What’s the difference between Part 61 and Part 141 flight schools?

by | Become an Airline Pilot, Choosing a School, FAQs for Beginners

So you’ve decided you want to get your pilot’s license and you’ve started to search for the right flight school. The thing is, as you look through the listings, you’re beginning to wonder what’s the difference between Part 61 and Part 141 flight schools. What does that mean and how will it affect your training?

Students training at either Part 61 or Part 141 schools are required to pass the same practical and knowledge tests, and the certificates they earn will be identical in every way. No one will be able to tell what type of school you attended just by looking at your certificate.

Instead, both of these parts refer to specific sets of FAA regulations. Part 61 prescribes the rules about Certification of Pilots, Flight Instructors, and Ground Instructors, while Part 141 deals with the rules for Pilot Schools. Which may leave you wondering how can you have a Part 61 flight school?

So what is a Part 61 flight school?People become flight instructors for many different reasons. Some are looking to build time before starting a career at the airlines. Others are looking to give back to general aviation, while some simply want to be able to teach their children and grandchildren to fly. 

The training all these instructors provide is governed by the rules for record keeping, and limitations described in Part 61. Instructors are required to submit a minimum number of students to an independent pilot examiner every couple of years––and maintain an eighty percent first-time pass rate––or complete a Flight Instructor Refresher Course to keep their certificate.

If a group of these instructors banded together to open a flight school and market themselves to customers, it would be considered a Part 61 flight school. In fact, the majority of flight schools in the US are exactly like this.

A Part 141 school on the other hand is a school that is set up specifically to train pilots. It is subject to more regulations, with rules governing administrative personnel, aircraft and even the airport’s weather. They must operate from an approved building and create and use a syllabus that is approved by the FAA.

Part 61 and Part 141 Flight Schools: What are the benefits of a Part 141 school?

Although the license students receive from Part 61 and Part 141 flight schools are the same, because of the way they are set up, Part 141 schools can benefit from a more structured training environment. A school-wide syllabus that every student and instructor follows gives students a clear idea of what their training will look like. Expectations are easily understood and managed.

If your assigned instructor is not available, your substitute instructor will simply continue your training (following the next lesson in the syllabus). A motivated student at a Part 141 school will feel like they are always making progress toward their license.

Because of this structure, the FAA allows students training at Part 141 schools to complete the requirements for their training in fewer hours than their counterparts at Part 61 schools.
That sounds pretty good, eh? So … 

Part 61 and Part 141 Flight Schools: What are the benefits of a Part 61 school?

The benefit of a Part 61 school is flexibility. If, for instance, you are struggling with steep turns, your instructor might decide to try something different to build confidence, and avoid leaving you feeling like the day’s lesson has been wasted. Because they are not bound by a specific curriculum, an instructor at a Part 61 school is more able to respond to their students’ needs.

Part 61 schools can also be less costly because they are not burdened by the physical and administrative requirements of the Part 141 schools. While they don’t have the benefit of the FAA’s reduced training minimums, instructors at Part 61 schools are quick to point out that the average time taken to earn a certificate far exceeds the FAA minimums at both Part 61 and Part 141 schools anyway.

Part 61 Part 141
Flexible schedule Rigid schedule
Customized training Structured syllabus
Minimum 40-hours to PPL Minimum 35-hours to PPL
Choice of ground school options Ground school included

Part 61 and Part 141 Flight Schools: Is Part 61 or Part 141 right for me?

When students are consider Part 61 and Part 141 flight schools, they often wonder which option is right for them. The answer to that depends on a number of factors. Your flying goals, motivations for learning to fly, and your budget for flight training may all affect your choice of school.

If you plan to start a career as a pilot, a Part 141 school may be the best choice for you. As a full-time student, the structured training and syllabus maybe just what you need to get you through the courses and earn all of your certificates. With today’s competitive market for airline pilots, you may also find yourself changing instructors during the course of your training.

If on the other hand your goal is to fly recreationally, some flexibility can be a benefit. Your instructor may have a broad range of experience from a lifetime of flying, choosing to teach as a way of giving back to general aviation. You will be able earn your private certificate and fly with passengers while deciding whether to go for your next rating. 

Part 61 and Part 141 Flight Schools: Can I transfer from a Part 141 to a Part 61 school?

Yes! And it’s also worth noting that if you start at a Part 141 school and transfer to a Part 61 school, all of the time you have logged counts towards your certificate.

But, you should know that the reverse is not true, and students who begin their training at a Part 61 school and switch to a Part 141 school can only count 25% (yes, that’s just twenty five percent!) of their logged total toward their training.

Students who start their training at a Part 141 school and transfer to another Part 141 school can only count 50% of their total logged training time.

From To Hours Credited
Part 61 Part 61 100%
Part 61 Part 141 100%
Part 141 Part 61 25%
Part 141 Part 141 50%

Part 61 and Part 141 Flight Schools: What do I need to know when choosing?

Find out about the school’s reputation.

When it comes to Part 61 and Part 141 flight schools, research reviews online, and ask other students for recommendations. Better yet, ask local pilots about all the nearby schools at the airport cafe. Aviation is a small community and reputation travels quickly!

Look for a school that uses a simulator to supplement aircraft time.

Both Part 61 and Part 141 flight schools can use simulators. Simulators can be excellent tools for working through problems and training muscle memory in a relaxed environment that builds confidence.  

Find the right instructor.

Whether you choose to fly at a Part 61 or Part 141 flight school, often your success will depend on the relationship you have with your instructor. If you can, buy them a coffee and see if you click. You’ll be spending a lot of time together in a cockpit, so it’s important that you’re both relaxed and comfortable.

Check out the school’s aircraft.

Part 61 and Part 141 flight schools have to maintain aircraft to the same standards, so that shouldn’t be the deciding factor when choosing. Instead consider if you’re pursuing a career, you probably want airplanes with the latest technology. For someone who plans to fly recreationally, traditional instruments can be easier to learn. 

Find out how maintenance is handled.

Part 61 and Part 141 flight schools are both required to keep detailed logs on their aircraft maintenance, but how they manage the maintenance may differ. For instance does the school perform its own maintenance or do they subcontract to a maintenance organization? After all, airplanes don’t have to be new, but they do have to be well maintained.

How many pilot examiners that the school work with?

What are they like and where are they located? Make sure you’re not simply being trained to pass the checkride with one local examiner.


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