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5 Answers

Student Financial Complaints

Asked by: 1875 views Flight Instructor

I'm a CFI at a Part 141 school. One of my international students isn't too well acquanted with the realities of flight training and is accusing me of running up his flight and ground hours. He budgeted a certain amount for his training (which probably isn't enough) and is continuously urging me to keep flight time to a minimum, and to schedule as few ground lessons as possible. Though he studies well, his understanding of some of the subjects just doesn't cut it without additional instruction. He's all but demanding to finish his PPL with 40 hours of flight and 15 hours of ground.

Any tips on how to handle this situation? 



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5 Answers

  1. Nathan Parker on Apr 25, 2012

    I’d present to him the likely scenario for the number of flight and ground hours he will acrue by the time he finishes, tell him what he can do to reduce these hours, and suggest that he find another instructor if he can’t afford to fly with me.
    I always try to detect this sort of person before I agree to start training.  If someone expects a 40 hour PPL, I tell them they would be happier with someone else.

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  2. Curtis Ide on Apr 26, 2012

    Is that how your school advertised the PPL? I hate seeing schools advertise the minimums and that cost because then your school is the culprit for how he built his budget.  I see a lot of 141 schools that advertise the prices for the minimums and it always frustrates me because I know most students will take 50-60 hours. 
    If it was the way your school advertised and you are not the responsible party you may need to have a manager come in and make an offer to help the student by giving a percentage off – if they care about customers.
    If you started of telling the student that the minimums are there and that they could probably finish in the minimums then I think you owe the student everything you can do to keep it that way. 
    There should be consequences for false advertising.
    That was all assuming the worst; but if you told him that on average it will take longer and that he should plan his budget to be some higher number than the minimum and he didn’t plan for that  then the burden is on him.  I would go back to your original estimate and reinforce to him what you said and if things don’t work atleast you were honest the whole way.

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  3. John D. Collins on Apr 26, 2012

    The regulations determine the minimum requirements to earn a private pilot certificate.  The PTS describes the tasks that will be evaluated and the criteria that must be met on each task. The instructor’s job is to train the student pilot to be able to meet the PTS standards and make sure that the student has satisfactorily met all the regulatory requirements.  A specific number of hours and lessons won’t necessarily allow all students to achieve the skills required to master the lesson(s).  As the instructor, you can help set the student’s expectations when they start training. There are things that the instructor can do and that the student can do to help manage the expenses of learning to fly.  If the student wants to minimize training time, they can fly at a sufficient frequency so that they don’t spend a significant amount of time re-learning skills they have mastered because of the duration of time since their last flight.  If they can’t afford an efficient number of flights from their current finances, they can delay training until they have saved more or go the financing route so they can spread out the costs over a longer period of time.  Often the cost of interest will be a good tradeoff if it allows the student to train at a more efficient pace.  One area that I found that adds to the total cost to earn a pilot certificate is unnecessary or undisciplined solo time, especially if they exceed the minimum requirements.  It has been my experience that students can make better use of their time with an instructor as they are more willing to practice tasks they are uncomfortable doing by themselves.  Another important factor that minimizes the amount of instruction and student progress is if the instructor is not disciplined and doesn’t follow the training syllabus.  A well constructed syllabus uses a building block approach to learning and also sets the lesson completion criteria that are commensurate with the point in the training that the student is at in the process. Ground training is essential to understanding the material and is the cheapest portion of training process as the airplane is not used.  The instructor is usually a bargain and the total time in the airplane is the major contributor to the overall expense.  When I operated a flight school (part 61), we were able to get a large percent of our students finished in the 45 hour total timeframe, which was well under the national averages, by using these techniques.

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  4. Jason Hoffman on Apr 26, 2012

    Yes, Curtis, it was advertised that way. The school does disclaim the numbers a little, but probably not enough. I’ve explained to the student that the average is higher, and that I won’t sign him off until he’s truly ready for the checkride. We’ve set up a plan to be as efficient as possible, but I’m refusing to skimp on necessary training to meet a minimum requirement. I think he understands. 
    I agree that schools should not advertise total prices based on the minimum requirements. It’s unrealistic and misleading. My previous school quoted 60 hours and was very clear that it could take longer. 

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  5. Curtis Ide on Apr 26, 2012

    I agree that you should ensure this student gets the same training as any other student and that you shouldn’t sign him off until he is competent and ready.  I hope that your able to work out a financial plan that works for you and the student.  I think that the school should share some responsibility in your issue but I understand that there is always the fine print disclaimer.

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