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11 Best Flight Schools in the USA (For 2020 and Beyond)

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11 Best Flight Schools in the USA (For 2020 and Beyond)

The moment has arrived – you’re ready to become a pilot and it’s time to choose where to get your training.  Picture your dream flight school. Where is it located? What type of aircraft do you get to fly? Are you earning a college degree alongside your flight certifications?

The joint college degree and flight training option is a popular choice offered by many of the best flight schools in the USA. Industry professionals say that having a college diploma paired with your flight certifications may help you stand out in an interview.

Of course, if you already have your college degree, or you want to focus solely on flight training and the fastest path to an airline career, there are excellent flight school only options as well.

Which flight school will give your pilot career the jumpstart you’re looking for? Here are our choices for the 11 best flight schools in the USA.

1.      Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

We’ll start our list with the “largest, oldest and most comprehensive aeronautical university” in the United States. Embry-Riddle was founded in 1926 to provide high-quality education to future aeronautical professionals.

Embry-Riddle offers hands-on learning opportunities in state-of-the-art aircraft, labs and facilities that will prepare you to excel in your aviation or aerospace career path.

  • Location: Daytona Beach, FL and Prescott, AZ
  • Tuition and fees:
    • $38,114 undergraduate, non-flight students at Daytona Beach campus
    • $37,964 undergraduate, non-flight students at Prescott campus
    • $15,000-$25,000 per year in flight time for flight students at Daytona Beach (program is 3 years long)
    • $18,000 - $26,000 per year in flight time for fixed wing flight students at Prescott
    • $14,056 - $46,425 per academic semester in flight time for helicopter flight students at Prescott
  • Flight degree programs:
    • Bachelor’s
      • Aeronautical Science

2.      Ohio State University

The aviation program at Ohio State University first started in 1917. Today the program prepares graduates for careers “at airlines and in fields such as corporate aviation, cargo aviation, flight support and planning, aviation support systems, and air transportation management.”

In addition to the eight aviation core courses, students can choose electives based on their individual interests. Electives include flight education, airport management, and air transportation analysis.

Students in the both the Aviation and Air Transportation programs are eligible to take flight education and aviation students can earn a professional pilot specialization.

Ohio State University is home to its own airport – the 3rd busiest airport in the entire state. The aviation program’s aircraft training fleet logs a cumulative total of over 7,000 hours of flight time each year.

  • Location: Columbus, OH
  • Tuition and fees:
    • $11,518 per year for Ohio residents
    • $33,502 per year for non-Ohio residents
    • $49,508.05 average cost to complete professional pilot program with multi-engine option
    • $49,265.80 average cost to complete program via flight instructor option
  • Flight degree programs:
    • Bachelor’s
      • Aviation
      • Air Transportation

3.      University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences is known for offering a diverse range of aviation degrees to students in the mid-West.

Want to major in something other than aviation but still earn your commercial pilot certificate? UND has you covered. Their Professional Flight minor is open to all students regardless of major and it takes 2-3 years to complete, giving you access to “one of the largest fleets of civilian aircraft in North America.”

  • Location: Grand Forks, ND and Crookston, MN
  • Tuition and fees:
    • $11,730.24.00 per academic year for North Dakota resident aviation program undergraduates
    • $12,934.80 per academic year for Minnesota resident aviation program undergraduates
    • $29,296.56 per academic year for non-resident aviation program undergraduates
    • $35,536 Air Traffic Management total estimated flight costs
    • $19,256 Aviation Studies total estimated flight costs
    • $64,892 Commercial Aviation fixed wing total estimated flight costs
    • $98,184 Commercial Aviation helicopter total estimated flight costs
    • $57,844 Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations (medium/high-altitude long endurance) total estimated flight costs
    • $34,507 Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations (low altitude) total estimated flight costs
    • $13,165 Private Pilot Certificate total estimated flight costs
  • Aviation degree programs:
    • Bachelor’s
      • Air Traffic Management
      • Airport Management
      • Aviation Management
      • Aviation Studies
      • Commercial Aviation
      • Unmanned Aircraft System Operations
    • Minor
      • Aviation Management
      • Professional Flight
      • Space Studies
      • Unmanned Aircraft Systems

4.      Purdue University

The Wall Street Journal ranks Purdue University as one of the top 5 public universities in the United States. Its School of Aviation and Transportation Technology was developed in the mid-1950s and currently offers 7 bachelor level aviation majors in addition to graduate level programs.

The School of Aviation and Transportation Technology focuses on developing industry partnerships so students have access to “real-world projects, networking opportunities and up-to-date information that make them desirable future employees and leaders.”

  • Location: West Lafayette, IN
  • Tuition and fees:
    • $5,282 per semester for Indiana residents
    • $14,683 per semester for non-Indiana residents
    • $15,683 per semester for international non-resident students
    • $11,094 for private pilot flight course fees
    • $17,920 for commercial pilot flight course fees
    • $9,554 for instrument flight course fees
    • $3,344 for multi-engine flight course fees
    • $7,952 for turbine aircraft flight lab course fees
    • $5,177 for ground trainer simulator course fees
    • $1,920 for turbine aircraft simulation lab course fees
    • $2,801 for transport aircraft simulation lab course fees
  • Flight degree programs:
    • Bachelor’s
      • Professional flight
      • Five-Year combined BS-MS program
    • Master’s
      • Aviation and Aerospace Management

5.      Western Michigan University

One of the largest aviation programs in the nation, the College of Aviation at Western Michigan University is home to over 1,100 undergraduate students and has an 80-year track record of aviation excellence.

The College of Aviation is the 3rd largest college aviation program in the country and currently has 50 aircraft in its fleet.

  • Location: Battle Creek, MI
  • Tuition (not including $461.50 fees):
    • $6,508.50 per semester for lower level undergraduate Michigan residents
    • $7,137.50 per semester for upper level undergraduate Michigan residents
    • $8,020.25 per semester for lower level undergraduate non-residents
    • $8,806.50 per semester for upper level undergraduate non-residents
    • $68,109.49 total estimated cost of flight labs for private pilot license, instrument rating and commercial multi-engine with a single engine add on
  • Flight degree programs:
    • Bachelor’s
      • Aviation flight science
    • Specialty
      • Air Force ROTC
    • Minor
      • Aviation science
      • Military leadership and aviation studies
        • For Air Force ROTC cadets
      • Professional aviation preparation
        • Open to students in the aviation flight science program who have completed their private pilot’s license, instrument rating and commercial pilots license
        • Students will obtain their CFI, CFII and MEI ratings plus have the opportunity to obtain a seaplane rating or take the jet equivalency training (JET) program

6.      Florida Institute of Technology

The College of Aeronautics offers undergraduate students the opportunity to earn their collegiate degrees while simultaneously gaining hands-on experience on the flight line and in the simulator. You can even opt for elective courses like aerobatic flight and air taxi flight.

The Emil Buehler Center for Aviation Training and Research facilitates an immersive aviation industry experience thanks to participation in eight airline Pathway Programs. These programs are designed to help screen and develop future pilots as they “secure a career path to a major airline in the sophomore year.”

  • Location: Melbourne, FL
  • Tuition and fees:
    • $19,010 per semester for undergraduates taking 12-19 credits
    • $22,845 average for private pilot license plus additional experience
    • $12,625 average for instrument rating
    • $27,110 average for commercial pilot multiengine
    • $13,020 average for flight instructor – airplane
  • Flight degree programs:
    • Bachelor’s
      • Aeronautical Science – Flight
      • Aviation Management – Flight
      • Aviation Meteorology – Flight
      • Human Factors & Safety – Flight

7.      San Jose State University

In the College of Engineering’s Aviation and Technology Department, students who are seeking flight training with a goal of working as a professional pilot earn a bachelor’s degree in professional flight while simultaneously obtaining their pilot rating from one of two FAA approved affiliate flight schools in San Jose – Trade Winds Aviation and Squadron 2. Upon graduation, students will have received their private pilot certificate, instrument rating and commercial pilot certificate.

  • Location: San Jose, CA
  • Tuition and fees:
    • $7,852 annually for full-time California resident undergraduates
    • $7,852 + $396 per unit annually for full-time non-resident undergraduates
    • $13,280 average for private pilot license
    • $12,410 average for instrument rating
    • $21,820 average for commercial pilot
    • $47,510 average total for private pilot + instrument rating + commercial pilot
  • Flight degree programs:
    • Bachelor’s
      • Aviation – Professional Flight

8.      Utah Valley University

The School of Aviation Sciences at Utah Valley University offers degrees for all areas of aviation. Their Bachelor of Science in Professional Pilot degree prepares students for employment with airlines and corporations. Graduates leave the program having earned at least a Commercial Pilot Certificate and can choose electives all the way up through Multi-Engine Instructor to round out their education.

Previously earned FAA pilot certificates and ratings are given direct transfer credit, so even if you have already completed a portion of your flight training, you can apply that earned certificate towards the requirements of the UVU BA degree.

  • Location: Orem, UT
  • Tuition and fees:
    • $2,910 for full-time Utah resident undergraduates
    • $8,285 for full-time non-resident undergraduates
    • $15,970 average for private pilot license
    • $14,500 average for instrument rating
    • $15,450 average for commercial ASEL pilot
    • $8,500 average for commercial AMEL pilot
    • $54,420 average total flight program cost
  • Flight degree programs:
    • Bachelor’s
      • Aviation – Professional Flight

9.      Saint Louis University

Enroll in the Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology to earn your bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics and you will join the distinguished list of graduates from the first federally certified flight school in the nation.

Your flight training will take place out of the St. Louis Downtown Airport whose close proximity to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and Scott Air Force base provides the platform for a “complex and dynamic environment to learn to fly in.”

  • Location: Saint Louis, MO
  • Tuition and fees:
    • $23,022 for full-time undergraduates
    • $48,000 average for flight science concentration
    • $40,000 average for flight science minor
  • Flight degree programs:
    • Bachelor’s
      • Aeronautics with Flight Science concentration
    • Minor
      • Flight Science

10. Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology

Are you looking for a world-class flight program where you can earn your Private Pilot, Commercial Pilot and CFI/CFII certifications plus instrument rating and an associate degree in just 17 months? What if your program then set you up to work as a CFI and complete the necessary flight hours to obtain your ATP with reduced flight hour minimums while going on to get a bachelor’s degree all in a total of 33 months? Welcome to Spartan College’s Aviation Flight Program.

  • Locations: Tulsa, OK
  • Tuition and fees:
    • $88,914 for Aviation Flight associate degree program
    • $50,802 for Technology Management bachelor’s degree program.
  • Degree programs:
    • Associate’s
      • Aviation Flight
    • Bachelor’s
      • Technology Management

11. Airline Transport Pilots

We saved our favorite recommendation for last. If your goal is to quickly go from “zero experience to an airline pilot job,” without worrying about getting a college degree in the process, Airline Transport Pilots is the fast-track flight training solution you’re looking for. Students can graduate the accelerated Airline Career Pilot Program in just 9 months and be flying as an airline pilot in roughly 2 years. How’s that for fast? And with 41 flight training centers across the United States, you won’t have to look far to find a great school.

If you haven’t worked out all the funding details yet, you’ll be pleased to know that ATP offers full financing plans to keep things simple. They also partner with airlines to offer airline tuition reimbursement programs, and following program completion, you are guaranteed an instructor job to help you log the hours to meet airline minimums.

A fixed-cost program means less uncertainty about the variable cost of flight time. You know right away how much your program will cost. A detailed timeline also lays out exactly what to expect so the pathway to airline pilot is all mapped out for you.

The school also offers a condensed 7-day ATP Certification Training Program which consists of 30 hours ground school plus simulator time. Completion of this program qualifies students to take the ATP Multi-Engine knowledge test.

  • Locations: 41 locations in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut
  • Tuition and fees:
    • $80,995 for 9-month fast track Airline Career Pilot Program
    • $3,795 for ATP Certification Training Program
  • Training programs:
    • Airline Career Pilot Program
    • ATP Certification Training Program

Now that you're ready to take the leap, why not start your flight training today? Pick up a copy of Rod Machado's Private Pilot Handbook and learn everything that you need to know.

Rod Machado's Private Pilot Handbook

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  • PilotMall.com Editor