Aviation is an exciting field that can lead to some of the most rewarding careers in the world. But like any other career, getting started in aviation requires making some important decisions early on. Chief among these is choosing the right ground school to begin your pilot training. With so many schools, instructors and course providers out there, how do you make sure you’re picking the right one?
In this article, we’ll help you by answering some common questions about private pilot ground school and providing tips on how to choose the right one for you. We’ll also share our reader’s top picks for best ground schools in 2023. So whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking to switch schools, read on for all the information you need to know.
What is ground school and ground training?
Before you begin taking flying lessons, you’ll need to complete some ground training. Ground school is basically the theoretical part of your flight training, where a student pilot is introduced to the basics of flight and a variety of theoretical and practical subjects. This includes learning about things like weather patterns, aerodynamics, navigation and air law, so students are well-versed in the language of aviation when they begin their actual flying lessons.
Even though this article focuses on ground schools for private pilots, many students also take part in ground school for commercial and other pilot licenses.
What are the main types of ground school courses?
In general, ground schools may be classified depending on who is providing the course and where it is given.
On one hand, we have the traditional flight schools offering in-house ground instruction. These schools, while intensive and professional, are usually quite pricey, and may only offer the private pilot part of ground school as a first step for students enrolled in a professional/commercial pilot training program.
These live classes could also be taught in a flying club where private pilot instruction is given. These will usually be less expensive, but often lack the professional quality and student support of traditional flight schools.
Another option is taking an online private pilot ground school. This makes the course available to students who don’t live near a traditional training center, or simply already have a busy schedule that doesn’t allow for frequent in-class lectures.
These programs may be cheaper than traditional flight schools, but require self-discipline to work well so you can study on your own without instructor oversight.
It doesn’t really matter whether you go to an actual school or sign up for an online course when it comes to learning the material, but there can be some obvious advantages and disadvantages to each, as we will discuss below.
How to choose a Private Pilot Ground School: 5 questions to ask yourself
When deciding which ground school to choose, there are many factors to consider. Here are some of the most important questions you should ask yourself when looking for a ground school:
1. What is your budget?
There are a few tradeoffs to consider though when it comes to attending a physical ground school vs online ground school. One is cost. In-person schools can be much more expensive than online courses, especially when you add the price of transportation, gas and lodging to the cost of tuition. That’s not a big deal if you live nearby or have some more money to spend on school, but if you’re on a tight student pilot budget, this could be prohibitive.
The cost for a private pilot ground school can vary greatly depending on which kind of training you want to do. For instance, following a physical in-class ground course can cost anywhere from $700 in a flying club, to a few $1000 in a professional flight school.
Depending on your budget, you may want to look at an online ground school course, which usually costs between $250 and $400. This will save you more dollars to use on Avgas!
2. How much time do you have?
Another consideration is the availability, schedule and convenience of ground schools. If you have special scheduling needs because of work or family commitments, attending a live class might not be an option for you. While there are some in-class ground schools that would allow following part of the course online (through distance learning, for example), these will be more expensive and less likely to offer a quality online platform that would match a good dedicated e-ground school.
If you’re used to learning independently and prefer a more flexible approach when it comes to scheduling and taking classes, an online ground school might be a good fit for you since this can take place at whatever time and location is most convenient for you.
3. Where do you live?
In addition to flexibility, another factor that will determine which ground school to choose is geographical location. For instance, if you live near a traditional flight school or flying club offering top-notch private pilot instruction and support, it may be more convenient for you to attend an in-person ground course there.
If you’re a commuter and live far from a traditional flight school, taking an online course might be your best option. Think this over carefully before choosing one method or the other because it determines what type of ground school to pick up.
4. What are your goals? What do you want to get out of your training?
Another factor that may influence your decision is the goal you have for your training. For instance, if you’re looking to become a professional pilot then choosing a ground school within a larger flying school may be a good option, as this could serve as a stepping stone to get you started on your professional pilot career. The people you meet during your ground school training could be instrumental in helping you get started and even provide recommendations for jobs or other opportunities that would otherwise be difficult to find.
When planning out a career in aviation as a pilot, you probably also have a considerably higher budget set apart for training.
On the other hand, if your goal is to simply get the training under your belt, but not necessarily turn it into a career, an online school will likely be more affordable and convenient for you. It allows you to go at your own pace and offers more flexible scheduling options when it comes to taking your exams or written test.
Rod Machado’s Private Pilot Ground School 2023 In-depth Review
In this review, we’ll take an in-depth look at Rod Machado’s 40-hour private pilot online ground school, discuss the different features of the ground school program and provide our opinion on whether it is worth your time and money.
5. What is your learning style?
You also have to consider your learning style. Do you prefer to study with the help of visuals and audio or are you more of a book learner? Do you need to interact with other students and instructors or can you learn independently?
All of these factors come into play when choosing a ground school. If you’re very independent, can learn from visual material on your PC and don’t need a lot of instructor interaction, an online school might be the right choice for you.
On the other hand, if you prefer some more guidance and the ability to ask someone a question as you’re going along throughout your training, then a physical ground school might be more useful for you.
Some final tips
If you’re still unsure about which ground school to choose, here are some additional tips that may be of help during your search and decision process:
- Talk to a lot of people: A good place to start is by asking around and looking for some personal recommendations from other pilots who have gone through the training recently. Don’t be afraid to ask around, this will give you a better sense of what their experience was like, and which ground school they’d recommend for your particular needs.
- Ask around and look for online reviews: You can also go online and read some customer reviews of various ground schools to get an idea of which ones are popular with students and might be a good match for you.
- Look around on social media: Another possibility is to see if any flying clubs or other organizations in your area use ground schools and whether you can get in touch with previous students who attended those classes.
- Ask questions: The course provider should be willing to offer you some basic information about what your training will look like, how many hours it will comprise, and any other relevant specifics you should know. The more course providers and potential instructors you talk to, the better equipped you’ll be to make a final decision.
- Teaching styles: Finally, make sure to pay attention to the teaching style of the instructors. Especially in online ground school courses, there is a big difference in teaching styles, which could make the material either sound boring, or full of fun and excitement. Again, try to go with a ground school where you can be sure the material and teaching style will match your personal preference.
Our top pick: the best private pilot ground school in 2023
Ground schools are generally pretty similar in terms of quality regardless of where they’re held, but if you’re considering going the online route, we highly recommend checking out Rod Machado's e-ground school.
You may recognize his voice from MS Flight Simulator, where Rod has taught millions to fly (virtually) through the built-in flight lessons on MS Flight Simulator.
His 26-course, 40-hours ground school is a highly animated, interactive and fun eLearning course, and no doubt one of the most comprehensive private pilot ground school programs available. The depth of material covered in this course is what you’d find in your traditional single-semester, college aviation ground school!
And if you like to have practice questions, at the end of each lesson are over 1,200+ FAA-like knowledge questions to reinforce what you’ve learned.
As mentioned above, there is a big difference in teaching styles when it comes to physical or courses. If you’re looking for enjoyable, fun and interactive training materials, Rod Machado’s material is the way to go. No more reading dry, stale, study material!
We have recently written an extensive review about this course
At the end of this course, you’ll be provided with a graduation certificate and endorsement to take the private pilot knowledge exam.
If you click this link and make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
Picking the right ground school is an essential first step in every pilot’s aviation journey, whether it’s just for fun or as the first step in an exciting professional career.
Ultimately, this is an important decision that should not be made without taking into account all of the relevant factors involved, most of which we have touched upon above. If you’re still unsure about which ground school to pick, don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d be happy to help any way we can.
And remember, becoming a pilot is a journey, not a destination. Learning is continuous in the world of aviation. You’ll learn something new every time you fly, every time you navigate different weather conditions, and every time you land at a new airport. Your initial training is just the starting point.
If you want to learn more about ground school and other aviation courses, we have listed some more great options in these article:
The 8 Best Online Ground School Courses for Private Pilots in 2023
The right ground school course can turn the complex world of aviation into an enjoyable and fulfilling learning experience. Make your choice wisely, and it will set you up for success on your flight path.
12 Great Online Aviation Courses for Private Pilots in 2023
While ground school is crucial, there are other courses to consider to enrich your learning. They dive into specialized areas of aviation, each one designed to enrich your understanding, making flying safer and more enjoyable.