This will be followed by an "oral exam" during which the examiner will ask you a multitude of questions about the airplane and its systems, FAA regulations, weather, flight planning, and other subjects you have been studying for the past few months. The oral exam takes about 2 hours. After the oral exam, you and the examiner will board the aircraft for the flight portion of your check ride. During the flight, you will demonstrate various procedures and maneuvers that the examiner requests you to demonstrate. The flight takes about 60-90 minutes. Upon landing, the examiner will print your temporary private pilot certificate and you are done! You are now a certificated Private Pilot.

Q. What kind of maneuvers and procedures will I be learning about?

A. Well, you'll either be disappointed or relieved, but the maneuvers are nothing like loops and rolls. You'll learn about normal and advanced takeoff and landing techniques, turns, climbs, descents, emergency procedures, navigation by visual reference to landmarks as well as use of GPS and radio navigation. A complete listing of all the procedures you will be required to learn will be provided to you.

Q. Where can I learn more about my options as a professional aviator?

A. Visit our commercial pilot training page and read the "Professional Pilot's Pathway" text, this will outline everything you need to know about becoming a professional pilot!


Q. I am ready to enroll, what do I do now?


A. Visit the contact page and send us a message, don't forget to include a phone number, I will be in touch with you asap! We will book your discovery flight, and begin the process of enrollment at that time.

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