Features  / 02.14 /

Flight Training Excellence Awards 2013

Celebrating the best in the industry

A good flight instructor and flight school have a significant impact on a student pilot’s ability to finish flight training. Honoring those great flight training providers—and helping connect them with other schools in an effort to increase the quality of flight training across the country—is the focus of the AOPA Flight Training Excellence Awards.

flight training awardsIn 2013 AOPA asked you, as student pilots, to rate your flight training experience in the Flight Training Excellence Poll. You answered the call to the tune of more than 3,300 poll completions spread over 508 flight schools and 956 flight instructors. Every question focused on a specific aspect of learning to fly that is statistically proven to create a positive flight training experience. The answers you gave were at times wonderful and inspiring, and occasionally cringe-worthy and disappointing. In the end, three clear categories of winners emerged.

Best Flight School and Instructor: The winner of the Best Flight School and Instructor categories each scored the highest in their respective areas. And as each had dozens of poll completions, the result was averaged over a large sample size. That made it clear the winners provide an exemplary product.

Outstanding Flight School and Instructor: The winners in this upper tier had a minimum of five reviews and scored in the top 20 percent of all schools and instructors.

Honor Roll: Schools and instructors listed in the Honor Roll were shown to provide a good flight training experience through positive poll reviews that averaged 70 percent or more.

Ingredients of good instruction. Each question in the Flight Training Excellence Poll was derived from research into the ideal flight training experience, which AOPA commissioned to better understand why some students finish flight training and others do not. In that research it became clear that a number of key factors have a significant impact on student success. Factors such as access to a simulator, perception of value, and accessibility of flight instructors play a large role in how we feel about our overall flight training experience.

The Flight Training Excellence Poll was analyzed to determine how current students feel about their experiences in relation to those key factors that we now know influence success. Value is a good example. Poll respondents were more likely to indicate they received a good flight training value if they had access to a simulator at a reasonable rate; were provided ground school opportunities; had access to flight instructors outside of lesson times; were made to feel their time was well utilized; knew what concepts to study before a lesson; were provided with an appropriate lesson scheduling mechanism; and had access to reliable rental aircraft.

Transparency also came through as a key factor. Students who knew their instructor’s background were more likely to feel safe, for example. And those who were provided with online weather resources were more likely to trust their instructor’s decisions regarding weather and aircraft readiness. We already know from the previous research that transparency about costs and the time involved to finish flight training also are major factors for success. The charts on these pages illustrate other important considerations that came through on the poll results.

After everything was tallied, the most poignant finding was just how much students at the winning schools love their experience. Going to a great flight school and working with a superb flight instructor really do matter, which is why we’re proud to feature San Carlos Flight Center and Conor Dancy on the following pages as the winners of the Best Flight School and Best Flight Instructor, respectively. But if you don’t live in California or Virginia, make sure to check out the full list of winners on pages 32 and 33. Maybe your school is there.

flight training awards

San Carlos Flight Center
San Carlos, California (SQL)

Aviation Adventures
Leesburg, Manassas, and Warrenton, Virginia (JYO, HEF, HWY)

Panorama Flight Services Inc.
White Plains, New York (HPN)

Riverside Flight Academy
Riverside, California (RAL)

Rochester Aviation
Rochester, New Hampshire (DAW)

Sporty’s Academy
Batavia, Ohio (I69)

Summit Aviation Inc.
Bozeman, Montana (BZN)

The Flight School Inc.
Houston, Texas (EYQ)

Valley Aviation
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (WBW)

Western Air Flight Academy
Denver, Colorado (BJC)

Worcester Regional Flight Academy
Worcester, Massachusetts (ORH)

Conor Dancy
Leesburg, Virginia (JYO)

Dileep Anne
Denver, Colorado (FTG)

Ray de Hann
Leesburg, Virginia (JYO)

Kelby Ferwerda
Rochester, New Hampshire (DAW)

Eric Florence
Warrenton, Virginia (HWY)

Christopher Freeze
Oakland, California (OAK)

Michael Gilbert
Leesburg, Virginia (JYO)

Bob Hepp
Leesburg and Manassas, Virginia (JYO, HEF)

Randall Holliday
Bozeman, Montana (BZN)

Robert Keleti
Farmingdale, New York (FRG)

Buchanan Smith
Leesburg, Virginia (JYO)

Brent Tuchler
Manassas, Virginia (HEF)

>>View the 2013 Flight School Honor Roll
>>View the 2013 Flight Instructor Honor Roll