Want to be a pilot? Everything you need to know when looking for the best flight schools in Australia. Includes skills development along the way!
Congratulations on making the first step in your aviation career by gathering all the information resources including reading this candid article. Finding the best flight schools in Australia is a great place to begin. When a human being allows a glimmer of possibility of becoming a pilot, emotions usually follow from your internal voice clashing between ‘Can I possibly achieve it?’ and ‘There is no way I’m smart enough.’ Sound familiar? Well, you are not alone, and I am here to tell you that every pilot had those thoughts at the start, and then they made it.
So, how much does flight training cost, what are the biggest and the best flight schools in Australia and what really makes for good flight training? Read on..
How much does flight school cost in Australia?
To determine the cost of flight schools in Australia, we need to isolate some more information. Before saying a number, there are several ways to get from A to B and I will base it on achieving a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) and Multi Engine Command Instrument Rating (MECIR).
Option 1 is via a cadet program through an airline where a job is promised (but not always guaranteed, so read the fine print) at the end of your training. This pathway usually has a price loading for the privilege of the job opportunity as well as the flying school used is the choice of the airline. The cost of Option 1 can be up to AUD$160K-$180K.
Option 2 I call ‘self-managed’ where you organize it as an individual with a flying school of your choice. This is generally the cheaper way, around AUD$100K depending on how often you can do your lessons. This way it is possible to work full time and fly on days off.
Please note, some of these styles of flying schools also have a full-time Diploma of Aviation program. This does take longer, however.
Option 3 is the university pathway where you come out with a degree as well as your pilot’s licence. This is generally the longest pathway to a flying job with the benefit of the degree and access to VET fee help. Option 3 costs around AUD$130K – see Swinburne University website.
What is the largest flight school in Australia?
The larger flight schools in Australia generally have an integrated program with contracts to airline cadet programs. This is why they can get big. When determining what the best flight school in Australia is, you need to make sure that you are not distracted by size and focus more on fit for purpose. Your individual purpose.
Is Australia good for flight training?
In short, yes, and hear me out as to why. The clue comes in the form of the sheer size of the country. Historically, training pilots had to gain experience by ‘going bush’ to small towns that need aviation as a lifeline. With the advent of cadet programs, this is not the only way anymore however the legacy of that grass roots flying is in the blood of Australian pilots.
So even if an instructor has not gone bush, they probably are a descendant of a pilot that has or understands the value of it and gains that experience through mentorship. Aside from the instructor, the expanse of Australia means there are a lot of interesting areas to fly over in navigation exercises so it can double to see the great country of Australia.
What makes for a good flight school?
This is my favorite area to expose as there are many things to consider and it can come down to personal choice. To assist you in making that choice, I will lay out the list for you which has been drawn from an Australian generational aviation family source who likes to talk, so I have also encompassed other’s experiences!
The first thing would be to make sure they are an RTO (Registered training organisation), and find out HOW they deliver the actual training. Next, look at the following:
This is a big investment into you so the last thing you want is to lose money from a flying school going broke. Although not the norm, it happens and has killed careers.
The best thing is to talk to students already there. Ask them if they fly often, what is the quality of the aircraft, is their maintenance release up to date, do the instructors stay?
Try to get a sense of the viability.
Do some research on instructors, find them on social media and ask if they are happy. Staff turnover is a good indicator however in a pilot shortage like now, could be just career progression. If possible, find out if the instructors are paid award wage. If a flying school is not, then it is usually talked about negatively somewhere. With a pre warning, check out the pilot rumour network. E.g., PPRrune. (I am not a fan but if you are there for a purpose like choosing a flight school then it may be useful. But do not get into the areas of negativity).
Are you a priority? Especially if the school runs concurrently a full-time program compared to you doing a self-managed licence. A good way to find out about this is to book ahead of time and if you keep getting cancelled, then you are not a priority.
Method of Payment for Instructors
Try to find out if the instructors are on a salary or paid by the hour. There is a risk if paid by the hour that you could be pushed into more flying than you need in an effort for the instructor to survive financially. A salaried instructor does not need to worry about this.
We all want to be special and a first impression counts. If possible, when trying to determine the best flight school in Australia for you, walk into different flight schools. A few key questions to answer for yourself …
Did they listen and understand your particular situation?
Did they know the answers to your questions without having to look up the answers?
Did they avoid answering the price question?
Did they explain any overruns in training that can and do happen?
Payment in Advance
This scares me so I need to expose it to help you. My preferred way is pay-as-you-go but I also understand this is not always practical. Some pilots pay part payment lump sums as you go, rather than after each lesson. There are also training arrangements that need a big lump sum up front. Please be eyes open on this method as if a flight school goes into administration, it is unlikely you will get anything back. My advice is to negotiate to meet in the middle and do the part payment option. That way you are balancing the risk versus reward equation and practising another professional pilot competency!
Sometimes the choice of flight school comes down to where you can live with your parents. It is still ok to take your second choice in this case as running out of money is a bigger risk and it is about whatever gets you through to the end.
What is the best flight school in Australia for international students?
Choosing the best flight school in Australia for international students is very tricky and could easily offend! However, that is not helpful for you so I will try to break down how I would look at selecting one if you were my child.
I would take a broader view first such as, have you got family in a particular area of Australia? Family support is important if possible. Does the flight school have success stories and easy access to controlled airspace exposure? Then does the flight school provide accommodation options? Are there shopping facilities nearby?
Based on the criteria above, I would investigate the following areas and see what fits your particular scenario.
Melbourne – Australian National Airline College, Tristar Aviation, Royal Victorian Aero Club and CAE
Brisbane – Aviation Australia, FTA Wellcamp base
Sydney – Sydney Flying Academy
Adelaide – Flight Training Adelaide (FTA)
Perth – Western Australian Aviation College
If you were to hold my feet to the floor and make me choose one, then I would say from the grapevine that I have heard good things about FTA. However, my disclaimer is that buyer needs to beware and make sure it fits your situation AND do your own homework!
What are the best flight schools in Australia?
Whilst I know you want one answer to this question, the best thing I can do is teach you how to fish. What I mean is to empower you with the tools, so you know what key criteria matter. Below are some pros and cons for a select number of flying schools in Australia that you can adapt to your own situation.
Cadet programs for Australian pilots
|Airline cadet program||Pros||Cons|
|Jetstar||Structured training, Employment Guarantee, Modern aircraft, Industry connections, Training quality overseen by Jetstar||Higher cost, Competitive entry, Contractual commitment, Limited option to Jetstar only, Long duration|
|Qantas||High quality training, strong emphasis on safety and industry relevance, Reputable airline, Employment with Qantas group, Modern aircraft to train in, Industry connections||Employment based on supply and demand, No guarantee of Qantas mainline, Training at Wellcamp away from major city, Limited to Qantas career (not everyone wants to be a Qantas pilot), Upfront cost, Competitive entry, Long training process|
|Rex||Structured training, Career advancement within Rex Airlines||Limited flexibility, 7-year commitment, Complex repayment loan system|
|Sharp Airlines||Structured training, Metroliner endorsement included, Reputable regional airline, Come out with good stick and rudder skills||Higher cost, Full time, Committing to a regional airline, Job guarantees only after acceptance post training|
|Independent flight school||Pros||Cons|
|Tristar Aviation||Good Reputation for high-quality flight training |
programs, Convenient at Moorabbin Airport,
Experienced and professional flight instructors, Positive feedback from students and alumni.
|Costs of training may be relatively high, Availability of training slots|
|Moorabbin Aviation Services||Convenient at Moorabbin Airport, Various training programs and courses, Access to a significant aviation community||Pricing can be relatively high compared to other options.|
|Sydney Flight Training Centre||Well-established reputation, Multiple training programs, Convenient at Bankstown Airport.||Tuition costs may be relatively high, Availability of flight slots can be competitive.|
|Australian Airline Pilot Academy (AAPA||Experienced instructors and modern training facilities, Strong industry connections and partnerships.||Integrated programs may have high upfront costs, Limited flexibility in choosing training modules.|
|Blue Sky Aviation||Provides various pilot training courses for different experience levels, Smaller class sizes, Bankstown Airport is convenient||Smaller flight school, May have limited resources and aircraft availability, Tuition costs may still be relatively high.|
|Airborne Aviation, Redcliffe||Variety of training courses for different experience levels, Smaller class sizes may provide more personalized instruction.||Smaller flight school, may have limited resources and aircraft availability, Tuition costs may still be relatively high|
|Royal Queensland Aero Club, Archerfield||A long-standing history in aviation education, Offers a wide range of pilot training programs. Access to a supportive aviation community.||Tuition costs may vary depending on the program, Facilities may be less modern compared to some other schools|
|Basair Aviation College, Gold Coast||Offers a variety of pilot training courses, Convenient location on the Gold Coast, Well-established in aviation education||Tuition costs can vary depending on the program, Limited information available about specific offerings on the Gold Coast.|
|RMIT, Melbourne||Location, Industry Connections, Practical Education, Global Perspective||Admission can be highly competitive, Cost of living in Melbourne, Larger class sizes, Melbourne weather|
|UNSW, Sydney||Strong reputation, Research opportunities, International perspectives||Admission can be highly competitive, Cost of living in Sydney, Traffic and commute|
|University of Queensland||Research opportunities, Location, Campus and facilities, International opportunities, Cost of living less than Melbourne and Sydney||Admission can be highly competitive, Larger class sizes, Limited industry exposure|
When giving guidance on choosing the best flight schools in Australia, the key was to provide you with the tools to filter out the important elements. Every pilot has a story, and your story needs to match the flight school in Australia for you.
I suggest collating all the data from this article and add a column to rate how you felt when you spoke to the first contact at a flight school. Always remember there are many pathways to train as a pilot, and a flight school is only one part, your commitment and discipline can take up the slack of any school you choose.
I fully recommend seeking out a mentor in this process, either someone you know or are one degree of separation away from or a professional aviation mentor/coaching organization like Resilient Pilot. See you in the airwaves!