Choosing a training program: Part 61 vs. Part 141
When choosing a flight training program, you have two options: Part 61 or Part 141. Typically, a flight school offers one or the other. However, in some cases, such as at JA Flight Training out of KARR, both types of training are available, enabling students to choose the approach that works best for them. While both training programs teach to the Practical Test Standards, the programs are run differently.
Let’s take a look at each approach.
A Part 61 program is more flexible for both you and the instructor. The FAA publishes a list of Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) that dictates the topics to be covered and regulates the minimum amount of flight hours required. However, in a Part 61 program, the instructor has the flexibility to adapt to your learning style and pace. Instructional materials can be pulled from different sources, and the choice of what to use is at the discretion of the instructor. You also have the ability to schedule training according to what works with your schedule.
Advantages of Part 61
The main advantage of the Part 61 program is the flexibility. Part 61 allows you to work within your schedule, and the training can be geared toward your needs. In a Part 61 situation, you are in the driver’s seat. You choose your instructor, and together you can tailor the training to fit your style. This is a great advantage provided that you are aware of the process and requirements and your instructor is careful and thorough.
Disadvantages of Part 61
One downside to Part 61 training is that it can be more costly in the long term due to the less-structured environment. Ultimately, you could end up needing more flying hours, especially if you or your instructor are not regulating your time to ensure you’re doing just what’s required and no more. (The APO can help with this!) Part 61 training can also mean fewer scheduling options depending on the flight school, instructors, and aircraft to rent.
A Part 141 program must use an FAA-approved curriculum, syllabus, and lesson plans. This program moves at a faster pace, and the curriculum is designed more for the career-driven student. The FAA regulates the Part 141 program often and makes sure that the programs are meeting the requirements.
Advantages of Part 141
Part 141 programs can offer a quick and efficient way through training and require fewer hours. For example, private pilot students in a Part 141 program are required to complete 35 hours versus the 40 in a Part 61 program; the commercial pilot certificate can be earned in just 190 hours versus 250 under Part 61. (Keep in mind, however, that you are not guaranteed to need fewer hours; that is still up to you and your instructor. But the requirement is less.) Another advantage of a Part 141 program is that there is consistency among instructors because the training is regulated by the FAA. That could translate into more options for flying and fewer interruptions. Finally, a Part 141 program must also meet stricter performance ratings; poor performance ratings are considered and dealt with, whereas a Part 61 program is not as regulated.
Disadvantages of Part 141
There are a few drawbacks to a Part 141 program. First, you do not have as much choice when it comes to instructors, so you could end up with someone who is a less-than-ideal match for you. Also, the rapid pace can be overwhelming for some students. And finally, the rigid training model does not allow for much flexibility with regards to learning style and schedule.
The choice is yours
There really is no right or wrong answer here. You need to give some thought to yourself as a student and your current situation. If you are looking for a flexible, more casual flight training program, you might be best suited to a Part 61. If you’re fired up and determined to go all in, a Part 141 might serve you best. Take into consideration the advantages and disadvantages to both programs, and make the decision that provides you with the best option for success.
Fortunately, the APO works with either program because the standards are the same. You are still required to know the same information, and both training programs require the student to complete a check-ride, which includes both the oral and flight exam. The one main difference for Part 141 if you are using the APO is the flight time requirements page. Because the Part 61 program is more common, the number of required hours listed in the APO is for a Part 61 program. The different types of required hours (solo, cross country, etc.) are the same. Your Part 141 instructor can help you modify this page to the Part 141 requirements.