Part 141 Vs Part 61 Flight Training: Which Fits You Best?

Part 141 Vs Part 61 Flight Training: Which Fits You Best?

By Ben Morris CFI, FO ERJ-175

When you are looking into flight schools, you may hear the terms “Part 61” and “Part 141” thrown around. What this refers to are the two primary pathways to earning pilot certificates or ratings outlined in Part 61 and Part 141 of the FAR/AIM. I have instructed and studied in both of these environments, and they have their own distinct pros and cons. To make things even more confusing, some schools even offer both options! However, by the end of this article, you should understand the differences and be able to make an informed decision on which route is best for you.

Part 61

This is the more traditional, free form route to earning your certificates. You will work with one or multiple instructors, and once you meet the experience requirements laid out in Part 61 of the FAR/AIM, an instructor will endorse you to take the practical test. Usually the experience requirements are specific flight time amounts and the completion of a knowledge test. However, the hour requirements are the minimum, and it is up to the discretion of the recommending instructor if you are ready for the test. For example, the minimum hour requirement for a Private Pilot License is 40, but the FAA released data showing the average is actually 60 hours.

Part 61 has the advantage of being more personalized to you. This is especially helpful for studying for a Private Pilot certificate in my opinion. Many students need additional practice in certain areas that are easier accomplished in a Part 61 environment. For example, let's say you easily learn steep turns but are struggling with slow flight. Under Part 61 the instructor has the ability to easily change the next lesson to focus on getting you up to speed.

Many schools and independent instructors can also teach you in your own airplane if you have one. Aircraft rental rates are oftentimes slightly cheaper, but this is dependent on the local area. Another advantage is the freedom to fly where and when you want is typically greater. In Part 61 training you can usually fly where you want to with an instructor's approval. Lesson times are also usually worked out with your instructor much more on a lesson by lesson basis rather than being given an assigned slot.

Part 141

These programs are much more structured. Each one has their curriculum approved individually by the FAA. The lessons are predetermined and usually are intended to be completed in a specific order. Lesson 1 might focus on maintaining straight and level flight. Lesson 2 might introduce turns. One of the advantages of going this route is that the minimum hours for a certificate can be less than the experience requirements of Part 61, but it varies from school to school. Also, as with Part 61, the lessons are the minimum, and you may need to repeat lessons at times.

If you are intending to become a professional pilot, Part 141 has one more important benefit. If combined with an approved college degree, it can lower the requirements for an Airline Transport certificate from 1500 hours to 1250 or even 1000 depending on the number of qualifying credit hours. To qualify for the reduction, the school needs to be approved, you must have an Associate’s degree and 30 qualifying credit hours for 1250, or a Bachelor's degree and 60 qualifying credit hours for 1000. It is for this reason that many 141 programs are focused on getting their students ready for the airlines. Part 141 schools usually have approved airport lists and mandatory criteria. There is also some benefit to the experience of flying in a heavily structured environment if that is your intended career path.

Picking Between the Two

Combining the two can be a good option if done correctly. Universities and independent 141 schools usually have programs that allow you to begin with a Private Pilot License. This means that you could earn your PPL Part 61, and start a 141 program a good deal ahead. However, once you start a 141 program that usually cannot transfer to another 141 program. You can count all 141 hours towards the Part 61 experience requirements, just not vice versa. Qualifying for a rating under Part 141 requires completing all of that program's approved curriculum.

Ultimately, the best option is the one that fits you. If you are flying as a hobby or for personal business, Part 61 is likely the way to go. If you are committing to flying as a career and are going to college, 141 has some significant benefits. The additional flexibility of Part 61 is useful to people working full time, but if you choose to pursue flight training full time you might be better served by an approved Part 141 program. Either way, you will have to pass the same tests. The difference lies in how you qualify to do so.

By Ben Morris CFI, FO ERJ-175

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